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.

Tulips from Worthing

Unfortunately my plans to tick a visit to the Amsterdam Tulip fields off my list went awry this year.  I have consoled myself with my tulips from Worthing.   I am more than delighted with the display and the thought I had gone overboard buying bulbs last year has proved me wrong.  You can never buy too many tulip bulbs! 

As well as using containers, I planted bulbs in the open border and these are Sweetheart, Purissima and Yellow King with a few pink Botanical mixed.   They have combined well with the white narcissi Botanical Thalia.

On the side patio most of the containers have tulips left over from last year – the pink are Angelique which are not as good this year.  The new bulbs are lovely red Tulip Kaufmanniana and you can see there is also a white one.   The yellow/white Tulip is Sweetheart and I think is a perfect partner with narcissi. 

 There is one solitary Grand Perfection left over from last year.  I like this one so will make a not to buy more for 2018.   I grew them in 2016 with Ronaldo and the combination was quite striking. 

This interesting tulip is a double fringed variety called Bastia – it isn’t quite open so as I write this on a Sunday morning I can’t show it to its full glory, but if you check out the link you will see what it will look like.  I suspect it’s a tulip equivalent of Marmite, you will love it or hate it. 

I found this year that the tulips took a while to open but once open, the petals fell quite quickly. Perhaps it’s because it’s been really quite warm this last week.   I hope you’ve liked what you see and would be interested in seeing your favourite tulips to give me some ideas for 2018.  

What a Difference a Mowed Lawn Makes

At last its been dry long enough for the lawn to dry out and for the first time since the beginning of the winter months, I dug the mower out of the shed and mowed the lawn!   I never seem to learn not to walk on the wet lawn in the winter and yet again I have a number of  bald patches.   Some of the patches I have dug over and enlarged the flower bed – you can never have too many beds can you!  A spot of lawn seed purchasing is on the list.




Today I felt really inspired.   It is amazing the difference cutting the grass can make, all of a sudden the garden started to look tidy and ready for spring.


The Ribes Sanguineum (Flowering Currant) is starting to have those pretty dark pink flowers, and soon it will be a wonderful pink display of drooping clusters.

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I found a few Forsythia flowers coming out with lots of buds, so that is going to look splendid in a few weeks.  Underneath some of the shrubs at the  bottom of the garden there are a few primrose plants, and these have managed avoid being nibbled at the moment.  Something likes to eat them but I have never found out what.   This clump of daffodils have remained uneaten also.  I think I read somewhere there is a little bug that likes to eat them but I can’t remember what I should do about it.

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One of my favourite shrubs in the spring is Spiria Japonica ‘Goldflame’.  Whilst, in my opinion, it is nothing to write home about in the summer, it deserves a mention at this time of the year.  The leaves emerge into a bronze-red in the spring, almost the reverse of other plants that turn that colour in the autumn.


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Last year I left the Elder Sambucus Nigra and it grew to a great height and cast a lot of shade over the garden, when sun was badly needed.  Therefore this year I thought I would be tough and cut it down by half its height.   I am doing it slowly, and at the moment it is still looking slightly odd.   There were a few branches that were overhanging next door, on which they hung some of those peanut plastic bags, and the birds were not interested as they have been untouched for months.   So, with great difficulty I managed to lean over the wall, cut the branches and successfully hauled the branches back on to my side of the wall to dispose of.   This old tree is not going to be killed off easily, although that is certainly not my intention, it is full of little knobbly purple sprouts as you can see.   I know it won’t produce any flowers or berries this year, as they appear on growth from the previous year, but at least I will have a little more sun.


The pots on the side patio are coming into their own now, and the tete-a-tete daffodils that I feared were looking rather stunted are now a decent size.  I am looking forward to a splendid display of tulips.


Finally, the Jasmine Jasminum Officinale, which has flowered throughout the winter is amazing and smells glorious.   It usually flowers in June and July giving out a heady perfume in the evenings, so I am expecting it to continue to flower throughout the summer.   This was a tiny house plant and about 10 years ago I planted it out into a sheltered corner of the house.   The year before last it was getting really out of hand and I cut it right down the ground thinking I had killed – clearly not!!




There Are No Guarantees

I’m reading, no I correct that, I am listening to The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters, on Audible, whilst traveling to and from work on the train.  It is about mind management and far from being boring and heavy duty it is a fascinating insight into our nature (The Chimp) and nurture (The Human) characteristics.  

Our inner Chimp, the emotional part of our brain, has evolved to support our survival, and is characterised by feelings and paranoia, it works on impressions and interpretations, not facts.  Our Human mind, is rational, weighs up evidence and reaches careful and deliberate conclusions.  What does this have to do with gardening I hear you asking.   Well, a lot actually.    Early in the book we are told we should hold as our ‘Life Force” several proven values and truths:-

  • Life is not fair 
  • The goal posts move 
  • There are no guarantees 
  •  Everything that happens comes and goes 
  • Disappointments are tough but they need to be kept in perspective 
  • Happiness can be found in many ways 
  • Every day is precious 
  • Its the way you deal with things that gives you peace of mind

Do you recognize any of them as a gardener?  I do, especially ‘disappointments are tough, but they need to be kept in perspective’.

I bought a lot of, what I considered, expensive daffodil bulbs from Waitrose, duly planted them up at the correct time and carefully placed the pots outside the kitchen window so I would have a lovely display of spring daffs to look at whilst washing up. It is a disappointment to see lots of green leaves and only one bud in each pot.  Putting that into perspective, at least there is one bud in each pot, there could be none, and also proving  ‘There are no guarantees’. 

