Posts Tagged ‘dahlia’

Seed or Plugs? Part Two

February 7th, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Petunia Tumbelina Joanna - you'll never grow anything as good as this from seed.

Many summer flowers can be started off as seed or as plugs – but which should you choose? Last week I looked at plants where seed needs starting so early that it’s wise to offload the responsibility for germination and the early stages of growth on to the grower. This week it’s a different issue: the varieties available as plugs and young plants are sometimes simply better than those available as seed. Top of the list here must be chrysanthemums and dahlias.

Growing perennial chrysanths from seed is such a waste of time that Mr F doesn’t even sell the seed any more. Only plants. So that’s that. Hardy annual chrysanths, I should say, are a very different story and bring you some of the zingiest colours in the garden.

Dahlias from seed? Well, firstly, they’re almost always sold as mixtures so you’ve no control of the colours you end up with. The flower forms can be unpredictable too but if you’re on a tight budget give the dark-leaved ‘Bishop’s Children’ mix a try. Otherwise buy tubers in exactly the colour and shape you want.

And then there’s petunias. First, you should always buy double flowered petunias as plants raised from cuttings. The Tumbelina Series are prolific, fragrant and weather-resistant, seed-raised ‘Red Pirouette’ is prolific and colourful but doesn’t have the rain resistance – and only comes in the one colour.

Secondly, to be honest, single-flowered petunias grown from cuttings and sold as plugs are also almost always better than those raised from seed and seed-raised petunias don’t have the most exciting colours. So unless you need a lot, I’d buy single-flowered petunias as plants too. And it’s the same with fuchsias: seed raised varieties are just to up to standard.

And that’s the thing. Seed is usually cheaper, but you don’t get the quality. Take your choice.

Ways with watering

July 5th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sweet peas appreciate plenty of water

“Watering requires more care than is often given to it.” As we look back over a hundred years, so we read in the introduction to the fine old Annual & Biennial Garden Plants by A. E. Speer published in 1911.

“In dry weather a little sprinkling does more harm very often than good. The roots are attracted to the surface only to be burnt up by the hot rays of the sun. When watering do it thoroughly, so that it may go down to the roots, and not the roots up to the moisture.

“Some annuals, like Sweet Peas, especially if grown for exhibition, require copious watering, and occasionally with a little liquid manure added. Always water after the sun is off the plants; and it may be added, rain-water saved from a tub is preferable to water from a pipe. It is softer and not so cold.”

Good advice. My approach is to enrich the soil with organic matter by mulching and working in weed-free compost when planting so the soil retains as much moisture as possible.

I’m also very keen on spot watering and spot feeding individual plants as they need it. Tomatoes, courgettes, outdoor cucumbers, sweet peas and dahlias in particular appreciate a regular drench and to make this easier, when planting, I create a shallow dip into which the plants are set. This collects water and feed where it’s needed and prevents it running away across the border.

The good Mr Speer is right when he says that “pipe” water can be very cold. But it’s also good to remember that the water in a hose pipe left out in the sun can also get very hot. Some gardeners line up filled watering cans one day for use the next, allowing the water to warm up.

Me? I think it’s more important to do it rather than not, and not to worry too much about the temperature. Either way, you’ll see the difference.

Winter and summer at Chelsea

May 23rd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Hellebores at The 2018 Chelsea Flower Show!

One of perennial challenges for Chelsea exhibitors is to hold back early flowering plants so they come to their peak at the Show, weeks or months later than normal, and to force late flowering plants into an early display.

The past master of all this is Johnny Walkers with his regular display of daffodils, held back in a cold store for the big day. Staged at the last possible moment, and the massed ranks of perfection completely replaced half way through the show as they wilt in the heat, it’s always a treat. Awarded a Gold Medal, of course.

But this year we have an even more amazing display: a whole exhibit of hellebores (above). Hold on, don’t they flower in January and February? Well, yes! Three months after their peak in the garden, Ashwood Nurseries from the West Midlands are staging a whole exhibit of their own amazing varieties in a huge range of colours and bicolours, single and double.

The plants had been in a cold store since October and removing them at the right time and bringing them on to ensure that they look their best – and look natural – at the Show is a real art. The display won a Gold Medal, of course, plus a special award from the President of the RHS.

And then, at the other extreme, there are the dahlias (below). I’ll be planting mine, grown from Mr F’s tubers in pots, later this week. But the Plant Heritage National Dahlia Collection, from Cornwall, have these summer and autumn specialities at their peak in full flower for the Show – now!

Again, they don’t look forced, they look natural… And at three months before they’ll be at their best in the garden, huge credit goes to Jon Wheatley for bringing them forward to perfection on the day and winning a Gold Medal.

This is what’s special about Chelsea. Exhibitors devote vast amounts of time, energy, expertise, ingenuity – not to mention expense – to bring us something special. And they inspire us all.

* The Chelsea Flower Show on TV today: BBC1, 3.45pm, Angellica Bell. BBC2, 8.00pm, Monty Don and Joe Swift.

Dahlias at The 2018 Chelsea Flower Show.