Six on Saturday: Making a Bold Statement

I like dahlias. Is that a bold enough statement? Strictly speaking, I don’t suppose I like ALL dahlias, but in truth I was referring to the dahias themselves making the statement, which is probably unrefutable as their solid chunky blooms would make an impact in any border or in any vase.

Dahlia ‘Geoffrey Kent’

I haven’t always liked dahlias, once thinking of them as relics of old fashioned and regimented gardening, as I believe many of my fellow bloggers also did. However, in 2013 I was finally tempted to try out a tuber or two, bought as very dry tubers in packets from a garden centre, but with negligible success. A couple of years later a fellow blogger suggested buying tubers from Peter Nyssen (from whom I was already buying bulbs) and my love affair, if that is what it is, began; my knowledge has increased year by year since then, through learning on the job and from sharing experiences with blogging friends and acquaintances. I would never say I was an expert though, more (like all things gardening) an enthusiastic and reasonably knowledgable amateur.

Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’

I lift my dahlias each year, once the leaves are blackened by frosts – a guaranteed response to the first frost of the season which last year was November 9th. They stay in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks to allow the loose soil to dry a little, before being trimmed and tidied and brought into the house to dry off, Once dry, they are packed snugly in newspaper and packed into cardboard boxes, doubly labelled to ensure tubers don’t get mixed up (it isn’t easy to attach labels to dahlia tubers!), and stored in a cool room.

Dahlia ‘David Howard’

Two or three years ago I changed the timings of when I repotted the tubers, again following suggestions from another blogger, and this has extended the season by providing earlier blooms. Now they are potted up towards the end of January, using compost recycled from the previous year’s pots and seedtrays, and kept in the frost free greenhouse but without watering until temperatures began to rise in March or so.

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’

There are sometimes losses, and any completely shrivelled tuber would not be planted up, but I am happy to say that they are increasingly minimal. I could dust the tubers with suphur to increase their chances of survival before I store them, as sometimes recommended, but I don’t. The tubers take their time to start into growth but soon respond to warmer and longer days, and once they start sprouting you can begin to take cuttings, which I did for the first time this year, although only a few as our gardening openings had been cancelled. Dahlia cuttings are unbelievable easy and contrary to received wisdom do not require a piece of tuber attached; rooting within a week or two they will often catch up with the original tubers by the time they are ready to flower.

Dahlia ‘Top Totty”

There was only one new acquisition this year, ‘David Howard’, bringing my total to 14, and  I began planting them out towards the end of April, lulled into a false sense of security by early warmth and sunshine only to be caught out by frosts in mid May. Having heard the forecast they were lightly covered, but some leaves suffered damage although thankfully only cosmetic, but this is a lesson learned, to ensure there is enough fleece available to prevent the same thing happening again. The first blooms appeared at the beginning of June and the plants can now be relied on to continue flowering into October and even November, subject to weather conditions.

Dahlia 'Dorothy Rose'Sharing my cultivation experience was not the route I intended to go down in this post, but nevertheless I trust the six dahlias featured are good enough examples to convince any non-believer of dahlia boldness. If you would like to see what six things from their gardens other bloggers have chosen to feature, pop over to visit Jon the Propagator who hosts this meme.

This entry was posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Six on Saturday: Making a Bold Statement

  1. I too love dahlia! Thanks for all your dahlia wisdom!!

  2. You know I love Your Dahlias, thank you.

  3. I love dahlia’s so thanks for your tips. I’ve killed quite a few.

  4. Cathy says:

    Wonderful! I think with some plants you have to have a big (perhaps unexpected?) success in order to get to love them. 😉

    • Cathy says:

      Sometimes it can be a matter of a different kind of exposure – hearing blogging friends enthusing about certain plants can be more of a trigger than seeing them in an average garden I think

  5. Jim Stephens says:

    I usually leave all of mine in the ground, in Cornwall we never get frost that penetrates below the surface, but this year the slugs have played havoc as they’ve tried to shoot in the spring. I’m going to try lifting and doing cuttings from early growth so your timing advice will be useful.

    • Cathy says:

      It might seem a faff lifting them, Jim, but it’s no different from other annual routines that mark the passing of the seasons, like pruning the wisteria and emptying the older compost heap, which are kind of enjoyable for that reason. And for me it is preferable to taking the risk of leaving them which, in the Midlands, may or may not be OK. Good luck with yours ps and because their early growth was in the greenhouse s&s were not a problem

  6. Heyjude says:

    I love photographing Dahlias but after last year’s experiment in growing them I shall pass on trying again. Not so much the S&S but the darn earwigs that finished them off.

  7. Anna says:

    I had forgotten how beautiful ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ is Cathy. I lost mine a couple of years ago or so and must replace it. Yours are certainly flourishing this year. What is the twirly peachy one in the bottom right hand side of your last photo?

    • Cathy says:

      I agree with you on TA8 Anna, as it always takes me by surprise how attractive a combination the flowers and dark leaves make, and how apt the name is! I will take a cutting fo you next yea – in fact, I wonder if I could still do it now? The twirly peachy one is a remnant of the first unsuccessful dried up tubers I tried and sadly I have no idea what it is! It appeared a couple of years later and is a huge and very reliable tuber now

      • Anna says:

        Oh thank you for your kind offer of a cutting of TA8 Cathy. Possibly too late now but I don’t really know for definite 😄

  8. tonytomeo says:

    Dahlias were almost stereotypical in gardens of those of us of Italian descent. I do not know why, but it seems to be true. I have not grown them in many years, but will eventually do so again.

  9. cavershamjj says:

    i’m a big fan of dahlias, and yours are all fabulous, but am tiring of the constant war of attrition with slugs and snails. i’ve lost most of them this year, my better ones too. i’ve just dug up two big clumps of tubers because they just got shredded and looked a right mess with no chance of flowering. i’ve potted them up so perhaps i’ll have more control of them that way. sigh.

    • Cathy says:

      Gosh, that IS a shame, Jon – lifting and starting them off again in pots in the g/h keeps the newest shoots away from s&s, although I did sprinkle some of the friendlier slug pellets around them when I first planted them out, but that was the only time. I have hardly seen any slugs this year, more snails perhaps, but I am delighted to say we have active hedgehogs around and perhaps that really does make a difference. We have seen them periodically in the past, but now it’s almost every day

  10. Chloris says:

    Oh yes as with everything floral, it’s a slippery slope once you start on a genus. I am crazy about dahlias now and I wonder how I kept my late summer garden going without them. I never dig mine up, I just cover with them with layers of newspaper and a mulch of wood chippings.

    • Cathy says:

      You are quite right of course – I wonder what will be next for me…? 🙂 Your winters will generally be colder than hours, but if you are willing to take the risk or don’t mind if you lose some perhaps…? I think lifting them and starting them inside will give earlier blooms and therefore a longer flowering season but with all things gardening it’s a matter of what suits and what we are happy with. There is one of mine I definitely don’t want to lose, as it is no longer available commercially, one I got from the ‘dahlia man’ near my Mum, so I have made sure I have taken a cutting to have a spare, just in case.

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