I love dahlias. I bought my first named varieties when I was 16, and because I lived in Yorkshire I had to keep them indoors until the beginning of June – the Dales got regular frosts even in late May back in the 1960s. The only place I could put them was on top of the storage heater just inside our front door. Going up and down the stairs became increasingly like entering a tropical jungle, so fast did those young dahlia plants grow.
I plant dahlias in any gaps I spot in my beds and borders – and there are always a few, where something has died out or been moved. I’d like to tell you that I plan their positioning carefully, but I don’t – they’re scattered like confetti, with just a thought or two as to whether their colour will shriek unpleasantly at their neighbour. I think you can be too controlling in a garden – colour clashes make you sit up and take notice. Unless they bring tears to your eyes, they give a garden vibrancy.