30 April 2012 By Billy Hawkins
John Wood head gardener at Hinton Ampner recently visited us at Torberry for our Spring Open Day and provided a great lecture on growing from seeds and cuttings. As a gardener I was impressed by the demonstration and simply watching the practise of someone who clearly does this regularly; as they say, practise makes perfect!
John gardens over fourteen acres at Hinton Ampner, some under glass, and they have a fantastic dahlia collection. Years ago when I admitted how much I loved dahlia’s everyone sniggered at my retro tastes, yet the Hinton Ampner collection is vindicating - they really are wonderful and you ought to try and visit.
Dahlias were initially introduced into the UK by Dr. Dahl, a Swedish botanist and pupil of Linmeus, and from thence its’ generic name. It is a native of Mexico and Central America but was eventually sent over to Madrid by the sea-faring traders, based out of Tulum in Mexico. A competing name, "Georgina," ran "Dahlia" a race for some time; and as late as 1832 it can be found in an Index to London's Gardeners' Magazine. I rather like the idea that initially the tubers were introduced as a vegetable rather than a garden flower – Walkers could have made dahlia salt n’ vinegar!
John lifts his dahlias after the first frost, leaves them in a dark, frost free shed and replants the tubers into peat trays around March. After ensuring each tuber has a red eye on top (it looks like a beetle) plant the tubers, regardless of how dried up they are in peat until the first leaves peep out, then plant in-situ.
Now, during early May is the time to start planting your potted dahlias into the garden, although given the recent weather and subsequent waterlogged ground, ensure you mulch the site throughly.
The above is a summary of my notes taken from John's lecture at our Spring Open Day. Our Summer Open Day takes place on July 14th and you are very welcome.