During the 19th century in England, winning dahlias fetched hefty cash prizes in competitions, motivating breeders to produce a steady stream of larger, increasingly exotic varieties.
In The English Flower Garden (1883), English landscape designer William Robinson called the large-flowered varieties "monstrosities," prompting breeders to work on smaller single-flowering types to be used as bedding plants. Today, Westerners grow both. Named varieties, many of them magnificent in bouquets, number in the tens of thousands.
OUR FAVORITES: 'Anatole' has white flowers streaked with crimson and grows to 31/2 feet tall. 'Bashful' (21/2 ft. tall) bears deep purple blooms with lavender tips and golden yellow centers. The flowers of 5-foot-tall 'Chilson's Pride' are pure pink with white centers. 'Pink Gingham' (to 41/2 ft. tall) has petals of bright lavender-pink with white tips. 'Siemen Doornbosch' bears lilac blossoms with creamy pincushion centers on stems to 11/2 feet tall. On 'Wheels' (to 31/2 ft. tall), red petals and a yellow fringe surround the center disk.