Tag Archives: deadheading

Dahlias give you parrots and sunshine in your garden

First published by Rattan Direct on 14 August 2016.

What are dahlias and where do they come from?

The dahlia is the national flower of Mexico. It was introduced into Europe at the end of the eighteenth century and is named after Anders (Andreas) Dahl (1751–1789), a Swedish botanist. After a few decades out of fashion, dahlias are popular again.

Dahlias give you parrots and sunshine in your garden, at the very least

Summer dahlias near Botloe's Green, Gloucestershire.
Summer dahlias near Botloe’s Green, Gloucestershire.
© Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

Well, that’s the view of James Alexander-Sinclair speaking at the 2014 Kelmarsh Hall Dahlia Festival:

Dahlias. More colourful than a bucket of parrots and more exotic than a tropical sunset.

Dahlias come in warm vibrant colours and a wide range of flower types from simple to pompom. In your garden, they will certainly give you colour (and how!) from the end of the summer and on into October. They are good for bees and other pollinators (we’re very keen on that) and you can cut them for flower arrangements. You can grow them in pots or use them to plug any gaps in your borders.

Dahlia beds (detail), Heddon Nurseries near Heddon-on-The-Wall, Northumberland. Dahlias
Dahlia beds (detail), Heddon Nurseries near Heddon-on-The-Wall, Northumberland.
© Andrew Curtis and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

Are dahlias really difficult to grow? Are they hard work?

It depends on your garden, the weather, how much time and storage space you have and the depth of your purse.

Dahlias are tolerant of most soils and like full sun. The Royal Horticultural Society tells you more here but in brief:

  • Plant tubers from May to early June. (You can also grow them from seed.)
  • Protect them from slugs and snails.
  • Stake them as they grow and before they flower because the flowers are quite big and heavy and the plants can be quite tall.
Dahlias staked before flowering at Rousham Gardens, Oxfordshire.
Dahlias staked before flowering at Rousham Gardens, Oxfordshire. Sarah Buchanan
  • They flower from mid-summer to autumn. To ensure more flowers, keep cutting the flowers and deadheading. Feed with tomato feed every two weeks until early September.
  • Straight after the first frost, around November, either dig up the tubers, leave to dry in a cold greenhouse, brush off the soil, trim and put in a box of dry compost in a shed ready for planting next spring.
  • Or leave them in the ground, mulch thickly and hope that the frost and cold weather don’t get them. Buy more if they succumb and die.

Read more in Ambra Edwards’ interview with Nick Gilbert, who runs a dahlia nursery in Romsey in Hampshire.

Go and have a look

Intrigued? Go and have a look at the ‘hot’ beds and borders in local parks and gardens. Dahlias are just coming up to their peak now.

Nick Gilbert says that his dahlia field in Hampshire (you can see it from space, according to Ambra Edwards) will be at its best in 2016 from the end of August to the beginning of September, a little later than usual because of cold and wet conditions in May and June.

The Bishop’s Palace at Wells in Somerset has a bed of all the dahlias called ‘Bishop of … ‘  (Bishop of Llandaff, Bishop of Canterbury, Bishop of York, Bishop of Auckland and so on).

The dahlia fields at Halls of Heddon in Northumberland are planted out in the second week of June with almost 6,500 plants in nearly 350 varieties. They are open for viewing from mid August to the end of September each year.

In Northamptonshire, Kelmarsh Hall’s 2016 Dahlia Festival is on 18 September 2016.

Dahlias at Rousham Gardens, Oxfordshire. Sarah Buchanan.
Dahlias at Rousham Gardens, Oxfordshire. Sarah Buchanan.

I shall be out there looking too. That’s because (full disclosure) I’ve blocked dahlias for years, mainly for slug-related reasons. It will be good to explore the meaning of dahlias beyond (1) Bertie Wooster’s favourite Aunt Dahlia who, interestingly, has a reddish-purple complexion and (2) Raymond Chandler’s night club in The Blue Dahlia.

Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in trailer for "The Blue Dahlia" (1946). Dahlias
Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in trailer for “The Blue Dahlia” (1946)
Public domain







Garden jobs – small and large – in early August

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 3 August 2016.

Rain or shine, gardens keep on growing and garden jobs keep on coming. Early August, and the next few weeks, is all about keeping your garden and pots in good shape.

  • Make sure plants have enough water: link up with friends and neighbours to water each other’s pots and gardens during holidays away.
  • Keep on weeding: the old adage “one year’s seeding is seven years’ weeding” is surely the only incentive you need to get out there with hoe, trowel, or to cut the heads from flowering weeds?
  • Dead head to encourage more flowers later in the summer, then sit and enjoy the evening in your garden.
  • Mow grass regularly and cut the edges: when you are out there enjoying the sun the garden looks and feels loved.
  • Pick fruit and veg. when young and tender; if you have a glut share with neighbours and enjoy your five a day!

And bigger garden jobs … prune rambling roses

Now is a good time to prune rambling roses (often called ‘ramblers’). It is a job to do after they have finished flowering, unless the hips are decorative in their own right in which case take the day off and come back to this blog after the birds have stripped the hips bare (see you in late autumn!).

Rambling roses are a varied bunch: they all have long, arching stems and flower in early summer. Some have thorny stems, some have smooth stems. Their leaves are usually glossy. Different varieties have different coloured flowers, some are scented. All are vigorous, which means that when happy they grow fast and can quickly cover unsightly garden buildings or garages or look lovely growing through trees.

garden jobs
Rambling rose over a garden shed, from http://www.mooseyscountrygarden.com/apple-tree-garden/garden-wood-shed.html

I don’t have a rambling rose!

Skip this garden job and take the day off to enjoy your garden!

If you would like a rambling rose in your garden …

All you need is a space to cover with flowers and luscious leaves, and some other ingredients (read our Roses blog). Spend some time now choosing a variety to plant in the autumn. The RHS advice sheets are a good place to start. The websites of specialist rose growers, such as David Austin, are full of information.

Garden jobs
Rosa Blush Rambler by Ulf Eliasson. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

How do I know if my rose is a rambling rose?

  • Climbing roses can be mistaken for rambling roses. The key difference is that climbers will (with deadheading) repeatedly flower through the summer while a rambler flowers once, usually in June or early July.
  • Older rambling roses are often growing all over the place, covering sheds, garages, fences and trees. GREAT STUFF! Climbers are a little more restrained, climbing on trellis or fences and looking generally neater.
  • Still have the label? It will tell you the variety and also whether it is a climber or a rambler. Popular rambling roses include:
    • Rambling Rector
    • Paul’s Himalayan Musk
    • ‘Easlea’s’ golden rambler
    • Rosa ‘Wedding Day’.

So, how do I do this garden job?

Here is a summary of the RHS guidance.

  1. When the rose has covered what you want it to cover, whether that is a series of supports or the shed roof, use good sharp secateurs to completely remove one in three of the oldest stems. If the rose is very old, you may need loppers or a saw.
  2. If the space you want to cover is limited, remove all the stems that have flowered and tie new ones into the support or structure you want covered, so that they take the place of the old ones.
  3. Finally shorten by about two thirds all the shoots that are coming out of the side of the rose.

An old gardening tip, and ideal for overgrown rambling roses, is to untie the rose from any supports and gently lay it on the ground, prune it there, and then fix it back up again. It is not a bad suggestion but you need a lot of room to do it.

Sounds tricky but possible, so what is the one thing I must do?

Wear good gloves and use secateurs (read our blog on choosing and using secateurs) or loppers that have clean and sharp blades.  They make garden jobs easier and are better for the plants

Garden jobs
Tools to prune rambling roses. Sarah Buchanan.