My dahlias from the Farmers Market. There's nothing like dahlias to cheer up the autumn garden. Originally discovered in Mexico in 1615 by a Spaniard, the dahlia was also noticed in the same country by the French botanist Nicolas-Joseph ThiĆ©ry de Menonville in 1787. It was not until 1789, when the first dahlia – grown from seed sent from Mexico City to Spain – flowered and was named Dahlia coccinea, after the 18th-century Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, by the head of the Madrid Botanical Garden. There are now thousands of cultivars in a riot of colors, and they add cheerful notes to the garden as autumn wraps its bronze hues among the plants. In Japan, the dahlia is called Tenjikubotan, meaning "Peony of India." I like the rather unpretentious dahlias, such relative newcomers in the garden, for their unfussy habit and lovely colors. Around this time of year, they can enliven a garden, or a room, far better than the ubiquitous mums, which get planted by the tons in corporate parks, suburban yards, and outside so-called luxury apartment buildings around the city.

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