This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
" Four Years' Subscriber" desires us to give a list of Dahlias of 1868 and 1869 which can be recommended for form, constancy, and size. His soil, he states, is a very heavy one, and he is compelled to use an abundance of manure, which he thinks is the reason why so many sorts come "seedy" with him. He has forwarded two lists of Dahlias, one containing varieties he can grow, the other those he cannot grow. The former includes Mr Dix, Vice-President, Miss Henshaw, Criterion, Mrs Dodds, white tipped with purple; Baron Taunton, Annie Neville, Caroline Tetterell, Firefly, Hugh Miller, Sir Greville Smythe, Buttercup, Lady Gladys Herbert, Mrs Boston, Annie Keynes, Madlle. Nillsson, Flossy Gill, Andrew Dodds, Paradise Williams, Heroine, Julia Wyatt, Lady Jane Ellis, Emperor, Chancellor, Leah, Ellen Potter, Imperial, Golden Drop; and the following fancy varieties: - Grand Sultan, Ebor, Samuel Bartlett, Prospero, Attraction, Billy Button, Master Johnny, President Lincoln, Butterfly, and Fanny Sturt. The following is the list of Dahlias our correspondent cannot grow to his satisfaction: - Clai'a Simons, Scarlet Gem, James Backhouse, Artemus Ward (fancy), Princess Alice, Favourite (fancy); Chairman and Mrs Dodds, yellow; all of which are described as coming seedy; Hebe, James Hunter, Lord Derby, British Triumph, John Kirby, Hon. Mrs G. Wellesley, Guardsman, Samuel Naylor, Regularity (fancy), Mrs Brunton, Lady Popham, Miss Roberts, Mrs Edgar Green, and Queen Mab (fancy), as small; Lady Derby, hard centre; Queen of Sports (fancy), small and thin; Miss Ruth (fancy), coarse; Chameleon (self), hard centre; Albion, pointed and small; Yellow Boy, bad centre; Earl Russel, bad shape and low centre; and Flambeau, small and hard centre.
Our correspondent states that both lots of flowers had similar treatment; the plants were well cut out, an abundance of manure dug in, a top-dressing of manure given, and a liberal allowance of guano-water; these have produced the foregoing results. "I have no doubt," he adds, "that the seedy condition of many of the flowers has been caused by cutting out, but several years' experience has proved that I must do this in order to get size, which is a most desirable thing on the exhibition table. I trust you will be able to name a few sorts, fancy and selfs, which will bear my treatment and at the same time embody the requirements mentioned in my letter - viz., form, size, and constancy".
The foregoing remarks are not without their use to other cultivators of the Dahlia, and we have thought it well to publish them. We sent our correspondent's letter and lists on to Mr Chas. Jas. Perry, of Birmingham, for many years past one of the most successful amateur cultivators of the Dahlia, and the following is his reply: -
"Your correspondent should discard his No. 2 list, with the exception of Lord Derby, Chairman, Queen Mab, Mrs Brunton, James Hunter, and Regularity, all of which are too good to be dispensed with. He can with advantage add to his list of show kinds the following - viz., Head-Master, Toison d'Or, Gypsy Queen, Yellow Perfection, Thomas Hobbs, King of Primroses, Valentine, Oxonian, Flag of Truce, Memorial, Matilda Keynes, and Adonis; and to his list of fancy varieties, Polly Perkins, Pauline, Viceroy, Purple Fluke, Mazeppa, Leopard, Magdala, Lightning, and Octoroon. As his ground is heavy, I should recommend him to have it well ridged up as soon as the roots are taken up, and allow it to remain so until it is prepared for planting. If well dressed then with farmyard manure, no guano-water will be necessary. Chas. Jas. Perry.
The Cedars, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham.
["Will other of our readers who are Dahlia cultivators give us the results of their experience also? "We shall be much obliged if they will do so].
I must express my thanks to Mr Perry for his great kindness, and the valuable information contained in his letter, which I shall have much pleasure in availing myself of. I trust you will excuse my opening up the subject again, but as there appears to be a doubt about some of the sorts mentioned by Mr Perry, I think it advisable to ventilate it. I presume that Head Master, Flag of Truce, and Thomas Hobbs are new Dahlias of the present year, as I cannot find them in last year's catalogues. [Head Master (Turner) and Thomas Hobbs (Keynes) are new of the present year, Flag of Truce (Wheeler) was sent out in 1S68.] Is Thomas Hobbs a misprint for "The Nobbs," which is highly spoken of? [No. The latter is evidently a misprint for the former.] Gipsy Queen and Oxonian must also be new, or is the former identical with Gipsy King? [Gipsy Queen is an error. It is Gipsy King, and was raised by Mr Hopkins, of Brentford, and sent out by Mr Keynes last spring. Oxonian (Turner) was sent out by the raiser at the same time].
"With regard to the flowers named in No. 2 list, I will act npon Mr Perry's advice, with one exception - viz., Chairman - which I cannot grow to any purpose. I am quite aware it is a first-class kind, but I have tried it so often, obtained from various places, and with the same result - i.e., the first bloom or two good, and all the rest "seedy." I am happy to state that last year (having seen it advocated in the 'Gardener') I, for the first time, trenched and ridged my ground as recommended by Mr Perry, and the result exceeded my most sanguine expectations, as the plants produced larger and better blooms than ever they did before, and there is no fear of my neglecting this operation during the coming winter. In conclusion, I trust other Dahlia-growers will give the benefit of their experience also. - A Four Years' Subscriber.