For years one of the most in demand AND most elusive dahlias has been the infamous Castle Drive. It became increasingly popular once it was promoted and made available through the Floret tuber sale years ago. It also included a wonderful story of anonymous tubers being donated, propagated and then saved from oblivion to be the darling of the dahlia world.
But as the years progressed and the ever increasing use of social media, it has become very clear that many farmers and growers have been promoting different dahlias under the same 'Castle Drive" name.
It's very easy for this to happen, especially when the two varieties in question are so similar. Kamille Scellick, of kamillesflowers on Instagram, brought to light the importance of comparing classification and form when identifying dahlias. The real Castle Drive was hybridized by the late Roger Turrell in 1991 in the United Kingdom. This bloom was classified as a 4-6" (BB) size, formal decorative in shape and it has a light blend pink color.
Now let me introduce the other dahlia in question. I'll cut to the chase and let you know now, this dahlia's real identity is 'Coralie'. Coralie is also a dahlia hybridized in the UK. It was originally grown by hybridizer T, Mantle in 1982. This dahlia is classified as a 4-6" (BB) size, formal decorative in shape and it was a light blend pink color. Are you starting to see where the confusion begins? It is completely understandable.
(Picture: Coralie, darker stems on the left. Castle Drive with lighter green stems on the right.)
Allow me to stand on my own soapbox. For years, my sister Kate of Cold Water Flowers and I, have found comparing stem color, plant growth habit and leaf shape to be an excellent confirmation tool when trying to identify unknown dahlias. For me, this was a critical component in determining which dahlia was the real Castle Drive.
While I appreciate and value many opinions from fellow dahlia farmers and growers, I am a scientist at heart and need to have a suitable body of evidence before I will make a call on a dahlias true identity. Based on comparing notes and photos with several dahlia growers in the United States, New Zealand and Australia I set out for one more confirming piece of the puzzle. Could I find a source close to the hybridizer to independently and blindly confirm the identity of the real Castle Drive? That's exactly what I sought out to do. I contacted the UK dahlia society that Mr. Roger Turrell was a member of and sent photos kindly asking for an identification. Amazingly, they replied to my request and confirmed what several other growers had been sharing.
So lets review. Both Castle Drive and Coralie are the same size, same shape, and very similar in coloring. However, there are distinct differences in their plant features. I personally have both dahlias growing in my field. They both are growing around 4 foot tall, but that is where the similarities end. If you look closely at the stems of Castle Drive it has a solid, light green stem and a very distinctive large, floppy leaf. This leaf is so unique that I have sent it out for virus testing and nutrient analysis to make sure nothing was wrong with it. It has been cleared on both accounts but it is that unique! On the other hand, Coralie has dark(er) stems and a comparably smaller, dark green serrated leaf.
So, where does that leave you if you purchased a tuber as Castle Drive, but instead you find out you have Coralie? It is my opinion that you still purchased what you wanted, but it has a new identity. I don't find this situation the same as buying a $20 Bracken Rose tuber only to be growing a $6 Blizzard tuber. The Coralie variety is AMAZING. It is super productive, has excellent strong stems, and is in a highly desirable color for events. Its one fault is the blooms can be somewhat downward facing at times. Castle Drive is also very beautiful. In my field it is not as floriferous as Coralie, but the bloom position is better more often. This is my first year growing Coralie. I finally shelled out the money and had 8 plants arrive Spring of 2020 with the intention of offering "Castle Drive" tubers in my spring sale. But now I know enough to be convinced on my dahlias true identities and I will offer them as such.
(Coralie Plant Photo)
(Picture: Castle Drive plant. Note the unique leaf and stem color.)
(Picture: Coralie. Note the darker stems and smaller, serrated leaf shape.)