The rise of the underdog dahlia!
It’s probably unfair to call any dahlia classification an underdog, but miniature and semi-cactus dahlias have always played second fiddle to small cactus, which includes top-class varieties such as
‘Kiwi Gloria’. They’re also overpowered by the medium and large cactus varieties, with the ‘Moonlights’ and ‘Kenora Challenger’ all winning individual championships ahead of any miniature cactus.
The same can be said in their size group – up to 10cm (4in), which is dominated by the balls and decoratives, with ‘ Jomanda’ being a long-standing winner together with a wealth of miniature decoratives. They don’t seem to have caught the eye of the gardener either, due in the past to a lack of variety and colour to choose from for a garden display.
The main problem with miniature and semi-cactus dahlias is that they’ve not quite had the quality of depth of flower and consistency to catch the eye of top exhibitors, who are striving for top marks. To grow them successfully, to pass through the judging ring without touching, is a task left to a few specialists because this requires a very light hand. However, I truly feel that now is the time for this section to start to shine in all aspects of dahlia growing. That’s mainly due to the hard breeding work of two people who unfortunately are no longer with us. Tom McClelland started the ball rolling with his ‘Weston’ varieties, particularly ‘Weston Pirate’, which has been the main variety for the past 10 years.
Then Peter Greenway continued this development more recently with new stars kept under wraps, with only Peter growing and showing them. As a collection they’ve now made it to David Hall of Halls of Heddon (tel: 01661 852445; www.hallsofheddon.com), and from there they’ve filtered into other growers’ gardens and have been making their presence felt on the bench.
It’s time for those free-flowering miniature and semi-cactus dahlias to start shining
The ‘Josudi’ varieties come in a wide range of colour and habits to suit anyone’s needs, but they’ve also lifted the bar in quality with one or two of them catching the eye of the top growers.
With maybe a dozen of this family due to find their way into our lives over the next few seasons, here’s my pick of the bunch:
l ‘Josudi Aurora’ – a lovely salmon and yellow blend with good depth; free flowering and eye catching.
l ‘Josudi Neptune’ – really stands out as a mauve and white bi-colour that could find a place in every situation.
l ‘Josudi Hercules’ – a solid orange with great form; very free flowering.
l ‘Josudi Telstar’ – an orange blend that seems to suit a different season but makes its mark in the right hands.
l ‘Josudi Andromeda’ – for me the cream of the crop; pleasing pale pink and white blends; best form and petal count of any miniature cactus I’ve seen. Growing more than 20 flowers per plant, you get a great choice of blooms from a small number of plants. Once this lands in a few top plots, I’m sure it will score high in the best Championships in the country.
The standout blooms of ‘Josudi Neptune’
‘Josudi Telstar’ is a delightful orange blend
‘Weston Pirate’ was an early miniature cactus dahlia
‘Josudi Andromeda’ is my pick of the bunch
A grower for 25 years, in 2012 Dave won National Individual Champion awards at each of the English (Shepton Mallet), Welsh and Sco ish National Dahlia Society competitions, the first time this has ever been accomplished. He’s very busy on YouTube, where you’ll find dozens of videos on how to grow dahlias.
Eye-catching ‘Josudi Aurora’
A mini cactus display looks stunning
‘Josudi Hercules’ is very free flowering