Some of My Best Friends Are Dahlias

Isn’t this a lovely photo? It was taken by my friend James Landon and sent to me with the disclaimer, “As you know, these are not my favorite flowers, but…” There had to be a “but” for something this pretty. “But,” he continued, “these sure lit a fire this foggy evening in Highlands.” That is Highlands, North Carolina, where my peripatetic, polymath-ic friend has a lovely house and dahlia-free garden. (He nicked these from a friend, in spite of himself.)

Dahlias in Highlands. Photo by James Landon, doctored a bit by me.

But (again), how can you not love dahlias? Landon’s implication is that dahlias are somehow déclassé. Hmph. I remember when people used to feel that way about hydrangeas, and look what happened to them. Landon better get with the program.

I of course have a garden full of dahlias, and they are still blooming their little hearts out here in October. I also planted some at the ranch. They’ll grow just about anywhere.

The summer garden at Bee Cottage
Dahlias in Bee Cottage garden.

So does philanthropist and famous hostess Betsy Bloomingdale grow dahlias. She is always copying me.

No seriously, Mrs. Bloomingdale is famous for her dahlias. There is even a reference to them in Anne Edwards’s wonderful book about the Bloomingdales’ friends the Reagans, who visited them often: “Large bowls of giant dahlias, grown in the estate’s garden, filled the Bloomingdales’ Meditteranean-style house, which had been decorated by Billy Haines.”*

The photo below is not the Bloomingdales’ estate, but my own Bee Cottage in East Hampton. Although they are very similar.

Dahlias in the decor at Bee Cottage.

You know I am teasing about the Bloomingdales and Bee Cottage being similar. My house would fit in their garage.

Dahlias on the table at Bee Cottage.

My friend Carolyne Roehm grows dahlias too, like crazy. See more on her recent post on the subject here.  Déclassé indeed.

Carolyne Roehm's dahlias. Photo by Carolyne Roehm.

Now here’s the kicker. Carolyne and Landon became friends at His Grace’s (my husband for new readers) and my wedding last October. I am sure at the time she did not know Landon’s position on dahlias. He’s going to have some ‘splaining to do.

Carolyne Roehm's dahlias. Photo by Carolyne Roehm.

Meanwhile, on dahlias, I rest my bloomin’ case.

*From The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage, by Anne Edwards.


  1. Well according to W. Beran Wolfe, my friend Dr. Landon should be very depressed right now. “If you find a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden …….” Poor Jim, now I know what to send him for Christmas–a boat building kit.

    1. Oh my heavens you are hysterical. I will chip in with you, Lisa. Maybe we could get a collection going. Although he may be writing a symphony–he can be secretive about these things you know.

  2. Dear Frances,
    One of my mother’s favorite stories revolves around dahlias…
    Mother and some friends were driving from Winston to Pinehurst.
    On the way there, they had noticed a beautiful garden full of magnificent dahlias, with a small sign which read, “Dahlias for sale.”
    On the return trip, they stopped and filled the back of the station wagon with flowers.
    Mother had a big party the next night to celebrate her find.
    “Prettiest party you ever saw!”

    1. Yes Giverny! And wow I’ve got to see this GG Park. I think I went once but in the off season… Thanks for writing, Kitty!

  3. Beautiful post! My thanks for the link to Golden Gate Park, as a child I spent some very happy times there with my parents and grandparents (my grandmother was a champion rose grower). Do love your blog, Ms. Frances!

  4. Beautiful! Beautiful! I love that they are the perfect balance between hearty and beautiful. What a combo! xx

  5. High Hampton Inn in Cashiers,NC has the most beautiful garden of dahlias (I almost feel I should capitalize Dahlias). The owner of the land planted them years ago and left the means for them to be preserved. The bulbs are dug up each winter and stored in a special cellar, then replanted in spring. Fascinating and completely gorgeous. They are a complete joy to be around.

  6. Ha ha and thanks for the much needed laugh. It brought back memories of my dear grandmother, who turned her nose up at gladiolus, referring to them as “funeral flowers.” I so enjoy your musings Frances!

  7. My good friend Ted Moore — also peripatetic and polymathic (I had to look that up!) — in Chapel Hill is the one who turned me ON to dahlias and they were just spectacular this year. Huge yellows as large as plates and smaller blossoms a sublime shade of orange-y/pink-y/red-y! Can’t wait until next year…from the time they are planted until the time they bloom there are many surprises, all spectacular.

  8. This is a just a delightful post!! Every summer I look at all the dahlias in Cashiers NC growing and for sale, dying to try a few bulbs. Have not done it….this gives me courage. South Georgia may be to hot. Your garden at Bee Cottage is beautiful. Is that a New Dawn rose growing in the back ground? Hope that new book is blossoming!!
    x Becky

    1. Hi Becky and thank you! DO try dahlias – they are easy to grow and love sun. Perfect for South Ga. And yes, those are New Dawn roses. Good eye, girl. xo F

  9. Growing up I always wanted my middle name to be “Dahlia” as I had no middle name. My Grandmother Nina Rose was from a family of eight women who all had a flower name; Hyacinth, Lily, Daisy, Amaryllis, Rose, Zinnia, Violet & Iris. No Dahlia so I wanted to be the first. I LOVE them! Beautiful flowers, Gorgeous colors; def in a league of their own.

    1. Ok then we will start calling you Dahlia. Oh, Dahlia, I LOVE this story and cannot believe I had never heard that about your grandmother’s family. Thank you for telling the story. Love, F

  10. Loved your article on dahlias, my favorite in the fall in Cashiers and Highlands! Looking forward to checking them out next week. Your photos were beautiful!

  11. Hi sweet and crazy Frances why don’t you write for my limited little blog you do it soooooo much better than I do.—-love reading you with that wonderful southern charm and humor xoxox cr

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