A bouquet is a thing of beauty for a week or so, but the current owners and head gardener of the Salutation Gardens – landscaped by Edwin Lutyens in 1912 in the grounds of a country estate in Sandwich, Kent – offer a more generous and permanent way to gift flowers. The Dahlia Estate project has been set up by the acclaimed plantsman Steve Edney, who is breeding a limited number of new dahlia varieties with the naming rights available from £2,500. Each of the new varieties will take its place in the National Collection at the Salutation Gardens.
The idea came from the owners of The Salutation hotel and its surrounding gardens, John and Dorothy Fothergill. “My wife had secretly yearned to have a flower named after her,” says John. “Gardeners are typically fairly possessive about such things, because of the personal love and effort that goes into them, but Steve was receptive to the idea. Then we started to think about other friends and family who would love the opportunity to name a dahlia.”
The Dahlia Estate offers more than a prosaic certificate confirming title ownership. Each gift comes with a beautifully made artisanal object. “We wanted a physical representation, capturing as much as we could of the essence of the idea and the beauty of the plants,” explains Fothergill. “So far we have commissioned a number of artisan pieces – a handmade, aged wooden trunk, a hand-poured pewter-mould flower and a hand-stitched silk cushion. We want people to leave the object on display so that visitors would be enticed to take a peek and learn the whole story.”