Thursday 24 September 2020

Dahlia Overload

 Are you a dahlia lover or hater? Should you happen to be the latter then this post is definitely not for you! I feel I should give you a health warning that a lot of dahlia pictures are about to follow. It was mere chance that I discovered the location of The National Dahlia Collection at Varfell Farm near Penzance just days before we were going to Cornwall. I had been trying to discover the name of a particular dahlia when I came across the details and realised that there was a field open to the public.

We were actually staying in a village called Lanivet just outside Bodmin but our position less than a mile from the A30 meant that it only took us 40 minutes to get down to the field which is just minutes from the Hayle to Penzance road.

The 2 acre field is home to 1600 plus varieties of dahlia and is an impressive sight. The dahlias are in rows of 3 according to variety. It is easy walking along the aisles between them.

The collection was originally made by David Brown in Oxfordshire who realised that the number of varieties available was rapidly diminishing and set out to acquire and collect varieties that he spotted in both private and public gardens in the 1980s and 90s. He was eventually forced to sell the collection due to health and financial circumstances to Winchester Nurseries who with his help have continued to grow his dahlias and sell them to the public.

What is evident from what I have gleaned online and what we observed at the farm is that all is not good. 

Despite being a spectacular sight the flowers have been sadly neglected. They have not been staked this year or deheaded. Some are missing, weeds particularly thistles are becoming rampant and many labels have fallen off or faded.

The poly tunnels in the adjacent yard are in disrepair and many potted dahlias have been left to dry out.
I think from what I have read that the company has been bought out. 

The National Dahlia Collection website is not accessible other than a front page about the hours of opening of the field.

You may have noted above the agapanthus that are also being  grown. We didn’t go home empty handed as there was a rather scruffy number of dahlias for sale with an honesty box. We bought a couple and a large agapanthus so there could be something to see next year!
I will leave you with a gallery of some of the gorgeous and varied blooms we saw. The perfection of the individual bloom was something to behold.

I just hope that the future of this collection is secure and the hard work that has gone into preserving these beautiful blooms won’t be wasted.


  1. I'm a dahlia lover. I love the variety of dahlias. This year we had several new ones---one was very similar to the red one with the white tips you photographed. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love these blooms, but in our heavy clay they do not grow well, even lifting them each autumn does not save them.

  3. I love them too, although I had no idea there was such a huge variety. I hope the collection will be saved for the future.

  4. This was such a delightful tour. Thanks for taking us along. I like dahlias although I did not grow any this year, when I tried to order, all were sold out back in January. I once went to a "field" of daylilies, similar to this dahlia "field", I wandered for hours. Daylilies are my favourite garden perennial.

  5. You don't know how much I needed a lovely walk like this. Thanks for taking those beautiful snapshots and sharing them with us.