Growing Dahlias to Enhance Your Flower Garden
Growing in Your Garden?
No late summer and autumn display is complete without some, and the taller varieties do best in a border by themselves. Even those of medium height – 2-1/2ft. or so – give a very good display if room allows for them to be given a separate position. In any case a row, or even a few plants of the medium decorative types, lend themselves very well to cutting purposes.
A few dahlias may be planted in a mixed border, especially the taller ones, but the same general practices are adopted for these, as for a separate border. If you have plants already, the tubers should be lifted in autumn, when frost blackens the foliage. Leave about 6ins. of stem attached to them. There are many methods of storing dahlia tubers over winter but the basic requirements are cool, dry (not too dry), frost-proof conditions. Tubers are often kept in a shed, being protected in frosty spells with sacks or similar material. They should be dry when stored and if several named varieties are being grown, label each clump of tubers securely.
If you have a greenhouse and are wanted, plant the tubers to half their height in a box of suitable depth in February or March using peat or some and mixed, and start to water. When the new shoots are 3 to 4 ins. long they can be detached and used for cuttings. Do not use very thick shoots as these do not root well. Trim the base neatly, remove the lowest pair of leaves, then insert the cuttings firmly around the inside edge of a 5 in. pot, in a compost of half sand and half peat, or vermiculite. When rooted move into Min. pots, singly, using a mixture of 3 parts loam, 2 parts compost and 1 part of coarse sand.
The plants will need hardening off prior toof doors when danger of frost has passed, and the same general principles should be followed as given for hardening off bedding plants.
If no cuttings can be taken, the tuber clumps may be divided if large enough and planted out of doors in early May or later in cold areas. The young shoots may need some protection from late frosts. Old inverted 5 in. pots are useful in this connection, or empty seed trays can be used in the early stages. Dahlias are particularly susceptible to frost damage and this point should be borne in mind.
Where to Grow Dahlias
The best position for dahlias is one in full sun, sheltered from cold winds, particularly from the north and east. Do not plant in shaded conditions or under the “drip” of trees.
Soil Preparation for Growing Dahlias
Dahlias are very gross feeders and for best results, dig in as much compost as can be spared. If a limited quantity only is available, add a 2 in. layer of compost just prior to planting and fork this into the top few inches of soil. If both applications can be made, results will be better still.
If you are growing dahlias of the very tall decorative variety, these will need to be planted 3 to 4 ft. apart.
The medium types need 2-1/2 to 3 ft. of space each way if tubers are being planted and slightly less if rooted cuttings are being used.
If growing dahlias and planting from pots, or putting in clumps of tubers, dig a hole large enough to take the ball of soil, or the tubers, without cramping. Plant the tubers so that the tops are covered by tins. of soil. Plant from pots so that the top of the ball of soil is slightly lower (1/2 in.) than the general soil level.
Give each plant a cane or stake suitable to its height and tie securely, but avoid pulling the plant too tightly to the support. Further ties will be needed as growth is made.
Attention During Growth
When the plants are about 15 ins. high, top dress the soil around them with a 1 in. layer of compost or, if this is not possible, use lawn mowings or spent hops. Try to cover a circle of 12 ins. around the main stem.
The medium height varieties, if grown for decoration purposes only, will not need disbudding. If some of the buds are removed, however, the remaining flowers will be larger. Where the buds come in threes, remove the two side ones to obtain a single, large flower, or the centre one for two slightly smaller blooms.
If plants are given the generous basic treatment suggested, little further feeding will be needed, but if this is not possible give a further mulch of either compost, spent hops, or lawn mowings and water the plants with soot water, or liquid manure, once a week from the time they are 15 ins. high, until the flower buds open. Use about 3-gallon to each plant at each application.
Some tall decorative, large-flowering dahlia varieties are :
Evelyn Ogg, violet, mauve; Frank Daws, crimson; Clara Cardew, pink; Searchlight, sulphur yellow; Diva, lilac; Mustang, rose pink; Edith Stokes, salmon; Betty Hone, mauve; Formality, orange and Jersey Beauty, salmon pink.
For a border devoted to the 3 ft. dahlia varieties, use medium and small decorative types which are the most suitable for a. Make your choice from the following, all of which can be relied upon for a good colour effect:
Newby, pink; Bloodstone, scarlet; Chorus Girl, pink; Edinburgh, maroon tipped white; Jescot Jim, yellow; Gerry Hoeck, pink; Jescot Purity, white; Jescot Hilda, purple, blue; Broadacre, orange; Lillian Bellegro, orange, apricot; Mary Broom, orange scarlet tipped white and Jescot Kenny, red tipped white.
Discover how growing dahlias can enhance any flower garden beyond belief.