By mid-October, the back quarter acre is looking just plain tired. I've started to cut back shaggy perennials like peonies, phlox, daisies, and hostas and to pull out slug-nibbled annuals. Unperturbed by their surroundings of death and decay, however, the dahlias continue to bloom heavily. This deep purple cultivar, "Downham Royal," has just hit its stride and is madly tossing off flowers as it races towards the frosty finish line. Despite its strong performance, however, I'll be putting this dahlia out to pasture: its bluish cast is a poor companion for my garden's palette. Doesn't mean that I can't console myself with a big bouquet of blooms in the meantime.
As a novice dahlia grower, I am struck by inaccuracies in the catalogue descriptions of several varieties. Of course, working in a museum, I value the art of precise cataloguing: of a flower, photograph, uhikana, whatever. Both "Downham Royal" and "Shadow Cat" were described as 36" high--but grew to over twice that height. How can the basic facts be so far off? Nature or nuture?