18 Aug 2022

Young Wellington gardener devoted to dahlias

From Afternoons, 1:15 pm on 18 August 2022

When Ed Malcolm-Tait was in year 5, his teacher gifted every child in his class with a small plant. Ed was given a dahlia. 

“I just really liked its flowers, and it was really cool,” he tells Jesse Mulligan. 

He watered his dahlia all year and it looked really healthy. 

“Then at the end of the dahlia growing season it died and I started crying and I went to my mum and said that it felt like my best friend had died.” 

Ever since, his love of dahlias has grown – as has his collection. 

Ed Malcolm-Tait with his dahlia

Photo: Ed Malcolm-Tait

The thing about dahlias, Ed says, is that they die back in the Autumn and come back in Spring. 

“So, I've still got that dahlia. 

“It’s quite nice to know that you’ve kept a dahlia alive, and it will come back a year later,” he says. 

Ed not only has dahlias, but he's also now branched out to other flower varieties. 

His garden is mostly planted in pots on the deck but “they’ve slowly crept down the deck, down the stairs, onto the ground and now we’ve digging up the driveway to make way for four massive dahlia beds”. 

“[My parents] do sometimes say that I’ve bought too many, they don’t have any space,” he laughs. 

When the family goes away, a plant sitter comes once a week to water all of the dahlias but it’s a stressful time for Ed. 

“Because you don’t know what’s happening with them, it’s also a shame because you don’t get to see some of their best flowers.” 

Last year the family went away at the start of the season and Ed missed seeing the season’s first flower.  

“Dahlia’s have a massive variety in what they can look like because they can range from 10cm to like 20cm – huge flowers. They can also come in all sorts of colours, I think the only colour that they can’t come in is blue.” 

Ed wants to start breeding dahlias to create his own type, and he’s been reading all about the plant, although during his first attempt his mum cut off the flower he was intending to hybridise.  

“I was intending to breed two really huge ones together which are called dinner plate varieties and...what you have to do is you have to get some of the pollen from one of the flowers and put it on to the other one so that it creates a seed that’s from both of them.” 

His goal is to one day own a massive farm where he can breed and sell his own varieties, and enter them in competitions. 

Dahlia’s are a pretty hardy flower, he says, “as long as you water them, take care of the bugs and don’t do anything that would kill you then they’ll reward you with flowers”. 

Ed thinks he’s probably the only person at his school who grows flowers, in fact the principal has said he can plant dahlias at school wherever he wants.  

“Which I think is a mistake because I’m definitely going to take her up on that.” 

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