Anglesey Abbey in Lode, Cambridgeshire is holding its annual Dahlia Festival. It runs until 4th October. Even if you are not a big dahlia fan (I hate pompoms for instance), it is a fun focus for a visit, because of the bright colours and imaginative way in which they have created the displays around the lovely grounds.
There are large decorated dahlia balls in jewel-like colours hanging down from the tree branches. The balls dance in the wind and children prance beneath them trying to reach them.
My favourite installation was the dahlia flotilla in the canal leading to Lode Mill:
The flowers have become studded in the Lombardy poplar reflections in the mill race. The scene had a definite pre-raphaelite feel to it; rich coloured blooms floating in the weed infested water. You could imagine Ophelia floating along side.
Further on, marching across the rough grass beyond the formal lawn in front of the house, was the Dahlia Line. At the beginning of the festival, in a piece of interactive Landart, people were invited to chose and add a dahlia to a growing line. One thousand little vases/test-tubes have been pushed into the ground in a line, but the colour pattern and evolution of that line was determined by the participants. Here it is, starting at the lawn edge:
Then extending off into the rough grass, as far as the Daffodil Walk on the far side of the meadow.
The house is also liberally decorated with floral works of art, both inside and out, but there are no pictures I am afraid. My camera doesn’t like the gloom.
The famous curved Dahlia Garden was planted as a spectrum again this year. The curve has been designed so that you can only see the whole border from one point on the curve, so you don’t ever get to see the complete rainbow in one view. That feels frustrating and wrong somehow.
Unfortunately, the Dahlia Garden apparently flooded last week after heavy rain and was temporarily closed. It is once again open, but the lawn is a mess and they have fenced off the dahlias so you can only get to within a metre of the border. So no macro work!
Tucked away behind the shelter belts lies the somewhat hidden ‘Hyacinth Garden’. In summer this is also filled with dahlias (two dwarf dahlias in red and orange: ‘Madame J. Stappers’ and ‘Ella Britton’). They are quite dazzling and flame-like in the low sunshine.
Along the Winter Walk the lavender plants had been clipped back and pepped up with more colourful dahlias:
That is pretty much the extent of the dahlia displays, but there are plenty of other things to enjoy at Anglesey Abbey. For instance, the trees are starting to colour up for autumn now and the gardens have some great avenues and shelter belts where you can see this happening. It is worth a visit to see the magnificent hornbeam avenue in its autumn glory. Also, as you approach the Mill (from either direction in fact) you walk through woody paths where the ground is encrusted with thousands of tiny cyclamen. They are as effective as the snowdrops are in spring.
But I will finish with a photo my favourite dahlia display; the view along the canal by the mill.