People love autumn for many reasons — the cooling temperatures, the turning leaves, heading back to school, even the pumpkin spice. But for flower people there is a particularly beautiful reason to celebrate the season. It is the time that the dahlia comes into its own. Between the first day of fall and the first hard frost (usually mid-October) dahlia lovers are in ecstasy viewing their plants replete with large blooms and bright colors.
Cylburn’s dahlia patch is no exception — a “not-to-be-missed” treat for anyone visiting the gardens these days. Thanks to the determination and efforts of the Cylburn Arboretum Association’s staff and volunteers, the garden is in full bloom after weathering earlier season challenges from plant disease and resident critters. Several varieties featured there this year are worthy of special note.
At the far end of the fourth bed, closest to the rose garden, is Hollyhill Black Beauty, one of the darkest red blooms to be seen. It is classified as an informal decorative (bloom petals come close to but do not touch the stem) of medium size. Its form and rich color this time of year are unequaled.
On the other end of that bed is a large bloom that will brighten your day. Windhaven Blush is a bright yellow bloom with just a hint of lavender in the center. It is classed as a “semi-cactus” because of its pointed petals. Introduced several decades ago it is still exhibited in shows and fairs around the country.
In the center front of the next bed as you walk toward the mansion is a smaller plant with a very interesting bloom form. This cultivar is called “Caboose” and is classed as a red collarette. Collarettes are unique blooms with large ray petals surrounding an open center. Emanating from the center is a ring of smaller yellow “collar” petals from which the classification is named. Don’t be surprised to see a bee or two visiting the blooms. Open center blooms are advertisements to pollinators. But don’t be afraid; those bees are much more interested in the beautiful blooms!
In the center front of the next bed is a plant that gives evidence to the great genetic diversity in dahlias. It is named Mingus Art and has a star shaped bloom classed as an orchid variety. The bloom’s white petals fold forward revealing their pink underside. In dahlia classification language this striking difference in top and bottom petal color is often referred to as “reverse” coloration. Like the collarettes, this too is an open center bloom, sought out by the pollinators. As we near the end of the season, more and more bloom centers will be open, nature’s way of insuring pollination.
At the edge of the bed closest to the mansion is the eye catcher of the whole patch. It is named Akita No Hikari and is classed as a novelty variety. Set on a six-foot plant, the large blooms’ spiky crimson petals have a delicate touch of yellow. The more central petals curve inward, revealing a reverse of white tips.
Linger long enough to enjoy the delicate structure of this bloom and those of the many other varieties in the garden. You should not be disappointed! Here are a few more to keep your eye out for the next time you visit.
Special thanks to John Krick for offering these garden notes. John’s been growing dahlias for more than thirty years, and for the last six years he’s tended the Cylburn dahlia garden.