The nights are drawing in, and the cold damp weather is taking a grip on Exmoor. To bring back some of the colour of the brighter months, I have decided on a series of posts celebrating some of the wild and cultivated flowers that bloom here.
The first flower I have chosen is the dahlia. A flower that is out of favour generally, but is beloved by amateur Flower show exhibitors and my next door neighbour in particular. At 87 he lovingly tends these big blousy flowers which bloom without fail in time for the local village show in late summer.
Here are 10 fun facts about dahlias :
- Dahlias originated as a wild flower in the high mountain regions of Mexico and Guatemala. That’s why they naturally work well and bloom happily in cool Autumn breezes.
- The Aztecs utilized the dahlia for medicinal purposes.
- There’s no such thing as a black dahlia. They come in just about every shade under the sun, except true blue and black. “Black” dahlias are actually burgundy.
- A compound known as Atlantic starch, an extract from the dahlia tuber, was once used to treat diabetes.
- The dahlia is Mexico’s national flower and San Francisco’s official flower.
- Dahlias belong to the Asteraceae (Aster) family along with daisies and sunflowers.
- There are more than 30 species and over 20,000 cultivars of dahlias.
- Well-draining, rich and fertile soil that is slightly acidic is a must for growing dahlias. Dahlias cannot abide soggy roots.
- Dahlias range from dwarf plants which are ideal for bedding, to giants such as Dahlia imperialis found growing in the wild from Guatemala to Colombia where it can grow upwards of 6m tall.
- Dahlias attract butterflies to your garden.