Archive | dahlias

Blogging Backwards

After falling somewhat behind with the blog this year I have decided to catch up over these quieter winter months starting with the latest news and working backwards.

The reason for this retrospective is that it has been another incredibly productive and creative year in which I have experienced new flower varieties, projects and flowery people. All of this has been well documented with more breathtaking pictures by Clare West and I had pleasure of two other photographers capturing the farm with Eric McVey visiting for the Creative Process Workshop in August and Mark Lord in September.


So starting with Autumn which is usually my ‘burnt out’ season when I am not as productive and inspired as I would like to be. Always a shame as it is probably the best time to create the really wild and ‘grown in’ arrangements that I love. So, this year I decided to prolong the marathon of growing and arranging all the way through October and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt like I had a whole new palette of plants to play with.


Our bountiful orchard and the native hedgerows surrounding the plot provided plenty of fruiting branches of sloe, hawthorn, damson, crap apple and pear to give scale to the larger arrangements. Dahlias in colour-coordinated patches made any bride’s preference possible although everyone seemed to be drawn to the coppers, creams and peach varieties.


Texture and variety is easily achieved by the end of season with a good selection of berries in every colour provided by a large purchase chez Kolster a couple of years ago and lots of half hardy annuals looking pristine undercover in our tunnels.


There will be more on what we were growing, picking and arranging in my next post which will include a beautiful early morning shoot of the G&G team on a busy Friday in September, photographed by Mark Lord.


The end of the season was rounded off by a trip to Japan to enjoy the ‘fall’ colour in the strolling, tea and dry gardens of Kyoto, Kanazawa and Okayama and whilst hiking a bit along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route.


I would love to add Japanese maple to my long wish list of things to grow but my alkaline soil and exposed site would not be to their liking.


We saw a wholly different world of Chrysanthemum varieties carefully pruned and trained, in some cases even bonsaied. I have had a couple of years off from growing them but I will definitely be back on board in 2016.



Of course a lot of our time was spent exploring gardens and seeking out flowers but we did still find plenty of time to enjoy discovering the food, textiles, pottery, hot springs and overall otherness of Japan.


The warm weather and refreshingly polite and friendly people was an added bonus. I am now smitten and am already thinking about returning next year to learn more about this fascinating country and it’s appreciation of natural beauty.


I have had Japan on my wish list for a long time after researching Japanese garden design whilst working on a hospital courtyard garden. The principles of design I learned then are reflected in their approach to floristry. The Japanese aesthetic of asymmetry and ’empty’ space are essential to composition, creating a ‘wildness of nature’. The sense of harmony between the plant materials, container and setting and the emphasis on greens are all principles I would like to incorporate into my work.

So I signed up to a class at the Ohara School of Ikebana in Tokyo. It was an amazing coincidence to find myself sitting next to Chickae of Okishima and Simmonds! Her Japanese heritage coupled with a few classes already under her belt got me thinking about an Ikebana themed collaboration next year….



The lesson was based on Basic Hana-isho, which is a beginners form of Ikebana. We worked with an impressively large pinholder, called a kenzan in a shallow container and just five stems of shooting hydrangea and bouvardia which we used to create two compositions – the rising and inclining form. Stems are always positioned in a line as I think it is intended to be viewed from one angle.

So Japan has left me with a yearning to return, a lot of large Kenzan, a long plant list and a strong desire to make my own vases….looks like I am going to be busy.




On 27/11/2015 07:39, Rachel Siegfried wrote:

Blogging Backwards

Dahlia Grow Along Part 3

Hello and welcome…

I have a feeling this might have been due a couple of weeks ago but the season has moved from pottering and contemplating to racing around the garden at full throttle. With a fully booked season ahead I have a lot of sowing and planting to do. Fortunately my team is back with some new additions too so we are certainly getting things done at present. After a few months off, my floristry skills have been cranked into motion again with eight weddings so far and plenty more in the coming months. I have done more talking in the past few weeks than I did all winter with our courses and gardening club talks.

Anyway, back to the DAHLIAS…, I took the first basal cuttings off my tubers this week. So here is how to turn that one favourite, special dahlia into an entire row of them.


I took my tubers out of storage back in February and potted them up so the crown was sitting above the compost level.

