Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

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Sleeping Beauties

It is hard to believe that these unsightly knobbly tubers will awaken and transform into arguably one of the best edible cut flowers in existence.

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Dahlias genetically are very closely related to sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes. They have been the national flower of Mexico since 1963 and their history is really interesting and goes back several hundred years.

The Aztecs grew dahlias for the tubers not the flowers. They were used a a food source for their livestock. These ugly tubers apparently taste like a cross between a potato and a carrot, and contain a sugar that was ingeniously used to treat the first diabetics. They were grown in the wild and the blooms were used to decorate headbands when a local wedding was celebrated. This drawing from 1410 is believed to be the first record of a dahlia.

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The ‘Badianus Manuscript’ was written in the sixteenth century and was rediscovered in the 1930’s and was recently returned by the Pope to Mexico. In this first medical book about herbs it is now believed that this drawing is of ‘Dahlia Coccinea’.

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The first western record of a Dahlia was in 1570. The Spanish king sent  botanist Francisco Fernanez to Mexico to study the country’s resources.  He duly reported that the Dahlia “is found in the mountains of the Quauhnahuacenses. In taste the root is smelly, bitter, sharp; it is hot and dry in the third degree, one ounce eaten relieves stomach ache, helps windiness of the stomach, provokes urine, brings out sweat, drives out chill, strengthens a weak stomach against chill, resists the cholic, opens obstructions, reduces tumors”.

The trail then goes quiet until other Spanish botanists were sent to Mexico in 1791, they dug up some tubers and collected some seed, loaded them onto their boat and begun the long voyage home. As the tubers were not frost hardy, most perished. The lucky survivors were trialled in Europe as a food source, but proved unpopular. The flowers appeared and the crazed love affair began.

Europe became obsessed. In the mid-nineteenth century, a national English newspaper offered £1 to the first breeder who could successfully produce a blue bloom. The reward has to date never been claimed.

Today there are over 55,000 varieties. All of these have been hybridized from the original tubers and seed brought from Mexico. The majority of flowering plants have just two genes that affect their flowers. The Dahlia has eight, which explains the vast array of different types available today.

The French diva Marie Antoinette stamped her foot, demanded the most rare and sought varieties be planted in her own private garden. Here at Darsham our own great leader has chosen his selection for 2016.

Tuber kissing is extreme even for us, compost, a touch of root-grow and a good soak will have to suffice. We have just started to coax these historic sleeping beauties back to consciousness and they should be ready for sale by June.

‘Deli Dahlias’ are now being sold, tubers grown specifically for food not flowers.  Mr Eagle will be rubbing his hands with glee. I predict a  December menu featuring roasted Dahlias.

If you want colour in your borders all summer until the first frost, striking stems day after day for your vase and sumptuous edible petals then a Dahlia is unbeatable.

These are this years Darsham Dahlias.

Alauna Clair-Obscur

Alauna Clair-Obscur

Karma Corona PInk

Karma Corona PInk

Thomas E. Edison

Thomas E. Edison

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz

Downham Royal

Downham Royal

Jowey Nina

Jowey Nina

Jescot Julie

Jescot Julie

Ariko Zsaza

Ariko Zsaza

David Howard

David Howard

Palmares

Palmares

Karma Naomi

Karma Naomi

Ludwig Helfert

Ludwig Helfert

Karma Choc

Karma Choc

Tutu

Tutu

Snowflake

Snowflake

Karma Serena

Karma Serena

Gramma's Lemon Pie

Gramma’s Lemon Pie

Boom Boom Yellow

Boom Boom Yellow

limegarden@sky.com • 4th May 2016


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3 Comments on Sleeping Beauties

Toni McLean said : Guest Report one year ago

Great website and interesting background on history of plants.

Brian Skeys said : Guest Report one year ago

Dahlias feature in my garden every year, the summer/Autumn garden would not be the same without them. Great selection.

Niamh said : Guest Report one year ago

Thanks Brian, I agree. Late summer would be so dull without a dahlia or five!

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