Dahlias – the supermodels of the plant kingdom

115016.Black-Burgundy-Dahlia-Flower-250Back in the day when I worked at Vogue.com London Fashion Week meant partying all night and then struggling to get through the next day on a combination of Marlboro Lights, Haribo and kick arse Codeine tablets.

Now, I have the pleasure of watching most of the collections as they happen via the wonderful internet and my hangovers are epically reduced. I still miss the buzz of watching front row politics unfold and obviously the parties where my chubby thighs would occasionally brush against the hot-dog legs of the models-du-jour, but life is good down here in Somerset.

I will NEVER miss the terror of “what to wear today!” which made mufti days at school look like a walk in the park, these days my leather builder boots are my best friends. While I do occasionally find myself pulling up weeds in Vivienne Westwood I’m generally sensibly attired and “garden ready” much to the horror of the fashionista who still lurks within.

While wandering in the garden yesterday and picking a bunch of Dahlias for my father it suddenly occurred to me that these tall, showy, scentless plants have a certain affinity with the models who stomp the runways at shows across the globe. Long, skinny, glossy limbs topped with arresting and sometimes breathtaking heads, these are the essence of the English show garden. As a model can reinvent her looks at the whim of a designer so have these stunners been reinvented over the years by obsessive enthusiasts. There are now over 57,000 cultivated forms of Dahlia and this number grows every year.
Despite not having a scent the visual impact of this plant has inspired designers and fragrance houses alike with luminaries such Givenchy naming their perfumes after the Dahlia and Tom Ford designing the oversized Dahlia Sunglasses. Lest we forget there’s always the gruesome tale of Elizabeth Short nicknamed “The Black Dahlia”.

The Dahlia is a perennial tuberous plant that you’ll need to dig and store in the winter months. We’ve not been at the house long enough for this task to have come around on the calendar so I’ve had to rely on the advice of others for this post. The ever wonderful Sarah Raven offers her advice here including how to deter the dreaded earwig!

While arranging a tall and flashy display of these blooms for the house, I smiled at the thought that I was bringing a little of the glamour of London Fashion Week to Castle Farm. Now all I need is a direct line to Vivienne so I can plead with her to craft me some gardening gloves!

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