The Plant Lover's Guide to Dahlias, by Andy Vernon

This summer I ventured to try something different on my tiny patio container garden and decided to go with a small species of dahlia. To my surprise they have taken off and even eluded the voracious snails for which dahlia leaves seem a gourmet treat.

I have always admired these beautiful plants since I saw an amazing display of HUGE ones in Kew Gardens outside of London many years ago. So I was especially pleased when I saw that Andy Vernon's book was part of a series produced "in association with Kew Royal Botanic Gardens."

Vernon admits from the start that he is "not an exhibition or professional grower" but proudly professes himself to be a dahlia lover. "I think it's important we get this right from the start. I don't just like dahlias. I LOVE THEM." He is also delighted that after years of being looked down upon by "the gardening good-taste brigade a resurgence of interest in these dazzling blooms is well underway."

The book opens with three chapters on everything you might want to know about dahlias and more (I was interested to find out they originated in Central and South America and that there are 36 species).

There are also, of course, tips on selecting and growing, and some curious bits of dahlia trivia (dahlia tubers have had a somewhat disappointing side career as an edible vegetable, and the species is a type of daisy).

But for me the glory of this volume is an illustrated chapter on "200 Varieties for the Garden." This is prepared for by the preceding chapter, which lists both the forms and species. The former include (among others) single, peony, cactus, and water lily, and the latter a lot of big names you can check out for yourself…

Or, just enjoy the glorious color photographs.


Ross Care

DAHLIAS; Kew Gardens, London; Photograph by Ross Care from a Kodachrome Transparency