If the dahlia world had royalty, Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’ would be right at the top. It’s probably the most magnificent, best loved and most widely photographed flower on the planet. As it doesn’t (have royalty), it has been deemed necessary to invent some.
Two young pretenders to the throne have recently appeared, Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royal’ and Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Rose’. When I saw this one in the flesh at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show back in July, I took a few pictures, noted its variability and moved on, assuming I could research it at my leisure back at home.
I’ve been struggling to find out more than whispers about these new dahlias. There don’t seem to be many pictures out there yet. A Dutch news clipping proclaims that Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royal’ by Van der Linden from Hillegom won the best novelty in the 15cm and above category in Autumn 2017.
It might be tempting to conclude that these new pretenders need a better press department, but it doesn’t seem as if there is much availability yet. Search and you’ll find a few online sources offering one or the other for delivery at a future date, often marked “Out of Stock”. Dahlias tubers of this size and desirability could spark in-store tugs of war between gardeners that might have dire consequences, if not for life and limb, certainly for dignity.
The most damaging aspect of an in-demand new plant for a breeder is having to upset customers who want it. My guess is that the breeder has been sneaking out stock of these new beauties under the radar to their best and most demanding customers and that, for the first few years, many of these flowers will end up in the bouquets of brides lucky enough to be able to afford luxury weddings. If they are a true reflection of Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’, even a single bloom can make a striking posy.
Both new dahlias have promising futures, and I fully expect to be swooning over both forms when they start to appear in numbers, but the original form, Her Majesty, Queen Café au Lait has little to worry about. There’s something special in her muted magnificence – those subtle variations of cream, coffee and the slightest hint of peach.
When I saw the flowers on display in July at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, they were labelled Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royale’ in an extra flourish so expect to see it advertised for sale with and without the ‘e’.
Thanks to Chloris of The Blooming Garden for reminding me to share this and letting me know about the Rose version, which I haven’t seen so far.