Dahlia, the national flower of Mexico, was named after a Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl by a Madrid-based Spanish scholar Antonio José Cavanilles who first described the flowers in 1791 after he planted the seeds received by post from Mexico.
In 1803, however, a German scientist Carl Ludwig von Willdenow described the same species and named it ‘georgina’ after a prominent German botanist Johann Gottlieb Georgi. So, even if it’s called dahlia all around the world, Lithuanians adapted the German version and call the flower jurginas, or ‘georgina’.
Jurginas is actually quite a popular plant and one of the symbols of autumn in Lithuania. The botanical garden of Vytautas Magnus University, located in the manor of Aukštoji Freda (Ž. E. Žilibero g. 6), is the epicentre of dahlia selection in Kaunas and Lithuania. There are around 40 wild species of wild dahlias, three of them have been used to invent new shapes and colours of the plant. The VMU Botanical garden is home to 1200 species. All of the Lithuanian species can be visited near the orangerie; the other ones are scattered in small islands around the park.
Six of the species included at The International Dahlia Register have been cultivated at the VMU Kaunas Botanical garden, nine of the new ones cultivated recently are now waiting for the approval by The Royal Horticultural Society. One of the fresh species was named after Constantin von Regel (1890-1970), the founder of the VMU Botanical garden, itself established in 1923.
So, see you at the end of summer in Freda manor! The botanical garden is open every day. In winter, too – it’s possible to have a great walk there even when it’s super cold!
P.S. Vaižgantas, one of the most-loved romantic writers of Lithuania who lived in interwar Kaunas, was also ‘given’ his own dahlia species.