Dazzling dahlias

Dahlia Garden at Anglesey Abbey

Dahlias provide a dazzling burst of late summer colour at Anglesey Abbey right up until the first frosts of autumn.

Lord Fairhaven created the Dahlia Garden in 1952. It's sweeping design means that it is not possible to see the end of the border from either entrance, you just have to explore to see what comes next.

The border contains approximately seventy varieties of dahlia, with  250 plants needed to fill the garden, all of which are grown by our team of gardeners.

Fascinating dahlias 

The beautiful Bracken Lorelei dahlia
Close up image of Bracken Lorelei dahlia

The first Dahlia species arrived in Europe from Central and Southern Europe in the late 17th Century. The International Dahlia Register uses a classification system of 14 distinct groups, based on the overall shape of the flowers and petals, seven of which are grown at Anglesey Abbey, including ball, cactus, decorative and fimbriated, many with intriguing names such as Bracken Ballerina, Spartacus, Streets Ahead and Café au Lait.

A celebration of dahlias

This years Dahlia Festival runs from Tuesday 12 September - Sunday 1 October.

Besides our magnificient dahlia displays in the Dahlia & Formal Garden, you will also find various dahlia inspired art installations as you wander the gardens and floral arrangements in the house.

Our expert gardeners are happy to answer your questions on growing dahlias
Former Head Gardener, Richard Todd, talking to a visitor in the Dahlia Garden

How to create the perfect dahlia display

It takes almost a year and a lot  of hard work to create the perfect dahlia display.

Planning starts as soon as the first frosts of autumn arrive. The plants are cut down to ground level and the pots in which they grow are lifted. It’s amazing that the huge dahlias are grown in relatively small 3 litre pots. The pots are then stacked on their sides in a frost free glass house heated to 6° to dry out. The pots are rotated every few weeks to ensure even drying.

As soon as the plants are lifted the hard work really begins. Over 5 tons of home produced compost or leaf mould is hand dug into the border to provide vital nourishment for the hungry young plants the following spring.  

Early in the New Year as the days start to lengthen, the tubers are replanted and placed in a heated greenhouse to start them off.  As soon as they start to grow, softwood cuttings are taken and placed in a polytunnel within a heated greenhouse, to keep humidity levels up. Experience has shown that plants grown from cuttings produce a more vigorous plant than plants grown straight from the tuber.

In late Spring the young plants are potted on into their final 3 litre pots, a time consuming task when you consider there are 750 plants to be re-potted; 250 will eventually be planted in the Dahlia Garden, while 500 are taken to the nursery beds to provide flowers for the floral displays in the House and Gardens during our annual Dahlia Festival.

The Dahlias are planted out in the first few weeks of June once the risk of frosts has passed. Just before planting the border is rotavated and copious amounts of chicken manure added to the ground.

The back breaking work is not finished, each plant has to be staked and protected from hungry rabbits eager to feast on the fresh foliage. As the plants grow it’s a constant round of tie-in and dead heading to keep the plants growing.