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DeLIGHtfuL dAHLiA

AnOtHeR month passes by and with each day we lose 3 minutes of light. You will have probably noticed the nights creeping in and the morning dew. Winter is a long way off in the world of gardening as there are many plants yet to flower, vegetables yet to harvest and even seeds to be collected. This month Margaret Macintosh tells us about growing and showing Dahlias. • There are over 1600 names, species and cultivars, the national collection is in Cornwall at Varfell Farm. Dahlias have an interesting history... • The first tubers arrived in Europe at the end of the 18th century, sent over to Madrid by the Spanish settlers in Mexico. • Andreas dahl (after who the plant is named) regarded it as a vegetable rather than a garden flower, but interest switched from the edible tubers to the blooms when the first varieties with large, double flowers were bred in Belgium in 1815. • Within a few years nearly every colour we now admire had been introduced and Victorian catalogues listed hundreds of varieties. The favourites in those days were the Ball and Small decorative dahlias. • Today it is the Large decorative and Cactus varieties which capture the public fancy. Fashions change but the popularity of this late summer flower continues to increase. • My all time favourite is Dahlia Merckii. i just love the way it creeps and feels its way around the boarders popping out here and there with hundreds of its splendid purple soft pelted heads. Here’s Margaret with a Dahlia Q&A... There are several varieties of dahlia, which offer a good range of colour, shape and size.  i have grown and shown dahlias since 2000 and give talks to local garden groups. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions... Q Why grow dahlias? A Dahlias are the Zsa Zsa Gabor of gardening! No other garden plant will give you flowers from July to October. They repeat flower until first frost, the more you pick, the more buds are formed. Flowers will soon follow, so cut and enjoy! Q How do I start? A Start the tubers off in trays/pots of compost in a frost free garage/shed. Do not let them get too lanky, pinch out the top. Our next event is our Autumn Show on Saturday 13th September at the Great Barn, Ruislip, starting at 1pm. See our website for details www.ruisliphorticultural.org.uk

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Q What ground preparation is best? A About 2 weeks before planting apply a complete fertiliser/good compost. I also add leaf mould to help retain moisture; bag up leaves in Autumn for this - it is free and organic!

Q When do you plant them out? A Planting should be at the end of May/early June after frosts have passed. As soon as they are big enough, stake and tie as they grow. When they are established, take out the growing tip. This is called “Stopping”, it has the effect of producing stronger stems. Q Can I plant in pots? A Yes, dahlias grow well in containers, but do need feeding from August onwards as nutrients will be used up. Higher levels of potash will help flower colour and strength. Tomato food is good. Q Do you have any tips for showing? A To produce long stemmed quality blooms you must “Disbud”. This should start as soon as shoots develop on leaf axils. The first pair of buds or growth below the terminal bud should be carefully removed. Keep plants clean and well tied. We always get rough weather just as they are looking their best for the Autumn Show!

Q Is it necessary to lift the tubers? A Yes, I would advise this, unless you have a very sheltered garden. They should not be lifted until after a frost when they will be blackened. Cut down to 6” and carefully dig up. Take care not to damage the crown as it is from this point that next years shoots emerge. Tubers should be dried off – stand them upside down to allow moisture in the stems to drain. Place in boxes and cover with dry spent compost or straw. Keep in a frost-free place - cold and damp causes rot. Examine the tubers during the winter and cut away any rot. Lastly, don’t forget to water your plants well in hot dry weather, preferably in the evening. A good soaking is better than a little each day. Come along to our Autumn Show, and see the dahlia display and get further advice/tips.

RCHS MAILBAG Q I seem to never have any success with Hostas they constantly get slug eaten, what is the best way to stop this? Martin, Ruislip Manor A Gardening is a 12 month a year job, never let anyone tell you otherwise. A large amount of damage is caused to Hostas even before you see them! When the buds are tightly formed just poking through in early March those slugs and snails will be busy at work, those small tightly wrapped buds only take a small pin-head sized hole, once the leaves open it will look like a mass of net curtains! Apply anti-slug treatment EARLY, right into the crown of the Hosta and apply throughout the year around the base of the plant. The result should be hole free Hostas! Don’t forget to mail in your questions for the team at the RCHS to answer, we look forward to answering them in the October issue. Please send your gardeners  questions to rchstalks@gmail.com

Warren

Ickenham Sept 14  

A5 Colour Glossy magazine, distributed free each month to homes and businesses in the UB10 post code area of Ickenham, Middlesex. Local inf...

Ickenham Sept 14  

A5 Colour Glossy magazine, distributed free each month to homes and businesses in the UB10 post code area of Ickenham, Middlesex. Local inf...