August 14, 2014


My love affair with the Dahlia is growing. So many dahlias are giant, dinner plate monstrosities, with blossoms larger than 10 inches in diameter, or in difficult colors with which to work with such as sulfur yellow or brilliant red with gold, but with so many to choose from, many in delightful tints and colors, forms like pom poms and spiders, others with such formal symmetry that cake decorators copy their petal formations for cup cake toppers, that I thought I would delve into the dahlia world a little deeper, and see if I could scout out some of the best cut flower varieties. Here are my discoveries and recommendations based on what I grew this year:

click below for more:

Maarn dahlia
'Maarn' is a mid-sized melon colored dahlia, which I might admit is my current favorite. It is a popular
cut flower grown by flower farms such as Floret Farm in Washington state, but why not grow your
own next year? Many Dahlia catalogs on line carry this variety. Look for it next spring.

I have written about dahlias in the past, such as the one time years ago when I grew only dahlias that I selected by color - curated dahlias, if you will, and then there was the time that I visited the dahlia farm in western Massashusetts, but this year, I decided to choose some of the best dahlias for cut flowers.

Here are some of my new favorite dahlias that are best for cutting, which means long and strong stems, a more reasonable flower size (between 3 - 4 inches in diameter) and colors that fit the season and trends.

1. Maarn

Here is what I discovered: Most dahlia catalogs will list out the best varieties for cutting, flower arranging or for weddings. If in doubt, just ask them - better yet, do some research yourself - see what varieties the hip flower farms are growing, many list their varieties which is so helpful, since one wants long stems, flowers that are just the right size, and some proven experience in a vase or arrangement. If only you could just hear me talking to myself, or the dogs, while in the garden saying 'maarn, maaaarn. Maaaaaarn' in my finest Dutch accent.

'Crichton Honey' has a color which is difficult to define. Peachy-cantalopey beige perhaps? Buff and honey,
ugh, forget it -- I can't name things.

2. Crichton Honey 

Crichton Honey is one of the most popular dahlias with flower farms for late summer and fall weddings. Introduced in 1976, it's an old timer. Luscious apricot-bronze balls that remain around 4" in diameter, it's a rather short plant, as far as dahlias go, topping out at about 3 feet tall, which makes it great as a border plant, too. Like all of the dahlias listed here, it too has very long stems.

Not a great name, but 'blah blah blah' is anything, but blah. Introduced in 2010 it has flowers that are 5" which come as close to the hottest dahlia of all ( if you can find it!) cappuccino Cafe au Lait. It also pairs well with most other colors.

3. Blah Blah Blah 

Perhaps the new dahlia on the block, introduced in 2010, 'Blah Blah Blah's 4 inch flowers are symmetrical yet loose, but it comes in the yummiest of all dahlia colors - that one that everyone wants - so close to the 'It' dahlia, 'Cafe au Lait'(which is almost impossible to find but I know that our local grower/breeder has it - Pleasant Valley Glads  located in West Suffield, CT.). This image does it little justice, but believe me, it;s a nice, tall, long-stemmed babe that will magically blend other colors together.

Here in Rhode Island ( where I work, not live) the Foxy Lady is a strip bar! Don't ask how I know that…..I just know that. I do sometimes get invited to bachelor parties. Not that it makes me dislike this dahlia, which often makes the list at flower farms. Start with one tuber, and each year, divide them if the cost is too high.

4. Foxy Lady 

This is an odd bicolored dahlia which comes as a three and a half inch ball, so nice on those long, strong stems - but then in dusty rose and creamy yellow? Sweet. The reverse side of the petals is a deeper rose-mauve, almost purple by my definition, but still, somehow this all works. It too is a strong plant, which is tall, with plenty of flowers. It's safe to say that all of these cut flower dahlias are great garden plants as well - not like the giant dahlias with one or two flowers that we often think of. Foxy Lady looks as if one painted darker colors on with a scratchy brush.

