Dahlias are the late summer sirens of the garden. Brassy and self-confident, smoulderingly exotic or subtly demure, they enchant with their kaleidoscope of colours and range of intriguing forms. Let those who like the showing blooms focus on creating perfection, while you display them in borders in all their glory, growing types that are just a little bit out of the ordinary.
When growing them in borders plan ahead, leaving sufficient space among existing perennials and shrubs so they don’t swamp them and can be easily lifted at the end of the year. There are smaller varieties that are more suited to the edges of borders or pots. They also look good combined with late annuals such as cosmos and zinnias. Most are easy to please, being vigorous growers they need little fertiliser, just moisture and sun. Taller forms will need staking, particularly if the blossoms are large and easily waterlogged. When blooms are spent, trim them off to encourage more to come and prolong the dazzling display.
After ordering tubers by later winter, or obtaining rooted cuttings, start them off in pots in spring and plant them out after the last frost. In autumn, depending on where you live, remove top growth after it has been frosted, then lift the tubers and store for winter, ready to start the cycle again next year or try another variety or two.