Dahlias are often to be seen in florists' shops at present. Because of their almost infinite abundance of colours and varieties as well as sizes from 4 to as much as 20 cm, they are so versatile that florists like to include them in magnificent summery and autumnal bouquets and romantic arrangements. However, dahlias are also extremely decorative and have long been among consumers' favourite flowers in the summer and autumn.
From cooking pots to coronation robes: dahlias climb the career ladder
Dahlias weren't always cultivated for their beauty. In Mexico in the year 200 BC, they were grown for their tubers, which are rich in starch in the form of inulin. They were therefore a source of food for the Indians of that era. In addition, their sap was used for medicinal purposes. For the Aztecs, in contrast, dahlias were a powerful symbol. Because of their golden orange to purple blossoms, they appeared to symbolise the sun, which was at the heart of Aztec beliefs. No wonder, then, that the Sun Emperor Moctezuma is said to have worn a robe embroidered with an enormous dahlia blossom at his coronation in 1503.
You don't have a coronation coming up, but want the royal flowers? The shop is HERE.
Dahlias conquer the gardens
Aztecs also planted dahlias in their generously sized gardens because of their excitingly beautiful colour play. These gardens included not only garden terraces, which even in those days were artificially irrigated, but also floating gardens. These were known as chinampas and were placed on huge rafts made of woven reeds. Creating these floating gardens was a complex exercise. First, wooden stakes were driven into the ground close to the bank of a lake. Next, a floating base of woven reeds was attached to these stakes and filled with soil from the lake. After that, the structure was planted with willow bushes, maize, beans, tomatoes, guavas, avocados, sweet potatoes, chillies and flowers – including dahlias. Even today, the floating gardens of Xochimilco are one of Mexico's most famous tourist attractions.
You'd like dahlias as an excitingly beautiful touch of colour? To visit the shop, click HERE.
Dahlias or georgines? A dahlia by any other name ...
When the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez gazed in wonder at the dahlias in Aztec gardens in the 16th century, he was probably the first European to see these flowers. Innumerable variations already existed in those days. As there was also a very wide variety of Indian tribes, each with its own language, it's hardly surprising that the flower was known by more than 20 different names. For example, it was known as chichipatli (bitter medicine), cocotli (water tuber) and coanenepilli (snake's tongue). Nevertheless, dahlias slumbered peacefully in Mexico until the director of Mexico City's Botanical Gardens came upon the notion of sending dahlia tubers to the Botanical Gardens in Madrid. That was probably in 1789.
The head of the Botanical Gardens in Madrid, Antonio Cavanilles, planted the dahlia, coaxed it to bloom and, in 1791, gave it the name of Dahlia pinnata in honour of the Swedish botanist Dr Andreas Dahl. Unfortunately, the word doesn't seem to have got round even in professional circles. How else can we explain the fact that another botanist also gave a Hamamelidaceae from South Africa the name "dahlia" in honour of Dahl in 1792. But a botanist from Berlin did notice that fact. He therefore introduced the name "Georgia variabilis" as a new designation for the Mexican dahlia.
And that's how "our" dahlia came to have two names for many years. In northern Germany, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, it was almost universally referred to as the georgine, but in southern Germany, France, the UK, Belgium and Switzerland it was known as the dahlia. Today, its official botanical name is "dahlia".
Do you prefer dahlias to georgines in your bouquet - or the other way round? You will find both and many more flowers HERE.
Diamonds for dahlias!
When they first came to Europe, dahlia tubers were intended for eating, similarly to the potato. However, their flavour left something to be desired. That's why the dahlia went on to make its career as a decorative plant, helped by the fact that it's relatively easy to handle. Breeders were therefore able to produce a large number of colours and shapes from the original varieties within a very short time.
Dahlias became popular, particularly in France. To start with, they grew mainly in the gardens of Bonaparte's wife, the Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, at the Chateau de Malmaison. The advantage of this was that interest in the exotic bloom grew somewhat as a result and this interest also spread to the rest of Europe. Only in affluent circles initially, of course. Because at this time the sums paid for new varieties of dahlia came to several times a simple labourer's annual wage. A dahlia of the "Yellow Defiance" variety is said to have sold in England for 200 pounds sterling, and in France a dahlia actually changed hands in exchange for a diamond. But not content with that, a real mania for dahlias arose in around 1830, and the flower moved into more and more gardens. It even found its way into the peasant gardens of the period ... and into our florists' shops today.
You don't have to pay us in diamonds for dahlias and other flowers. The shop is HERE.
Cream cheese with dahlia flowers ...
Hmmm …! People will rave about your cooking skills forever if you serve this unusual delicacy. Because - cream cheese and dahlia flowers? Who would have thought that it could taste so incredibly delicious? Here's the recipe.
Ingredients: 300 g of cream cheese (including curd cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, Brousse du Rove, burrata and ricotta); finely chopped chives; chopped parsley; 1 red dahlia flower (cut away the bitter base of the flower and chop it finely); chopped nuts or sesame seeds to taste. – Mix the ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. It tastes fantastic as part of a starter course or with baked potatoes!
And now for a bouquet for your vase? The shop is HERE.