Friday, 24 March 2017

Delightful Dahlias

Near my front door I have a few pots, just now, with engine-red flowers, that I feel say `Hello and Welcome'.
These are the ubiquitous 'Bishop of Llandaff' and I probably just bought one of its tubers years ago, and now they have multiplied and I have 3 huge pots of these near the front door. (Five - I just split the tubers apart in one, and repotted into 3 pots - normally done in winter.) `Self-supporting' (I'm no fan of staking) at about 1.5m high, the bright red flowers contrast so well with its anthracitic foliage and with all the surrounding green foliage. I love them and I'm not usually a fan of red, so what's going on? I think it's partly the sweet shape of the single flowers, and their perfect size and their height. But I think it's also that, just like in winter (only more so), Australian summers are a severe season for plants, and any Joie de Vivre Is welcomed. Luckily these red flowers are just far enough from the sun-and-sky (yellow and blue) bed and the silver and raspberry-colour bed to not swear terribly.
Is that important?
Heck, yes.

But...wouldn't yellow ones look better - being near the dwarf sunny ones along the front path edge? Ones with the same height as 'Bishop of Llandaff', and lovely, simple, sweetly-shaped flowers. (There was a dahlia show recently and I popped in for a quick look - to be impressed by the range of flower sizes; remembering the dinner plate-size blooms vaguely (not my thing) but enjoying seeing the mini-bloom varieties.) Clear yellow - no suffusing with apricot please - and that dark foliage would be welcome. I aim to buy one in a pot to be certain that I get one with the height I'm after (I want it to look me in the eyes), and multiply the tubers over time to give me several pots-worth and lots of welcoming faces near the front door.
Next week I'll be looking out for the perfect one at the Melbourne Flower Show when I go with my sister (unless I see one in a nursery earlier, but I am expecting the specialists at the show to have the greatest range).
We have fun together at the show, S and I, although this year she says that she has no room in her city garden for more bulbs - or plants, for that matter. I, however, have a country garden...and, so far, space for more plants. (Lucky me.) I'll get there early, to see the gardens before the crowds (I hope), then S and I love looking at the bulb nurseries. She likes dahlias too, so I will be able to do that sister thing - `do you like this one?' which I can't summon up interest for in fashion shops, but boy do I like doing it at plant nurseries.
That's my kind of shopping.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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