Dahlia's are one of our late summer, early autumn joys. They come in an incredible array of jewel like colours. We think they are like a fireworks display. And the shapes and patterns are unlike any other flower with incredible geometric petal formations. There are literally hundreds of colours and shapes to choose from. Making it incredibly difficult to choose which to buy.
This year we planted thirteen rooted cuttings. We meant to buy tubers but ended up with rooted cuttings by mistake - we were interested to see what difference it would make, if any. The cuttings are about a third of the price of tubers so in that respect it makes sense to buy them. We were very pleased with the results and had a great crop. However we did find two drawbacks to rooted cuttings - there seem to be fewer varieties to choose from compared to tubers and the dreaded slugs munched four of our plants when they were in the cold frame waiting for us to plant them out. We didn't have this problem the year before when we planted the tubers directly into the ground.
Next year we will buy a mixture of both tubers and rooted cuttings. We think Rose cottage plants and The National Dahlia Collection have the best selection to chose from. The time to order your dahlias is in January and you can expect delivery after Easter so you can plant them out mid April.
They are hugely productive and pretty low maintenance. As long as you keep on top of dead heading and make sure you stake them, tying the stems to the stakes for support they will keep on and on flowering from August until November (or until the first frost). We had some trouble with the very large head varieties such as 'white perfection' and 'corton olympic' as they become so large and heavy their weight pulled them to the ground and however much we tied them to the stakes they just kept on falling. We are going to choose more small headed varieties for next year to avoid this problem. We also find the really large shapes hard to arrange with.
We have decided to dig up half of our tubers and store them over the winter and leave the other half in the ground to see how they do. We are hoping because of the mild climate in London and how protected our garden is they will be fine - we'll keep you updated.
To overwinter the tubers we will cut the foliage off the plants once the first frost has blackened the leaves and then cover them with compost or mulch at least 10cm thick.
To dig up and store the tubers we will follow to RHS guidelines below....
Lifting and storage:
- Cut down foliage and use a fork to carefully prise plants out of the soil
- Dry off naturally and then clean away any soil clinging to the tubers. Trim stems to 15-20cm (6-8in). If the tubers have been washed, position them upside down in a cool place for a few weeks to dry off
- Trim off any fine roots
- Place tubers in shallow wooden boxes or open trays and pack with a peat-free compost or dry sand, just covering the tubers but leaving the crown exposed
- Store in a dry, cool, frost-free place. If stored in a garden shed cover with newspaper if a hard frost is predicted
- Inspect tubers regularly during winter for rotting and discard any that are unhealthy
Here are some of our favourite dahlias from the cutting garden this year.....