Delightful dahlias

A Georgina shimmering in the garden is the sweetest
way to begin your day, says Daksha Hathi

ENGLISH humourist Thomas Hood said, "A double dahlia delights the eye" and he was right. This corpulent flower grows so tall that it shows its bright purple and white, yellow, deep red and orange ruffles against the blue skies and is very regal. It has two names thanks to two men, who fell in love with it! It is called dahlia after Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl. In eastern Europe and Russia, it is called Georgina named for a botany professor, Johann Georgi, who was so thrilled when he saw it for the first time on a holiday in Paris, that he took several flowers home for his friends.

Europeans discovered the dahlias during the Spanish conquest of Mexico early in the 16th century. The Aztecs grew them for their tuberous roots, which were used in medicine. It was also used in cooking till people thankfully realised that it wasnít very tasty and stopped eating it.

These plants are water guzzlers and regularly watered produce more flowers
These plants are water guzzlers and regularly watered produce more flowers Photo by the writer

Georginas attract butterflies because of their stunning colours. They often get mildew in cold weather. If you give them good air circulation by pulling off the bottom row of leaves, with 8 to 12 inches of clear space, under the plant, you will solve the mildew problem.

Dahlias are water guzzlers and regularly watered produce more flowers. If these get pests, donít use garden chemicals. A study has shown that children of non-chemical gardeners were six times less likely to contract leukaemia.

Dahlias discourage nematodes when you grow them around a flower or vegetable affected by them. They also discourage moles.

When we use pesticides, 60 to 90 per cent (by volume) of what we spray misses the intended target. It goes into the air or water table. To get rid of slugs affecting your dahlias and other flowers, keep a couple of boards in the garden. If you flip them open and scoop up the slugs and drown them in boiling water, your problem is solved.