These Showstoppers are Surprisingly Easy to Grow and Will inject Some va-va-voom into Your Summer Garden
Yes, dahlias are back in fashion, big time! There are loads of gorgeous new varieties that are brilliant for a modern garden – and far easier for us to look after, too! So, ditch any reservations you may have about these beauties being tricky to grow, and give them a go. The only bit of faff involved in looking after these dazzling blooms is keeping them cosy over the winter. If you live in the south of the country, then all you need do is pop a duvet of mulch over the soil. Further north, simply dig up the tubers and keep them somewhere frost-free, then replant the following year. It’s well worth this minimal effort, as you’ll enjoy these fab flowers all summer-long. And with life in lockdown, they’ll bring a bright, happy vibe to your garden.
The current darlings of the dahlia world are the Honka varieties. Also known as ‘orchid’ dahlias, their intriguing spider-like, star-shaped blooms look innocently simple yet breathtakingly beautiful. Honkas somehow manage to look delicate and subtle, even though their flowers can be up to 10cm across! We have a long list of favourites but right at the top has to be ‘Honka Yellow’, £9.50/10 tubers, dutchbulbs.co.uk, with its bright sunny-yellow petals, closely followed by ‘Honka Red’ (red petals) and ‘Honka Fragile’ (white petals, touched with a very fine red edge), both £3.99/1 tuber, crocus.co.uk. Like all dahlias, honkas have masses of flower power, blooming continuously from June to the first autumn frosts as long as you regularly snip off faded flower heads.
They only grow up to 70cm high, so they’ll fit into your garden however compact your plot. Have a look, too, at the dark-leaved dahlias, which look striking in a modern garden. One of the best is ‘Magenta Star’, £5.75, pheasant acreplants.co.uk, which has magenta-pink flowers with a dark gold-fringed centre, set off by deep-hued foliage. ‘Mystic Illusion’, £10.95/3L pot, norfolkqualityplants.co.uk, has bright sunshine-yellow blooms that pop against rich, almost black leaves. ‘Waltzing Mathilda’, £4.95/1 tuber, sarahraven.com, has curvaceous flowers in warm shades of red and amber, with deliciously dark foliage. Be warned though: once you’ve adopted your first dahlia, and realised how easy it is to grow, you’ll be hooked! Have a browse online and you’ll find loads of other uber-modern dahlia shapes to grow – search for waterlily, collarette, peony, anemone and mignon dahlias for starters.
PICK HEALTHY PLANTS
Dahlias are available online from many garden suppliers and some dahlia specialists. When the plants arrive, check they have at least a couple of strong stems covered with healthy, deep green leaves. Return anything that shows signs of stress, damage such as broken stems, tired-looking yellowing or wilted leaves.
KEEP IT ALIVE
Your dahlia will be easy to look after as long as you pop it in a sunny spot and, for a tall variety, shelter it from strong winds. It loves well-drained soil that holds plenty of moisture, so mix in some Verve Soil Improver, £4.37/50L, diy.com, when you plant it.
HELP IT THRIVE
To get masses of flowers all summer, water well during dry periods and feed regularly with Phostrogen All Purpose Soluble Plant Food, £4.25/800g, homebase.co.uk. Stake tall varieties with bamboo canes. Remove faded flowers to keep it blooming into autumn.
GET MORE BLOOMS
Snap off faded blooms with your thumb and finger, and more flowers will grow.
Make cut flowers last longer by plunging the freshly cut ends into 4-5cms of really hot, but not boiling water (hot tap water is perfect), and leave them there for an hour or two. Then arrange as normal. Changing the water every day will make them last longer, too.
POT OF GOLD
The sultry foliage of dark-leaved dahlias such as ‘Mystic Illusion’ sings out against a pale pot.
The spidery, star-like flowers of ‘Honka Black’ are a devastatingly dark red and explode into colour when the buds open, revealing sunny yellow centres. They grow to 70cm high.
Hooray for May, with two lovely three-day bank holiday weekends to spend in the garden! Transport yourself straight into summer holiday mode with this easy revamp of an old shed, creating your very own staycation area with boardwalk and beachside chalet, where you can dream of lazy days by the seaside. This bijou area with a hint of beach, and just enough room for a couple of deckchairs, can be created in a long weekend. No shed? Find a great range of compact, affordable models at easyshed.co.uk.
GET THE LOOK
For a similar design, try the Deck Chair Teak in Blue, £57.99, manomano. co.uk, which has an adjustable backrest and easily folds away.
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