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The dating dahling

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We use 30cm (or larger pots), and put a trowelful of well-rotted manure, or something nutritious, at the base of the container first.You can also plant them straight into the garden in late March or April, but the emerging shoots are likely to become breakfast for slugs and snails.

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Start them off in large pots of compost, so that the tubers are at least 15cm below the surface.These show dahlias are best grown in glasshouses or polytunnels, so that the weather doesn’t spoil their hyperbolic blooms.I’ve never grown these, but my friend, Jane Ebrill, took the trophy for best-flowers-in-show with her dinner-plate sized ‘Kelvin Floodlight’ blooms a few weeks ago.When frost finally hits them in autumn, cut back the stems to near ground level, dig them up, let the tubers dry off, and store in dry compost or sand, in a cool place.In mild areas with free-draining soil, you can leave them in the ground.GARDENS: THERE ARE TWO kinds of dahlias in this world: the show-offs and the socialites.

The first is the one that is grown with as much care as a prize marrow, and which causes as much of a commotion on the display bench at the local flower event.

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Joining these bright characters in popularity now are the more subdued species dahlias, with simple, single flowers. coccinea, that may be any shade from scarlet to light peach.

They are not easy to find in garden centres, but some companies sell their seeds, including BT World Seeds ( and Thompson Morgan (

However, if your garden is thickly planted, earlier plants will crowd them out in spring, so lifting might be a better idea.