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Dahlias are a ‘must-have’ in your summer and autumn borders and with such a vast choice of colour and flower shape, there is a variety to suit every planting scheme. The Dahlia has one of the longest bloom seasons of any garden flower and their strong stems make them perfect for cut flower.
Home Grown on our Nursery
Dahlias are the flagship of Aylett Nurseries. We have been nurturing, growing and developing Dahlias in our Dahlia Nursery for over 60 years and having won numerous awards for their excellence, indeed Dahlias were the foundation of Aylett Nurseries. Since 1961 our displays of Dahlias have been awarded 55 Gold Medals by the Royal Horticultural Society, and on three occasions the prestigious RHS William’s Memorial Medal.
We no longer show our Dahlias outside of the Dahlia Nursery, but we celebrate this special flower annually during our Autumn Festival, where our cut flower displays and Dahlia Field are greatly admired by our visitors. With over 60 varieties on show, it really is a sight not to be missed!
Our Dahlia Leaflet lists the varieties currently growing in our Dahlia Field & Celebration Garden, these varieties will be in flower for our 2023 Autumn Festival. The majority of these varieties will be available to purchase as young plants next year from mid-April.
Dahlia Production – A labour of love…
The Dahlia is the Queen of our home-grown crops, and their production follows that same pattern every year and forms the core of our cropping programme.
It starts in January when the Dahlias Tubers are taken out of storage and laid out on moist compost in our Propagation house. The heat and lights are turned on, and slowly but surely the Dahlia Tubers begin to sprout new tiny green shoots and through the wonders of nature, life returns to these brown storage organs. In due course, these become the first cuttings taken from the tubers which are then rooted and potted into 11cm pots to grow on further. As the nights become shorter, the sodium lights are turned off and the tubers continue to sprout new growth and many cuttings are taken and rooted until the tubers use up all their energy. Before this happens, we have normally taken over 17,000 cuttings which have been rooted, potted and put out for sale, for you to purchase for your own gardens.
During the first week of June, our attention turns to planting our 2-acre Dahlia Field and Celebration Garden, using these young plants, just as you would in your own garden. It usually takes us a week to plant the complete alphabet of our Dahlia varieties, with 80 plants of each variety in every row. These plants are stopped, fed and watered until they come into flower in early August.
In September, the feeding regime changes a little to start to feed the tubers underground which will be dug up in November after the frost of autumn. They will then be stored ready to start again the next year in January. Dahlias are the only plants that we store through the winter and use our own stock to propagate from.
To ensure you get the best results with your Dahlias, we suggest following our Dahlia Recipe, and remember, our team are always on hand to offer advice in person at the garden centre or by telephone/e-mail.
A Potted History of the Dahlia
The first reports of what we call today, the Tree Dahlia goes back to the time of the Aztecs in the 16th century. The Aztec hunters developed highly advanced terracing and irrigation methods to allow farming in difficult mountain terrain. They named the Dahlia ‘Water Cane’, as it often grew to a height of 7 metres, the stems were hollow and used for hauling water and the flowers were mainly single and open-centered. This was all reported by Francisco Hermandez who had been sent to Mexico by King Phillip II of Spain to study the natural resources.
In 1789, the first seeds were sent by the Director of the Mexican Botanical Gardens to Spain. These were grown by Abbe Cavanilles who named the three species in honour of a Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl. At that time, Horticulturists were very keen to obtain seeds of these new and exotic flowers, including the scientists at Kew Gardens who were lucky enough to have the help of Lady Bute, who was a keen gardener and had all the right connections. This resulted in Dahlias being introduced to England in 1798. Germany introduced the same three species but renamed them Georgina’s in honour of a Russian botanist Professor Georgi. This led to some confusion in the horticultural world and Dahlias are still often referred to under this name in Eastern Europe.
The next record of Dahlias in British horticulture is in 1803, when a paper by an eminent botanist Richard Salisbury was presented to the Horticultural Society (later to become the Royal Horticultural Society in 1861). The seeds grown by Richard Salisbury were obtained from Lady Holland’s gardener, who had received them directly from the Botanical Gardens in Madrid.
In 1804, the transformation of the garden Dahlia began with seeds that were sent directly from Mexico to Paris and Berlin. It is assumed that these seeds were the original source of the double Dahlias of today. After 200 years of culture and hybridisation, the Dahlia family has one of the largest array of forms, colours and size of any garden flower.
Today, the Dahlia remains the National Flower of Mexico where it was first discovered by the Aztec Indians so long ago. More Dahlia hybrids are active now than at any other time in history, which means a rapid addition of new forms, sizes and colour combinations each year. In this past century alone nearly 50,000 named Dahlia varieties have been developed, listed and registered.