In 1929 J C Loudon said that the dahlia was “the most fashionable flower in England”. It’s had its ups and downs since then, and when I first became an enthusiastic gardener 15 years ago, I was lucky not to know that they were, literally, beyond the pale. Gardening snobs wouldn’t have anything to do with the dahlia’s bright primary colours. As with everything else, the snobs were wrong. The first clink in their armour came when the dark leafed Bishop of Llandaff became fashionable. Although the flower was red, it was a single, and not too flashy, so it was acceptable, just. On the back of the Bishop of Llandaff came the other Bishops, York and Lancaster, and before long all the dark leafed dahlias were in vogue.
My favourite dahlia supplier (and the best), Jack Gott (see link) lists 26 dark leafed dahlias, of which my favourite is Fire Mountain, pictured here. The flower is very similar to a cultivar named The Sovereign, of which the RHS has a watercolour, by James Sillett, made in 1823. The Sovereign seems to have died out long ago, and there’s no evidence that it’s related to Fire Mountain, but 190 years on dahlias are once again the height of fashion.