More Late Bloomers

by Brian Skeys

After Asters my other favourite late bloomer is the Dahlia. My Grandfather used to grow Dahlias for show; I have a lovely photograph of him and my Grandmother standing amongst their Dahlias holding their winner’s cup. I don’t grow them for show, just for pleasure and they are one of the best tender perennials that you can use for flower power later in the season.

I use them in two ways, firstly in a simple rotation following in the space occupied by Tulips, Wallflowers and Forget-me-Nots. You can lift and store your Tulips in the greenhouse during the summer when the Dahlias are ready to go into the garden and re- plant them in November after lifting your Dahlias.

My other system is to plant the Dahlia tubers into big plastic flower pots saved from tree planting. In April I pot them up into good quality compost with slow release fertilizer and water retaining gel. At the end of May-June they go onto the patio to create potted displays along with Grasses, Bamboos, Verbena Bonariensis, Pelargoniums and Fushias.

There are too many good Dahlias to mention but I list some of my favourites below.


One of the best dwarf varieties is Dahlia ‘Moonfire’ a two tone, single yellow flower with a red centre. The other dwarf one that I grow is ‘Fascination’ it has single, light purple/pink flowers and dark foliage. ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is justifiably very popular with dark red, single flowers and bronze leaves. I also grow the dark red ‘Grenadier’ a small, open centred double, height around 4ft. and it is a real wow factor. ‘Glorie van Heemstede’ is a bright yellow, waterlily type which looks spectacular when teamed with Verbena Bonariensis. In the ‘White Garden’ white tulips are followed with Dahlia ‘Twying’s After Eight’, a single, white flower with bronze foliage. I have left the best till last, Dahlia ‘David Howard’ named after the Dahlia breeder. It is vigorous (height 6ft), with a miniature, decorative, apricot-orange blend flower and again with dark foliage. It makes a very impressive plant, visitors to the garden always ask about it. Although not readily available in garden centres, I purchased my original tubers from Bob Brown Cotswold Garden Flowers and in its first year, it develops very big tubers, so you can soon build up a good stock. Another useful supplier that I have used is The National Collection of Dahlias (Winchester Growers Ltd) they supply rooted cuttings.

If you don’t already grow Dahlias I hope this has inspired you to have a go, they have been grown in gardens since the 1800’s and really do create a wow factor in the garden.

If you would like to know more about growing Dahlias, I have produced a Fact Sheet