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8 dahlias for maximum color

by Timber Press on May 8, 2014

in Design, Gardening

Dahlia Color Wheel 02With so many dahlias to choose from, where does a gardener begin? Andy Vernon starts with color. He’s collected his personal favorites in The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias, and while he extols their many virtues, it’s the numerous shades, tints, and tones Andy finds most endearing, and which are responsible for the flower’s dramatic, larger-than-life reputation. “Colour is king in my garden,” he writes. “Anyone who loves unashamedly vivid and vibrant flowers risks becoming addicted to the colour rush. You have been warned.”

Here are eight of Andy’s favorites, for confirmed dahlia lovers in search of new varieties, or dahlia newbies hoping to add some high-drama to their gardens.

Burgundy
‘Black Satin’
What type: Formal decorative
How tall: 153 cm (60 in.)
What spread: 90 cm (36 in.)
Why grow it: Great cut flower, great border variety, strong flower form
This deep red-black formal decorative with 10 cm (4 in.) diameter blooms is a good, solid, prolific variety that produces lots and lots of stems. It’s perfect for cutting or in the border, and it provides sultry satin chic blooms.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

Red
‘Ann Breckenfelder’
What type: Collerette
How tall: 120 cm (47 in.)
What spread: 60 cm (24 in.)
Why grow it: Great garden dahlia, great cut flower, perfect for pollinators
There are many really great shocking red collerette varieties that have a wildly contrasting collar of petals, but ‘Ann Breckenfelder’ is one of the most confident I’ve ever come across. This is a quality plant with great overall stature, crisp clean blooms, and good green foliage. She’s a knockout. Winner of a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

Orange
‘David Howard’
What type: Decorative
How tall: 75 cm (30 in.)
What spread: 40 cm (16 in.)
Why grow it: Great garden variety, good container variety, great dark bronze foliage
A classic bronze orange decorative dahlia with the perfect combination of delicious dark coppery foliage. It’s a great sturdy variety that doesn’t need much staking or support, and it looks amazing planted among deep blue Salvia guaranitica and Verbena bonariensis. Winner of a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

Yellow
‘Bishop of York’
What type: Single
How tall: 75 cm (30 in.)
What spread: 61 cm (24 in.)
Why grow it: Great garden variety, great container dahlia, perfect for pollinators
Truly golden yellow is a surprisingly rare colour in dahlias, but this wonderful single with fabulous dark bronze foliage is probably as close as it gets. The soft golden to bronze yellow blooms work brilliantly against the dark leaves and, like the other Bishops, this one grows well in containers and in all sorts of garden situations.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

Coral
‘Waltzing Mathilda’
What type: Peony
How tall: 60 cm (24 in.)
What spread: 40 cm (16 in.)
Why grow it: Great garden dahlia, perfect for pollinators, great for containers
A great garden variety with unusual informal peach-coral peony blooms, sometimes with a cherry red blush. Dark burgundy-black foliage sets them off brilliantly. Great in the border or in containers. A whirling dahlia dervish.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

Pink
‘Rosy Wings’
What type: Collerette
How tall: 122 cm (48 in.)
What spread: 50 cm (20 in.)
Why grow it: Perfect for pollinators, great garden dahlia, good cut flower
This perfectly formed pastel pink collerette has both outer petals and collar petals in an identical mid-pink tone. Neat 8 cm (3 in.) blooms on a smart floriferous plant with good strong stems. Marshmallow pink perfection.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

Purple
‘Blue Beard’
What type: Semi-cactus
How tall: 120 cm (47 in.)
What spread: 60 cm (24 in.)
Why grow it: Good tall herbaceous border variety, great cut flower, unusual deep color
A rich and sumptuous small flowered semi-cactus. Good, strong, elegant stems on quite a tall plant. One of the most blue-purple dahlias I’ve ever seen.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

White
‘Little Snowdrop’
What type: Pompon
How tall: 127 cm (50 in.)
What spread: 60 cm (24 in.)
Why grow them: Good border varieties, great cut flowers
A perfect white pompon variety of gorgeous globular blooms on good straight stems. Adorable, great cut flowers, good border variety.

Image: Andy Vernon

Image: Andy Vernon

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vernon_aAndy Vernon is passionate about dahlias, incorporating them into every available planting opportunity in his garden. He has produced and directed popular television programs for BBC including Gardeners’ World and BBC Gardener of the Year.Trained as a horticulturist, Andy has worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and at Botanic Park in the Cayman Islands. He lives in Birmingham, England, where his horticultural media consulting firm is aptly named Planet Dahlia.

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Click image for a look inside this book.

“There is something for almost every garden here. Essential for dahlia lovers, cutting-edge flower gardeners, and all collections.”—Library Journal

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