Sarah Raven William Morris Collection: Photo credit Jonathan Buckley

One of my gardening goals for this year is to grow more flowers for cutting and arranging.  And top of my must-have list is more dahlias.  Which, it turns out, puts me right on-trend (although late to the party, as ever).

Dahlias are once again very fashionable, after years in the horticultural style wilderness.  And apparently being used by some of the most sought-after florists to create very contemporary arrangements.

I am a dahlia novice, let me say straight off.  It all started last year, when I popped into a local supermarket for some milk and came out with ten quid’s worth of orange dahlia in a pot.

orange dahlia with pink english roses and salvia
How it all started: home-grown orange dahlia with roses and salvia

Here it is above, with roses and salvia from the garden.  It was one of those love-at-first-sight impulse buys, and little did I realise it was just the start of a very slippery slope.

 dahlias, verbena, gypsophila and sage in blue jug
From the garden: dahlias, verbena, gypsophila and sage

For the rest of the year I was pretty restrained, I think.  I only bought another two dahlia plants, one of which was the deep magenta bloom above.  I even managed to look after them all properly by digging up the tubers and storing them in the shed over the winter.  Recently replanted, I’m impatiently (and hopefully) inspecting them daily for signs of new life.

A favourite summer ritual is going out into the garden first thing on a fresh, bright morning to find flowers to arrange.  Currently, most of what I grow has short stems.  I think the little posies I arrange in small jugs and vases are great, but I’d love to have more long-stemmed blooms so I can fill bigger vases too.

Right on cue, just last week, onto my doormat landed a catalogue from the queen of cut flowers, Sarah Raven.   And oh my gosh and golly, I’ve hardly stopped looking at it since.  The cliché “kiddie in a candy store” doesn’t even get close.  I’m beside myself, in complete and utter colour heaven.

Dahlias come in a stunning variety of hues, but I think it’s the unique way that they do the pink/orange combo that particularly grabs me.  Regular readers will know that’s a  favourite colour-pairing of mine, and dahlias do it to the max.  A whole variety of pinks shade delicately to orange, apricot, watermelon and coral tones.

I also love how dahlias come in such crazy shapes.  The single varieties are simple and pretty, but the spiky cactus dahlias are like the sea urchins of the flower garden.  And the ball varieties – like the one below – have a mesmerisingly perfect, Fibonacci floral geometry.  These two varieties are top of my wish list.

At the moment, my shopping list for Sarah Raven dahlias is waaay too long so I guess I’ve got some editing work to do.  We also have the problem of a north facing garden.  A lack of sunny spots severely frustrates my dahlia-growing ambitions.

Which is probably a very good thing … I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy feasting your eyes on this riot of floral fabulousness.

Images:, photo credit Jonathan Buckley unless otherwise marked


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