BRIAN KIDD: Impress your friends with this canny tip for the border

Add a continental touch to a sunny border with cannas
Add a continental touch to a sunny border with cannas

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

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get into the greenhouse to get plants started in an attempt to bring summer back.

You might like to make your floral displays a little more continental this summer by including three cannas in the centre of a bed or sunny border.

They are available in colourful packs with a picture so you may choose between the yellow or orange flower and the green or bronze foliage. They are usually hanging on stands at garden centres. Don’t leave it too long. Try to buy them early or they will have gone.

Start them off in a warm room (a greenhouse isn’t essential) in loamless compost, in a window with plenty of light. If they are started early you will plant out a canna which is about a foot tall at the end of May and all your friends will ask you what they are and if they can have a cutting. Why not give yourself a little treat – for less than £2. Canny cannas eh?

It is good to see dry dahlia tubers in attractive packs with a colourful illustration of the bloom on the front.

There are varieties which suit every taste from the tiny ball shapes up to the giant decorative types, one of which will fill a vase.

Dahlias are easy to grow and while they don’t last longer than four days in a vase, they are still excellent value because so many flowers are produced each week which makes them a cut-and-come-again flower.

The tubers are dormant at the moment.

Choose the largest and plumpest ones and by looking carefully you may see tiny green buds starting to break out of the base of the brown root – the tuber.

Place them in a tray of loamless compost, in bright light.

Water well ensuring the compost just covers the tubers. Make sure they are always damp.

In about six weeks shoots will appear. When they are about three inches long you can take cuttings of the shoots or simply divide the plant so you have a piece of tuber and shoot combined to give you an extra plant.

Every cutting you manage to root will certainly bloom during this summer. What a bargain – buy one plant for a pound and produce at least one other so you have double the value.

For best results, dahlias enjoy a shaded root and a sunny top. They are also fond of water while growing rapidly during the summer.

Oddly, my dad grew his best dahlias in a shaded spot where they flourished but were always a bit taller than the height stated on the packet.

Never mind, he always got superb results and won lots of prizes.

Dahlias are not planted in the garden until the third week of May.

By growing them in a good light spot, not too warm, the plants will be about a foot high by mid-May.

This means an earlier crop of flowers which will produce blooms until the first frost.

TIP OF THE WEEK

If you love snowdrops but have never been able to grow them, now’s the time to plant them ‘in the green’.

You will find them advertised in gardening magazines and even at your local market in bunches wrapped in newspaper.

Plant them in groups of two or three and they will flower and produce seeds which will grow alongside the parent plants. Drifts of snowdops look beautiful.