The rise of the un­der­dog dahlia!

Garden News (UK) - - Contents - Dave Gil­lam

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.hall­sofhed­, 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’

Ph ot os : D av e G ill a m

A mini cac­tus dis­play looks stun­ning

‘Jo­sudi Her­cules’ is very free flow­er­ing

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