Did you see the piece about the Winchester Growers dahlia exhibit on BBC Two's nightly programme on the Chelsea Flower Show tonight? Not much about the display itself, just a few words with a deservedly thrilled John Wheatcroft who put it all together, some superficial discussion about eating dahlias and a bit of banter about the new dahlia named for presenter Joe Swift.
I bumped into Joe at the President's Lunch on Monday - this is the lunch for judges, members of the governing Council of the Royal Horticultural Society and other notables - and he told me how pleased he was to have a dahlia carry his name. "It's ultimate accolade, really, isn't it," he said, still slightly stunned. "Such an honour to have a plant named for you." But why did no one mention the lovely sweet pea ‘Alan Titchmarsh'? Anyway...
Dahlia ‘Joe Swift' is a gorgeous plant, with rich dark foliage setting off white flowers with a subtle network of veins and hint of pink as the flowers age. I was especially taken with the slight ripple to the petals which gives the plant real style.
‘Joe Swift' was bred by John Wheatcroft using ‘Magenta Star', which he mentioned in his BBC TV interview, as one of the parent plants and the spoecies D. sorensii as the other.
But from the very same batch of seedlings, from the same cross, from the same seed pod came ‘Perfect Partner', the second new dahlia on display. Again, dark foliage. But with white flowers boldly stained in magenta pink towards the tips.
The final newcomer on the display was hidden away in the greenhouse because the two plants had just a single flower on each - ‘Revive'. There are two stories attached to this variety.
First, it was raised by Keith Hammett, from New Zealand, one of the world's leading creators of new dahlia varieties and recipient of the 2009 Cory Cup, from the Royal Horticultural Society, for his work in plant breeding. You can see the vivid colouring of the plant - it really is spectacular.
Second, it's named for the potting compost, Revive, in which all the dahlias on the display were grown. And Revive is not only made from composted green waste, but also supports Britain in Bloom.
These three impressive dahlias contributed to this display from Winchester Growers, holders of the National Dahlia Collection, receiving the ultimate prize of the President's Award for the best display in the Great Pavilion. Pretty impressive for a first exhibit at Chelsea! Dahlias this good in May? Must deserve an award.
You will soon be able to order these new varieties from the National Dahlia Collection website from Winchester Growers.