My fantasy dahlia garden

Greed.  Isn’t it wonderful?

Is there a word for people like me?  Do I need to go into rehab?  Do I need an intervention?

For my birthday last year I was bought a book called ‘Dahlias’ by Andy Vernon.  It is like the crack cocaine of the gardening books.  I can’t get enough.  I need more.  Andy Vernon is my dealer.

So here is my effort to manage my problem.  I haven’t any more room in my actual garden, so how about I design my fantasy garden?

In my fantasy dahlia garden (yes.  A whole garden devoted to dahlias.  Eyes roll back in head) I can see:

Terraces of Dahlias

This is inspired by some terraced raised beds I saw on the ‘Tiny Urban Farmer’ blog. I am going to have a winding path through my terraces.  Because this is a fantasy garden, I will have had magic diggers effortlessly carve out these terraces on a steep slope, allowing me to view my beautiful dahlias from above and below, and to get face-to-face with ease.

I might even arrange my terraces in rainbow colours!

I’m going to start with ‘Mambo’, a powder puff of a dahlia, mauve pink.  Then ‘Poodle Skirt’, if not just for the name, then for the huge magenta-mauve anemone puffballs.  If we’re going for the mad ones, then we must have ‘Hollyhill Spiderwoman’ with its tangle of cherry and white tendrils.  ‘Hootenanny’ is a wild cherry collarette.  For the morning after there will be ‘Bed Head’, with its crown of curling orange.  Then ‘EZ Duzzit’, a peachy collarette, and ‘Lucky Ducky’, a yellow fuzz.

Sweet Shop of Dahlias

Now that you have made it down the terrace, welcome to my sweet shop of dahlias.  These will be in great jar-like pots.  I’d like ‘Twynings Smartie’ and watermelon ‘Pipsqueak’ and ‘Lemon Puff’ and ‘Sweet Content’ (peachy pie) and ‘Hugs and Kisses’ (parma violet), please.  You can take them away in paper bags to guzzle later.

A Gallaxy of Dahlias

We might as well go completely bonkers and have a suspended gallaxy of dahlias.  This can be my psychedelic night garden, lit with spirals of fairy lights.  I’d like ‘Mars’, a red collarette, ‘Comet’, a cranberry anemone, ‘Moonfire’ with its corona of vermillion, and ‘Satellite’, a hot pink cactus.  We’ll end with dark matter, the anemone ‘Soulman’.  We’ll have space-hoppers and hammocks, so you can just hang out.

I think I may have overdosed.

If you want to see a real garden filled with dahlias, my very favourite is the Salutation in Sandwich, Kent. It is magnificent.

Do you have a lust-list of dahlias?  Or does another type of plant float your boat?  What would your fantasy garden look like?

My aim on this site is to bring you a regular dose of joy, wonder or playfulness. If you would like a little more of this in your life, to balance out the normal dresses and strains of life, then click on the ‘Follow’ button below to receive your very own email notification when I publish a post!


Picture credits: Sarah Raven, The National Dahlia Collection, RHS, JParkers, Withypitts, Oakridge Dahlias.






65 Comments Add yours

  1. Tiny Urban Farmer says:

    Currently building my fantasy garden (I guess the fantasy is a bigger one) Although, I will fill my raised beds with vegetables – I did have the idea to use the corners for dahlia and gladioli. Dahlia are new to me – do you think they will be fine in (horse manure) veg compost?

    1. Ali says:

      Oh yes. They like the same conditions as most veg (except root veg): plenty of sun, rich soil, a weekly water if there’s no rain. Other than that they’re pretty trouble-free. I hose off and squash black fly at the same time as broadbeans, (June), then it’s just deadheading every few days. For dahlias – pointy bud is a spent flower, rounded bud is a bud.

  2. Tiny Urban Farmer says:

    Thank you for the mention, my garden is one big mud pit at the moment

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, mine’s decidedly soggy too!

  3. Chloris says:

    They are indeed good enough to eat. How many dahlias have you actually ordered? I got carried away this year, I think I shall need one of your suspended galleries.

