Where to spot beautiful dahlias in Herts
PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 August 2016
From deepest maroon to dazzling white, dahlias offer luxurious late summer colour. Philippa Pearson seeks out the best places in Hertfordshire to view dazzling displays
Dahlias are the stars of the late summer border and make lovely cut flowers too. There is huge choice of colour and form, from purple, orange and yellow to maroon and brightest red, and flower shapes ranging from spiky cactus types to dainty pom-poms and huge dinner plate-sized blooms. If you don’t have room for the giants, smaller varieties are good in containers for a pretty display near the house or in tighter spaces.
From late summer, the garden at Patchwork in Berkhamsted has borders full of colourful dahlias as well as lots of other plant interest. This quarter-acre garden is planned for year-round colour, shape and perfume and the sloping site containing rockeries, two small ponds, a herbaceous border, island beds, roses, fuchsias and plenty of containers, while trees and shrubs provide a backdrop of seasonal change. Favourite bedding dahlias here include ‘Coltness’ and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ which are planted after a striking spring display of tulips. The owners Jean and Peter Block then take the tubers out each year to overwinter in a greenhouse.
Patchwork is open for the National Garden Scheme this month for visitors to view the dahlias and other wonderful planting.
Opening for the first time after a long break, 60 Bury Lane at Datchworth near Stevenage provides two opportunities in early September, including an evening opening, to view dahlias and other late summer planting. This pretty garden quarter-acre garden has views over the surrounding countryside but being quite an exposed and windy site, it demands innovative planting and has a lively mix of perennials and grasses to provide a stunning display of texture and colour from late summer into autumn.
The hard working greenhouse area is busy all year round, including with the propagation of unusual plant varieties. There’s also a pond and gravel garden.
Dahlias are the flagship plant at Aylett Nurseries in London Colney near St Albans and the nursery has won numerous awards for their excellence.
Roger Aylett, the late founder, adored dahlias from an early age. When he started the nursery in the mid-1950s he grew a range of cut flowers. Dahlias were the must-have plant that everyone wanted so he decided to specialise in these. Aylett’s cut dahlias were sold in Covent Garden and Roger also began displaying them at flower shows including nearby Harpenden - taking orders for plants from those who wanted to grow them in their own gardens.
In 1959 Roger began open days at the nursery for gardeners to view dahlias growing in the trial beds and to order plants. With the help of keen flower arrangers in the family and among friends, a display of dahlias was staged in the packing shed. Around 500 visitors enjoyed that frist open weekend and Ayletts has continued the tradition each September since.
The two-acre dahlia field at Ayletts is adjacent to the garden centre and open to view from August until the first frosts. It is a display not to be missed with thousands of flowers. Tubers are lifted each year in late autumn or early winter once plants die back and placed into a frost-free storage area on the nursery. In February, the tubers are placed in wooden crates in the propagation house and given gentle warmth to encourage growth. By March the first shoots begin to grow and cuttings are taken to create new plants. In early June, the dahlia field is planted up. The soil will have been well prepared the previous winter by digging in lots of organic matter, and a slow acting fertilizer such as bone meal forked into the soil three to four weeks before planting.
Secrets to great dahlias
1. Feed them regularly – every two to three weeks from August with a high potash liquid feed.
2. ‘Stopping’ - the removal of the growing tip, is good for a better shaped plant. Simply nip the tip out when the plant has grown four pairs of leaves.
3. If you want huge show-winning blooms, disbud regularly by taking out flower buds on side shoots.
4. Stake taller varieties once plants begin to grow and dead-head old flowers regularly to encourage further side buds to develop and flower.
Aylett’s website has comprehensive details of its special ‘Dahlia Recipe’ on how to get the best from your plants.
Visit the gardens
22 Hall Park Gate, Berkhamsted HP4 2NJ, Tel: 01442 864731
Open for the NGS on Sunday August 14, 2-5pm. Admission £3, children free. Refreshments, plants for sale, dogs welcome. Visitors in groups of 10-50 also welcome by arrangement up to October.
60 Bury Lane
Datchworth SG3 6SS
Open for the NGS on Friday September 2, 5-7.30pm with wine, and Sunday September 4, 1-4.30pm with home-made teas. Admission £4.50, children free. Plants for sale and wheelchair friendly.
North Orbital Road (A414), St Albans AL2 1DH, Tel: 01727 822255. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The dahlia field is open during normal opening times from early August to the first frosts. A Dahlia Festival runs from in September from Friday 3 to Sunday 11.