For so long it was the flamboyance of the flowers that was the attraction of dahlias and no one paid any attention to the leaves. These days we take it for granted that many of the best garden dahlias don't have boring green leaves - they have luscious bronze or purplish foliage which is a feature in itself.
First ‘Bishop of Llandaff' caught gardeners' imagination and also ‘Yellowhammer' came along. Seed strains like ‘Redskin' appeared in catalogues, and the double orange ‘David Howard' appeared at Great Dixter and other gardens.
Now dark-leaved dahlias are taken for granted. Quite a number, large and small, have been seen in the Wisley trial in recent years and least two breeders, Aad Verwer in Holland and Keith Hammett in New Zealand, have devoted time to them.
In this year's trial, as you'd expect - some did well, some not so well. None from the Dutch Happy Single (HS) series, raised by Aad Verwer in The Netherlands, have yet been given an AGM but ‘Happy Single Kiss', salmon with a dark centre, ‘Happy Single Date', deep orange with a dark centre, and ‘Happy Single Wink', lilac with a purple centre, have come close.
‘Keith's Pet', from Keith Hammett, was given an AGM as a container plant but, though good, was less effective in the open ground. a star at Hampton Court in 2008 and another from Keith Hammett, with petals striped in lavender pink and white. These must be prime candidates for awards next year.
Two others came close this year and will be examined again next year. ‘Twyning’s Revel’ (top) in soft coral red with a yellow centre and the gorgeous ‘Candy Eyes (left)’, a star at Hampton Court in 2008 and another from Keith Hammett, with petals striped in lavender pink and white. These must be prime candidates for awards next year.
But the expert assessors from the Dahlia Sub-Committee and the Flower Trials Panel agreed that ‘Tally Ho Double' was the best of the dark-leaved types and deserved an AGM this year. This is a double flowered sport of ‘Tally Ho' which was found on the Wisley trials and propagated. It's proved one of the best of all with beautiful dark foliage and bright red scarlet double flowers. When it becomes available to gardeners the award can be confirmed.