Gardening: Just like Eric and Ern, these will bring you sunshine | Brian Kidd

Isn't it lovely to see summer flowering bulbs, corms and tubers in stock at the garden centres?We visited on a cold, wet day and I was cheered at the sight of the packs of dahlias, all with attractive pictures on the front.

Saturday, 8th February 2020, 6:00 am
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow.

I thought to myself, I will buy a couple of those to bring summer a step forward. And it worked!

I love seeing gardens with dahlias at their very best during the summer. It’s one of the highlights of my horticultural year.

Dahlias are the best value for money because they are so easy to grow and not only that but they also flower from late June right up until the frosts arrive in the autumn.

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Here’s a little background to these boldest of plants. Dahlia is a genus of bushy, tuberous, herbaceous perennial plants native to Mexico and Central America. A member of the Asteraceae family of dicotyledonous plants, its relatives include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum, and zinnia.

My grandchildren, bless ’em, love growing dahlias on their section of my allotment.

They have reached the stage now where they even know how to disbud the plants so they grow with long stems with perfect flowers – ideal for cutting and taking indoors.

David, who is 18 [Where does the time go? Ed], loves reds and oranges. Rebecca is now 21 and she loves pinks and purples. So, when we all go to the garden centre, they choose the colours they love best.

They look at the pictures on the front of the packets and then choose the shape of the flowers they prefer.

I would recommend this childlike approach to anyone who is starting a garden.

There is another important thing to bear in mind; make sure you find out how high the plants will grow? You have to put your thinking cap on because most of the dahlias we buy in packets are produced in Holland.

They have the expertise to grow incredible numbers of tubers, but watch out and check those heights otherwise you may plant a dwarf variety in totally the wrong place, say, at the back of the border where it will be hidden.

If you decide to buy one or two each week, as many people do, keep them in the packet in a frost-free environment, indoors in the light.

At the end of this month, or at any time in March, the tubers can then be planted in moist compost in pots in a greenhouse which is free form frost. If it’s possible to provide a little heat, the tubers will love it.

You will discover that they will shoot early and by the time they are ready to be planted out into the garden, which is about the third week in May, the plants will have zoomed up to 30cm (12in) in height. This means they will be in flower approximately a month later.

Dahlias enjoy a sunny place and need plenty of regular watering, but they will also grow well in the shade. However, those grown in the shade will turn out quite a lot taller than those growing in full sun.

I hope this article encourages you to buy some new dahlias to add to your collection for they will bring sunshine into your summer garden.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

If you are thinking about cleaning the pond, this should be done before frogs and toads begin to spawn.

If they are already active,simply remove sludge from the bottom of the pond and split up water lilies and replant in baskets.