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28 Mar 2018

Blooming beauties at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

Dahlias are considered one of the most spectacular garden flowers because of their unbelievable variety and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah has a dazzling collection in full bloom until the end of April.  These beauties have been in our cool-climate Garden since the early 80s but three years ago we decide to trial a display that would showcase the Dahlia in our Formal Garden.

Dahlia Devon Cupid asteraceae Greg Bourke 7719
The 'Devon Cupid' is a hybrid bred by C. Smith from Tasmania, image taken by Greg Bourke

A range of colour

The range of colours and flower types developed from just a few species is astounding and for size, few blooms in the garden can compete. Our first year saw the addition of about 60 cultivars with mixed success. They were planted too late in the season but they grew well and visitors loved them. We displayed cut blooms in the visitor centre which visitors voted on. This along with reviews by staff guided our second year planting.

Dahlia Kiara Forgwen Pale pink miniature cactus J Young 1990 Tasmania asteraceae
The 'Kiara Forgwen' is a hybrid bred by J Young in 1990, image taken by Greg Bourke


2015_03_31 Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah Dahlia cv Thommo white with red base miniature decorative asteracea
The "Thommo" is white with a red base, image taken by Greg Bourke

Bold blooms bring joy

Dahlias are tuber forming so in late autumn when the plants die back, they can be lifted and stored, replanted or even eaten, treated like a potato although I’m yet to try one. Following our first season, we lifted and stored our Dahlias to enable us to plant out a winter crop but storing the tubers was a little hit and miss with fungus taking its toll.

In our second winter, we left the tubers in the ground. While winters at the Garden are cold, the soil does not freeze so tubers do not desiccate. This decision turned out to be a good one as the plants emerged early (late September) and grew strong. On top of this we planted out six beds of the lower Formal Garden with a mix of short growing bedding Dahlias. Both sections have performed well and the mix of mass colour and big, bold blooms is a real hit with everyone who sees them.
Glenmore Pride Pink Miniature decorative G Fooks Tasmania asteraceae Greg Bourke
The 'Glenmore Pride' bred by G Fooks, image taken by Greg Bourke
Dahlia cv Lillian O red yellow reverse type G&O Oldfiend Mittagong asteraceae Greg Bourke
'Lillian O' bred by G&O Oldfiend from Mittagong, image taken by Greg Bourke

A few growing tips from Greg Bourke

Common in gardens across Australia in the early to mid 1900’s, the Dahlia brought colour and joy to homes at a time that was challenging for many households. Anyone could grow them but for some reason, all but the dedicated lost interest. 

Here are a few gardening tips:

  • They can be grown in pots or in the ground depending on type of cultivar. This will determine the size of pot, remember, some get pretty big

  • Soil is best slightly acidic and free draining

  • Water well through the growing period (generally October to April) and keep dry when dormant

  • Some gardeners lift their tubers during the dormant period but in Australia the soil rarely gets so cold that this is required

  • If you get a lot of rain in winter, you may wish to cover them or lift them and store them in a cool dark space in slightly damp conditions

  • Dahlias love sun, the more the better! Choose a bright spot for them.  

 Why not see the beauties for yourself and take a day trip to the Blue Moutnains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah. Or follow Greg on Twitter for regular updates of the Garden. 

Dahlia cv Formby Pride white pink flush miniature decorative J Harding Tasmania Greg Bourke
'Formby Pride'  bred by J Harding, image taken by Greg Bourke
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