5. Cornell

Look, red may not be your color, and it certainly isn't my color, but after seeing that many flower farms grow this variety, I had to try it. Even my designer friend (red-hating) Jess pointed it out the other day as a fav in the garden. Score! Introduced in 1982, a time when the idea of color trends leaned deep into mauve and slate blue, this bushy variety with strong, long stems is a surprise worth checking out. It's really more of a dark, pomegranate (that helps, doesn't it?), but my guess is that this variety was named after the Red Bear and Cornell University's school color, even though most catalogs list it with on 'l'. I added the second one, anyway. Supposedly this was bred by a Dutch breeder, but I am not certain, but the Dutch sites list it as 'Cornell' and not 'Cornel' as Swan Island Dahlias does, but the Dutch photos show it as a brilliant scarlet dahlia - the sort of color that hurts ones eyes, and this gem is certainly not that red! Trust me - it much nicer than it's dating profile photo.

Dahlia 'Intigue'

6. Intrigue

I would never, ever have ordered this dahlia if I just went by the image shown in a catalog ( look). I mean, pink just isn't my thing when it comes to colors. But this beauty is insane - like pink Thai silk that has been left out blowing in the trade winds and sun for a year. It's just about the perfect shade of watermelon sorbet, that I think I can't live without it. Introduced in 2002, it's about four inches in diameter, and has those long stems which are so handy when deciding what to do with dahlias - even though we all prefer them cut short! The plant too, is nice, nearly 5 feet tall, if not a little more this year, and covered in flowers until frost.

I'm not a fan of each of these colors when seen in a photo on a nursery site -- but once grown in the home garden, I can see why they are popular as cut flowers, especially when picked. I was very pleased with this years' selection that I grew, and I can't wait until next year when I try more to add to the mix.

Most of my dahlias were purchased from Swan Island Dahlias on-line, but many of these varieties can be found at any of the dahlia sites listed on the American Dahlia Society website under sources.


  1. Hi Matt: I took your advice early on and ordered from Swan Island and love the Dahlias I got. Sadly my Maarn never came up as well as one or two others. Maybe critters got the tubers. Jammin Jelly, All That Jazz and Patricia Ann's Sunset are open now and beautiful and Jason Matthew is spectacular. Still waiting for my other dozen or so to open up. Patiently:)

  2. Hi Robin, How great! I know, I have had a couple this year that did not come up too, sometimes the eyes get damaged, or the tubers were small - I also ordered late. But some are terrific. Oh I do love Jammin Jelly, I had that one a few years ago when I grew all pink an purple varieties. I am not familiar with Jason Matthew - I need to go look it up right now! I lost a few in the garden too because the dogs knocked them over, then, I have one which is nearly 8 feet tall, but I lost the label, so I won't know which one it is yet until it blooms.

  3. We're growing a few of these varieties this year too (along with about 50 others). Blah blah blah is particularly nice.

    The "it" variety I believe you are referring to is actually Cafe Au Lait, not Cappuccino. We got several tubers this year and even under that name, there seems to be some variability -- some tubers produce matte creamy tan blooms, while other tubers produce tan blooms with pink streaks.

    Great pictures!

    1. Oh my gosh, you are absolutely right. Cafe Au Lait. Thanks for catching that! So….I did have some from a flower farm that was selling a few on-line, but they arrived too dried up and never sprouted nor recovered. LOL. How funny, I knew it was a coffee drink. Double Latte? Frappuccino? Grande Macchiato...What ev. Thanks!

  4. Absolutely Lovely...I am enjoying them vicariously! We can't grow them in Houston.

  5. They all look great, though the maarn is my favorite ! Great article !

  6. I now need all of those in my garden.

  7. Pretty much all the balls and formal decorative types are wonderful for cuts and just the right size as focal flowers in arrangements, I feel.

    The infamous 'Cafe Au Lait' surely is stunning and, as mentioned, can be variable. She's a "genetic hot mess" as my flower grower friend and mentor, Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farms, would say! HAHAHA

    Love the pics and your picks!

    I saw 'Blah Blah Blah' at Swan Island last month and had to laugh. "Wow, they must have been so sick and tired of finding a name and just gave up with this..." LOL

  8. Thanks Matt for sharing your photos and tuber choices. They are all stunning and now must-haves for my cutting garden. Again, thank you.

  9. Hi Matt, great review! I am growing Cornel myself, it is named after Dutch grower/nurseryman Cor Geerlings and his wife Nel. Both real Dutch names ;-)

  10. what a beautiful post and such an inspiration as I shop for this year's tubers. Do you happen to have a source for that beautiful blue vase you have your dahlias photographed in?

    1. THanks! . Oh that vase - It was from Target, but from about 5 years ago.


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