What a dramatic few days weather-wise! We’ve been lucky enough not to suffer the power cuts experienced by so many, despite being in the Midlands. Friday was very warm but wet and the wind over the last few days has proved quite a challenge to my camera skills, but with patience in waiting for calm moments I did manage to capture a few pictures of the mixed colour dahlia variabillis ‘Bishops Children’. I find dahlias such a treat in late summer into Autumn – I’m only talking about a single petal variety today, but the choice of colour (both foliage and flower) and petal form is just never ending.
I’ve enjoyed growing plants from seed this year generally and have had some good results (having made great use of the new greenhouse), but for me, ‘Bishops Children’ are special. These seeds were developed from ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, a dahlia I really love. I am particularly pleased with how well they’re doing as after I planted them out in the hot colour border, I read that they should remain in a pot for the first year to allow the tubers to develop. The only essential I really didn’t master was effective staking at an early stage – so their stems are a little bendy!
Every year I have problems with mollusc damage to dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ unless I am minutely attentive – but this year I’ve surrounded my new ‘children’ with egg shells from very young. Now it may not be this tactic that has saved them (I’ve seen test results indicating that this is not an effective deterrent), but there has been very little damage. However, during my tours of the garden at dusk after a downpour, I’ve seen very few slugs and slightly more snails – maybe the numerous frogs in our pond are enjoying nocturnal feasts!
Not everyone is such a fan of the dahlia, my mom certainly isn’t keen as they remind her of scary earwigs on her grandmothers plants when she was a small child! Although I’ve never spotted earwigs on dahlias I’ve grown or planted, I do think the perpetrator of the petal damage to the flower below may be this pesky insect – need to keep close eye on them!
Dead heading is a ‘must do’ for dahlias as soon as the flowers fade, for as with most repeat flowering specimens, if you delay the plant will direct its energy into seed rather than new flower production. Identifying the petal-less spent flower from its new neighbours can be challenging on a dahlia though, so it’s worth taking a moment to ensure you’re not picking off new buds!
Although dahlias are perennial plants, depending on where you are in the country it could be risky to leave them in the ground overwinter – in warmer areas the tubers could survive with a good mulch. However, in colder wetter climes, it is safer to dig the tubers up when their foliage has been blackened by first frosts in Autumn and then store them overwinter in dry sand or compost in a dark place. In the Midlands, I wouldn’t risk leaving them in situ and in any case, as I’m aiming to achieve colour in the hot border for as many months as possible, they will need to make room for wallflowers in early Autumn.
Seed packets of ‘Bishops Children’ are widely available from the main seed producers and from my experience I would thoroughly recommend them for your seed lists next year – such great value for money, easy to grow and a great addition to the hot colour border or pots – well worth a try!