However, ‘Happiness can be found in many ways” and rather than dwell on my daffodils, I looked at the other pots, to see the tulips and anemones are starting to sprout, and I am being positive that they will produce a fabulous colourful array. 


Another ‘Happiness’ truth is the Peony.   I get a great rush of excitement when I see all the little red lipstick shaped shoots poking through the soil, ready for another year.   It’s such a positive sign and guaranteed to bring me happiness.


Finally, ‘Every day is precious’.  How very true, when I walk up my garden path, I am met with the cheerful display of tiny Tete-a-Tete daffodils, guaranteed to appear every year.  This sight makes me feel grateful to still be here and able to enjoy my garden. 


I have to train my Chimp not to get too upset about non flowering expensive bulbs, as my Human knows that it’s the way I deal with things that will bring me peace of mind.   Evidence overcoming paranoia! 

A Soggy Garden with Confused Plants 

Spurred on with a new lease of life I had an idea that I would post a comparison of what was/is in the garden over the years I have written my blog.   To my surprise I have only a couple of posts from this week in the past and none of them are to do with the garden, so that idea was knocked on the head.   What I did notice was the second/third week in January, since the blog began in 2011, invariably had snow or was very icy, so maybe we will have a cold winter in 2016 before spring arrives. 

An icy  blast is certainly going to shock all the plants that have been fooled by the unseasonably warm weather.  In the front garden the snowdrops are out and the forget me nots have reseeded themselves everywhere! 

The tulips and daffodils (tete a tete) are coming through and the day lilies are producing lots of new leaves. 

 In order to protect the bulb shoots from the window cleaners, who have no regard to anything in flowerbeds, I have placed some flower supports.  I hope it works, in previous years they have just trampled over everything! 

We have had so much rain the back lawn squelches under foot, and the grass continues to grow with little chance of getting the mower out.  The north facing border always ends up with standing water and there is a bare patch of lawn which I have tried, without success, to reseed on a number of occasions.  I have decided not to bother anymore and will turn it part of the flowerbed.   After I took the photo below I spiked the bed with a fork with the hope that it will drain. 

The summer jasmine, which sadly didn’t flower last year, is covered in buds (far too early) and I hope that it doesn’t succumb to any impending frosts. It won’t be warm enough however to make the most of the wonderful perfume is exudes on a balmy June evening.  I’ll have to bring some sprigs indoors to enjoy it. 
  Finally, all my spring pots were planted up before Christmas and I moved them so they can be seen from the kitchen window.   There are some very tiny shoots in some of them and one pot is very advanced.  It is the only pot that is not labelled up, (it would be!), but I think they are early narcissi.  Sometimes it’s quite exciting guessing what is growing.

We all know that in the winter cold wet days are usually mild, with sunny days bringing cold weather.   We need a bit more sun now with freezing temperatures to kill off the bugs, slugs and snails in the garden and there are very many people in the UK praying that we have no more rain for quite  while.   Maybe my next post will have snowy and ice photos! 

Tulip Bulbs Galore

I cannot resist the temptation of buying bulbs and I am sure you will all identify with that.   I thought I had already bought my full quota for next spring but emails with offers keep dropping into my inbox.   Last week I had an email from the RHS which included a beautiful tulip called “Golden Artist” a Veridiflora tulip with golden orange petals and a green stripe.

Photo courtesy of Crocus
Photo courtesy of Crocus – Golden Artist

Being a savvy shopper I took a look at other websites and found the same bulbs a lot cheaper on Crocus.  http://Www.crocus.co.uk.  Of course whilst there I had to look at the other bulbs, who wouldn’t!

Before I go any further let me stress that I am in no way a bulb expert.  The information about these bulbs is taken from the Crocus website.  I just thought if you were still looking to buy tulips bulbs for the spring you might find it interesting, and I wanted to share my purchases with you.

What I always find useful is suggestion planting, and ‘Golden Artist’ apparently goes well with red tulips.  I quite fancied a tub of bright red tulips so bought ‘Red Impression’, a Darwin Hybrid, which is lipstick coloured with a near black blotch at the base – sounds lovely doesn’t it.  My intention is to plant them in a separate pot next to the pot with ‘Golden Artist’ rather than put them in the same container.

Photograph courtesy of Crocus
Photograph courtesy of Crocus – Red Impression

There are a vast variety of tulips and some I don’t like, such as the Lily type tulip with their spiky petals, but then it’s all a matter of taste and a good thing we don’t always like the same things.

Whilst spring bulbs look good in flowerbeds, I am going to plant all of my tulips in pots.  I already have three pots planted up which include the frilled Parrot tulip in various dark burgundies through to a pale purple/blue.  These are sitting outside my kitchen so when the spring arrives I have lots of lovely colourful flowers to greet me when I step outside.

While browsing through the varieties I came across Fostariana, an early flowering tulip and added ‘Sweetheart’ to my shopping basket.  This is a lemon/yellow with a creamy band around the top, I thought they looked really pretty and would be a good contrast to the other coloured tulips.

Photograph courtesy of Crocus
Photograph courtesy of Crocus – Sweetheart

At this point, as difficult as it was,  I called a halt to my shopping spree and paid for my purchases, which arrived yesterday just a couple of days after placing my order.


This post reads as though I am plugging Crocus, which I am not, they just happen to be the website I bought my bulbs from. As they say on television, there are other websites available.

My next job is to clear out the pots containing summer plants way beyond the best, clean the pots and get planting.  Although it sometimes seem interminable, Winter doesn’t really last that long and I have something to look forward to in the spring.