I was out for my morning run in my local park in South East London earlier in the week and was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the park maintenance crew digging up a large circular bed filled with brightly coloured Dahlias, in preparation for planting up with a new scheme for autumn/winter.
Hundreds of plants were being pulled out of the ground and thrown straight into the skip, destined for the dump. Most of the Dahlias weren’t even in full flower yet, and would happily be flowering until the first frosts (had they not been yanked unceremoniously from the warm earth).
I’ve never been a fan of these gaudy Victorian carpet bedding schemes, reminiscent of coastal towns up and down the length of the country. For a start, I find them brash and distasteful. But more to the point, it’s hugely wasteful swapping out plants 3 or 4 times a year, especially when the show is only half way through.
As a garden designer I’d much prefer to see perennial planting schemes that will last the whole year, and ones which looks a bit more ‘designed’ to boot!
Had I not been so knackered from my run (and that fact that I was now carrying a industrial-sized sack of Dahlias that I was going to transplant into my garden, as well as sending some off to the mother-in-law to score a few brownie points) I would have marched straight down to the council to give them an ear-bashing about wasting tax-payers money.
So the gaps I had in my garden are now filled with the salvaged Dahlias which I’ve got to admit, really brighten up the garden when most flowers are fading or have faded altogether.. I’m sure they will be appearing more in my planting plans in forthcoming garden designs from now on!
Dahlias are perfect planting partners for other late flowering perennials such as asters, heleniums, echinaceas and salvias. During the winter the tubers can be left in the ground in mild areas (with a cover of mulch) or lift and store in a cool dry place.
And if there so happens to be a potato famine over the winter you can always eat them, although I’ve personally never been tempted!