Autumn is upon us: crisp days and earlier nights. At Garden House we are enjoying the harvest and delighting in the dahlias… and thinking about the bulb programme for the year ahead. Nothing stands still here.
Our plant ident. this week focused on the flower of the moment, the dahlia. It’s amazing to think that something so beautiful can grow from such ugly root tubers. We looked at their many shapes, sizes and colours – from single to ball to cactus and beyond. They have come back into fashion in recent years, and are now much prized by gardeners and florists alike. Sometimes elegant, sometimes blowsy, their presence is invaluable in both vase and garden, providing colour and interest from late June through to the frosts. They belong to the Asteraceae family and are tuberous, tender perennials.
Tubers can be potted up in February (in a heated greenhouse) and stem cuttings can be taken as they come into growth. (These will not flower until the following year.) Meanwhile, the potted tubers will have become bushy plants and can be planted out once all danger of frost has passed, usually in May, at a depth of about 20-30 cms. Dahlias flourish in rich, fertile well-drained soil in full sun. They are hungry plants and benefit from good well-rotted compost and a scattering of fertiliser when they are planted. Slugs love them – so take precautions – and they also require staking with bamboo sticks or similar to prevent them flopping over. Once flowers appear it is advisable to give them a liquid feed every couple of weeks, as this will encourage more flowers – as will pinching out the main growing shoot to just above a pair of leaves. Don’t forget to deadhead too!
As dahlias die down in November they should be cut back. At Garden House we dig up the tubers, and store them in a frost-free, airy environment, keeping them slightly damp so that they don’t dry out completely. This leaves the ground free for further planting schemes. Some gardeners, however, leave dahlia tubers in the ground to overwinter – covering them with a bucket of mulch. It is said that this promotes more and better flower growth the following year – as long as winter wet doesn’t kill the tubers.
High maintenance they may be, but dazzling dahlias definitely repay the effort put in.
Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’
This vivid red peony-flowered dahlia, with its contrasting dark stems and foliage, is a favourite of bees and other pollinators; it holds an R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit
Dahlia ‘Jowey Mirella’
A dramatic ball dahlia; its long strong stems make it wonderful as a cut flower. Ball dahlias are prized by flower arrangers for their perfect round flower heads and their clear colours.
Dahlia ‘Tahoma Moonshot’
This stunning Honka variety has deep burgundy, velvety, single flowers with a rich yellow centre. Attractive in growth, Bridge finds that it is not particularly good as a cut flower as the petals tend to fall.
Dahlia ‘New Baby’
This little Pompon beauty may be small, but it is a real delight. Good in hot borders and works well with dark red and magenta dahlias – such as……….
Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’
A fabulous semi-cactus dahlia, with spiky garnet-red petals and a nearly black centre. Dramatic in a tropical-style border. And below is another semi-cactus dahlia – again, it has a spiky flower head (magnificently magenta), but this one has petals which split at the end – like a deer’s antler.
And now, from semi-cactus to full blown cactus……….
Dahlia ‘Karma Bon Bini’
A stunning bi-coloured dahlia whose inner petals are golden-yellow, turning to fiery red-orange on the outer layers. Spectacular! And there’s more –
The Collerette-flowered Dahlia ‘Pooh’ – these dahlias have a little collar of shorter florets which surround the centre disc.
Dahlia coccinea, a delightful single flowered species, loved by bees.
Jobs this week:
- Continue to clear beds of eschscholzias, ammis and self-sown grasses
- Label all the various dahlias in the garden so that when lifted, we will be able to correctly identify the tubers as we prepare them for winter storage.
I think that’s actually a cosmos you’re looking at ……..
- In the greenhouse, check progress of recently sown seeds. (Looking good.)
- Pot on cuttings. Good job!
- Take tomatoes out of the greenhouse. Plant up chrysanthemums for Christmas flowering
- Prune roses under the arches and compost any waste material
A woman happy in her work…….
- Weed the beds under the willow arch
- Remove plants from flowerbed and put into liners for temporary storage
- Make an Autumn wreath from willow and treasures from the garden
- Prune the muehlenbeckia on the wall
- And most importantly of all, enjoy the rewards of all that hard work