• Sunday, August 09th, 2009

Following my article about how to grow dahlias I am delighted to have received some precious advice from a member of the West Cornwall Dahlia Club.

Paul is a keen dahlia grower who has spent years perfecting the art of growing dahlias for competition purposes and I have taken the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Trelyn Kiwi dahlia

Trelyn Kiwi dahlia

So what is your favourite dahlia?
“Of the 102 dahlias that I grow my main dahlia has to be Trelyn Kiwi, which is a small cactus which you can see in the picture below. This dahlia is a multi winner up and down the country, even to the other ends of the world such as New Zealand.

Its form is immaculate if not the easiest to grow. I usually grow 24 plants but this year I am growing 32 plants of it!

Do you have some advice on how to achieve the best results with your dahlias?
I follow these steps in order to be ready for the annual dahlia show which takes place in Truro next weekend on 16th August:

Marston Velvet dahlia

Marston Velvet dahlia

– Planting: I usually plant my dahlias during the last week of May, watering in with Maxicrop Seaweed based growth stimulant and Epsom Salts. Other fertilizers are also available but these are my preferred choice.
– Stopping: in order to grow perfect show dahlia flowers, in particular for my Trelyn Kiwi variety, I like to pinch out the central leading bud in June. When that leading bud is removed the lower buds grow on producing the resultant stems which should be ready for the show in August.
– Debranching: secure 7 stems and the resultant blooms will reach 6.25 to 6.50 inches across.
– Disbudding: I remove all other bud growth down to ground level
– Cutting for the show: I cut the flower 24 hours before the show, or 36 hours placing blooms in a dark shed; Trelyn can have ‘green centres’ so a day before cutting add a high nitrogen feed such as Chempak No.2 to each plant. This should help to close centres along with the ‘dark shed’ treatment.

How do you deal with the dreaded earwigs?

Don Hill Dahlia

Don Hill Dahlia

You need to maintain clean plots and surrounding areas so that earwigs have less places to hide and breed. Otherwise, twice a year mix a 10 times stronger dose than recommended of an insecticide such as Bug Clear by Scotts for example, mix in a jug, pour into a washing up liquid container and pour this down each cane as they can hide there. Also I spray dahlias every week with insecticide (Roseclear is my choice as combines insecticide and fungicide).”

If you want to see some of the most beautiful dahlias in the country including Paul’s, then a visit to the West Cornwall Dahlia Annual show is a must:
The West Cornwall Dahlia Club, the Main Show is on Sunday 16th August at Chacewater Garden Centre, Chacewater, Truro, Cornwall. Alternatively you can check out Paul’s website which is dedicated to dahlias.

Category: Flowers  | Tags:
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses

  1. 1

    Ah! It would be wonderful indeed to visit The West Cornwall Dahlia Club, but it would be a bit of a trip to fly from Seattle, Washington State, USA to beautiful Cornwall…. something to dream about I suppose. This is the first year that I have grown dahlias myself and I have found the experience interesting. The Marston Velvet dahlia is gorgeous and will be added to my “Must Have” list next year.

  2. 2
    Paul Fisher 

    Hello Kate
    Thank you for responding to the dahlia write up. I am a self confessed dahlia growing nut. I have been growing/showing for 15 years and have but many many hours of research coupled with trial and error into growing my chosen favourite flower. Regards Marston Velvet, on the plus side I consider it to have the best bloom form of any miniature decorative (unsure what class it would be in USA) I have grown and seen. If you wish for garden display then its a must. However it has one flaw pertaining to exhibition and it is this, it does not like to be cut form the plant and I have found will wilt within say 30 minutes of this. If you like the colour and wish for a better cut flower then I can recommend Blyton Lady In Red, or Karenglen (bright red) or a new one I am trying this year and a neat little thing it is being Barbarry Pip. To end please look out for my new website which I am in process of constructing called – where I am targeting mainly the novice exhibitor/seasoned exhibitor but could do with guidance/anyone who just loves the dahlia for the versatile flower that it is. I am adving my growing methods/products used/dispelling some of the myths surrounding exhibiting/have a Forum page/and a Blog Page/ a Guest book page, plus many photos of my own with honest advice (similar to that given here for ‘Velvet’, and more. I have never created a website before but I used to write a dahlia column for a local free paper between 2004-2006 but sadly it packed up. I am Secretary of the WCDC and have created my own newsletters/phot galleries for sale day, but I am looking for a wider audience. If one person says to me ‘you have helped me to grow better dahlias’ or ‘you started me growing/exhibiting’ then I will be a happy man (sorry I mean guy) and will feel the effort of my website (it is a lot of enjoyable work or learning a new skill as Sandy rightly says) has been worth it. Thank you, for your time, Paul Fisher.

  3. 3
    Cate Hayward 

    Hi Paul,
    I have recently moved into a North Devon village, just south of Exmoor. Growing Dahlias for competition is a serious business here. I have always been a keen gardener and can grow most things, but I need to know more about growing Dahlias for competition. Could you help me please? Locally there is a nice old chap, who knows all about competition Dahlias, he is desperate for someone to compete with, so please teach me!
    Regards Cate

  4. 4
    Paul Fisher 

    Hello Sandy
    I rarely purchase the Garden News and this week I did so purely because there was a comprehensive write up of The National Dahlia Society (NDS) show events. All very interesting as always. Sadly the article within that stood out for me was one in regards to a grower from Torquay, Devon my neighbouring County. The grower had spent 3 years building a collection of dahlias he considered worthy enough to exhibit at The NDS. However 3 weeks before trhe show a vandal (for want of a stronger term) sprayed his plants with weedkiller rendering not only the dahlias useless for this year but also any subsequent tubrs. Vandalism of any nature is not acceptable in our hobby and my thoughts go out to him and I wish him well for next year and beyond. Thank you everyone, Paul Fisher 26.09.09

Leave a Reply