Garden blogging

Plant Identifier App, Dahlias and West Dean Gardens.

Yesterday (Sunday) was one of those glorious early autumn days, warm in the sun and chilly in the shade. I met up with an old friend who I haven’t seen for several months and we had a wonderful walk and talk afternoon at West Dean Gardens near Chichester.

My friend, a professional gardener, and old time cynic, scoffed at my PlantSnap app and was determined to test it and prove it was rubbish! I was determined to prove it worked, at least the 92% of the time which it claims to be right.

We headed towards the glasshouses (as we always do first) and entered the walled garden. I loved purple and yellow colour schemes and these borders didn’t fail to impress. Here we put the app through its paces.

Gardener friend (GF) identified these as Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’, Saying with glee, “This will test its metal!”. Whilst the app didn’t name it as ‘Little Carlow’ it correctly recognised it as Symphyotrichum, naming it as a Rice Button Aster. A lot of the accuracy is down to taking a clear photo, also there are so many similar asters it would be a big ask to expect it to name it correctly.

The above was recognised as Helianthus Verticillatus common name Whorled Sunflower. At the time of writing I can’t remember what GF called it but he was slowly beginning to be a bit of a convert, begrudgingly admitting it was quite good but not excellent – he is a purist!

It did, however, correctly name the Salvia ‘Amistad’. GF finally got tired of the Gardener’s Knowledge v PlantSnap app game.

We moved on to the cutting garden, where a kaleidoscope of colour met us. The dahlias were magnificent.

There were so many beautiful blooms and West Dean can always be relied on for their labelling. There is nothing so infuriating to see a plant you like and not know what it is – call in PlantSnap!

Apps and labels don’t always help. When I got home I Googled ‘Merrow Clement Andres’ dahlia and nothing came up, so I’m puzzled at this dahlia’s name. Anyone recognise it?The app just identified it as a Dahlia. There were so many I wants to make a note of for next year but the two I particularly liked were easier to find out more info on.

With frost lingering, sadly one morning in the not to distant future the dahlias will be finished. We were lucky to catch them in their last throws of blooming.

Just to clarify, I have not been paid or approached to review PlantSnap, it is just a personal view of the app I downloaded recently and thought it fun to share with you in case you, like me, often wander around a garden looking for a non existent label on an admired plant.

Garden blogging

I’ve Gone a Little Daft about Dahlias

Is it my imagination or have dahlias come to the fore this year?  They seem to have a lot of  publicity appearing on garden programs and magazine articles, as well as people with lots of  ‘dahlia talk’ on social media.  I have always admired the dahlias in the cutting garden at West Dean Gardens, Nr Chichester  but only had one small yellow unnamed dahlia in the garden.   I certainly have been swept along on the dahlia train this year and spent the enormous figure of £9 on tubers from Wilko – a great provider of bargain garden ‘stuff’.   At £1 each I felt I could just about afford to take a loss and would be happy with even half of them grew.

I am delighted, and proud that all nine tubers have thrown out shoots!   After avidly reading everything I could find about growing dahlias, I found Sarah Raven’s website and video provided all I needed to know as a complete amateur.  The biggest hurdle was (and still is!) protecting the shoots from slugs and snails.  Even with copper tape, a penny barrier, an idea from David Domoney, as well as my daughter suggesting supergluing pennies around the rim, plus a few strategically placed organic slug pellets, the pesky molluscs must have abseiled down to have a quick nibble.   Some dahlias, as you can see, have grown faster than others, albeit put in pots at the same time.

I am an impulse buyer and rarely, if ever, go with a plan when it comes to buying plants.  Rightly or wrongly, the dahlias I bought were chosen by name, and recommendation, such as Arabian Night, which is mentioned a lot.   To my surprise, rather than having a riot of unorganised colour, all my dahlias are the same colour range of white through to purple, apart from the pretty golden ‘Sunshine’ which I may grow in a pot.

