Big blousy show-stopping dahlias are having a moment. And as the unrivalled stars of the late summer garden, they are also emerging as the flower of love in wedding bouquets and table dressings.
With thousands of different varieties in all shapes, colours, sizes and styles these romantic blooms are perfect for drying as a keepsake of the big day.
And if you are on a tight budget, it’s also easy to grow your own to make your flower arrangement extra special.
‘Dahlias are such a beautiful romantic flower and offer such great value for money. They start flowering in mid-July and keep going until the first frosts in late October,’ says Philippa Stewart of Justdahlias.co.uk who turned to flower farming to fund her dahlia obsession, and now grows over 160 different varieties.
‘The more you cut the flowers, the more they produce, and you can also dry them to make them last for years.’
Here Philippa shares her favourite wedding varieties and her top tips to grow your own:
1. Carolina Wagermans
I love the coral colour and the shape of its waterlily form, the heads grow to about 12cm diameter and it also dries beautifully – simply hang upside down and allow to dry naturally for two or three weeks in a well ventilated room out of direct sunlight.
2. Pink Jean Fairs
I love the vintage feel to this waterlily dahlia – it has a gold tip to the edge of the petals and looks great at a boho wedding.
At 9cm in diameter, it works well in a bouquet. As it dries the colour will intensify to a very bright pink so makes a great winter bouquet.
3. Rossendale Flamenco
The pinky purple tones of this small 8cm decorative shape variety give it an inner glow that fades to a rich yellowy colour in the middle of the petals.
Great for a pop of colour at a table setting and can be dried too for a winter bouquet.
4. Small World
This small ball dahlia is fantastic for buttonholes. It’s just 5cm in diameter with white petals and delicate lilac tips.
A bunch is very simple but dramatic looking – especially when it is mixed with other dahlias. This is a good worker that will complement and show off the other flowers.
5. Ms Kennedy
This bold ball dahlia grows to 6cm and is a striking burnt orange with a deep terracotta centre.
Will dry even more dramatic in colour – a great autumn wedding choice.
6. Linda’s Baby
This peach ball-shape dahlia grows to 7.5cm and looks great mixed in a wedding bouquet or vase as it goes with everything.
Use in odd numbers of three, five or seven. Lasts up to a week in a vase – and a couple of years if dried. When it dries the colour gets even more intense making it popular with florists.
Where to see Dahlias
Over 100 fabulous flower farms right across the UK are opening to the public over the Flower Farmers’ Big Weekend (Aug 5-7). Find a farm opening near you at Flowers from the Farm. Pre-booking is required for most sites and some growers may charge
Dahlias don’t grow in seeds or bulbs – they come as tubers, which look like a small clump of potatoes. Either pot them into a container or put them directly into the ground.
They need a nutrient rich soil in an open sunny position. I like to nurture them by planting them out into the greenhouse at the end of March and move to a sheltered spot for a week towards the end of May to harden them off before planting into the ground.
When planting out, add either a good helping of fish, blood and bone or chicken pellets. When they start to flower at the end of July, give them a dose of seaweed or homemade comfrey tea to promote the flowers. Feed every ten days once they have started flowering.
Use a pot at least 30cm in diameter and only plant one dahlia per container as they grow into enormous plants! Choose a good compost and feed them every two weeks with a strong solution of Miracle-Gro.
Cutting for the vase
Do this in the cool of the day and pop them straight into a bucket of water to prevent air bubbles forming. Cut stems at an angle so they don’t sit flat and cut right down to the junction of the next stem.
Storing over winter
Lift dahlias out of the ground in winter to prevent rotting – if the tubers freeze, they turn to mush. This is also a good chance to chop out any rotten plant material and divide the tubers to encourage good blooms next season.
Store somewhere frost-free but not too dry. I keep mine in wood shavings in banana boxes (they won’t breathe in plastic pots) in a frost-free outbuilding.
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