Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 17:02
The garden looks different every time I walk around it now, with green shoots pushing through the soil and colour from daffodils and early perennials. There are also flashes of leaf colour as Spiraea ‘Gold Flame’ and Fuchsia ‘Genii’ begin to put on their spring coats of brilliant orange and bright yellow. Early spring flowering shrubs which include my old favourites Forsythia and Ribes are also beginning to flower with a hint of colour on the twiggy growths – a precursor to their main show that is not far away.
As well as enjoying the early spring flowers, this is a time for planning for the rest of the season and for me, summer tubers and corms are a big part of this. There have been white Lilies (L. regale) which have a sweet, heady scent, in pots in our garden for many years now and last spring, on renewing the compost, I was amazed to find that the corms had grown to a huge size – obviously happy in their containers! Spurred on by this easy summer colour I have decided to try more corms and tubers in containers this year – a change from the usual bedding plants although I am still a huge fan of the ‘half hardies’ that include Verbena, Nemesia and Calibrachoa.
This year it is Dahlias that have grabbed my attention. I have affection for these plants that dates way back to my childhood. My great grandfather would show Dahlias at local horticultural shows and I remember the purple and white pompon variety that many gardeners grew then, along with smoky orange coloured cactus Dahlias, their spiky blooms the perfect hidey holes for Earwigs! (I also remember my great grandfather telling me that ‘If it can run away leave it be. If it can’t run kill it!’ - his answer to pest control!)
Dahlias are such a diverse group of plants. From the huge species that hail from Central America and Mexico, including the beautiful mauve flowered D. imperialis, known as the ‘Tree Dahlia’ due to its enormous height, to the miniature, perfectly round pompon types that can be planted in containers, at the front of a sunny border or on a free draining wall, there are hundreds to choose from. Not all have green leaves and some of the most dramatic for late colour in borders include the ‘Bishops’. Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is probably the best known with deep bronze purple leaves that set off the bright red flowers but there are also others including ‘Bishop of York’ with the same deep purple leaves and amber yellow blooms and ‘Bishop of Oxford’ with burnt orange flowers. The ‘Mystic Series’ were new to me last year and include the stunning Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’ with almost black foliage and lemon yellow flowers that zing against the dark backdrop. As well as being loved by gardeners up and down the country Dahlias - especially the single flowered ones which are easier for them to navigate – are a magnet for bees and many other pollinating insects.
Many of these varieties are available as potted plants later in the summer but for now I will be visiting Notcutts to choose from the varieties available in packets as tubers. There is a rainbow of colours to choose from in whatever height and flower shape I desire, from pure white single blooms to gaudy, multicoloured complicated doubles which are not so good for bees but a feast for the eyes none the less - I may even need to purchase some more containers to house all of my choices!