Great balls of fire: Dahlias are weird, wonderful and well worth the wait

 

Look, I love digging and pruning as much as the next horticulturalist, but there are some things I find very irritating about gardening. For instance, seeing a plant growing in a garden, looking stupendous, and then getting on the internet and finding I have to wait until next year to get hold of it. Someone more Zen-like and philosophical than myself might then ponder life's changing cycle, the beauty of the turning leaves, mumbling "for everything there is a season", etc. Me, it just leaves tetchy and irritated. I want it now. Now, I tell you.

So, dahlias. I'm loving them, I'm seeing them flowering, but I can't actually order any to plant until, er, next year. Withypitts, a top specialist dahlia nursery in Sussex, will be sending out small plants in 9cm pots after Easter. Easter! You can put your order in now just fine, they will take your money efficiently and log your preference, but nothing will turn up until well into spring 2013. This isn't actually their fault. It's a tuber thing.

I suppose during this endless wait, I could spend some time researching which dahlias other people recommend. I start with James Alexander-Sinclair, who gives a massive thumbs up to "Chat Noir", a rather outrageous burgundy spiky flower, with petals which have a slightly snowboardy curve to them. Others dig it too: Sarah Raven likens it to a sea urchin.

Alexander-Sinclair also recommends "David Howard", as does Carol Klein. This is much shorter, growing to only about mid-thigh, and it has dark-bronze leaves with pale-orange flowers floating above. I tend to think "David Howard" looks a bit like a marigold, and not in a good way; they've got that tight, ruched, purse-mouth thing in common. But it does go to show that where dahlias are concerned, it's each to his own.

Then there are the weirder ones that some people can't quite resist. You know how it happens. You're reading the catalogue online and all of sudden you find your hand reaching out and clicking on the delightful oddball. Carol Klein's dahlia curve-ball is "Alva's Doris", a huge, bright-red cactus variety. Sarah Raven stocks one called "Tahoma Moonshot" which is an abstracted star in fine Japanese mauve and pale yellow; Christopher Lloyd had a soft spot for gaudy lemon "Davar Donna". And visitors to RHS Wisley have been filling in voting forms all summer that favour "Jessica", a crazy orange-and-red spider that looks like it's fallen off a mariachi band uniform.

Hopefully, they will all be worth the wait. Dahlias are wonderful growers, producing flowers for months at a stretch. And if you just can't wait I suggest you proceed to that cheat's paradise, crocus.co.uk. This week they'll send you out a plant of "David Howard" actually in flower, post haste, for just £4.99. Instant gratification, oh yes please.

The dahlia trials field at RHS Wisley, Surrey, daily, until first frosts; see rhs.org.uk

Hello, Dahlia

'Jescot Julie' This totally fabulous thing has kind of tequila-sunrise-striped petals. Exuberant, grand, vivid: what more could you want to fight off autumn? £4.99, crocus.co.uk

'Ambition' Suitably named if your ambition is to grow flowers about the size of a baby's head that are a sort of fluorescent fuchsia. £4.99, crocus.co.uk

'Chat Noir' That much-recognised star of the autumn garden, with perfect starry shape and long petals fading to velvet red. £4.99, crocus.co.uk

All can also be ordered as tubers in spring from specialists such as Halls of Heddon (hallsofheddon.co.uk) and Withypitts (withypitts-dahlias.co.uk)

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific