Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dahlia Classification: They're Classed by Colors, Too

White NettieHissy FitzMonarch of the EastThe first dahlias discovered by late 16th-Century explorers in Mexico and Central America were Dahlia zimpanii, small single flowers in the red and orangy-red ranges. When dahlia tubers were introduced to Europe via Spain toward the end of the 18th Century, and plant hybridization was a new science, additional dahlia species were added to the gene pool, and variations in color and form began to flourish. Now dahlias are considered to have one of the widest color ranges among garden flowers.

It wasn't long, once hybridization and competitive exhibition began, before the Royal Horticultural Society and, later, the American Dahlia Society began developing means of classifying dahlias. We have explored classifications by form and by size; to make matters more complicated, dahlias are also classified by color. Color classification is helpful when buying dahlia tubers and planning flower beds and borders.

ExcentricCanby Centennial
The dahlia societies have decreed that the official dahlia colors are white (W), yellow (Y), orange (OR), pink (PK), dark pink (DP), red (R), dark red (DR), lavender (L), purple (PR), and bronze (BR). If a dark red dahlia has any hint of blue in it, as with many of the burgundy tones, it is classified as purple. For the single-color classifications, all the colors taken into account occur on the forward facing surfaces of the ray florets and petaloid structures except in the case of the orchid dahlia, whose ray florets are virtually tubular and roll toward the center; for orchid dahlias, the color is that which occurs on the reverse of the petals and shows up on the outside of the rolled florets.

Baby RedShadow Cat
But wait. We haven't got quite complicated enough. There's a whole separate code for bicolors and blends. We'll deal with the blends, which are listed as separate colors, in the next blog. For bicolors, the predominant color(s) on the ray florets appear first, in capital letters; then the color or colors on floret tips, petaloids, domes and eye-zones are listed in lower-case letters. So a bicolor with a yellow ray florets with orange tips, for instance, would appear color-coded as Yor. On Lynch Creek Farm's website, you'll find color listings below the list of forms on the left side of the home page.

Staying, for simplicity's sake, with one-color dahlias, we present a palette of colors among the dahlias at Lynch Creek Farm: White Nettie, a miniature ball dahlia; Hissy Fitz, a lemon-yellow laciniated cactus dahlia with four- to six-inch blooms; Monarch of the East, a dinner-plate-sized orange semi-cactus eight to 12 inches in diameter; Excentric, a pink informal decorative miniature whose blooms are four to six inches across; Canby Centennial, a dark pink formal decorative dahlia six to eight inches across; Baby Red, a mignon single with one- to two-inch flowers on 12-inch plants; Shadow Cat, a dark red formal decorative miniature with four- to six-inch blooms; Hugs and Kisses, a lavender informal decorative with four- to six-inch flowers; Ripples, a burgundy-purple informal decorative whose blooms are six to eight inches across; and Ginger Snap, a waterlily dahlia with four- to six-inch flowers (actually, we can't say for sure that its classification is with the bronzes, because we haven't found it listed in any of the color classes, but we'd definitely call it bronze).
Next time around: the blends and bicolors will finish off the classifications.

Hugs and KissesRipplesGinger Snap

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