Three hundred 300 varieties of dahlia are on display in the Vrijbroek park, all planted per type. If you need inspiration for your own garden, come and have a look at the colour range. The section below contains further background information.
Centuries ago the Aztecs cultivated colourful flowers and used their leaves as animal feed, plants that grabbed the attention of two Spanish adventurers. The Aztecs told them that the corms of the ‘Cocoxochitl’ had a diaphoretic and diuretic effect, that they quelled stomach aches and helped to treat tumours. Because of the nutritional value the Spaniards sent the plant to their home country, where it was planted in the Royal Gardens of Madrid in 1789, and shortly after that in the ‘Jardin des Plantes’ in Paris. While the bitter and peppery taste was not appreciated in Europe and the gastronomic adventure was short-lived, the large, colourful and spherical flowers proved to be a great success. In honour of the work of the Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl, this Mexican beauty was given the scientific name of ‘Dahlia’.
The multicoloured autumn prince
The dahlias in our gardens are all hybrids, with the original Dahlia pinnata and D. coccinea often making up the nucleus of the modern hybrid dahlias. Others descend from Dahlia merckii, D. roseaor D. Juarezii.
The flowering time of the dahlia depends on the variety, and lasts approximately from July until October, while the colours range from the softest pastel shades to the brightest colours and from the purest white to almost black. But to date no researcher has succeeded in selecting a purely blue flower. The shape of the flower can be single or double, elegant or heavy, either small or very large, and then there are also the other special flower shapes, such as the collarette or orchid dahlia. The foliage is usually green, but there are also beautiful varieties with dark leaves. Growth heights can vary from about 20 centimetres to some 1.5 metres.
The planting of botanic dahlias in the botanical garden of Ghent (1805) marked the start of the Flemish dahlia story. Less than ten years after their introduction, Andre Donkelaer, a cultivator from Leuven, introduced the first double-flowered dahlia. In 1838 Alex Verschaffelt presented a collection of 600 cut dahlias during the autumn exhibition of the Ghent Royal Society of Agriculture and Botany. Meanwhile in a nursery in Kalmthout, the current arboretum, the gardeners Van Geert and Kort also wrote a piece of dahlia history.
This marked the start of a parade of professional growers, although in recent years it has mainly been amateurs applying themselves to the improvement and cultivation of dahlias. Their skill has also been recognised abroad, with Martin, for instance, winning an award with his ‘Queen Fabiola’ in Mainau (Germany, 1978), while ‘Gryson’s Perfect’, ‘Rosa Duquet’ and ‘Samourai’, all of them products of Gryson-Plochaet, received nominations at the Floriade (Netherlands, 1992). He was again showered with Floriade flowers in 2002 as a result of his ‘Donnica’, ‘Gwennan’, ‘New age’, ‘Solane’ and ‘Top Sun’, And his ‘Beretta’ was the winner in the Czech Republic.
Curious about all this floral beauty? Do you want to cast an admiring glance to ‘Deuil du Roi Albert’, the oldest existing Belgian dahlia? Then visit our dahlia garden, where you will find both this flower and another 300 varieties!
Plant collections management
tel.: 015 45 13 81
fax: 015 45 13 91