    1. Ali says:

      I think I ordered 10 new varieties! I just couldn’t stop! What have you chosen, Chloris?

      1. Chloris says:

        Oh goodness, have you got all day? I have ordered 23 new ones. The weather was fowl and I got totally carried away.

      2. Ali says:

        I love it! I’m going to blame the weather when I have a little plant-buying accident. Can’t wait to see yours! I’ve upped my growing space for cut flowers from one raised bed to three. Have you ever had problems with replanting disease? I put new dahlias where others had been the year before and they were really pathetic – just a handful of blooms all summer, whilst the ones I’d left in place all winter were fine.

      3. Chloris says:

        I’m dedicating one of my raised vegetable beds to them. I have never grown enough in the past to have problems. Last year I went to Bidddulph Grange to see their famous dahlias. Some of them were fine but others were diseased and a total disaster.

      4. Ali says:

        Oh no! That’s a shame. Wonder what it was?

      5. Chloris says:

        The gardeners think it is a gradual build up of pests and disease as they have been growing them in the same place for years.

      6. Ali says:

        Ah, I wondered. Might grow my new ones in one of the new raised beds and then leave them in, rather than chopping and changing, and replanting in same place.
        Have you noticed that you are my go-to guru, Chloris? 😘

  4. annpappas says:

    Those are so beautiful – I used to grow them long ago – maybe when our drought is over…

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, they are quite thirsty.

  5. Annika Perry says:

    Your post reads like poetry with the lush names and description! Tempting me to be dahlia mad in my garden!

    1. Ali says:

      😂Now I’m the dahlia pusher!

  6. Ah, I love to see others who are equally as obsessed with dahlias! I have 11 crates (that haven’t even been divided yet, so probably more like 20 crates) of dahlia tubers sitting in my basement awaiting late May; our planting time in the tundra. I was also laughing at Chloris’s reply regarding getting carried away with plant ordering because the weather was foul. Happens every year to me in the late Feb to early March stage when we get buried under yet more snow, after some temptingly warm days. Can’t wait to see photos of all the glorious dahlias!

    1. Ali says:

      Wow, that’s a lot of tubers. I’m in good company. And me too, can’t wait to see photos.

  7. I’ve never been much of a fan of Dahlias but your enthusiasm and your wonderful photos are making me think again. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Come on over to the dark side!

  8. bcparkison says:

    Never ending colors and shapes. Beautiful! but…I thought they needed to be dug up every fall. That would be a lot of digging.

    1. Ali says:

      We can get away with leaving them in the ground in Kent. I just tip a bucket of compost or manure over them, and it acts as a duvet over winter.

  9. I do love dahlias. Unfortunately I have rather a lot of snails and they live them too…

    1. Ali says:

      (Whispering) So far slugs and snails have not been a problem. Or earwigs, which I used to get in my previous garden.

  10. Dahlias are so lovely, and addictive! But maybe, like cats, cyclamen, books and hellebores, they are an acceptable form of addiction? 😃

    1. Ali says:

      You might even say a wholesome addiction!

  11. I am so with you on your love of Dahlias and we have over 50 which we plant every year in the allotments for cut flowers, I adore them and love the varieties you have shown here Ali. I can never get enough and will buy new ones each year..
    Just hoping they have been ok this winter in our storage .. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Ooh, Sue, I glory in your excess! Will you post photos in the summer?

  12. Looks like my comment may have gone into spam because of the link I left

    1. Ali says:

      Are there photos on your blog? I could put in a link?

      1. Yes there are.. I sent the link but it disappeared on you blog, lol so it may be in your spam box xx And yes feel free to share. x

      2. Ali says:

        Excuse me whilst I go and riffle through my trash…

  13. I love this dahlia chat and am worried that I only ordered 2 new varieties. I must try harder! Maybe we could do a dahlia linky.

    1. Ali says:

      God, yes! A dinky!

    2. Ali says:

      Oh no. Wait. That sounds wrong.

    3. Ali says:

      I need to moderate my own comments.

