||The Search for
the Perfect Ball
I have an affection for all types of Dahlias, but I have always
been especially attracted to the Ball type. The regularity of
formation is so precise that perfection seems to be easily possible
- or inevitable. But "not so quickly ", says judge after
judge. "Look at that sunken centre, or that flat spot on
the face, or the distortion from a circular outline when viewed
from just this angle. And what about . . .".
In order to search, a person needs to have a pretty good idea
of what they're looking for. So, what is a perfect Ball Dahlia?
What is special to this classification that sets it apart from
- Globular Formation
Although all double Dahlias have an ideal that is to approach
a globular outline, Balls are the most visibly successful. Poms
do it rather well, but are so small as to have little garden
impact, and this criticism extends, although to a lesser extent,
to the Miniature Balls as well. Only the true Ball size gives
sufficient garden presence. Other classification categories always
have some kind of sharpness to the floret tips to distract the
eye from smooth globularity. The unfortunate inclusion in the
Ball class of some dahlias that have pointed floret tips distracts
drastically from perfection due to the prickly outline that occurs.
That perfection of outline is so very much a part of a perfect
ball that a flattened or sunken centre becomes a major flaw,
and failure of the florets to dress completely back to the stem
is equally fatal.
- Fully Involute florets (Quilled)
There are many Dahlias classified as Ball that have only
the minimum required full involution of one half of the floret
length. For these it is often necessary to pluck a floret to
see if there is any quilling at all. Some portions of
the bloom may meet the requirement, but often the older florets
have no full involution at all. These Dahlias may be lovely,
but they surely do not represent the Ideal Ball! And note the
classification book "The mature florets which determine
the size of the Dahlia, determine the Dahlia formation".
I think we must strive to breed true Ball types with florets
that are at least one half, and preferably over three quarters
fully involute. The idealshould be more like 90%. When
these varieties are more available, they should be given preferred
attention on the show bench. There are several good examples
with other good qualities as well, such as Snoho Jo Jo, Barbarry
Ball, Jessie G, Kenora Fireball,
L'Ancresse, Aurora's Kiss
- Circular cross section
The quilling of the floret forms a tubular object that
is tapered from a point at its base, to a larger diameter at
the open end. The floret count should be such that each floret
will fill in the bloom in its own, unsquashed space, with each
just touching its neighbors without crowding or distortion. A
high floret count combined with small floret diameter can be
perfect, but often the result of a high floret count is densely
packed, distorted florets that become flattened ovals. Some distortion
is certainly acceptable, but this article is about the search
for a perfect dahlia!
- Bloom Angle
This is very difficult to call. There is a symmetry and
beauty to a top sitting, spherical bloom that is very satisfying.
On the other hand, a bloom presented at an angle can be displayed
to show its face to a viewer at eye level. The official rules
are quite loose. Perhaps we should decide on the ideal, and then
strive to grow and breed toward it. My personal preference would
be to leave the rules loose and let the exhibitor present the
blooms to the viewer in an appropriate way. But if I had to choose,
I would select symmetry.
- Stem and leaves
I think that the other aspects of symmetry that are so
distinctly evident in the Ball type demand a particularly straight
and flawless stem. Spur leaves are not desirable. The top leaves
must compliment and frame the bloom as usual, but a bit of extra
stem length to keep the bloom well clear of the foliage is part
of a perfect bloom. The leaves themselves should contribute to
the overall balanced presentation. There is also the possibility
of contrasting stem pigmentation that can compliment the bloom.
The fact that the florets are tubular means that both
the inner (face) and outer (reverse) will be visible at the same
time. Many Dahlias have different colors for these two areas.
In the Ball type, appropriate contrast can add an additional
illusion of depth, and can also emphasize other aspects of symmetry.
See photo of Hy Lustre. As an exhibitor
I must concentrate on perfection of formation. As a gardener,
I desire vibrant color and floriferousness. As a hybridizer I
must consider all aspects, including agreeable growth habit ,
insect resistance, and tuber keeping qualities and production.
I hope that you will try your hand at hybridizing or growing
other hybridizers seeds in the ongoing search for the perfect
Ball. If you do, perhaps a few words of advice might be appropriate.
First of all do use the very best varieties as breeding stock,
unless you are willing to spend several years crossing and backcrossing
to get a particular trait out of some otherwise flawed variety.
I mentioned to Gordie Leroux that I had used Bitsa, MB DR, in
a cross with Deep South to achieve Aurora's
Kiss, BA DR. He responded that Bitsa was a parent of Kenora
Fireball. Apparently we both saw the potential! Continuing the
lineage, my variety Hy Fire is out of Kenora Fireball X Barbarry
Climax. And this year Polyventon Supreme set 5 seed for me when
hand crossed with Hy Fire. I am looking forward to the potential
for increased size and elegant formation that Polyventon Supreme
brings, but also to a more saturated color that the Gods of chance
may allow from the smaller, but well formed Hy
BACK to Main page