Each class of dahlias incorporates standards by which a dahlia is judged at exhibitions and competitive shows. In earlier blogs we discussed how some classes of dahlia flowers, such as the cactus dahlias introduced in the late 19th Century, have been so popular that separate classifications were established. But beyond such exuberance in a single class, there lies a conundrum for growers and classifiers alike: what happens when a hybridizer comes up with a beautiful dahlia that doesn't fit in any classification?
The American Dahlia Society recognized the dilemma in 2002, establishing two new classes: the novelty fully double dahlia and the novelty open dahlia. The novelty fully double dahlia has closed centers. Its 34 varieties all exhibit characteristics that do not fit the requirements of any other classification. Among the most stunning is Akita, a brilliant red dahlia B-sized dahlia with incurved ray florets like the petals of a chrysanthemum. The Lynch Creek Farm gang calls Akita "one of the best, if not THE best, novelty type available." Akita dahlia tubers, according to most sources, are hard to come by, but when we checked last, some were still available at Lynch Creek.
Another nifty novelty fully double dahlia is Optic Illusion, an Oregon grower's introduction. Optic Illusion has petaloids almost like those of collarette dahlias but a fully double form, and a stunning combination of rosy purple and white in its 4-inch flowers on sturdy 3.5-foot plants.
Novelty open dahlias are similar to other singles but have some characteristics that set them apart from the earlier recognized classes. An example is Jacs Kelli, which combines the characteristics of a collarette with the inwardly rolled florets of an orchid cactus.
Ever since dahlias were introduced to Europe from the New World at the end of the 18th Century, adventurous dahlia growers have been experimenting and creating new varieties, now numbered in the thousands. In 1921, the Royal Horticultural Society in England established "The Official Classification of Dahlias." Ever since, it has recorded and classified dahlias according to size, color and type. The American Dahlia Society, founded in 1915, accepted the RHS classification system ten years later.