The Kitchen Garden at Aberglasney has fast become the hub of the Gardens, producing flowers, food, and interest throughout the year. Every year without fail, the most loved and talked about Kitchen Garden plant are; Dahlia.
They performed particularly well for us last year, flowering for a good three months and yielding plenty of blooms for cutting (which you will find decorating the tables in our tearooms in summer months). When we lift them in autumn, we often find we have twice as much plant material as we started with which is no bad thing…
Dahlia ‘Franz Kafka’ in the Cloister Garden’s terrace border
Knowing which variety you want to plant and where to get them is often the toughest part of growing Dahlia. Their increase in popularity means they’ve benefited from a huge number of new varieties being bred in recent years. The colour range in both single, semi-double, and double is fantastic!
There’s also a large choice of flower type and foliage colour available and adds yet another layer of interest to an already eye-catching plant. They’re quite effective mixed into a border and look wonderful when grown in lines in a veg garden as a cutting crop. There are also some excellent patio and rub varieties that are great for smaller gardens. I advise browsing through some catalogues that specialise in Dahlia to get an idea of what might suit you and your garden best.
Growing Dahlia is relatively easy, although the art of producing exhibition blooms is a real skill. At Aberglasney, we get the best results from lifting them in winter and replanting them the following spring. They’ll often come through the winter in the ground, but getting them started in a glasshouse will help them get to flowering size faster the next season. Full sun and very fertile soil (like that in your vegetable garden) are preferable. The larger types will need staking and deadheading will help to elongate their flowering season.
Dahlia are divided into 11 different sections according to their flower shape, and within these are hundreds of different types. Of these, there are a few varieties that have been particularly good performers at Aberglasney – I’ll take you through some of the best examples:
- ‘Bishop of Auckland’: an excellent single with dark crimson flowers and dark foliage.
- ‘Blue Bayou’: a very striking purple/lavender anemone flowered form with green leaves and excellent cut flower qualities.
- ‘Jescot Julie’: an excellent orange-flowered orchid type with a dark reverse to their flowers.
- ‘Karma choc’: another very dark form with cactus flowers and dark leaves – it also makes an excellent cut flower.
- ‘Selina’ is a bright pink semi-cactus flower with a silver back to their petals.
- ‘Claire de Lune’ is a fairly small, very pretty, pale yellow/almost white collarette-type.
- ‘Kiwi Gloria’ is a cactus-type with small white flushed pink flowers.
- ‘Pearl of Heemstede’ is a silvery-pink flowered waterlily-type that is prolific and early flowering.
- ‘Alva’s Supreme’ is a giant double-flowered variety with soft yellow flowers.
- ‘Classic Swan Lake’: a white peony-flowered type with dark foliage which really makes the flowers pop
- ‘New Baby’: a ball-type with orange flushed pink flowers and green foliage
- ‘Nicola Jane’: a pompon variety with pale pink flowers and dark green foliage
Special mention should be given to a particular favourite of mine: Dahlia imperialis, which is notoriously hard to flower and grows to 4 meters tall – we give it a go every year, some years more successfully than others..!
It’s the perfect time to buy Dahlia at the moment, especially as bare-root plants which come with the added benefit of often being cheaper and available in a wider range of choice.
Tips for the Week:
- Select any bare-root plants you’d like to buy – remember there’s plenty more besides Dahlia!
- Clear any leaves from around snowdrops or other small bulbs that are starting to flower
- If it’s not too frosty, February is a good month to plant shrubs and trees
- Rhubarb, artichoke, asparagus and horseradish can be planted this month
- Compost heaps can be turned – the frost can help with the rotting process