Delightful dahlias and nurturing seed heads in August
If you have visited Hever Castle & Gardens this month then you’ll know that I’ve got a ‘bit of a thing’ for dahlias. In August, visitors can enjoy a magnificent sea of multi-coloured dahlia blooms in an ascending bed on Two Sisters’ Lawn.
If I’m snipping away at my dahlias, visitors will often stop me to ask, “Is it easy to grow them?” And the answer is always a resounding “Yes!” You do need to be prepared to lift them in October and store them in a dark and dry place, but other than the earwig squeamish, anyone can grow fantastic dahlias.
We over-wintered the current crop, brought them out after the last frost in late May, planted them, staked them, fed them and then trusted the plants to get on with the job of delighting us come the mid-summer months.
Find them a sunny space
Dahlias hail originally from Mexico and love the morning sunshine, so it’s important to ensure that you position them in a sunny space where they can receive at least six to eight hours of sunshine every day.
They come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny pom-poms to flowers the size of side plates, with vivid green or dark dramatic leaves, but whatever variety you choose you can be sure that they all produce the most wonderful blooms that work well as cut flowers.
Earwigs used to be a problem for dahlia growers in the UK, but we don’t see so many these days in our gardens. If you do have an earwig issue, you can pop a flowerpot on the top of the stake and fill it with straw. This will attract the earwigs in for a little sleep, and you can then empty the pots in the morning. If you’ve got good birdlife in the garden, then slugs won’t be a problem but keep vigilant because slugs and snails can really go to town on the dahlias!
Share the seedheads
There’s plenty to do in the garden this month as the perennials produce fantastic displays. The echinacea, grasses, rudbeckia, agapanthus and stipa grasses are going great guns in Faith’s Garden at Hever and, while it’s tempting to dead-head plants in your perennial border, we suggest you leave the seedheads in place so you can share the seeds between you (for next year) and your feathered garden visitors.
It’s also good practice to refrain from deadheading your shrub roses and allow the rose hips to redden so they provide fantastic colour, and a food source for garden birds. If you grow roses organically and without spray, then you could look to make your own rose hip tea from the bounty available this month.
If you are taking up the sheers to trim your bushes, make sure you check the hedges first to ensure the blackbirds haven’t set up their second nest for the year.
Enjoy this most floriferous of months!
Hever Castle & Gardens is open seven days a week. For opening times, what’s on and more, visit www.hevercastle.co.uk.
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