Any colour but blue

This is a good example of why National Plant Collections exist. Dahlias had fallen out of fashion by the time Winchester Growers exhibited their National Collection at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2009, the first time in 25 years that Dahlias had been shown at Chelsea, and won a Gold medal and the President’s Special Award for the best Floral exhibit.  Since then they have wowed the public with their fabulous displays of Dahlias – colours, shapes and sizes to suit all gardens – and gradually I’ve accumulated a small selection of Dahlias which I overwinter and propagate each year

But I can still remember how disappointed I felt when I realised that Winchester Growers weren’t 40 minutes down the road in Winchester, but 5 hours away in Penzance.  So as our walking odyssey around the South West Coast Path has reached West Cornwall and at a perfect time of year, we had to visit the National Plant Collection of Dahlia, first awarded NC status in 1999.

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A field of delights

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Three of the nine in the bishops series

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An old friend – D. ‘Twyning’s Smartie’, which we used on one of our leaflets a couple of years ago,

Dahlia 'Twyning's Smartie'
Dahlia ‘Twyning’s Smartie’

– one of a range of Twyning’s cultivars which include one of my favourites – D. ‘Twyning’s Revel’ – used in our central feature at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2012.

Dahlia 'Twyning's Revel'
Dahlia ‘Twyning’s Revel’

Another related group, all with rich dark foliage which contrasts beautifully with the flowers

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Looking at the images above it’s easy to see my preferences – simple open flowers – but these more traditional shapes also caught my eye

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In 1846 the Caledonia Horticultural Society of Edinburgh offered a prize of £2,000 to the person producing the first blue dahlia – which I believe still stands.  But you are spoiled for choice across the rest of the rainbow.

And there was still lots of promise of blooms which will carry on until the first frosts

Dahlia 'Hallwood Coppernob'
Dahlia ‘Hallwood Coppernob’

Winchester’s website is now taking orders for delivery in 2015 and I’ve got designs on a few new names to add to my collection.