I planted four new dahlias this year, two purples, two coral-ish, but none came up. I was so disappointed. I’d pictured the purples dazzling behind my searing red monardas.
The yellow “dinner plates” from last year, however, are abundant and gorgeous. Here’s the first, blazing like a small sun, just about to open.
There are 42 official varieties, big and small. Dahlias are native to the Americas. The invading Spaniards found them in Mexico. Aztecs used the tubers as a food crop and to cure epilepsy — cultivated, as well as wild. The long hollow stems were employed as water pipes.
Because my purples and corals rejected me, I put out a call to friends like Yasmina to send me pictures of their dahlias. Indira Ganesan in Massachusetts let me use these:
Rose Anna Bethel in California sent these:
My dear old pal, John Patrick Kelly in Florida sent this lovely specimen. I recall he said it was supposed to be more purple, but apparently dahlias often have minds of their own and turn whatever color they feel like that day!
It’s an experience my friend Andrew Wille in London is having, too. “I was planning on sending along names for the dahlias but they didn’t seem to match! No orange, no burgundy/black — magenta pinks instead,” he wrote. Nevertheless, his dahlias are spectacular: