London’s Holland House Introduced Dahlias
A late eighteenth century painting of dahlias in England indicates the plant, native to Mexico, had already appeared in the country.
It would take a couple of decades, however, to assume its popularity among gardeners everywhere.
In early nineteenth century England the dahlia made its grand appearance in the garden of Lord and Lady Holland. It was after that time that the plant became so popular that by the 1830s some over eager gardeners even became afflicted with ‘dahlia mania.’
Their estate called Holland House in London’s Kensington section had become a gathering place for artists, writers, and politicians.
In her book Holland House: A History of London’s Most Celebrated Salon Linda Kelly tells the story of the Hollands and their many nightly dinner guests who sometimes included Lord Byron and even the Prince of Wales.
She also writes about the many trips the Hollands took that often included an entourage of servants and a cook.
It was on one of their trips that Lady Holland first saw the dahlia.
Between 1800 and 1805 Lord and Lady Holland lived in France, and also in Spain, where Lady Holland spotted the new flower called ‘dahlia’ that had reached Spain from Mexico about fifteen years earlier.
Lady Holland sent some seeds home to England in 1804 and it is on the strength of that shipment that she is given credit for the introduction of the dahlia into England.
From these came nearly all the dahlias grown in gardens in those early years.
Kelly writes “Lady Holland took great pleasure in the gardens at Holland House…In summer its borders were bright with dahlias.”
Her husband celebrated Lady Holland in this poem he wrote for her:
“The Dahlia you brought to our isle
Your praises forever should speak:
Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,
And in colour as bright as your cheek.”