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Posts Tagged ‘Siew Lee Vorley’

Crocuses, 26 March 2013,  at Great Dixter

Every time I go to the heavenly gardens at Great Dixter, I learn something new. And I gain even more appreciation about what this fantastic garden and the ethos of its gardeners have to offer.

Siew Lee Vorley explaining palnting in the Long Border at Great Dixter March 2013

This visit I spent a day volunteering and a day in the company of fellow bloggers being shown around the gardens by the very welcoming Great Dixter team. Above is deputy head gardener Siew Lee Vorley, explaining how mulch is added to the long border using a tickling fork. The soil and mulch are mixed together with the long-handled fork, so that self-seeded seeds don’t get buried under the mulch and are encouraged to germinate. Just one of the practices that Great Dixter employ that make this garden so appealing.

Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter March 2013

Head gardener Fergus Garrett’s gave a great talk about successional planting in the gardens,

Purple Hellebore planted with Cardimine quinquefolia

where layer upon layer of planting follows on in each area, providing a richness of changing plant combinations throughout the seasons.  (Above is a purple Hellebore planted with the delicate Cardimine quinquefolia and with Cynara cardunculus emerging behind.) Fergus’ desire and enthusiasm for experimentation is infectious and many ideas can be taken away or scaled down to use in smaller gardens too.

Snowdrops Feb 2011

Designing borders in petite London gardens that will provide year round interest can be challenging, but underplanting deciduous shrubs and trees with spring bulbs is a useful idea to take away as is choosing the right cultivar of perennials for longer flowering. If you’re planting blue Geraniums, choose ‘Russell Pritchard’ or ‘Mavis Simpson’ which will flower for 3 months rather than the gorgeous ‘Johnson’s Blue’ which will sadly only put on a show for 3 weeks.

Clematis at Great Dixter

Another idea I’ll be putting into action this year is growing late flowering, not-too vigorous clematises into shrubs to provide late summer interest. I have a client where there’s lots of spring and early summer interest in the garden, but come late summer, the garden is missing any joyous splash of colour. With not much room in the border to pop in an all singing all dancing Dahlia or two (or any other plants for that matter), viticella type Clematises growing into shrubs that have already flowered should add an extra layer of interest to the border, without smothering their host plants.

Clematis climbing up a tree

I can’t wait to see how these Clematises fare later this year, hopefully delighting both myself and the client! Michael in the Great Dixter nursery, also gave invaluable advice, letting me know that these less blousy Clematis do not need to be planted as deep as their more showy summer flowering relatives (although it won’t hurt them either) and are less susceptible to Clematis wilt too. It’s a good time to get planting Clematises and the nursery have a good range of cultivars (and offer mail order too) if you have a bare spot that needs some late summer colour. These Clematises also have an undemanding pruning regime, and can be cut back down to a foot or so (or left a bit taller if to grow into taller shrubs or trees) every spring.

Yew hedging defining the gardens, March 2013,  at Great Dixter

Back in the gardens, and Fergus explained that at this time of year, Great Dixter is looking at its tidiest with most winter stems cut down and beds mulched (and tickled), ready for the year ahead.

Peacock yew hedging , March 2013,  at Great Dixter

And it’s now that you can really see how the Yew hedges define and structure the gardens.

Yew hedging creating drama and defining differenet areas at Great Dixter

Fergus explained that they give a visual barrier to each garden, so that your eyes can focus on each distinct area and the planting is not diluted. And as the gardens wrap themselves around the house, so the hedging creates more intimate spaces where the planting experimentation continues.

I’m really looking forward to going back to Great Dixter at the end of April, when hopefully the next layer of planting will be coming through (although it is still snowing today here in London!).

Great Dixter Long Border 26th March 2013

But here’s a quick taste of how the long border in spring,

Long Border at Great Dixter Oct 2011

is transformed into glorious colours and textures in summer (via Tulips and many other plant combinations in between),

Enthusiastic visitor taking pics of the long border at Great Dixter August 2011

(and here just to give you the scale and depth of the planting),

Exotic Garden all wrapped up at Great Dixter

and how these sculptural pyramids in March,

The Exotic Garden at Great Dixter, August 2011

will develop into this exotic paradise come late summer. If you fancy learning more at the gardens, there are many courses running throughout the year including successional planting, meadow planting, monthly visits around the gardens and propagation days. The gardeners at Great Dixter are so generous about sharing their knowledge, you certainly won’t be disappointed!

If you want to see more high summer drama from Great Dixter, click here and here

And here’s some wonderful posts written by other enthusiastic bloggers from the day too:

An Inspiring Talk by Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter Gardens from Real Men Sow

Through the Garden Gate Great Dixter Part 1

Through the Garden Gate Great Dixter Part 2

Great Dixter – A Pause for Thought from Veg Plotting

Great Dixter:It was just a perfect day from Urban Veg Patch

Great Dixter from Alternative Eden

A great day at Great Dixter house and gardens from Dig the Outside

A great (Dixter) reason for repeat garden visits from Weeding the Web

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Since last August, when I was wowed by Dahlias at Great Dixter, dream combinations of Dahlias have been lurking at the back of my mind, waiting for the right moment to be ordered for this coming summer. Above is the impressive Dahlia ‘Emery Paul’, with a monster bloom measuring 26cm (10 inches) across and the plant standing at over a metre (43 inches) tall. Val Bourne’s article in the Daily Telegraph recommended Rose Cottage Plants for offering a good range of these luscious plants and as of January 1st, tubers (over 170 cultivars) are available to buy online. It may seem like a tad on the early side to order, but as the year progresses and spring becomes a manic time in the garden, I know I will forget to order the plants that I so lusted after the previous summer and will feel a pang of regret as I see spectacular shows of these beauties elsewhere later in the year.

