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How to plan a garden?

alexemmersonukalexemmersonuk Norwich, Norfolk, UKPosts: 150
Hi all, 
I've been saying I am a beginner for the past two years, but that's still where I feel I am haha! 

This year I want to start planning early and create a summer garden I will love. 

I want to grow LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of dahlias. All pink. Light pink, bright pink, magenta, fuchsia, dark pink, almost purple, any shade of pink. 

Last year I tried, but after buying and planting a tuber, I got an enourmous amount of leaves and ONE flower. And I later found out I was suppose to split them or something. 

I know NOTHING about dahlias apart from that I love them and want to have as many as possible this year. 

So, instead of doing yet another google search and get lost on a million side tracks and rabbit holes, I thought I'd ask here any successful dahlia growers their top 3 tips for a successful dahlia garden. 

Assume I know nothing at all, give me your best tips. Where do I start? 




  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,954
    You need the right conditions to over winter them, and you need to make sure they're viable tubers [if you're doing them that way] before planting them,  and then they need the right site and care. 
    They're greedy plants, so need a good growing medium - plenty of food and moisture but good drainage.

    Some folk can over winter outdoors with a mulch over them, or similar. In many places that isn't viable. They're not frost hardy, but wet cold is the real killer, so you need to keep them in a good environment after lifting if that's the sort of climate you have. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • alexemmersonukalexemmersonuk Norwich, Norfolk, UKPosts: 150
    - Re overwintering them: I have garden fleece, will that be enough? 
    - When you say make sure they are viable tubers, how would I do that please? x
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,288
    Last year I added quite a few new dahlias to my mixed border as they are great for blending or contrasting with many different colours. I spent ages selecting different sizes and flower types to avoid it looking too heavy and allotmentish.
    You can get singles, spiky cactus flowers, exquisite pompoms, My site is windy so I avoid the dinnerplate ones but the decoratives are nice. Some are taller than others so check heights. Bees and other insects love the singles, 'Happy Single Juliet' always had some sleepy bees snoozing in its petals :D.
    You need to start with a good big tuber from a reputable supplier. I use Peter Nyssen, but there are plenty of others like Farmer Gracy ,Avon Bulbs, Halls of Heddon etc.
    I pot up the tuber in a just big enough pot and put it on the windowsill in the spare room. As I am going to be planting it out the compost doesn't matter at this point.
     If there are new shoots showing, keep them clear of the compost and check it is just damp. If there are no shoots yet do not water! The most likely cause of failure is the tuber rotting before it has properly started to grow. Careful monitoring of water allows each plant to grow at its own pace.
    You should get several shoots from a decent tuber and each will grow into a bushy flowering stem. It is possible to take one or two shoots as cuttings to give you more plants, but I prefer to wait till the following year and then split the tuber If I want to. You don't have to do this, you will just get larger tubers that give you really hefty plants.
    The plants will need good light to prevent them getting leggy, but can't be planted out till all risk of frost is gone, usually about the end of May. A lot of juggling of space and pots in my greenhouse at this time and when hardening off.
    You need to give each plant adequate space and plant into well nourished soil. I dump the compost from my sheep shed on the dahlia borders they love it : Stake the plants if they need it, young ones often start a bit skinny and you don't want to lose a stem.
    I've probably overwhelmed you, but just ask if you need clarifcation :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,954
    I'd agree with what @Buttercupdays says. 
    Dahlias and their ability to thrive depends on your conditions, and that's where the difficulties lie. 
    Like B'cup, I couldn't possibly leave them outside, whereas some folk in milder, drier parts of the country can do that with a mulch or other protection.
    I do the same with tubers - start them inside and just keep them ticking over until there's no chance of frosts so that they can go outside. The tubers have to be firm, not mushy. When in doubt, wait a bit longer, and don't overwater when they're just getting going. 
    I always grow in pots, but it can be difficult to over winter them when they get a bit large. I split some, but getting them properly drained off and dry enough first is a bit tricky.
    I have mine in the shed, but there's another leak somewhere at one of the corners, so there was a wall of ice in there in December. I don't know how many will be viable. Such is life.
    I only have a small growhouse which isn't warm enough for winter, but is fine with some extra insulation [fleece etc] for getting them acclimatised, as described. I used to have a bigger house, which meant it was easy enough to have them inside over winter. This house is too small, so I can only do it with one or two plants.
    If you don't have room, be careful how many you really think you can successfully overwinter. Wet cold is the killer for them.  :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • PlantmindedPlantminded Wirral (free draining sandy soil)Posts: 1,733
    My top three tips for growing dahlias successfully reflect those already given above:

