Dahlia – My Favourite Flower – Week 7

Dahlia – My Favourite Flower


Dahlia (Photo by: Michael Lant - Click on image to enlarge)

“The dahlias glowed in the autumn sun. Criss-crossing back and forth between the plants, trying to avoid the spider webs dripping with dew, I admired the sheer excess and exuberance of the species. Yellow dahlias, as big as salad plates, shining like miniature sunbursts. Tiny pompom dahlias of deep maroon. Petals of magenta and maroon curling inward in a perfect geometric pattern, like those designs you make with a Spirograph. Dahlia stems, snapped in half, broken under the weight of the flowery burdens. The Mingus Toni (dahlias have fantastic names as well as fantastic colours) with magenta petals, streaked with splashes of red, exploding from an orange centre.” (source: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/flowers/dahlia.html)

The perfect way to introduce this week’s flower – a gorgeous description that speaks to almost all of our five senses. Couldn’t have written it better myself!

Most women I know have a favourite flower, but I never seemed to really connect with just one until I came across a vendor at the local farmer’s market on a Saturday morning in mid August. I lost my head and forgot my budget when I saw all the buckets filled to overflowing with dahlias in colour combinations I had never seen before in flowers. By the time I had recovered from “love at first sight”, I had purchased 3 dozen stems, plus a few extras thrown in for good measure by the patient elderly gentleman who was so proud of his flowers and so pleased to be selling them to such an exuberant customer.

My great grandmother Lily (or Elizabeth) whom I mentioned in a previous blog was apparently quite gifted at growing the dahlia, which depending on to whom you speak, is quite tricky to cultivate and requires a very green thumb. Her daughter Edna, my paternal grandmother was also able to grow unusually large and beautiful dahlias– something that my father is very proud to point out when given the opportunity. So perhaps my instant connection to the dahlia was imprinted into my DNA long before my encounter at the farmer’s market and it was inevitable that this would be a favourite flower

White Dahlias

White Dahlias (Photo By: Michael Lant - Click on image to enlarge)

This tuberous-rooted perennial is indigenous to Mexico where it was first discovered by European explorers in the 1500s. During the time of the Aztecs, it was used as both a hunting tool and a food source. The dahlia plant was brought to Europe from Mexico in the 16th century and used mostly as a food source and for medicinal purposes until it was popularized in the 18th century by the Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl, for whom the flower was named after. There are several thousand varieties, most of which have been developed from a single species which was introduced in England in 1800. The dahlia was not a popular choice of flower until Europeans discovered how to hybridize and produce the incredible variety of colours and shapes that exist today. The dahlia was at the height of popularity during the Victorian era, a time when flamboyance and drama was the order of the day. They were raised in hothouses and transplanted into huge flower beds for spectacular displays to show off their diverse shapes, colours and sizes.

A dahlia flower head can range from 2” in diameter to the size of a dinner plate. They belong to the Asteraceae family – which include the sunflower, daisy and aster. Asteraceae means “star” which refers to the shape of the dahlia blossom.

The Dahlia is the national emblem of Mexico, the official flower of San Fransico and Seattle and is symbolic of good taste in Japan. This flower symbolizes an everlasting bond between two people. In the language of flowers, it means dignity and gratitude.

Recipe and Instructions

This recipe (see image at top of this post) is all about the colours, textures and shapes of the dahlia blooms. The addition of a graphically painted ceramic vase is all that is needed to create this vibrant, delightful arrangement. This gorgeous bouquet should last from 7 – 10 days. Cost is approximately $45 from a florist or if you are fortunate enough to find a vendor at a farmer’s market, the cost could be a little as $20. (prices don’t include the vase). Dahlias are seasonal and are available from July to late September.


  • 2 dozen dahlia stems in shades of ruby, peach, yellow, pink, fuschia, orange and red
  • Funky vase the same height as the shortest dahlia stem
  • Floral tape
  • Flower food, water


  • Hold the longest straightest stem vertically in the palm of your left hand if you’re right handed or your right hand if you’re left handed.
  • Position a second stem to the left of that stem at a slight angle. Position a third stem next to the stem. Turn the group of stems counter clockwise.
  • Continue to position stems and turn counter clockwise until all stems are used. Your handtied bouquet should have a nice domed shape.
  • Wrap a strip of floral tape securely at the binding point (where you were holding the stems together as you made the arrangement).
  • Fill the vase ½ full with fresh water and add plant food.
  • Cut the stems to the same length, so that if you set the bouquet on a flat surface it would stand up without any support. Do this step quickly as you have about 5 seconds after the cut before the stem end scars over making it more difficult for water to reach the head of the flower.


I’m now into week 8 and although each post requires hours of research and writing I love the process of discovery and sharing my findings with an ever growing loyal following of readers. I especially love the wonderful feedback I have been receiving. It is so gratifying to know that I bring value to the many readers who enjoy this blog and who look forward to the weekly story. Thank you to everyone, especially those of you who have commented.

Weekly Quote: In imagination, there’s no limitation. – Mark Victor Hansen

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  1. Posted August 28, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I love the white Dahlia arrangement! It is simply beautiful!

  2. Robin Laing
    Posted August 27, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I too am a big fan of the Dahlia. Thanks for the big smile on this fine morning!