I relish this quiet time in the year to try to get to grips with my own garden and also the opportunity to spend plenty of time perusing online shops and catalogues in order to choose exciting varieties of plants, old and new, to grow. Rose Cottage Plants’ website did not disappoint. It’s really easy to navigate to select Dahlias, initially by colour (or by name), and also gives just the right amount of detail to help you choose the right plant, including not only height of plant, but also the size of bloom. All jolly useful. Prices are very reasonable too, costing between £5.50 and £7.00 for 3 tubers of each chosen Dahlia plus £4.95 postage. Tubers will be sent out from mid-Feb.

Nerines floweing alongside Dahlias, as seen on the fab 'Through the garden gate' blog

Rose Cottage Plants also lists some choice bulbs, so I’ve used this opportunity to order some Nerines (above) to plant in spring- an amazing bulb which produces its dazzling pink (and available in white) flowers throughout autumn.Thanks to Veronica at ‘Through the garden gate’ for fab pic and great reminder to order these for later in the year.

One Dahlia, Hillcrest Royal (above), that I’d loved at Great Dixter, but couldn’t find at Rose Cottage Plants is happily available from The Dahlia National Collection (DNC). With an overwhelming 1600 named varieties available, choosing your blooms can take a little more time if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Cultivars on the DNC’s website can be searched for by name, classification (one of 11, such as pompom(64), cactus(126), collerette(61) etc.), A-Z with thumbnail pics, and colour. However there are 187 colours to choose from, so put some time aside to dive into the delicious world of Dahlias, as what’s on offer is truly amazing, if rather mind boggling too! Speaking to Mark Twining at the DNC, heights are not listed as these can vary depending on soil and aspect, but unless marked as Dwarf, such as the Gallery(12-24in, 30-60cm) or Happy Singles varieties (18-30 in, 45-75cm), most Dahlias grow to between 4-6 feet (120-180cm) high.

Rather than tubers, The Dahlia National Collection send out your chosen varieties as cuttings in late spring as this enables them to satisfy the multitude of orders placed up until March. Cuttings should flower the same year in late summer and autumn and form tubers for subsequent years. Each cutting costs £1.99, plus £7.45 for postage.

If you have artificial heat and light, now until early March is the perfect time if you want to take basal stem cuttings from your stored Dahlia tubers for flowering this year. Cuttings take between 5 and 3 weeks to root through and then they can be potted on. Otherwise March is a great time to start growing your tubers, and indeed basal stem cutting can be taken throughout the growing season. Have a look at Great Dixter’s Siew Lee’s guest blog about how to pot up last year’s Dahlia tubers. If cuttings are taken from April onwards, they may not flower that year, but will grow and form tubers which will perform well the following year.

p.s. Are Dahlia tubers worth eating?

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Dahlia “Magenta Star” growing at Great Dixter

Delighted to say that Siew Lee Vorley (below), Assistant Head Gardener at Great Dixter has agreed to write a guest blog about potting up Dahlias.

It’s great to have expert advice, so read on ….

Dahlias look frankly obscene when they have no clothes and none more so now, when they will have spent the past 4 months in the dark and cold.  It is time take them out of storage and breathe life into the poor shrivelled specimens.  Assuming your excuse of a dahlia clump still has some integrity left (which is to say it is neither a rotten pile of mush or a hollow skeleton, but is still hard, even if some of the tubers are hanging on by the skin of their teeth to the base) all that needs to be done is cut off all the rotten bits, pot them up into good compost, water and place them in a warm place with good light and let the miracle of growth do its thing.

As a general rule, the size of the pot should comfortably accommodate the clump, and no more.  Pot on when the plants outgrow their pots. This is also a good time to split the tubers to increase your stock, assuming you have good-sized clumps to begin with. It is crucial to remember, when splitting dahlias that every piece has growing point and tubers (or a tuber) attached. These buds are located between the neck and the tubers, at the base of the clump (see picture above).  A clean, vertical cut can be made right in the middle of the base or even through an old existing stem if necessary. Individual clumps can then be potted up.

Another way to increase your stock is to take basal cuttings.  You will find a few weeks on new shoots beginning to appear.  Take 2.5 inch cuttings, about the thickness of a barbeque skewer. Cuttings should root in about 2 weeks.  These can then be grown on, but depending on variety may not make flowering plants. To do that, process really needs to be started in February. Also, to ensure the parent clump retains enough energy for a decent display later on, stop taking cuttings after late April.

Dahlias have a good appetite for warmth, light, food and water.  Your beauties should be ready for the open world by June onwards. Prepare the ground well by digging in plenty of organic matter, supplemented with fertilisers such as Growmore if need be.  Slugs like juvenile dahlia foliage, so protect them when they are young.  Dahlias, especially the tall elegant ones will need staking, but that, is a story for another day.

p.s. Naomi asks: Dahlia tubers-Edible or not?

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