It’s no secret that Dahlias are a firm favourite in landscaping. Their bountiful blooms and rich colours make a huge impact in any space, from balcony gardens to sprawling estates – like the stunning gardens of the Palace of Versailles (more on that later)!
So, considering the title of this post, you’re probably wondering what Dahlias and Marie Antoinette have in common. Firstly, both the French queen and the flower are showy, dramatic and easily capture attention of anyone in the vicinity. Secondly, they both pair well with cake!
It has been famously claimed that Marie Antoinette spoke the words ‘let them eat cake’ in response to the scarcity of bread and the general famines experienced by the people of France during her husband King Louis XVI’s reign, and prior to the French revolution.
In fact, the phrase would have been, ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’, in French, which translates to ‘let them eat brioche’. Although brioche is something we can find relatively cheaply these days in supermarkets, it was considered a luxury food in Antoinette’s time – as luxurious as cake.
The queen was widely criticised for her lavish spending on clothes, jewellery and opulent feasts in a time of deep financial crisis in France. However, despite the grandeur that she enjoyed during her residence at the Palace of Versailles, she also showed an appreciation of the simple-yet-beautiful things in life, such as flowers.
The Antoinette-Dahlia link strengthens…
In 1774, 19 years before her execution, Louis XVI gifted her the Petit Trianon, a small chateau in the grounds of the palace. With the chateau, he gave her a note which read, ‘To you who love flowers so, I present this bouquet’, referencing the beautiful landscaped gardens which surrounded the charming getaway.
According to historian and perfumer Ēlisabeth de Feydeau in her book From Marie-Antoinette’s Garden: An Eighteenth-Century Horticultural Album, the grounds of the Petit Trianon contained many plants with cosmetic, culinary and medicinal uses. For example, Tuberose was used as both an anxiety-reliever and an aphrodisiac, while grape leaves were used in a concoction to help lighten the skin (fashionable in Antoinette’s era).
One particular plant that the queen was known to love was the Dahlia. Native to Mexico, the first recorded introduction of the Dahlia to the European content was by French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville in 1787. The flower was kept secret from the public for around a decade, but one of its first notable fans was Antoinette. As such, a variety was named after her.
Dahlia ‘Marie Antoinette’
The Dahlia ‘Marie Antoinette’ is a showy, large-flowered single. Just like the queen, the flower makes a real impact; its burgundy-purple flowers are intense in colour, and lead the eye to a rich, gold centre.
With long stems and masses of flowers, the Dahlia ‘Marie Antoinette’ is perfect for cut flower use in vases. You could say that the variety would bring a touch of Antoinette’s extravagance to the home.
Dahlias as cake decorations
If you’re getting married, Dahlias make a great choice for a decorative flower on a wedding cake, as they symbolise committment, dignity, elegance and standing firm when it comes to your values.
Which Dahlia to choose for cake decoration
Dahlias aren’t limited to the fantastic pom-pom-like blooms that we see so often in landscape design and as cut flowers. In fact, there are 42 species of Dahlia, and thousands of varieties! One common issue, however, is that tall Dahlias often need staking, which requires more effort on the gardener’s part.
The Dahlia Labella Maggiore collection, features five different varieties, including several with two-tone flowers! What’s more, they are super tall, with strong enough stems that they don’t need staking! The plants in this collection can grow up to 70cm while being self-supporting – a real innovation for those who love Dahlias, but don’t want to add the extra work to their gardening regime!
These are large, showy blooms on sturdy stems which you can grow yourself before cutting for placement on your cake. I feel like adding your own cut flowers to a cake design really shows your personality, as well as the thought that went into the design.
This collection features flowers which re-bloom effortlessly all season long, from July to October. And the fun doesn’t stop after the first year. These are perrenials, which produce year-on-year performance. A great investment!
Take a look at the collection here.
What do you like most about Dahlias? Let me know in the comments section below!
Win a stunning Aqua Pink Anthurium in Glass from QVC
Have you been paying attention to Michael Perry’s Garden on QVC? If you watched the show when we presented the Dahlia Lebella Maggiore collection, you could be in with a chance of winning a stunning Aqua Pink Indoor Anthurium in a glass vase from Thompson & Morgan and QVC.
All you have to do is guess how many Dahlia flower heads there are in total on the set during the Dahlia Labella Maggiore sell! To make sure I know who’s entered, use the Rafflecopter widget below to mark your entry!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.