All of us are used to the idea that living things have a name that is particular to them. And as well as an English name, things have a Latin name. Latin names can be a right pain to remember, but they are very useful. If two species have the same first Latin name, then we know they are in the same genus - they are closely related. And we have a Swedish man in the 1700s to thank for starting to get this naming system in order, by the name of Carl Linnaeus. Bear with me - this has got something to do with gardening for wildlife!

Mr Linnaeus had a talented student, an Anders Dahl. He died tragically young, aged only 38. But he had a group of plants from Mexico and Central America named after him, and we still call them by the same name now - the dahlias.

They proved to be a most manipulatable plant in cultivation, throwing up all sorts of fantastic shapes and colours, but in doing so destroying most of their worth for pollinating insects.

But some still have the simple flower arrangement of the original species from the wild - a ring of large petals around a centre stuffed with nectar

And here were some of these 'single' dahlias I photographed this week in my local park. I don't know the cultivar name (although I'm seeking it from the Council). But you can see centre-top the flower is being visited by a hoverfly, and centre right by a bumblebee.

If you can bear all the hassle of lifting dahlias in the autumn and storing their tubers overwinter, and if you can pick out the singles rather than the flamboyant 'cactus-flowered' or pompons or doubles, their value now in early autumn for insects is wonderful. Give them a go!

Anonymous
  • Thanks - great recommendations, everyone

  • I have grown Dahlias for many years,I only grow the single ones as they are much prefered by bees and hoverflies. Grown a new one this year name Honka and it is covered with hoverflies,I spotted it last September in Minnesota Arberetum,would recomend it to all wildlife gardenes.

  • I’ve been growing single Dahlias for the past 10 years, not only are they pretty flowers and great for bees, butterflies and hoverflies but they start flowering in May and continue through to the first frosts. I never lift and store my tubers over winter, even though our temperatures dip to around -10 they all survive. Last winter I did lose some but as each plant will quadruple in size over a season I have as many plants this year as I did last.

    Jef, I grow “Bishop of Landaff” it a lovely plant, try growing Dahlia “Sunshine” with it, they look stunning together.

    This year I found a new single Dahlia called “Dark Angel”, it only grows to around 20cm tall so is great for small gardens and pots. The foliage is almost black with pink/purple flowers.

  • I enjoyed reading that, thank you. I have grown Dahlias in a pot, "Bishop of Llandaff" because they are such lovely flowers but I must certainly look out for the single varieties. I have read that they are becoming more popular because they attract bees and butterflies.