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Dahlias are some of the most popular flowers in our gardens these days, and no wonder. The range of shapes and colors on offer is stunning, which makes learning how to grow dahlias very rewarding. But, says gardener and presenter Carol Klein, it's fascinating to think that only a few decades ago, 'respectable gardeners would have confined them to the veggie plot. It's only people like Christopher Lloyd [celebrated gardener and author] that made them fashionable and incorporated them with other plants.'
We spoke to Carol ahead of her new Great British Gardens with Carol Klein (opens in new tab) show, which premiered on Channel 5 on Monday. We asked which dahlia varieties Carol prefers growing herself. These are the dahlias she recommends.
1. 'Bishop's Children'
When growing dahlias – and Carol says she grows a lot of them – 'I look for single ones,' Carol says. One of the reasons why single dahlias are her favorites is that 'you can grow them from seed – it's so easy! 'And, of course, the great advantage of single flowers is that they're wonderful for pollinating insects.' 'Bishop's Children' is her favorite variety to grow from seed. It has 'strong foliage' and 'bright red single flowers'.
Our guide on how to grow flowers from seeds has lots of useful tips for you to start your dahlia growing journey.
Great British Gardens With Carol Klein airs on Mondays at 9pm, Channel 5.
2. 'Bishop of Llandaff'
'Bishop of Llandaff' is one of the oldest dahlia varieties, with many cultivars derived from it, and it's still the classic dahlia. As Carol has put it, it has 'glorious bronze leaves and vermilion single flowers.'
This variety should be grown from tubers and makes a stunning addition to any sunny garden border. You can find out more about incorporating dahlias into your planting scheme in our guide to garden borders.
3. 'David Howard'
Although Carol's preference is for single dahlias, she does have one firm double dahlia favorite. 'If you are going to grow just one type of double dahlia,' she says, you should go for the bright orange 'David Howard'. 'It's very strong; the flowers are big and substantial,' she explains. It's another easy-growing variety that doesn't need staking.
All of Carol's favorites have the bold, bright appeal of accent flowers – and all of them are quite easy to grow. In fact, dahlias 'should be easy', Carol emphasizes. You can sow them from seed or even learn how to propagate dahlia cuttings to get more plants for free.
They may once have been considered too bold for 'civilised' gardens, but they are not to be passed over in any garden where you want a riot of strong colors and shapes.
Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.
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