Fading Flowers In All Their Glory

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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.

44 thoughts on “Fading Flowers In All Their Glory

  1. Dying flowers have a charm all their own but I don’t think enough people think that. I had some dark red roses on my windowsill until long after they were at their best and there were a couple of odd looks from passing neighbours!

    1. Thank you, Sally. You’re making me think I should be drying some flowers. They used to be popular in the UK, but not so much recently. I love their often lingering hay-like fragrance.

    1. No earwigs? Lucky Canada, not that I needed to know this to add to your country’s already phenomenal appeal. It’s reminded me though that it’s too long since our last visit.

      1. Well upon doing some internet searching apparently Canada has them. I looked at some photos and can honestly say I have never seen them or heard of them being an issue. Hope you will come for the visit anyway!

  2. Sarah Raven was responsible for my tulipmania! Sadly her cosmos plants were eaten, but maybe next year I will try and raise them in the conservatory as I adore Cosmos. As for earwigs, I have discovered that they quite enjoy nibbling Basil o_O

    1. And just when you thought you had a plant that is immune from pests…It may be not too late to re-sow the cosmos, especially in your milder climate. (She says hopefully). Last year my allotment cosmos were flowering strongly into the autumn.

      1. I have scattered the remaining seeds onto my new raised bed/lawn destroyer so hope some come through! I have chocolate cosmos too which tend to flower later on.

      2. I have put netting over, but it will have to come off eventually, I just hope the plants are big enough to survive. I also have lots of sticks poking out of any bare soil! Eventually I hope to have a dense enough border that the cat won’t want to sneak in.

  3. I thought I’d got six word Saturday twice over! 🙂 My stepdad doted on his chrysanths and dahlias and maybe that was one reason I didn’t like them a lot. It took me a long time to realise what a rough diamond he was. And nowadays at the shows there are so many fabulous varieties! I haven’t looked at the link but I’ll be daring in a moment. This is such a lovely celebration of colour, Tish.

    1. Sarah Raven’s autumn catalogue arrived in the post yesterday. Picture me sighing with yearning -aaaah! But you’re right about all the new varieties – dahlias have been taken to a whole new plane of wonderfulness.

      1. We went to an Open Garden event this afternoon. The gardener was a fan of lilies and topiary, not to mention cream teas. Nice Sunday treat after all the humpty of yesterday’s moving. 🙂

  4. Oh those colours in the first one! Hardly flowers fading eh? You’ve given me visual pleasures, and a trip down memory lane. My grandfather used to show his dahlias in the Royal Easter Show, the only time we really saw him. Cosmos hold memories too: a cottage garden with cosmos nearly up to its eaves in the backblocks we used to explore in our motor-biking days.

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