Fierceblooms Dahlias Decision for 2018 Wild Garden Style Floristry

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WORDS: Kathryn Cronin PHOTOS: Ricky Bache
Although we’re well past the shortest day, the dark and the damp permeate still.

After a later than usual Hogmanay, I have managed to bring home more than New Years’ good cheer. So rather than feeling slightly sorry for myself tucked up with a wee bout of Glasgow flu, I’ve embraced the enforced stop and have chosen to browse dahlia catalogues for planting inspiration for my wild garden style florals for 2018.

By the time I had looked at Floret’s shop, all of her dahlias were sold out. I promise you I wasn’t that tardy! Good for her I thought as I looked at all her beautiful choices anyway. Erin has sold some very original varieties some of which you can buy here but many I am going to struggle to purchase in dear old Blightly. I have no doubt that they will allow her to design utterly unique florals that will differentiate her from other US flower farmers.

I have created a list of my Floret favourites anyway as I think it’s good practise to curate what you like. It includes Apple Blossom, Cara Elizabeth, Castle Drive, Genova, Golden Scepter, Hollyhill black beauty, Koko Puff, L’Anciosse, Shiloh Noelle, Small World, Sweet Nathalie

These include a mixture of different colours and shapes and sizes but ones that appealed to my style of wild garden design floristry.

I’ve learnt a few things about what I’m looking for in a dahlia for a cutting garden after last year’s growing season. It’s the obvious things really but it is worth having them in the front of your mind when you’re choosing new varieties for cutting:

  • Strong longish stems – those blousey heads are heavy so need something sturdy to hold them aloft for all to see.
    Good vase life – it almost goes without saying vase life is an essential. I adore some of the large headed girls like penhill dark monarch and of course cafe au lait but their glorious blooms, amazing for events, can be fleeting for bouquets that you want to last a wee bit longer.
  • Optimum head size – I’m all for an amazing showy blooms but it’s tricky to arrange an entire bouquet with them. You need different sizes and shapes for a well designed bouquet, even one on the wild side.
  • A coordinated colour palette – I know I’m starting to get a picky now. It’s actually easier to do than I first thought as you can borrow palettes from the great and the good. Sarah Raven always has beautiful mixes of both colour and shape. The simplest place to start though is with a monochromatic scheme. Choose tints and tones of all pinks or all oranges or all reds. Then when you’re feeling more confident about what your aesthetic is, move onto more sophisticated colour blending. Generally, brights work together, and colours that are very pale and desaturated work well together too.

While on the subject off colour, what I realised last year with my own dahlia collection is that there was very little white and hardly any cooler colours, so I’ll be rectifying that this year.

When you’re starting out, it’s sometimes hard to find where to purchase your tubers. Rose Cottage Plants and J Parkers are suppliers I have used and been very happy with. I’ve also traded with my fellow Flowers from the Farm compatriots who are just as obsessed as I am.

When you’re deciding on which varieties to pick, it’s safe to say it’s a bit of a guessing game. There are literally thousands of dahlias out there. Every year there will be colour trends and favourites will emerge but it is generally too late to do anything about if you’re not growing them already. My wild garden style philosophy now is to grow what I adore, the colours I love, in the shapes that suit the wild garden style of design that I’m drawn to.

I’ve never bought rooted cuttings but after winning some from the National Dahlia collection, I’ll be giving that a go this year too. Having spent many a happy hour yesterday browsing their extensive lists, I have now found a few more favourites to acquire. This include Kathryn’s Cupid, Critchton Honey, Appleblossom, Evelyn Foster, Hillcrest Pearl, BJ Beauty, Bloemfortein, Peaches and Cream, Creme de Cassis, Tinkers White, Soulman, Onesta, Silver Years, Good Intent, Hamari Rose, Snowy, Wooton Cupid, White Nettie, White Ballet, Fabula, Lilac Time, Lavender Perfection, Syston Sofia, Mary’s Jomanda and Seattle.

Here is my final piece of advice on dahlias, and this goes for any variety that you grow. Stake them and stake them well. Even the smaller varieties of dahlias are top heavy with shallow roots and a heavy head of flowers. Who would wish to see their stunning blooms collapsed in a heap from which they’re unlikely to recover.

The generous gardener has the most blooms is a saying that could be written for dahlias, for the more you cut, the more they flower.

There is still time to order your dahlias for cutting this year but be quick as now is the peak time to order them and often when you think of ordering them in May, many of them are already sold out. The generous gardener has the most blooms is a saying that could be written for dahlias, for the more you cut, the more they flower. I’d be delighted to hear recommendations for your favourite varieties for cutting. Have a wonderful growing season.

If you found this dahlia article helpful, there is another with thoughts on lifting them at the end of the season here.

Read even more from Fierceblooms, this flower grower and Cheshire florist on the floristry blog.

On the site, there are also lots more articles about my evolving canalside cheshire flower cutting garden.

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