One of the lovely variations available in the Dahlia is very dark bronze foliage. It varies, but in some cultivars, especially when grown in bright sun, it is truly (almost) black.
There is a line of Dwarf Bedding seeds called REDSKIN available with many colors of flowers set against the dark leaves. Very attractive mass effect for large areas and parks, but the individual flowers are rather ugly by established standards.
Some of the modern varieties that you are likely to be able to buy are FIREMOUNTAIN,shown here, BB FD R and MIDNIGHT SUN, BB FD OR and the contrasted bright yellow Single flowered CLARION (see below for seed), all of which are from a recent breeding interest of New Zealand grower Keith Hammett. Of these, Firemountain and Clarion compete for the darkest foliage. From England comes OLD BOY, BA PR. Old Boy only grows 2 feet high, so it is particularly desirable as a border plant. Foliage is not quite as dark.
An older, larger variety is SUFFOLK PUNCH, B FD PR,from England, with very dark leaves. A beautiful German sport, ENGLEHARDT'S MATADOR, with lighter, cooler purple blooms recently became available. It has lost a yellow underlay that warms the purple of its parent, Suffolk Punch. And newly discovered is LOST ANGEL, B C PK, another sport of Suffolk Punch with a change in color AND form!
Older still is PRESTON PARK, red single bedder. ELLEN HUSTON, orange decorative bedder, and the long popular DAVID HOWARD with an orange bloom, and oldest of all, BISHOP OF LLANDAFF, a single, or sometimes semidouble (Peaony form) bright red. There is also another well known red Single, JAPANESE BISHOP. Clean stock of the oldest varieties is very hard to find.
I grew a new one in 1996 named SUNSHINE, It has very dark foliage and a Single flower in soft orange with a vermillion red central zone. It has the same description as "Moonfire" in the UK. Grows a manageable 3 feet high. I let it set seed with other nearby Singles and Collerettes and harvested a good supply. Not all will inherit the dark foliage, but some will, and if these seedlings are self crossed the black leaves should be at least 50 percent. They will have Single flowers in a range of colors, many with a contrasting eye zone. I also did some experiments with Scented Orchid Dahlias and seed from the most scented one "Hy Scent" is available, and new this year is seed saved from CLARION, brightest possible yellow Single on the blackest possible foliage.
See also Dark Genetics
Copyright © 1998 Wayne Holland
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