Buy a wide range of dahlias plus enjoy drinks from The Coffee Officina and treats from Sarah's Wedding Cakes at Folies of Stansted
Far from kitsch, dahlias have made a comeback and deserve pride of place in your garden, say Sally and Lucy Lewis from Folies of Stansted...
Well we have made it. We cosied up and embraced winter, but finally the clocks have changed and March, with its glorious stretch of sunshine, has reminded us there is so much to look forward to in our gardens.
Now is a perfect time to get out and start the jobs that will make your garden so enjoyable in the months to come.
This month we want to talk dahlias. An old-fashioned plant you used to think of as being a bit kitsch or overly blousy? Well, these amazing plants have made a great comeback.
Although tender and not frost hardy, they flower profusely from midsummer right through to late autumn so they are terrific attractions for our beautiful bees and other pollinating insects. We think we should reconsider this gorgeous flower that has somehow been missed being on general pollinating lists.
The open-faced dahlia, such as Bishop of Auckland, has its pollinating parts visible to draw the bees to feed on the sumptuous nectar. The tighter-packed flower heads of other varieties create resting places for sleeping insects and, as their heads open, provide the necessary food for our garden friends.
Many dahlias are grown from a tuber rather than from seed. You may have seen them being sold in supermarkets and garden centres and they look like some type of alien fingers or odd form of ginger. These rather uninspiring offerings will be the most spectacular plants in your border or patio tub.
The best way to start your tubers off, having chosen your favourite variety, is to place it in a shallow tray. Sometimes, because the tuber is actually the root, you can already see the shoots starting just at the top. Cover the tuber lightly with moist compost and put the tray in a frost-free place, like a porch or cold frame, and watch the lovely green shoots appear.
The growth can be quite prolific so once there is a healthy shoot growing you can transfer the plant to a larger pot. If the threat of frost is over (usually towards the end of May) they can be moved straight into your border.
Lovely plants to consider growing alongside dahlias as companions to attract our busy friends are monarda, also known as bee balm, and salvias (flowering sage), which are like magnets for pollinating insects.
As we have mentioned, dahlias flower profusely until late autumn, giving a much-needed and scarce source of food for pollinators and giving them a boost before hibernating throughout winter.
Once the first frosts begin and the flowers fade, dahlia tubers need to be lifted and protected. Simply dig up the plant and cut back any surrounding foliage. Then wrap them in newspaper and put them somewhere cool and frost-free, like a garden shed, until the following spring.
We have some lovely varieties at Folies, including Kiev, Manhattan Island, Thomas A Edison, Bilbao and Avignon, so why not pay us a visit.
You can also enjoy sitting in our garden with a lovely cup of locally-roasted coffee from The Coffee Officina, based in Matching Tye, and a slice of delicious cake made by Ugley-based Sarah's Wedding Cakes. See you soon.