BRIAN KIDD: From pom poms to cactus, dahlias just keep on giving

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One of my favourite summer flowering plants is the dahlia. Pam and I love them because of the wonderful colours,shapes and sizes.

You may remember me telling you to buy tubers in cellophane packs last February and March and to be careful to check the height of the variety and to look at the picture on the front of the pack. I hope you are pleased you chose these utter delights.

Dahlias are now looking wonderful and these great favourites will flower all through the summer right up until the frosts arrive in autumn.

It isn’t too late to buy pots of dahlias of all kinds at garden centres. They will have flowers on the plants, so if you have a particular colour in mind you will probably find it because the dahlia family has the widest array of colours of any tuberous plan. What’s more they are easy to grow.

Have you a gap in a border? A dahlia will fill it and the flowers will keep on going all through the rest of the summer.

My grandchildren, Rebecca, 18, loves the blues and violets. David,16, prefers reds and oranges. So we bought them both the ones they like best.

Dahlias will grow anywhere, they even love the shade if they are watered regularly, but they will grow much taller in shade.

In the garden, each flower will last for about a week before it dies. If they are cut and put in vases indoors they will only last five days, but the great thing is that you can go outdoors and pick more blooms to fill that vase.

Do you like the ones called poms or do you prefer those that look like waterlillies? Or is the zingy, sharp-edged type called cactu, your favourite?

Three weeks ago, I planted a row of the rounded types called pom. They were grown from seed in Rebecca and David’s plot at my allotment. They are growing really well because they get watered every evening. Last night I gave them a good soaking and then looked at each plant to see where the flower buds were and decided they needed to be disbudded.

This is a very easy job. Look at the top of the flower stem and you will see a large flower bud at the top. Simply remove the little buds either side of the top one and then take out the side shoots just below the top bud.

Once the flower with a nice long stem is cut off to take indoors, give the plant a good drink and more flowers will come along.

Do I have to feed?

Yes, give dahlias a good soak adding Maxicrop Complete liquid plant food about once a week. This feed, which I mention every week, works quickly and as it is made from seaweed improves the soil. Marvellous feed and if you use it you will enjoy the benefits in a few days.

THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP

Take softwood cuttings from favourite shrubs such as camellias and daphne. Time is of the essence.

Take four-inch cuttings from side shoots taken off with a heel. This means pulling them off and trimming the skin which comes away with the cutting.

Take off all leaves except the top four and the growing tip and insert into a 50/50 mix of peat or peat substitute and sharp sand. Put the cuttings in little pots in a deep box with glass over the top. Shade the glass and keep cuttings moist. They will root in up to eight weeks. Daphne may not root until spring.