Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Dahlia of Two Colours

October is almost over and I completely forgot to pick a bouquet of flowers this month!  Luckily I was out in the garden today cutting down dahlias to store the tubers for the winter.  Because our weather has been so mild up to now the dahlias were still blooming despite a little frost damage.  So as I cut the plants down I also picked the last of the flowers and created a bouquet for October.

Dramatic white dahlias with red stripes

Dark pink dahlias with yellow highlights

Meadowsweet leaves for greenery
The most interesting thing about this bouquet is that all these flowers came from the same plant.  Amazing isn't it?  Take a second and look again.  Here's a photo of a flower on the plant.

This flower is quite a deep red with yellow highlights yet you can clearly see behind it a flower that is almost completely white.

An all white flower tinged with just pink
and yet the flower to the left contains more yellow
The first blooms I saw this year from this plant were much like the one above.  The base colour was white with dark pink to red highlights.  But as the blooms continued through summer I became more baffled.  Each succeeding flower seemed more out of step than the last.  The general colour combination on any given flower is white, yellow and a dark pink or red.  But what colour is the most predominant changes from flower to flower.

After a little research I discovered that colour variation in dahlias is referred to as a Sport.  Breeders look for these variations, or sports, as this is how they create new hybrids.  A plant that is producing an attractive flower on one stem will be used to take cuttings.  These cuttings are then grown on for several years until a stable colour is produced.  Unfortunately dahlias are not reliable and will take it into their pretty little heads to change colour at whim.  Sometimes reverting back to their original colour or changing into something entirely new.  A frustrating trait at times but one that has allowed breeders to create the hundreds of colour and shape combinations that home gardeners so dearly love which isn't such a bad thing at all.


  1. I love your Dahlias they are beautiful. That's so cool that the same plant can produce so much variation.

  2. Oh to have such a beautiful bouquet at this time of year. Dahlias just don't flower for me so I finally gave up. Yours are lovely. Hope you didn't get the snow ;-(

  3. You know, I can't grow these things to save my life and its driving me crazy.

  4. I think I have a new favorite flower! Your dahlias are incredibly beautiful and their flowering season seems very long?!

  5. Johanna - I thought it was pretty cool too. It makes it hard to place in the garden though because I have no idea what colours to expect!

    Brenda - snow free so far but boy that wind and rain! We've unhappily discovered our roof has a leak with that 50mm coming down.

    Jess - isn't it funny how some people have absolutely no trouble with a certain plant and others just can't grow it no matter how hard they try. I love beets and 2 years in a row now I've grown the most miserable beets you've ever seen. And they're supposed to be an easy veggie to grow. What gives?

    Jane - I've actually tricked my dahlias a bit into flowering more than they should. I hold the tubers in the house over winter but come early spring I let them get warm and they start to sprout and then I pot them up indoors. I had flowers at the beginning of July this year doing this. They will continue to bloom all summer and through to fall when frosts kill the plants. This year we haven't had a heavy frost yet so the plants are still alive and blooming.

  6. Goodness, I never knew that! Crazy plants - pretty though.

  7. Gorgeous blooms! And how fun to have a sport! I wish I could grow them here. I think I would be obsessed with them!

  8. I had no idea they could do that! Now, for a bit of whimsy, to me, if flowers were the Spice Girls, dahlias would be the Sporty spice to the rose's Posh spice. How's that for a new plant category. Forget the Latin! lol

  9. I love dahlias and your photos are great.

  10. I love dahlias, and alas will not be able to grow them here(will just enjoy your photos even more). How interesting that their sport might change back. I would imagine it might frustrate someone that wanted the original. It is quite the bonus plant in the garden.

  11. Marguerite, I think this has got to be one of your prettiest bouquets yet. It is a neat quirk to have different colored flowers on one plant. Now I know how dahlia breeders have come up with so many fantastic shapes and colors.

  12. Personally, I rather like dahlias. I think I have to credit Martha Stewart as I used to consider them "old people" flowers. There are others I still see that way but... nevermind. It seems to me we grew some one year and got a lovely yellow with red stripes. We didn't think to dig up the bulb.... gardening is not my forté and I'm guessing hubs deliberately ignored the task or just got too busy and forgot. My hunch is the latter.

  13. Mauguerite,
    Your Dahlias are beautiful.
    It's so nice to take in a wonderful looking bouquet at this time of the year.
    I should plant some, but I'm lazy when you have to remove them for Winter storage. I guess I really don't have the room to store them is the big problem.
    Glad to see your not lazy and have the storage space this way I can just see your nice pic's and wish.

  14. Janet - their instability is a little crazy and at first I was annoyed with the colour changes but now that I know a little more about it I'm learning to appreciate them more.

    Holley - people do seem to get a little obsessed with dahlias. There are just so many colours and shapes to choose from it's hard not to start collecting them.

    Ms.S - I love your categories! Roses really are posh flowers in the gardening world, aren't they?

    Kentish, thank you. The more I blog the more I learn about photography. Borrowing my hubby's fancy camera helps too!

  15. Tufa - I can tell you honestly I was a little frustrated when I first discovered this plant wasn't coming true to the original colour. Makes colour coordinating a flower bed pretty difficult when it keeps changing!

    Jennifer, thank you. I love trying to find flowers in the garden each month and make up bouquets. When I look back at them I can see how the garden changes throughout the season.

    Michelle - in BC we didn't dig up the bulbs at all! boy I miss that. My mom had one massive yellow dahlia next to the house foundation that was never dug out and the plant was more like a shrub than a perennial.

    Witch -Storage is always an issue isn't it? We have a basement but it isn't cold as hubby uses it as his workshop. Our kitchen for whatever reason was never properly insulated so I've found that's the best place to store them. But when the kitchen is eventually renovated I'll have to look elsewhere!