Yesterday someone poetically described dahlias to me as ‘explosions of happiness’ which seemed just right for the spiky, sumptuous and simple bundles of colour I was selling in the market.
Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers and, although they don’t last for ages in a vase they are prolific once they have got going so there are plentiful supplies to pick from summer to the first frosts. Until this year, I have only grown them at home and the allotment for us and as gifts for friends and haven’t worried at all about their viability as a cut flower to sell. The Sarah Raven bold and brilliant colours have been my favourites from the darkest, deepest colours of Rip City to the bright magenta pink of the outrageous Hillcrest Royal.
This year, I put in one haphazard bed of dahlias at the plot and filled it partly with impulse buys from garden open days and tubers ordered from Sarah Raven because I liked the colours. Not a systematic approach for a would-be flower seller. There is definitely room for improvement and the Dahlia Masterclass I attended one Sunday recently at Green and Gorgeous near Wallingford, gave me pretty much all of the advice needed about dahlias – from best varieties for cutting, to propagating, storing and arranging. Accessible, but packed with new information, this course was extremely well taught and a visual delight from the ‘classroom’ filled with dahlias of every shape and colour to the long beds of dahlias outside from which we were invited to pick.
There was a lot to think about on the day and now. The first suggestion which made sense to me straightaway( the dilettante flower grower who would like to grow just about everything) was to concentrate on growing sweet peas for Spring selling and dahlias for Summer and Autumn. This is what I will largely plan to do next year. From experience, these are the two flowers which always sell at the market. I won’t be able to resist Love in a Mist or Cornflowers or Larkspur or Scabious and, of course, bulbs, but more space, care and concentration will go on dahlias and sweetpeas from now on.
The single flowering dahlias at the patch will be lifted after the first frosts and stored to go into the garden next year as I learned these are the least successful for cutting. I like to imagine that on a cold, dark December day, I will be cosy in front of a fire ordering dahlia tubers and rooted cuttings for next year. There will definitely be the lilac Porcelain on the list as well as the soft/apricot pink of Maldiva both the opposite of my usual preference for dark, bold colours, but truly beautiful.
The last part of the course was about arranging the dahlias and other flowers we had picked and for once I decided not to mind too much how mine turned out and because the flowers were so beautiful, it was fine.