I've loved this Dahlia since I first saw it many years ago at Hudson Bush Farm, the wonderful garden created by Charles Baker and Norman Posner here in Columbia County, NY. But I wasn't aware of its rather long history until I started reading up on it in order to write this post.
'Bishop of Llandaff' was introduced all the way back in 1927 by nurseryman Stephen Treseder of Cardiff, Wales, and was named to honor Joshua Pritchard Hughes, the Bishop of Llandaff, a diocese in South Wales. So now you know.
What you probably already knew, if you've grown it before, is how incredibly useful this Dahlia is in the garden, and how well it blends with other plants. I've never been a huge fan of the color red, but these blooms have such a velvety richness that they're simply irresistable... to see it is to want it!
As if the flower color weren't enough, the foliage is a deep chocolatey purplish hue with a fern-like texture that sets off the blossoms to perfection. The flowers are medium sized, semi-double, borne on longish stems and keep coming all summer until cut down by a hard frost. The Bishop won the RHS Award of Garden Merit (a very big deal) in 1928, and in 2004 was listed as one of the RHS best plants of the past 200 years.
The Bishop grows tall and willowy, not coarse like many of the large-flowered Dahlias, so it fits well into a perennial border. I always staked mine religiously until last year, when I never got around to it, and they just sort of sprawled themselves over their neighbors and kept blooming and blooming. So this year I'm consciously doing the same thing and so far, so good. Like all Dahlias, the tubers must be dug and stored in a frost-free space over the winter if you want to keep them going year after year, but this is a fairly easy task, and well worth it as they increase readily every season. There are plenty of directions on how to do this in standard gardening books and on the internet. Also, consistent deadheading will really keep the plants looking tidy and blooming steadily until frost.
Due to the success of 'Bishop of Llandaff', a couple other similar types have been introduced: 'Bishop of Oxford' in rich, glowing orange, and 'Bishop of Canterbury', a gorgeous deep rose pink. Both are semi-doubles with the same deliciously dark foliage as 'Bishop of Llandaff'.
Surely one of this trio will fit into whatever color scheme you have going, so I urge you to snag one and give him a try. I guarantee he will be a star in your garden, and unlike a lot of other bishops, won't stir up any trouble!
Welcome to Sempervivum, an opinionated, sometimes informed and completely unqualified journal of gardens, plants and plantings by artist-gardener Robert Clyde Anderson.