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Just Dahlias




email: jack@jrg-dahlias.co.uk


 On my birthday on November 10th 2004, I decided there wasnít enough going on in the magazines of the world to promote our favourite flower the dahlia. The best you got was the odd article, okay we know the Garden News has dahlia slot. For a while these kept me interested, especially when Dave Spencer wrote for them and it was a weekly feature. Sadly this man was replaced, and I found I was going to have to manage with a bi-weekly article. I was furious the price was well over a pound by now, and all I was getting at the most, was a half  page spread, not good enough I thought, and promptly wrote to the editor. It did no good, I decided to cancel my weekly order, not that it would make any difference to the Garden News. However after a few weeks I was curious and missing my bi-weekly shot of dahlia, I was lucky when I decided to once more pick up the Garden News because that week Jack Gott was featured.  I stopped leaving the magazine on the shelf, and got used to reading what Jack, or Gotty as I like to think of him,  had to say, well Iím  known as Stocky to most of my immediate friends, so why not Gotty, but donít tell him. Then just before Christmas 2004 the last straw, Iíd no sooner got used to Gottyís bi-weekly articles, when Iím told by the man himself  he was out of a job, as the Garden News were changing their format. You see Iíd made a friend in Jack, found a bloke who was just as interested in keeping this fantastic hybrid in the news. That is when Jack and I decided that we had to do something to increase the popularity of this wonderful emigrate that continues to enthral us, the idea of producing a ever growing magazine, with features to keep even the most professional amongst us happy was born. Obviously we canít do all this on our own; it is a major production, reminiscent of the film score to The Sound of Music.  What we want is the worlds major dahlia growers to help by submitting articles of interest, the rest of us can help by emailing anything that seems of interest to the enthusiastic dahlia grower, such as news, snippets and tips. Jack and I will do the work, at seventy three years young I hope to have at least twenty years left, Iíve always been optimistic, and as Jack is about seventeen years younger we canít lose. I read an article in a NDS publication a year or so ago, a gentleman was  pleading to our members `DONíT LET THE DAHLIA DIEí thatís what Jack and I say, please help us get this magazine off the ground. If I can do all this typing with one finger, you as dahlia lovers can contribute, it is our flower and it is grown all over the  world, we need our own magazine, an email costs next to nothing, but donít all hit the `Send Buttoní at the same time.


At the moment Dave Bates is writing the dahlia articles for Garden News, and they couldnít have chosen a better guy, they  donít call him the Encyclopaedia Man for nothing, but come on, a small article every other week to get  people interested in the most interesting flower in existence, this flower might not have the exotic charisma of the orchid, but itís history alone is as interesting as nature itís self.  Why for instance couldnít they have kept both men, they both have tales to tell, and more to the point like me they love the dahlia. To date the price of the Garden News is £1 -40 which for the dahlia enthusiast is expensive, because all they get for their money is a half page slot every other week. To itís credit the Garden News is the finest garden paper in the world, and I still  reached for itís colourful cover every time I see it, but Iíll let you in to a secret, I pick it up, usually in Sainsburyís or in my local news agents, I flick the pages over until I find out if thereís a dahlia article, if there is Iíll read it. Well it passes the time while the wife reads her stars in the Womenís Weekly. See you at the trials.
By K Stock



Now I think weíve established the reason for this article, it is how to obtaining perfect pot tubers, for that is the only way to travel if youíre a dahlia on a mission. Jack Gott assured me there was nothing to this pot tuber making, but I can assure you heís being modest, but then he is also a man of the soil. Let me tell you what happened when I took some late cuttings of Charlie Dimmock last year, you see I was afraid I wouldnít have enough stock the following year, as Iíd given Stan Hall as many cuttings as I could muster. Well the man was helping me make money for the charity Break Through Breast Cancer. Although the Charlie Dimmock pot tubers were perfect replicas of their large brothers, or is it sisters, in the following year only one of those pot tubers made any growth, all made roots, but they didnít produce any shoots, in other words they were blind, lesson learnt.  So to take cuttings for pot tubers later than the end of April, I think is a waste of time, now weíll see the emails flood in, I wish I never said it really. Iíll tell you about another incident that happened last year at around the same time, I thought instead of buying in half a dozen cuttings of each new variety I wanted, Iíd change tack, and propagate from bought in pot tubers. Okay perhaps I didnít do to bad, I got all the cuttings I wanted off all but two varieties of the new stock, but these two just wouldnít send out new growth. They had all been treated the same, on arrival I potted them up in half pots with the crown on the surface, and Iíd kept them dry until I wanted to start them up. In desperation after reading a article by Roger Turrell I think, about stock that wouldnít start, I re-potted them both in to a larger pot, making sure the crown this time was covered, theyíd made plenty of root, but still know joy. I didnít tell the suppliers, I didnít want to embarrass them, but if any supplier who produces their own pot tubers, takes the trouble to look at this article, perhaps there is a link with late struck cuttings, and blind pot tubers. If any one has anything else to add at this juncture email me with your thoughts, Iíll print it.

