I never used to like dahlias. As a small child I soon learned they harboured earwigs, the sudden sighting of which still sparks pangs of revulsion. But this winter I relented – over the dahlias that is.
For the past few years I had cast envious looks over the fire-coloured rows grown by fellow allotmenteers. Not only did they yield lots of cutting flowers all summer long, but their presence brightened up the allotment for everyone working there.
But next I would think of earwigs, and the slugs that attack leaves and flowers, and the fact you have to lift the tubers in autumn and store them in frost-free conditions. It all seemed too much of a faff.
And then in the dark days of mid-winter, when gardeners are at their most susceptible to images of lush and succulent growth – whether floral or vegetable, I was ambushed by Sarah Raven’s plant catalogue, a little publication that takes horticultural lust to a whole new level. So be warned. Plant lovers open the link at their own risk.
Ms Raven, a one-time medical doctor, now exercises her life-enhancing inclinations by sharing her growing-cooking-flower-arranging aesthetic in print, on screen and on home-run courses. One of her cunning knacks sales-wise is to group the plants in striking or subtle colour-ways. It works. You want them all.
And so it was, I overcame my dahlia resistance, and ordered a few tubers, starting fairly modestly, just to see how we would get along together.
They arrived in January, in perfect condition and with full growing instructions, which I duly followed. For one thing I realised I could make good use of the winter-depleted polytunnel to start the plants off. I also bought a packet of the Sarah Raven dark cosmos seed collection, and I am pleased to say that both cosmos and dahlias are now flowering vigorously outside my polytunnel.
They look so bright and cheery there I am presently rather stingy about cutting them. But when I do, I’m pleased to find I enjoy them twice – both alive and dying when they take on a new kind of beauty.
So in my own Fading Flower Collection we have cosmos Dazzler (top), dahlia Dark Butterfly (bottom left), and dahlia Ripples (bottom right).
But to show you how at least one of them started out, here’s Dark Butterfly in full flight up at the allotment – pleasing lots of small insects, but thankfully earwig free. They, the little ratbag, pincering varmints, have been chewing my cauliflowers instead. It’s the gardener’s way of course: win some; lose some, and then, just now and then, when all goes to plan: win, win, and WIN!
Cee’s Flower of the Day Please visit Cee’s blog. Another great spot for plant lovers.