If you've been keeping an eye on the gardening world lately, you can’t have helped noticing a blooming obsession with dahlias. These vibrant and diverse flowers have captured the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide, creating a floral frenzy reminiscent of the way ‘tulipmania’ gripped Europe back in the 17th century.
Dahlias are a collectors’ dream, with thousands of unique varieties available and the potential for new seedlings to be named and brought into cultivation each year. For gardeners with a thirst for variety, a desire to share their gardening efforts with others and an appreciation of sustainable flower growing, these captivating blooms have an enduring appeal.
The Beginnings of the Dahlia Craze
The dahlia, native to the mountains of Mexico and Central America, made its way to Europe in the late 18th century but didn't immediately win hearts. Originally known as ‘Georgina’, the dahlia name was formally registered in honour of botanist Andreas Dahl some years later. While the first cultivated dahlias produced simple single flowers, growers soon discovered that dahlias hybridise readily. By the mid-1800s several thousand different types of double and ball dahlias had been developed. This first example of dahlia mania lasted through the late 1800s. Breeding during this period resulted in the introduction of pompon, cactus, decorative and collarette forms.
Gardening trends change, though, and during the 1960s to ‘90s dahlias disappeared from view as formal and minimalist gardens came into vogue. Dahlias were seen by many as old-fashioned, technicolour gaudy, high maintenance and deeply unfashionable. Thankfully, individual enthusiasts and dahlia societies steadfastly kept a wide selection of flowers in cultivation and retained the knowledge needed to grow and divide dahlias, regardless of floral fashions.
Fast forward to today and dahlias have become a global sensation once again, thanks in part to the power of social media, which allows gardeners to proudly showcase their stunning dahlia blooms. The increasing interest in growing heirlooms, sustainability, micro flower farms and cut flower gardening has also played a significant role in the dahlia revival.
Why Have Dahlias Captivated Gardeners?
One look at dahlias and it's easy to see why they've become such a hit. These flowers come in an astounding range of colours, shapes and sizes, making them a versatile choice for gardeners and florists alike. From spiky and exotic cactus types to giant dinnerplate varieties and elegant, uncomplicated singles, there's a dahlia to suit every taste and style.
Dahlias are also fast and relatively easy to grow, making them accessible to both seasoned gardeners and novices. Gardeners can choose to simply purchase and plant tubers, or further develop their skills by lifting, dividing and storing tubers; equal satisfaction can be gained from growing from seed in the hopes of bringing a new cultivar into the world. With proper care and attention, these resilient plants can thrive in a variety of climates. And let's not forget their impressive blooming season, stretching from mid-summer to late autumn.
Sustainability and the Cut Flower Movement
Beyond their breathtaking beauty, dahlias have found a special place within the sustainable floristry movement. This movement aims to reduce the environmental impact of the floral industry and promote the use of locally grown, seasonal flowers. Micro flower farms, which are small-scale, environmentally conscious operations, have played a significant role in the dahlia trend. As cut flowers, dahlias have a relatively short vase life; this makes home-grown blooms the best option for cut flowers and guarantees that purchased dahlia blooms are ‘grown not flown’.
Building Communities on Social Media
Social media has played a significant role in the popularity of growing dahlias. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and other gardening forums have become virtual hotspots for gardeners and flower enthusiasts to show off their best blooms and arrangements, compare growing notes and offer encouragement to beginner growers. The visually stunning impact of dahlias, combined with the ability to connect with like-minded individuals, has fostered a strong, vibrant and supportive community of dahlia enthusiasts.
The current fashion for dahlias has been compared to the 'tulipmania' of the Dutch Golden Age. In the 17th century, tulips became highly sought after and a status symbol among the wealthy. Prices soared, and a speculative market for tulip bulbs developed.
While the dahlia trend shares some similarities with 'tulipmania,' there are some important differences as well. For most gardeners, growing dahlias focuses on the cultivation and appreciation of beauty and diverse cultivars rather than financial gain or status. Enthusiasts today willingly share their knowledge, swap tubers and celebrate each other's discoveries and successes as they seek to expand their dahlia collections.
Fueled by a genuine passion for gardening, an appreciation for diversity and a vibrant online community, dahlias are still winning hearts around the world. As the dahlia trend continues to thrive, it reflects a broader movement toward greener and more ethical floral practices. It is clear that the allure of these captivating blooms will endure, inspiring generations to come. Why not join the dahlia trend today?