Trouble-free flowers from July to frosts

Shoots of golden rod are beginning to show.

GARDENING: Brian Kidd springs back into action after that long, miserable winter

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Did you know that dahlias originated in Mexico? Their greatest advantage is that they are available in heights ranging from about a foot to 5ft, which makes them suitable for every garden.

When I was about 10 my dad grew one called Baby Royal. It was what he called a cactus type and I used to look at the unusual salmon pink spiky blooms and wonder why it was called a cactus type. It didn’t look a bit like a cactus – there were no prickles!

If you would love trouble-free flowers from July until the frosts arrive in late autumn, then grow dahlias.

Dahlias love ground which has been dug over with compost or well-rotted manure incorporated.

If you don’t have any manure or compost and haven’t even started to dig, don’t panic. Just dig the area, scatter 4oz of blood, fish and bone fertiliser over each square yard and plant the dahlias after May 21 (because there may be frosts before then which will blacken the foliage).

You will find cellophane packs at garden centres and on them are pictures of the blooms.

You may be fascinated by the shape or colour, but do look to see what the height of the plant will be.

It will be in centimetres, so reckon on 30cms being about a foot.

Right, we’ve chosen the shape of the blooms and we love the colour. We’ve also dug over the ground and added the fertiliser.

Do they like sun or shade and what about pests and diseases?

Well, they adore a sunny place but are brilliant in the shade.

The plants will be much taller if grown in the shade but they will bloom well because shady areas are usually moist.

The main problems are greenfly and earwigs.

Greenfly are usually controlled naturally by Mother nature. Ladybirds arrive as soon as the greenfly get amorous and the earwigs are controlled manually by placing a flower pot on a short stick hidden in the foliage with a piece of newspaper screwed up inside.

Every morning the paper is removed from the upturned pot and the earwigs fall out and are squashed with a smooth sole on a flat piece of paving.

Insecticides are not effective. It’s much better to use a stamp of the foot. It’s quick and I’m certain they don’t feel a thing!

Are dahlias good when picked and put in a vase of water?

Yes, they are excellent. The blooms last for about five days in a vase, but when they have passed their best another batch is ready to pick from your garden.

In a few weeks’ time, I will be answering your questions on how to fill any gaps you might have in your garden.

And yes, I will be suggesting dahlias because I absolutely adore them.