This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
There are few flowers more beautiful, or which make a more brilliant show in the fall of the year than the highly improved double dahlias. They require some care to cultivate properly, or they degenerate; some, however, more readily than others. In old times no one would look at a single dahlia, but the florist has placed his improving fingers on them, and with such grand success that they are actually competing successfully for popularity with the double ones. Last year there were only orange and scarlet shades, but we hear there are now a large variety, and such as to command admiration wherever seen.
To many persons unacquainted with the merits of the Single Dahlia, it may appear ridiculous to make a retrograde movement in favor of this well known plant.
For years past the ambition of florists has been to make the dahlia as large and double as possible. They have succeeded in obtaining flowers of every shade of color, and of gigantic proportions. To such an extent has this been carried that it has made the dahlia unpopular for many purposes, and fashion has abandoned them for flowers more simple in their construction.
Single dahlias have always been cultivated to a limited extent, but there were few varieties, and these not very brilliant in color, nor free flowering. Now the varieties are endless, producing flowers in great abundance of every shade of black, purple, pink, white, mauve, plum, crimson, scarlet yellow and lavender; while in the "fancy class" you have them striped and splashed in every conceivable manner, and with flowers of great size, perfect in shape, and of great substance.
Single dahlias possess many advantages over the double ones. They are much more suitable for cutting ; are light, elegant, brilliant in color, and stand well. They flower earlier, and the blooms are not injured so much by dull, heavy weather as the double. They can be treated as annuals, obviating the necessity of keeping the old roots, from year to year, where no convenience exists for so doing. Single dahlias are more appreciated by the public, and are adapted for a greater number of purposes, consequently are in greater demand than the double varieties. They can be used for bedding purposes, and in this respect will prove invaluable for general decoration, forming luxuriant masses of foliage eighteen to twenty-four inches in height, covered with large brilliant flowers of every shade of color. For beds they should be planted about four feet apart, and carefully pegged down while young. They are invaluable for cutting in December and January, grown in pots all the summer, and removed inside as soon as frost appears.
Last season I saw a house in full bloom in February. White Queen is invaluable for this purpose.
Having briefly given a few ideas of the merits of Single Dahlias, I will proceed to give a list of a few of the most distinct varieties personally selected from the largest collection in England, where the cultivation of this plant has been taken up with much spirit, and where they are grown by thousands.
Merkie - A very elegant and useful species, foliage and flowers small, but very abundant; of the purest white, quite distinct in foliage and flower from all the dahlias. Snowflight - Greyish white, shading to flesh, fine formed flower. Vesta - White, pale primrose centre, very effective. White Pet* - Small neat flower, great substance, pure white, fine for cutting. WTiite Star*-Quite distinct from above, medium sized flower, pure white. White Queen* - The finest of all the whites, blossoms of great size, perfectly symmetrical, exceedingly free flowering.
Christine - Bright pink, fine well-formed flower. This is one of the most telling I have seen; it has received several "First-class certificates" this season. Fanny Waller. - Bright rose tinged with pink, fine flower. Francis Fell* - Bright fiery purple, with rosy tinge, good form, exceedingly free flowering, and a great favorite. Nora - Delicate pale pink, very dwarf habit, exceedingly free flowering. Petronel.-Delicate pale pink, fine well-formed flower. William Gordon. - Mauve and pink blended, beautiful soft rich shade, extra fine shaped flower.
Ascalon* - Bright rosy purple, and exceedingly large well-formed flower, fine for cutting. Duck of Teck. - Rich mauve, florets perfectly flat, an exceedingly well-formed flower. Kisber - Rich mulberry, very effective, and telling shade. Mauve Queen - Fac simile of White Queen in form, but a rich silky mauve color, the best of this shade. Purple King - Rich violet purple, small well-formed flower, fine for cutting. Purple Paragon - Deep rich purple, beautifully shaded, same size flower as Paragon.
Canary - Rich canary yellow, medium sized flower, very good. Lutea grandiflora - Rich yellow, an immense flower, and perfect in shape, a grand decorative variety. Solfaterre - Pale primrose, large well-formed flower, exceedingly free flowering. William Cullingford - Rich pale yellow, fine, well-formed flower. Yellow Queen* - Fine bold well-formed flower, of great substance, flowers erect, rich sulphur yellow, fine companion to White and Mauve Queen.
Criterion - Light red, shaded with orange, good shape. Gracilis Elegans* - Clear bright scarlet, fine shaped flower, neat erect habit, very free bloomer. Ruby - Rich ruby red, flushed with crimson, very novel. Rob Roy - Intense scarlet, extra large flower. Scarlet Gem - Scarlet shading to orange, medium sized flowers, fine for bouquets. Thomas Wheeler* - Pretty' bright brick red, fine formed flowers and very free.
Darkness - Intense rich mulberry, shaded black, medium size, and of good substance, the darkest yet raised. Le Baron* - Rich mulberry, shaded with crimson, with a dark ring round the disc, Thalia* - Rich amaranth, medium sized flowers of great substance, and exceedingly free flowering, one of the most effective. Beauty of Cambridge* - Bright fiery crimson, large flat solid flower, universally acknowledged as one of the finest of the Single Dahlias. Ceres - Large deep crimson. Gracilis per-fecta* - Rich velvety crimson, fine formed flower, very free bloomer.
Albion - Orange-shaded rose, large bold flower. Aurantiaca superba - Flowers of medium size, bright orange. C'uprea - Orange shaded with copper, very free blooming. Orangeman* - Rich orange, tinged with red, very effective.
Marmion* - Large rich velvety flowers, striped with chestnut red. Pantaloon - Small flower, but very effective and abundant, rich mulberry edged with white, very pleasing. Paragon* - Rich velvety maroon, each petal edged with a distinct rosy purple band, medium sized flower, perfection in shape, a first-class variety for cutting. Stars and Stripes - Large well-formed flower, of bright rose color, heavily striped and spotted with purplish crimson, a very conspicuous and showy variety. Union Jack - Fine bright scarlet edged with white, small flower, but very free blooming, extra fine for cutting. Utility* - Medium Flowers, white striped with lilac, quite a novelty in this class.
As decorative plants Single Dahlias will become very popular; they are easily grown, produce an abundance of bloom, and are not at all fastidious as to soil and position. They can be treated as annuals, and, provided a good strain of seed is obtained, the amateur may depend upon getting a great variety of color. The seed should be sown parly in January, and grown on until May. By that time they will be strong plants ; a few might be grown in pots for winter decoration, while those intended for summer display should be planted out. Where possible to obtain good named sorts, I would recommend every one to obtain them in preference to seed.
I have made a selection (marked *) of eighteen of the most distinct, embracing every shade of color, which I am sure will please the most fastidious.
[Usually we should hardly feel warranted in taking up so much space with descriptions of florists' flowers, readily obtainable from ordinary catalogues, but in this instance we are anxious to show the reader how very great is the variety which is being added to our gardens by the improvement of the Single Dahlia. - Ed. G. M].
There are changes in the fashions of flowers as in the fashions of dress. But who would have thought that after the rage for Double Dahlias, and double all sorts of things, that improved Single Dahlias should be the proper thing just now? But there is a great deal of beauty in many single flowers, and we are glad that single Dahlias, like single Roses, should have attention. We should not be surprised if even " single-blessedness " came to be something more than a facetious expression.