    1. Buy your tubers from a reputable supplier, either online or from a local garden centre or supplier that you know and trust
    2. Start the tubers off indoors in individual pots of multi purpose compost, water the compost lightly once but not again until shoots start to appear.  Wait until all threats of frost have gone before putting them outdoors, either in pots or in the ground
    3. Be sure you can provide them with adequate growing conditions to do well, ie a sunny aspect, good, well conditioned soil, regular watering and feeding to encourage flowering and protection from pests, especially slugs while the new shoots emerge

    There is an excellent source of information on growing dahlias in this GW link which will help you avoid searching for more information down those rabbit holes!
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,384
    There are some dahlias that are hardier than others. I have grown Park Princess (pink) and Arabian Nights (dark red) for years and never dug them out of the flower beds. They were hardy planted outside. Bishop of Landaff never survived the winter outside. If you dig them up for the winter they musy be in a frost free, cool, mouse free place. One year mice ate all my tubers in the cellar.

    They like sunshine, warmth and light, decent soil and enough water. Though my dahlias survived the drought but flowered longer into the autumn last year.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,954
    I grow Arabian Night - I bought it again because I'd grown it in a previous garden and liked it. There's no way I could leave it outside in my conditions. It would rot within a month.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,994
    edited 6 January
    If you are able to, you could also look into growing dahlias from seed. I have done this and you will have flowering plants the same year, in my experience. 
    You can then treat them the same as you would dahlias grown from tubers.

    If you do this, l'd buy from a reputable seed supplier as opposed to a site such as eBay. This type of thing might suit you  :)

    As others have said, growing dahlias is very much a game of Russian Roulette when it comes to survival. Apart from slugs etc, so much depends on the Winters that we get.

    One piece of advice is to cover them with a deep layer of dry compost or similar, l have done this for a particularly nice dahlia. In early December we had snow which didn't disappear for a week, with temperatures as low as minus 12. Since then we have had a lot of heavy rain, so l am not optimistic. 
    You never know, fingers crossed.

    This is all part of the joy/frustration/ learning curve of gardening. Good club to be in though. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,954
    Indeed @AnniD - Russian roulette is a good description! It can also be trial and error.

    There's a house not far from me, where the owner is clearly a very experienced, competent gardener. His front garden was a gorgeous display of dahlias in the summer, filling in the beds around the evergreens and the little lawn, which I presume were seed grown. I've never seen him long enough to have a chat, but perhaps this year that'll happen.  :)
    Because of this thread, I went and ordered half a dozen new dahlias from Peter Nyssen. I'm blaming you @alexemmersonuk :D
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,288
    One side of my terrace has a nice sheltered bed and every year it is planted up with hot coloured dahlias. The same ones have been going for years. There are scarlet potentillas along the front, some dark red daylily Mallard and some Heleniums in there too, for variety, as well as a Crocosmia Lucifer for height. The dahlias are David Howard, Karma Naomi, Bishops of York and LLandaff, Firepot and Karma Choc, with one or two others as takes my fancy. I often add a pot or two of agapanthus too.
    Once planted the bed is full of colour till the frosts and only requires deadheading and mimimum weeding. If I am feeling organised I add some tulips for earlier in the year that can be lifted in their pots to make way for the dahlias.

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