I felt like I’d been swindled when my new dahlias arrived in March. They were such meager little tubers. When we lifted last year’s, I discarded some that were bigger.
I was cross with myself for having been seduced by the fancy catalogue I’d ordered them from. I potted them up, but vowed that if they didn’t grow well I’d write a stiff letter of complaint.
When the time came to plant them out in May, they were doing OK. Not as vigorous as the ones we’d stored over the winter, but well enough to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Most of them went into a newly cleared border, along with verbena rigida, statice and gaura lindheimeri that we’d grown from seed. There were a couple that still didn’t seem big enough to turn out to the open soil. I popped them into big pots so they’d be a bit more cosseted. Nothing much happened for a couple of weeks and I moaned about them to anyone who’d listen.
Many times over the summer, one of my mum’s favourite sayings ‘Oh ye of little faith’ has echoed in my head. Because the dahlias turned out to be an absolute joy.
Since July they have been flowering their socks off. Each of those small, dry tubers must have produced close to a hundred flowers so far. With October round the corner, the ones in pots are slowing down a bit, but those in the ground are still throwing out new buds on a daily basis.
Two of the varieties we chose have become firm favourites that I’d like to have in the garden every year: rosamunde and summertime. They both produce long-stemmed flowers that sit high above the foliage. They bounce around a bit on breezy days, but we’ve only had a couple snap right off when it’s been really stormy.
Rosamunde in particular is an absolute stunner: semi-double, peony-like flowers in a gorgeous pink with dark bronze foliage. She works really hard too, producing flower after flower after flower. It probably helps that I now know how to tell a dead-head from a bud – last year I didn’t find out until quite late in the season that it’s only the pointy ones you’re meant to snip off.
The dahlias have flowered generously for three months now. Providing we don’t get hit by an early frost, we should get another four or five weeks out of them.
I can hardly believe they had such an unpromising start.