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Cactus Dahlia

I bloody love dahlias, I really do. I’ve just said that to myself in a heavy Birmingham accent and smiled inside – reminding myself happy days working for Gardeners’ World during the time it was made at BBC Birmingham. Our producer was a mad keen dahlia fan (he’s now written a book) and the show’s garden at that time, Berryfields, always featured plenty of these bold, exotic flowers.

zomerbollen_fThe ‘Brummie’ sense of humour always appealed to me enormously, its sharp wit, occasional brashness and colour; its closest vegetable equivalent must be the dahlia. Dahlias, in my experience (please forgive the mass generalisation) are like people from the Midlands – straightforward and incredibly hardworking.

‘Hardworking’ is an understatement. Last year my dahlias bloomed

continuously from early July until early November – that’s four months of non-stop colour. And what colours they are – everything from sensuous deep maroons to rich egg yolk yellows and vibrant purples (if you’re feeling the urge to go all subtle about it there are plenty of whites and pastel shades too).

So how do you grow dahlias? Easy!

DahliaFor the earliest flowers get plant them in pots over the next month and place on a windowsill, or in a greenhouse or porch. They can then be planted out in the garden late May or early June. Otherwise plant the tubers direct in the ground after Easter, and mulch the soil on top with compost to protect them from the frost. Choose a sunny spot, give them plenty of water and a fortnightly feed with a high potash liquid fertiliser such as tomato feed.

If you fancy seeing an just what dahlias can do, pay a visit to perhaps the ultimate dahlia garden. Ken Stock has been growing and breeding these colourful plants in Bournemouth since 1958. Every year he grows an incredible display of thousands of dahlias around his bungalow and opens his garden to the public in aid of charity. Read more on his website.
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For Bakker Spalding’s range of dahlias please click here.

The dahlias pictured are a mix I grew last year including anemone-flowered dahlias and cactus-flowered types.

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