For my future information and out of interest, I list below the dahlias I have along with photos of what they will look like.  Note the voice of positivity.   I must stress at this point I have NEVER grown dahlias before so fingers crossed they will all be successful and don’t succumb to slug and snail fodder.

Single Flower Variety

Dahlia ‘Sunshine’


Decorative Variety

Dahlia ‘Avignon’
Dahlia ‘Arabian Night’
Dahlia ‘Crazy Love’
Dahlia “Le Baron”

Pom Pom Variety

Dahlia ‘Franz Kafka’

Collerette Variety

Dahlia ‘Teesbrook Audrey’

Cactus Variety

Dahlia ‘Purple Gem’

Shaggy Cactus Variety

Dahlia ‘Tsuki-yori-no-Shisha’

This last dahlia is my favourite, not only because of the name, I think it is going to be magnificent.  It is already the largest of all the new plants.  I have pinched out the tops of the bigger plants and will regularly be referring to the National Dahlia Society and National Dahlia Collection websites as well as Sarah Raven and the gardening folk on Twitter and Instagram for help and advice.

I have some weeks to go before planting out, so will take time plan the layout of the dahlias sensibly.   I am forward to have an impressive bed of dahlias to cut and have in the house and give to friends.   Watch this space!  Meanwhile, please leave advice and tips in the comment section as all help will be gratefully received – thank you.


Withdrawal symptoms kick in and the need to write is activated

When I first began travelling by train to work, earlier this year, I tweeted sweeping comments on how sad it was that people are so deep in their books, laptops or texting they fail to notice the beautiful Sussex countryside.  I have been doing the same journey now for 6 months and have to retract those comments.  It has become tedious and although I do occasionally just sit and gaze out of the window,  most of the  journey time I use up by reading.

Many of the carriages with those horrid ‘skinny’ seats have all their seats facing one way, which is unfortunate, if you board a carriage with them all facing backwards.  Sitting this way round is guaranteed to make me feel nauseous at the best of times and it does mean that I don’t even try to read as that would have me heading for the loo – not a pleasant thought at all.

This evening, stuck on a rear facing skinny seat, watching the countryside whizz pass on what felt like an interminably long journey home, and trying to use mind over matter that I was not feeling queasy, my thoughts turned to writing  and my blog.  It was then I realised that withdrawal symptoms were kicking in and with that the need to write was being activated.   It has only been two weeks since my last post, but for someone who usually writes 2 to 3 posts a week, it feels like a long break.  So here I am back with my love.   The short break served its purpose and has helped me realise I don’t have to write regularly, just when I feel like it.

The Garden

The weather has been excellent this week, a true start to September, with lovely sharp and slightly chilly mornings and deliciously warm by lunchtime.  The days are drawing in though and at 6:15 a.m. there is a need to put the bedroom light on when I get up and gone are the long light evenings and when I get home the light is not good enough to take decent photos of the garden.   The weathermen have promised us a good weekend ahead so I intend to be out there clicking away.  The garden is looking rather weather beaten and autumn jobs are calling.

Meat Loaf sang “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” – well in my case ‘one out of three ain’t bad’.  I am talking Dahlias here.  Earlier this year I bought dalihia bulbs, putting some in the garden:-

This one has been eaten to pieces and has no flowers, it just been a feast for slugs and snails to dine on.  I have usually had success in this particular part of the garden in previous years but this year, as we all know, is just plain odd.

I put one in a large flower pot by the front door, warm sheltered and lots of sunshine (when it appears) from mid-day onwards.

This second dahlia has had lots of growth, only been nibbled a little by the slugs and snails, but still produced no flowers.

The third one I put one in a pot on the side patio, in its own little microclimate.  This part of the garden is sheltered, and with sun from sunrise it can get very hot here before it becomes shady by mid-afternoon.

Hey presto!  Flowers!!  This was not an experiment but may be next year because I am not sure if I was unlucky and had dud bulbs or whether the conditions on the patio were more conducive to their happiness.  It certainly made me happy.

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