Plant Now: Late summer flowers


Dahlias, zinnias and rudbeckias flower throughout summer and autumn, right up to the first frosts. Plant seedlings or plants from your local garden centre for a non-stop floral display.

Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum – pictured on the left) are great for the summer and autumn garden too – and, like dahlias, zinnias and rudbeckias – make great cut flowers. All enjoy full sun and free-draining soil.

Where are my dahlias?

My dahlias are late this year, though it could be because I dug the whole lot up and replanted them – late. There are some blooming, but they are bedding dahlias. I’m more interested in the tall-stemmed cut flower types. I’m pining for a good dahlia bouquet to bring indoors.

I guess, while I’m waiting, I will have to appease myself with these two gorgeous but completely different bouquets, one flouncy and feminine (from Ruffled Blog), the other more rustic (from Inspired By This), with fruit (blackberries), seed heads and herbs.

Hurry up, dahlias. I want to make up some beautiful bouquets of my own.

Plant Now: Dahlias

Dahlias, with their vibrant  blooms and tall stems, are ideal for picking. And if you don’t like red ones, there’s a white or pink one, yellow or orange one, or salmon, cream or greenish one that will suit you. Their flowers come in all colours and different forms, including Cactus (with double blooms and narrow petals that are rolled or straight, incurved or recurved, giving them a spiky appearance – like the middle photo above), Decorative (double blooms showing no central disc), Pompom and Ball (an obvious pompom shape with no central disc, like the bottom photo), Anemone (with small petals in the centre with larger petals surrounding those), Waterlily, Peony, and a few others. There are literally thousands of hybrids to choose, and all are easy to grow.

Plant your dahlias in a sunny spot in free-draining soil. Dahlias don’t dig too deep, so plant them in a spot that’s sheltered from wind. Staking is generally advised, but if you grow a lot, like I do, stakes just look hideous. Best to plant them in a wind-free garden if you grow several. Dig in plenty of compost before planting and add a balanced fertiliser. Avoid using fresh manure or compost that hasn’t quite broken down as these can cause excessive soft growth which is susceptible to mildews and stem rot.

Read more about growing dahlias here

The beautiful top image comes from Tec Petaja

Dahlia deluge

Red dahlias
Bicoloured dahliaMixed vase of dahlias
My dahlia patch has gone berserk. After what seems like weeks of rain, the sun has finally put in an appearance, and so too have my dahlias. Previously the odd bloom was seen poking its head out amongst the sweet peas and achilleas, but now they’re running riot. Seen here are a mix of pompom and cactus dahlias. The red cactus dahlias are a mighty 22-25cm in diameter!

Dahlias and hair pieces

I have a real thing for flowers in the hair. They just look so darn gorgeous. Check out these stunning designs by florist Amy Merrick over at An Apple A Day. They’re part of the bridal flowers she did for a wedding in Brooklyn. Note the dahlias too. That’s the other thing that gets me excited. And these ones remind me that dahlia season is just around the corner. I can’t wait!

Pompom dahlias and pristine white roses

Orange dahlias New Baby
A pretty bouquet for the dinner table – small orange pompom dahlias (‘New Baby’) and creamy white ‘St Paul’s Cathedral’ roses. I do love being able to trot outdoors and pick a posy whenever I please.

More delicious dahlias

Dahlias white and burgundy

I have five more dahlias flowering now, all with super long stems ideal for picking. Here’s two of them, but don’t ask me their names. I got these two in a lucky dip from Dahlia Haven (although I’m sure I could find out their names if you’re desperate to know). If you haven’t been to Dahlia Haven before, or ordered up large from their website, you absolutely must! Their 2011 catalogue is online and it’s to-die-for.

First dahlia in bloom – and it’s a goody

Dahlia White KnightI picked my first dahlia yesterday, 11 weeks after I planted a heap of tubers of varying varieties. It’s quite the show-off, I think you’ll agree, with its pure white blooms forming a perfect pompom. The heads aren’t too big (8cm in diameter) but they’re quite exquisite, and they’re meant to be excellent cut flowers. This variety is called ‘White Knight’. Here it is with sweet peas, the rose ‘St Paul’s Cathedral’, and chincherinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides), which has white, starry flowers.

Dose of dahlias

Dahlia bouquetI can’t wait till my dahlias bloom, but that’s still a wee way off yet. In the meantime, I’ve been getting my kicks by eyeballing this exquisite bouquet by Nicolette Camille Floral Design for Once Wed. Delicious dahlias, roses, white scabiosa and starball scabiosa are interspersed with hydrangea florets, and all are pulled together with a simple but elegant white ribbon. Divine!

Dahlias, Clematis, Calla Lilies

The weather has warmed up dramatically, so it’s time to get cracking in the garden. I’ve been sowing hundreds of flower seeds, as well as a few plants and tubers.

Dahlia tubers can be planted now for summer and autumn flowering. Plant them so their necks are 5-6cm below the soil. If they’ve already sprouted, position them so the base of the shoot is just below soil level. For detailed information on planting dahlias, click here.

My two clematis are in full bloom. Clematis montana ‘Tetra Pink’ and ‘Elizabeth’. The latter has a gorgeous chocolate scent (truly!) and both can climb to a whopping 7-10m high if you let them.

Clematis come in all shapes and sizes, from dainty diminutive blooms to giant dinner-plate show-offs. They can be compact growing or high climbers. They also flower at various times of the year, so if you plant several different varieties you can have at least one plant in flower almost year-round.

Believe it or not, clematis are superb cut flowers. Pick when the flowers have just opened and remove all foliage. Check your local garden centre for plants, or try a specialist nursery like Mr Clematis.

Calla lilyCalla lilies
Calla lily (Zantedeschia) tubers can be planted for midsummer blooming, although bear in mind that tubers under 3cm won’t produce flowers until their second year. Buy tubers from garden centres or from specialist mailorder nurseries, like NZ Bulbs.