      1. Lol. Racing my brains now. Dahlinky? Or it’s done on certain day. Mondahlia, Tuesdahlia etc. I think I’ve seen a hashtag with Sundahlia somewhere…

  14. Sharon says:

    I need a Mambo and a Poodle Skirt for the allotment, because why not 😉 Did you know that dahlia flowers are edible? It’s the perfect allotment plant!

    1. Ali says:

      I read that very recently! They have a peppery smell when deadheading, so wonder if it is a similar taste?

  15. Sharon says:

    Last year I drove halfway around the M25 in search of Cafe au Lait tubers. Now I’m going to be asking for Poodle Skirts!!

    1. Ali says:

      That’s very funny! Cafe au lait is gorgeous! That was the dahlia of choice, last year, wasn’t it?

  16. pbmgarden says:

    Beautiful dahlias Ali. Hope the magic digger arrives in time.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! They are never late!

  17. pommepal says:

    I LOVE dahlias, I adore them in all their forms and colours, big, small and petite. I grew borders of them in NZ and tried to grow them here (Australia) when we moved in 1998, but sadly they could not handle the heat and humidity, I struggled too!!! So I understand your addiction. Go girl with your fantasy gardens and give me a virtual buzz….

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, thank you! I get a virtual buzz from hibiscus and frangipani!

      1. pommepal says:

        And the sunshine?

  18. I have nominated you for an award…sorry to pop it here!
    Not sure if you join in with these but they can be fun!
    Sophie x

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! I will take a look…

  19. Stefanie says:

    Your fantasy dahlia garden sounds lovely! They are not hardy in my area so I would have to dig them all up every fall and store them in my basement, carefully labeled. I tried it once long ago with about three or four varieties and after two years I was done. Too much work. Sometimes I think about choosing one or two of a small variety to grow in a mixed pot on my porch but there are so many to choose from I can’t decide so I will admire yours now instead 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      I can completely understand that. If I had to lift them I don’t think I would grow them.

  20. Clare Pooley says:

    I love dahlias especially all the fruity red and purple ones. I have grown a few in the past but mainly in tubs where they aren’t particularly happy. My husband has been growing them for four or five years behind large barricades but is thinking of getting rid of them after this year. We have such trouble with animal visitors to our garden that enjoy eating all our plants and I find that plants can’t be enjoyed so much when viewed through chicken wire. I gloat over all the catalogues and plant books but have to think twice and thrice before ordering anything. I *have* enjoyed this post!

    1. Ali says:

      Reds and purples are my favourites. Though I am partial to orange and apricot, and more recently a bit of lilac thrown in!

  21. Rupali says:

    A colourful world!

    1. Ali says:

      It certainly is, Rupali. Dahlias give probably the widest colour range of any flower.

  22. Dahlias are one of my favorite flowers too!

    1. Ali says:

      I look forward to sharing photos come July!

  23. Kevin says:

    I applaud you on fantasising so fantastically! I always find that when I fantasise I end up going on a plant spending spree unfortunately…
    I don’t think I could keep my fantasy garden to just one species however… I constantly come across new plants I feel I need!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Kevin! I know, fantasising protects my bank balance to some extent, but is not foolproof!

  24. Every one of those dahlias is gorgeous. My problem is I have to buy the bulbs, plant the bulbs, dig up the bulbs, store the bulbs, and hope that I can start the process over again. We have such cold winters I normally can’t even get the bulbs to last through the winter stored in the garage. Sad state of flower affairs. So, I will continue to drool over yours and other fortunate folks. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Then I am delighted to share them, Judy!

  25. yash sagar says:

    Stunning your all pictures and article too really nice thanks for sharing n keep it up thanks a lot..!

  26. Such beautiful flowers! I have the same garden fantasy! Those pinks are superb 💗

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Lisa! I can imagine you making a paper flower hanging garden!

  27. Rowena says:

    I’m limited to just a few dahlias each year due to not enough space, but I’ve wanted Cafe au Lait for such a long time. Dahlias are my favorite flower!

    1. Ali says:

      It is hard to choose, isn’t it?

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