Dermot O’Neill is with us today to take calls on your gardening queries - you can us on 1850 715 900, text 51551 or e-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And he also has some timely advice for those of you who like the beautiful and colourful Dahlia plant…
Dahlias are one of the most popular garden plants and have been grown by generations for their wonderful colours and easiness of growth. They are such a familiar feature in our gardens through summer that many people take them for granted.
So today on Mooney, Dermot O’Neill joins us to give a bit of background to these wonderful and colourful plants...
Where do they originate?
They are native to Central America, Mexico and Colombia, and they have been around for a long time as we know the Aztecs cultivated dahlias. The Aztec people lived in central Mexico and were dominant from the 14th to 16th centuries. They have since died out. They gathered and cultivated the dahlia for food, ceremony, as well as decorative purposes, and the long woody stem of one tree type was used for small pipes.
Dahlia - Optical Illusion
When did they arrive in Europe?
They arrived to Spain and were grown in the Botanical gardens in Madrid… and there Abbé Cavanille named the Dahlia in honour of Andreas Dahl, a Swedish naturalist and a student of Carl Linnaeus. the Swedish botanist and taxonomist.
Dahlia - Bishop
What kind of a plant it is?
Today, there are hundreds of different types of Dahlia cultivars grown. There is a specialist society in the UK devoted to the growing of the Dahlia. Even a trip to your local gardening centre or hardware shop will reveal a wide range of beautiful colours and different types.
Dahlia - Downham Royal
You can get them in all different shades of colours
They are available in reds, yellows, oranges, and hybrids are commonly grown as garden plants. There are at least 36 species of dahlia – which are very difficult to get. They do not produce scented flowers but attract pollinating insects through their bright colours - they display most hues, with the exception of blue (the same as roses). Dahlias are divided into very different categories which include decorative, pom-pon, cactus, and anemone - just to mention a few of the different styles which are available…
Dahlia - Requiem
Are they easy to grow?
It's incredibly easy - with a few simple rules! A technique is to pot them up in a 6 or 8 inch flower pot and place them in a poly tunnel or greenhouse away from frost until tubes develop, and then when you are sure that all signs of frost and severe cold have gone they can be planted out carefully and you can expect flowers from early summer until later autumn. They make wonderful cut flowers, and in France they are often used in rose and vegetable gardens as an extra cut flower for the house.
Are they vulnerable to slugs and snails?
Overnight, slugs and snails can devour young shoots. A little precaution will pay - there are many methods for controlling slugs and snails, and Dermot prefers organic methods. Probably the most effective methods are the beer trap, or organic slug pellets available (make sure it says organic on the box). Another organic method is to use nematods - they are microscopic worms which are added to water and then distributed around your plants. These will hunt out and kill slugs and snails effectively without doing any harm to you or any other plant - there is no chemical on them.
Dahlia - Pompon
Do dahlias need a lot of care?
They are greedy plants and appreciate being regularly feed - even a liquid tomato feed will boost the quality and number of flowers. They offer one of the best value in plants because they flower from summer right through to autumn.
Do they attract earwigs?
Earwigs love dahlias, but the main damage they can create is eating the petals on the flowers. Outside of that, they are not a major problem to the plant. If worried, it is a good idea to take cut flowers and wash them under the tap or hose, and give them a gentle shake, to make sure that any that may have got inside are released and let go
Earwigs get a lot of bad press!
Yes, they are incredibly good mothers - from the tiniest stage of the eggs until they are small adults they take care of their young!