Several months earlier, a stranger at the ABC Carpark Caper offered them the entire dahlia collection belonging to his father who was now living in a nursing home. It was necessary to collect them as soon as possible. Within days and following some hours of digging a groaning trailer- load of 400 separate plants now belonged to Kate and her husband Hugh. A painstakingly amassed collection had been saved!
Once home with their “prizes”, the only thing that could be done was to carefully separate them on the floor of the garage and leave them…. as an overseas trip that had been planned was pending.
Upon their return, garden bed preparation was the next priority. Kate and her husband were new to dahlia growing but organised a long strip on a terrace that ran across in front of the house.
Initially, they began by dividing the tubers [as it should be done] but soon realised that if they were ever to be planted out before the next flowering season, drastic measures were needed. In the end, complete masses of tubers from each plant were just put into the ground and they “hoped for the best”.
The success of the venture was proved that night: of the meeting in the quality of the blooms, the strong thick stems and in the variety. Kate told me that the display at home was a joy to behold…. (see Kate's page) and that dahlias are her newest love - in the plant world, naturally!
Dahlias are native to Mexico and were popular with the Aztecs and known to explorers as early as the 14th century. Seeds reached Spain in 1789 and about that time the name Dahlia was given to them in honour of Andreas Dahl, the famous Swedish botanist who did so much in the study of plant order.
There is much flower diversity due to hybridisation. Look for cactus, pompon, peony forms, to name but three. The wide colour palate includes soft pales to almost gaudy brights.
The Botanic Garden in Adelaide has a splendid display of dahlias in the Bailey Triangle, propagated and planted by members of the Dahlia Society. John Bailey was the fourth Director of the A.B.G. from 1917-1932 and having a great keenness for the growing of these plants, created dazzling beds that were popular with the public.
Over years, dahlias have been in and out of fashion and popularity.
In the growing season they require a certain amount of work to deliver the best outcome. Let us hope that they will always be available to home gardeners and thank goodness for people like Kate and her husband who recognised the need to save and preserve that collection.