They are then placed in a warm, bright position to bring them into growth early. I want cuttings as soon as possible and so I use a heat mat or a heated sand bed. A greenhouse is ideal where the bright light conditions will produce stocky little shoots. This usually takes a good three weeks.

Now arm yourself with a sharp, clean knife, a plastic bag and some rooting hormone.

Cut the shoot right at the base, as close to the tuber as possible (preferably with a sliver of the tuber), being careful not to damage surrounding shoots.

Green & Gorgeous - March - 078

Check that your cutting has a solid centre, if hollow like a straw discard it as it will never root properly, only rot.

Green & Gorgeous - March - 079


Remove any lower leaves and dip the end in the rooting powder. If there is still a lot of leaf cut the remaining ones in half.

Green & Gorgeous - March - 082

I like to take a lot of cuttings so mine go into plug trays but around the edge of a pot works just as well.

Green & Gorgeous - March - 090 (1)

Label and date your cuttings for reference later.

The cuttings must be kept out of direct light in a warm, moist environment until they have rooted which will take about 2-3 weeks. A clear plastic bag over your pot of cuttings will keep them from transpiring and expiring. Be patient and no fiddling…!

The next Dahlia Grow Along post will be about growing them on and planting them out. I am going to get a head start with some of the giant varieties in the polytunnel.



Dahlia Grow Along Part 2

If you haven’t ordered your dahlias yet, now is a good time to get your addiction…. I mean ‘collection‘ started.


By bearing in mind the criteria from last weeks post for a good cutting dahlia, hopefully you will be able to navigate your way through the hundreds of varieties on offer.

My tried and trusted suppliers include Rose Cottage Plants ( who have a diverse range with some novel varieties, they are organized by colour making it easier to choose your favourites. They also give details on plant height and flower size – try to go for varieties no shorter than one metre. Their customer service is also excellent with a friendly phone call the day before they send the tubers out.

Rose Cottage send their tubers out early (February/March) so if you want to propagate from them there is plenty of time.

Here are some tried and tested favourites which are available this year from Rose Cottage:

Maldiva – a delicate, apricot-pink small water lily shaped dahlia. It flowers prolifically, on large plants and seems to be able to melt even the hardest dahlia-hater’s heart.


Acalpulco – if you like all things bright then this one is irresistible, perfect for an Indian summer flower crown.


Clare West Photography



Eveline – our most popular wedding dahlia, a medium decorative with a touch of lilac at the centre and at the edge of the petals, described as “achingly pretty”.


If you are growing your dahlias to cut for profit then a good wholesale price will be a priority. I use Eurobulb in the Netherlands. The smallest amount of each variety is ten which is no drama when you are growing for florists or your own wedding work. This is where I source:

Cafe au Lait – very fashionable at the moment, as a giant decorative type they need a longer growing period, I get them in February so they can be potted up and planted out in the polytunnel, this gives me hundreds of blooms from June onwards.


They also stock the Karma range ‘reputed’ for having a good vase life.

Karma Fuchsiana – a unique colour that always grabs attention.


Clare West Photography


Karma Fiesta – a ‘punch you in the eye’ orange (see pic of urn at the beginning).

Other suppliers to have a look at are Withypitts Dahlias Richard Ramsey grows dahlias to cut for Covent Garden market so has a good selection of tried and tested varieties.

Withypitts grows one of my all time favourites – Carolina Wagemanns, a pale apricot waterlily. Both the shape and colour of this dahlia is exquisite and it is the one I cut for my home.



I also like Halls of Heddon these are the most established dahlia growers in the country and also specialise in chrysanthemums. They can also supply pot grown plants if you are a bit behind with your ordering or do not have a greenhouse to grow them on in.

I think their small ball and decorative collections are particularly good including:

Tiptoe – I have always had a soft spot for a bicolour and this one has been used in many a bridal bouquet, for some reason it makes me think of something cake based with jam…but then my mind often strays into the realm of baked goods.


Amy Cave – described as ‘purple maroon’ I would say it is more of a crimson red with a purple tinge. The perfect ball.



On that note I think I have divulged enough for one week, let’s do propagation next week.

If you want to learn more about growing dahlias and visit the farm when they are in full flowering flow have a look at my Dahlia Masterclass in September.