It’s no secret, I’m mad on dahlias.
The love affair has been a fairly recent one – well, one year, two months and seventeen days to be precise.
It all began after a visit to the Norfolk & Suffolk Dahlia Society’s show last year.
Imagine a village hall bursting to the rafters with hundreds of show vases delicately displaying dahlias of all shapes, sizes and colours.
It was a room full of inspirational plants and people.
I left brimming with ideas and a mountain of dahlias (they gave them away at the end of the show!) – together with renewed passion for these spectacular blooms.
For days the house was awash with dahlias and I vowed that the following year I’d expand my collection and gem up on how to get the best from them.
In the past few years dahlias have become very fashionable, although there is a certain predilection for the variety Café au Lait, I’d rather fallen for favour Hillcrest Candy, Polventon Kristobel, Barbarry D’Amour, Rose Jupiter, the massive Bryn Terfel, Curson George, Alf Ramsey, Normandie Wedding Day and the gigantic Aggie White.
I set about ordering an array of tubers for the coming season and made plans to move the handful I already had from the borders (where they had been small and slightly insignificant amongst the swathes of shrubbery) to a raised bed I would dedicate entirely to dahlias.
Then along came 2020.
With the arrival of Covid-19 and then the national lockdown the decision to dedicate a raised bed to the blooms became rather a contentious point – they’d be taking up valuable vegetable space.
But, I ploughed on (and extended another bed) and looking back it was absolutely the right decision to make – throughout the year there have been times when isolation and lockdown have only been brightened by the bed of dahlias outside the kitchen window.
In March I planted my tubers in pots and placed them in the greenhouse.
While their shoots began to emerge from the soil I researched and planned their journey into the raised bed.
Their planting spaces were religiously paced out (it’s different for each variety) and I made sure I had all the resources they would need. I really wanted to make it work.
In June they migrated to the raised bed (I had too many for the space so they invaded other beds too) where each plant had it’s own stake and was meticulously watered and re-staked.
It’s been a gloriously successful first dahlia growing year for me – I’ve had blooms from July to this very day in mid November.
The first of this year’s dahlias
On August bank holiday Monday, a year since my visit to the dahlia show – I picked a bunch of blooms and felt very happy with life – I’d achieved my goal.
I was astonished at what a difference the move from border to bed had made. Having them all in the same space meant they were attended to and watered more than they had been in their previous position.
They’ve truly blossomed and while they’ve not necessarily been to show standard, they have consistently produced flowers to brighten the house for months upon months.
Give them the attention they need – water, deadhead, feed and cut – and they will keep sending up new blooms.
While the growing was successful I has one issue – I didn’t have a vase in my arsenal that the dahlias would stand happily in. Many had short to middling stems and some were considerably top heavy which made displaying them a disappointing affair.
I needed a short vase with a heavy base that didn’t crowd the flowers and kept the stems upright.
It got my creative juices flowing – having trained as an artist (many years ago) I figured I could solve the problem.
And so, with determination, enthusiasm and a lot of help from the delightful other half we set about making a vase using oak and test tubes.
After a day in the workshop we had a vase that perfectly displayed the individual stems.
I was delighted! It meant that dahlias, and any other flowers or foliage I grew, could be displayed in a vase where each stem had the space to show off.
And, as a table centrepiece, the blooms can be seen from each and every angle.
The vase itself is made of English oak, with hand-turned pillars and 24 test tubes.
I love its versatility, different arrangements of greenery can displayed throughout the year and it’s now in almost constant use – I’m already planning my Christmas display with the addition of a pillar candle in the middle.
Anyway, so happy am I with the outcome that I’ve decided to make them to sell.
As we’re in the midst of lockdown v2 I figure it’s the perfect time to get creating and what better item to make than a vase that celebrates blooms of all varieties.
If you’re interested in one, please do drop me an email.
They are made from start to finish here in our workshop in Norfolk and are finished in water-resistant hard wax oil.
24 tube vase/ diameter 28cm / £95
12 tube vase / diameter 18.5cm / £65
If you need me, you’ll find me in the workshop cutting and sanding…