Oh, the glory of dahlia season, when pompoms of petals the size of your fist are cheap and plentiful and at their very best! Whether you have dahlias growing in your garden or simply scored a cheap bunch at the farmers' market, you'll want to make the most of this summer stunner. Create a few arrangements for yourself or share the wealth and give them as host/hostess gifts everywhere you go.
In this first arrangement, I combined burgundy dahlias with petite alliums, alien-esque Nigella (the pale green spiky pods streaked with burgundy), side oats grass, and purple fountain grass to create a prairie-like look. Any cool grasses, seeds, and pods you have access to could be used for a similar effect.
Here we have a celebration of dahlias, dahlias, and only dahlias. This type of arrangement is simple but slow to make: remove the leaves from hundreds of stems of dahlias, hold one stem in your dominant hand and place another stem next to it using the other hand. Continue adding stems around the initial one, creating ever-expanding concentric circles. You're creating mass outward but also downward, the shape of the flowers naturally lending themselves to a pompon-like formation. Once your bunch is even and your dahlias are all used up, rubberband the stems, trim them evenly, place in a vase, and prepare to be punched in the face by dahlias every time you walk in the room.
This next arrangement requires some serendipitous timing- finding dahlias and peonies in season at the same time- but you could easily substitute another lushly petaled flower such as garden roses or double tulips for the peonies. Sweet peas fill in the spaces between the larger blooms and create a fluffy, graceful edge where the arrangement meets the vase.
A fiery variety of crocosmia winds itself through and around this arrangement of bright orange dahlias, yellow craspedias ("billy buttons"), and spiky achiote pods ("lipstick tree"). Once again, these specific elements aren't necessary: any pods or balls with interesting textures will contrast nicely with the dahlias' flurry of petals. Thistles, scabiosa pods, or horse chestnuts could also work well.
Arching, vining crocosmia is once again used here, this time with deep, dark dahlias and bright orange ranunculus. The incredibly bright ranunculus pop against the nearly-black background, with the crocosmia providing a link between the two. Bright freesias or anemones (especially with their black center) would be excellent here as well.
Finally, we have a casual little bouquet I put together for a friend I was meeting for burritos. Black ornamental peppers and acid green unripe rose hips lend an edginess to burgundy dahlias, fuchsia carnations, and hot pink clovers. I wrapped the bunch in a page from a French fashion magazine and tied it up with a little piece of black satin ribbon. Voilá!
And if you love dahlias but aren't able or in the mood to grow them or buy them, be sure to stop by the Dahlia Dell in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park!