I love dahlias. I first came across them in the Dahlia Garden at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, North California in 2005. My passion for them was instant, each flower a beautiful sculpture, the vast range of colour and shape just looked stunning en masse. It became the highlight of my California holiday, an enlightening moment. The Big Sur or El Capitan in Yosemite paled into insignificance. In the past I’d steered well clear of what I considered to be fuddy-duddy, complicated, troublesome, blowsy flowers. Now they are my slightly obsessive garden priority. How on earth can a girl live without dahlias!


With a little bit of love and attention a dahlia will pay you back 10 fold and more. I fill the house with them from June to the last frosts in November. I tend to leave my dahlia tubers in the ground over winter. After the first frost I cut them back and cover them with a 30cm mulch of leaf mould, compost, wood chip or whatever I’ve got to hand. At the end of March I’ll take off the mound of mulch, feed with fish, blood and bone, and allow the dahlias to shoot through in their own time. If you want to move dahlias or divide them, the tubers need to be dug up after the first frost, cleaned and left to dry for a couple of days in a greenhouse. Then cover with a dusting of compost and store in a dry shed or garage where they won’t freeze. Come March pot them up, and let them grow on in a greenhouse or conservatory, by May when there is no frost risk, plant them into the garden.

Most of the tubers I’ve dug up in the past have survived the winter, sadly my all time favourite ‘Thomas A Edison’ rotted to a mush when we moved. The husband, who must listen to some of my witterings, gave me replacement tubers for Christmas. A lovely friend who has a Brewery making the most amazing ale in South West France (www.brasserieduquercorb.com), treated me to Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’, a variety I’d coveted for some time. So I’ve been in my conservatory (home to all seed sowing and precious plants) potting up my new dahlias. I’m excited to see the blooms in a few months.

Dahlia tuberCafe au Lait tuber ready to be potted up.


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