Dahlias are now looking wonderful and these great favourites will flower all through the summer until the frost arrives in autumn.
It isn’t too late to buy pots of various dahlias at garden centres. They will have flowers on the plants now 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 plant.
What’s more, they are very easy to grow.
Have you a gap in a garden border?
A dahlia will fill that gap and the flowers will keep on going all through the summer.
My grandchildren Rebecca, who is 19, loves the blues and violet shades, while 18-year-old David likes the reds and oranges.
We bought them both because they're so popular.
Dahlias will grow anywhere.
They even love the shade and, if they are watered regularly, they will grow much taller in the shade.
In the garden, each flower will last for about a week and will then die.
If they are cut and put into vases indoors, they will only last for five days. But the great thing is that you can go outdoors and pick more blooms to fill that vase.
Do you like pompon dahlias or do you prefer the ones that look like waterlillies?
Perhaps it's the zingy, sharp-edged type which is called the cactus that is your favourite?
Eight weeks ago, I planted a large group of the rounded types called pompons.
They were grown from seeds sown in the greenhouse last March, and are growing really well because I water them every evening.
This evening, I gave them a good soak of Maxicrop, which is for tomatoes’ liquid feed, and then looked at each plant to see where the flower buds were and decided that they needed to be disbudded.
This is a very easy job.
To do this, 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.
So do you have to feed them?
Yes, give the Dahlias a good soak adding Maxicrop plant food about once a week.
I don’t think there is a better tuberous plant to fill that gap in the border or to make your garden even more lovely. There are more than 42 types to choose from and dahlia flowers will bloom right up until the frost arrives
Cold winds can set dahlias back and scorch leaves. Frosts do more damage, so hardening off means leaving them outdoors in their pots in a protected spot for 10 days so foliage can toughen. If the hawthorn where you live has finished flowering, it’s safe to plant dahlias if the wind isn’t cold. Dahlias love a well-drained sunny spot but need much water in hot weather.
Question time with Brian Kidd
Q: Can I cut back my camellia which is seven feet high and very broad using an electric hedge cutting machine? JH, Gosport.
A: Yes you can but not just now. Wait until late April 2020 and do it as soon as the flowers fall off. If you cut now all next year’s blooms will be cut off.
Q: My plum tree is normally healthy and produces lovely plums. This year it looked healthy but the next day all the leaves had spots and the whole tree has brown leaves. What can I do? VB, Widley.
A: The tree looks unhealthy because of an underlying chalk base which has absorbed all the water available. It will survive if it’s given a very slow but good amount of water. Apply 20 gallons very slowly so that the root ball is completely soaked. However, there may be a lack of fruit this year due to a severe frost when the trees were in bloom.
Jobs for the weekend
If you would like something beautifully rare in your garden, look out for Sternbergia bulbs. I mentioned them last year and there were none to be found anywhere locally, so try and get hold of some before they all go. They love a sunny top with a shaded root. The five- inch high yellow crocus flowers appear in autumn and are smashing.
Take cuttings of pinks and carnations that are five inches long and trim off all the leaves apart from the top seven. Insert them into 50 per cent sharp sand and 50 per cent vermiculite. Water them with a half strength feed of Maxi crop Growth Stimulant.
For this year’s bunches of indoor grapes, dust sulphur powder onto the stems holding the fruit to prevent them thinning out.
Disbud dahlia bloom buds every few days to encourage flowers on longer stems.
Tie in stems of chrysanthemums so that they grow long stems with blooms.