Drew English, The Dahlia Whisperer

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From the end of July through mid-October, guests of High Hampton are treated to a brilliant display of blooms in the resort’s dahlia garden. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1920s, thanks to Dr. William Halsted, a founding surgeon at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore who purchased High Hampton with his wife, Caroline, in 1890. The doctor was enamored with the flower and frequently traveled abroad to bring dahlia tubers back from Europe to the property, long before the blooms were well known in the U.S. “Halsted planted about an acre of dahlias, and the story is he once paid $1500 for a single tuber,” says Drew English, High Hampton’s head gardener. “In the early 1900s, a Ford Model T only cost about $750, so this was a true passion of his and an investment that paid offover time.” According to Drew, the dahlia population got so large in the area that the Cashiers post office started giving away tubers. “So all these little Appalachian cabins had dahlias growing in their gardens at the same time as the Queen of England!” he laughs.

Drew keeps Halsted’s legacy alive and thriving with 200 varieties yielding 850 plus plants. “I try to keep up with the trends. The dinnerplate dahlias are very popular, although they take more space to grow. Colors wax and wane; for a while orange was all the rage, and then the softer ‘Café Au Lait’ tones appeared everywhere.”

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