Dahlias - The Forgotten Favourite

Dahlias might seem a bit old fashioned now and are not the first choice on many garden designer’s planting plans. But I’ve been thinking about planting some this month. It’s not just the numerous delicate petals that appeals to me, nor the fact single dahlias are a beacon for bees. It’s that they remind me of my Dad. They are evocative of a childhood spent helping him deliver flowers on a Saturday morning or fishing out the slightly creepy looking tubas out of dry dusty peat under his watchful eye. For me they are a symbol of my childish fascination with nature and how something so beautiful could grow out of the ground.

And although they are considered to be reminiscent of country gardens, it got me thinking about how the sight and scent of plants can evoke such strong feelings and memories. I’m curious about how this can be utilised in garden design. It may be a sentimental decision to plant dahlias but I think plants that evoke memories have a place in planting plans. The aesthetic of a design should encompass a holistic experience, not just sights and smells but all those features that contribute to a sense of wellbeing that comes from being in a well designed space. When designing for a client living with dementia, this aspect of memory and connection with the past and one’s past self was central to the design to ensure that she could still enjoy her garden in the way that she had previously.


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