DAHLIA aficionado Pat Cunningham likes to say he has either 40 years of experience or one year of experience 40 times over. Either way, he has grown hundreds of varieties of the flower in his Manhattan Beach garden and developed his own hybrids, including the 12-inch-wide, white-and-deep-pink ‘Shiloh Noelle’ praised by Martha Stewart.
Yes, dahlias do need attention, Cunningham says, but even beginners can expect stunning flowers.
“Do good or bad and it all comes out the same,” he says. “I won best in show as a novice.”
Therein lies the true beauty of the dahlia: its ability to flourish in Southern California and the abundance and diversity of its glorious blooms. Experts believe that all modern dahlia hybrids — an astonishing 58,000-plus varieties at last count — are derived from only two of three species that made their way from Mexico to Spain in 1789 and to other parts of Europe in the early 1800s, where they were hybridized.
An interesting link found among my daily reading