Okay after all that, hereís how I propose to grow the pot tubers I need for 2006. My very first cuttings will all be pot tubers, thatís until Iíve obtained enough of each required variety. Theyíll be rooted as usually in multi celled seed box liners, that are filled with a 75/25 mix of multi- purpose compost and sharp sand, and placed above my heating cables. Most will root in about two to three weeks with the thermostat set at 20C. After which they will be placed in a cooler part of the greenhouse, and although there doesnít appear to be anything going on, they will be filling the small area they were rooted in with roots. I suppose using our first cuttings for pot tubers, is the one area that weíre luckier than our Northern neighbours, we donít have to insert the cuttings that we want to grow our flowers with, until late April early May, I should imagine this would be far to late a date for the North of England and Scotland growers.

After the fourth or five week from taking the cuttings, they are potted in to a three and a half inch square pots; fifteen will fit in an average size seed tray, let them have as much light as possible, although after potting for a few days they can be shaded with a piece of fleece.  After a couple of weeks they can be placed in the cold frame, ventilating on favourable days, closing down at night. This is where I used to say cover the cold frame with suitable material if frost should be eminent, I havenít covered a cold frame for ten years, although there was one year I thought Iíd come unstuck. Take for instances today, I thought Iíd get on with a bit of digging, it was cold, dry, but sunny, a perfect day for digging, as I dug my dahlia beds, on every spade full of soil there were two or three worms, okay you say heís lucky to have such fertile soil, thatís not the point, it is not even mid February yet, and there were worms in the top few inches of garden soil, things are changing. All I hope the South doesnít get any hotter or weíll have to use shade cloth like our Canadian, American, and Australian friends.

Now comes the all important bit, there are several ways to produce pot tubers from this stage, but if you want to send them to anywhere but Europe or the British Isles you must keep them in soil-less compost, and it mustnít be contaminated by garden soil. There probably arenít any nasties in my garden but Iím taking no chances and growing them in complete isolation. Iíll use matting and trays that give them room to get enough light for them to develop in to decent plants. They wonít grow like their counterparts in the garden, because as soon as the first flower identifies they are the same as labelled, they will be forever pinched back, forming a short flowerless plant, thatís soul perhaps is to create a good, but miniature tuber, full of eyes for propagating from. I shall pot up some in the next pot size up, for comparison, but Jack informs me that the three and a half square pot is adequate, and if they become to congested the tuber will split the plastic pot. The three main things to watch out for are moisture, light, and nourishment. The first two become apparent, and the last is a matter of choice, Iíll tell you what Jack does, when he makes up his mix for potting his cuttings destined for pot tubers, he adds a quantity of slow release fertilizer, sorted. All I do is use a in-line diluter, this way I can alternate my feed, according to the weather, should it be dull and wet, I can give extra potash, if sunny and dry, extra nitrogen. I was fortunate to stumble on this method while surfing the Internet, do yourself a favour and go to the Harry Lawsonís link on my home page, and order his book, itís all in there, and itís fascinating, and as that auctioneer says `Itís as Cheap as Chipsí and thereís a life time of knowledge in this pocket size breederís bible.

Okay where were we, oh yes, as soon as the season ends, and your pot tuber plants have stopped growing, with hold feed and water, in other words keep them damp, but stop feeding. As soon as the first sign of frost, trim back the growth by half, and withhold watering completely. They will be alright where they are, but should frost occur after the first cut back, apply the fleece. By the end of November according to your location, take your charges inside, after cutting back further, to within two inches of soil level. They can be stacked and dried without fear of shrivelling, and later as you want to send them on their journey, they can be cleaned, and packed with adequate protection from the elements, for their adventure to the Big Apple, or the Land of the Rising Sun.
By K Stock












































































































































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