Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Summer Bulbs-it's time to pot them up

Dace hard at work potting up bulbs
It's nice to have visitors. Especially those who like to work!
On Saturday we had Joe and Dace. While Joe went down the garden to help Seamus move and rebuild raised beds myself and Dace got stuck into the Dahlias, Cannas and Callas that will bring great colour in late summer to all of the beds.

After the two bad winters I was completely wiped out of tropical bulbs. Gardeners who had Dahlias for years literally lost them overnight as severe temperatures first froze, then burst, tubers and rhizomes. So last year I bought an army to replace those that I had lost.
giant yellow dahlia
While I was at it I bought varieties that they used in the Gardens in Golden.These are ones I have special affection for, varieties with beautiful names like "Arabian night", or "moonfire" (or "moonbeam" as Charles was forever mistakenly saying to visitors while Noel politely corrected him!) and quirky ecclesiastically themed dahlias like " Bishop of llandaff" and "Bishop of York". In Golden they also grew "David Howard" which I have yet to get my hands on. When people ask me how I remember the names I tell them that Charles frequently gave me ID exams by pointing at a plant and barking "WHATS THAT??". Noel used to say "pressure concentrates the mind", and pressure to answer a cranky Charles did wonders for my memory! It's interesting that a lot of the varieties grown by Charles in Golden are now on recommended lists of which ones to grow. He was no plonker, that's for sure!

group the same dahlias together to give a really good show
Seamus ordered some dahlias too, taking a shine to giant dinner plate dahlias with massive showstopping heads.They all put on a great show-even though it was their first year. So I was very careful to dig them up and dry them before temperatures dropped too low and to store them in Trisha's concrete shed in Ballysimon in anticipation of Arctic winter weather.

The big freeze never materialised but the bulbs came back from their holidays last week ready to be potted up, many already sprouting and looking promising. You can actually take cuttings from these sprouts, and multiply your dahlia plants very cheaply. I was watching Monty do this the other night on BBC Gardeners World, I couldn't find a video but the instructions are all here at this link Dahlia Cuttings

Canna in the garden at Golden, Co. Tipperary
When I worked in Golden the Dahlias and Cannas were potted up in March and the potted bulbs were brought into a heated glasshouse to be brought on for planting out in late May or early June depending on the weather. There was a special place in the hot bed left for seven enormous cannas with gorgeous foliage and a whole area was devoted to a walkway edged by bishop of llandaff dahlias in large pots. Like roses you will get a much better show from a large group of plants together rather than one or two on their own.

This potting up in March gave them a great Jump start as most dahlias or other tropicals are only planted out as tubers/rhizomes after the last frosts, so flowering is delayed until late August.

Job done!
Last year I potted them all up in March and brought them on out the back in a suntrap. They did really well, grew rapidly and were starting to flower by the time they were planted out. I did not have access to the same amazing home made leaf mould used in golden so I just used good compost with a generous dash of sea-mun-gus to feed the plants until they leave the pots. With frost threatening all this week I have kept them out the back in the suntrap, fleece at the ready in case it gets into minus figures.

Here are some Dahlias reccomended to give a go to! If you can pot them up now, mind them from frost(even better if you have a tunnel or glasshouse that you can keep them in -as thats the ideal place for them) and plant them out in late May /early June for extra colour in the garden this summer.

Arabian night, the true colour is much blacker
dahlia twynings after eight
Dahlia David Howard
Bishop of Llandaff

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