From Growers to my Garden....
I'm often asked on Social Media the names and varieties of the Dahlias I photograph and where I source them.
Over the years I've added many flowering trees, shrubs, bulbs, and annual flowers to my small garden. It was only in 2018 that I fell in love with Dahlias. To celebrate my mothers 70th birthday I treated her to a flower workshop held at the magnificent cutting garden at Chatsworth House. Taking inspiration home the following year I meticulously planned what I could realistically grow in my own small garden.
Growing Dahlias is definitely a faff, but one that's worth it when the show-stopping blooms arrive from mid-August.
Dahlias come in over 20 different categories of shape. However, the most popular types are; single, pompom, decorative, waterlily and cactus.
Below, I've included the names and varieties I've started growing for myself as well as some other favourites I'll be adding to my collection this year.
A P H O T O G R A P H E R S G U I L D TO
D A H L I A S
Cafe au Leit &
Royal Cafe au Leit
Cafe au Leit became a social media sensation a couple of years ago, so it was a must to add this huge beauty to my homegrown collection.
I also grew a 'Royal' Cafe au Leit that has the softest dusting of pink to its flamboyant petals.
Wizard of Oz
I just adore this pompom shaped dahlia. Perfectly formed these medium-sized dahlia flowers are born to strong stems and add fantastic structure to any arrangement.
Other varieties that are similar are: Sweet Nathalie
Henrietta, American Dawn & Caroline Wagamans
Combined with Cafe au Leit these create a show stopping combination.
Henriette is the only 'cactus' dahlia I grow and is a delicious soft peach (shown left). Shown above is the 'waterlily' Caroline Wagamans dahlia and on the right is American Dawn. A favourite as its dark pink middle opens to a rich coral.
Brown Sugar is another similar alternative to American Dawn
Islander, Sylvia & Small Wonder
The Islander dahlia is categorised as a giant decorative and hosts blooms that can open to over 18 cms. Their size makes them tricky to arrange but they are breathtakingly when in bloom and add a wow factor to my summer garden.
To the right is the smaller head of Sylvia (peach) and the tiny pom pom heads (white) of Small World
Linda Baby produces lots of medium-sized pompom blooms. As they open the petals curl to produce a full ball. The colour makes this a great addition to complement other season flowers such as Cosmos and Antirrhinums.
Other varieties that are similar are:
T H E D A H L I A G A L L E R Y
P H O TO T O G R A P H I N G F L O W E R S
P H O T O G R A P H I N G
D A H L I A S
A Dahlia is pure floral showmanship.
Dahlias see out those last hot weeks of the summer season. Their varying shapes and colours offer versatility to arrangements making them a pleasure to photograph.
F R O M P L A N N I N G T O C A P T U R E
Dahlias don't like the cold, so they don't travel well in commercial transport which is a reason why they're seldom available as cut flowers at your local florists or supermarket. To grow your own is a true investment in money and time so be sure you have a clear plan of how you what to arrange and style them before you start cutting!
Dahlias are gorgeously colourful blooms that don't need any introduction. They dominate Social Media and are the flower of choice for elite wedding stylists.
I don't think you can do anything wrong when it comes to Dahlias, from vases, urns and hand-tied bouquets, everything works.
Dahlias are such strong floral characters they can work in a simple hand-tied bouquet through to a styled alfresco table setting. Because dahlias bloom in late summer they lend themselves to a host of styling ideas. However, old books and postcards seem to add a nostalgic charm that reminds me of the 1920's.
Flowers can link us to memories and places, so I think the best styling advice is to think personally about them. Explore what emotions, people or places they remind you of. Work from there to create your own floral story.
As with all my floral photography I opt for defused soft natural light every time. However, dahlias have thick fleshy petals that can take stronger light. They can even handle a degree of backlighting bringing in more contrast from behind. In some cases, their large forms can cast unwanted shady spots. When this happens I'll use a white scrim or reflector to bounce light back into those areas.
I always shoot between 1.8f to 2.8f. When working with such a narrow depth-of-field I keep the focal point on one or two dahlias positioned in the foreground.
With so many petals dahlias are a tricky bloom to 'tidy up' in editing. I always take a good look at the dahlias I'm working with to make sure I select the best to place in the foreground and leave any damaged ones to use in the background where small imperfections won't need as much 'tidying up' in later editing.