Episode 70 - Show Notes & Advice

Grow, cook, eat, arrange podcast 70
Grow, cook, eat, arrange podcast - 70

episode 70 | show notes & advice

Sarah and Arthur are talking about their favourite dahlias to grow in pots, today on the podcast. Perfect for smaller gardens, potted dahlias are ideal for instant flowers, colour and joy that will last right the way through to November. 

In this episode discover

  • Sarah and Arthur’s favourite compact dahlias, such as ‘Josie’, ‘Abigail’ and ‘Roxy’
  • The best companion plants to pair with dahlias in pots
  • Arthur shares his top care tips for dahlias in containers
  • Sarah’s recipe for a delicious organic salad using edible dahlia petals 

Episode 70 advice sheet

Arthur is a great expert and enthusiast for growing dahlias in pots. He loves them for the instant glamour and beauty they give. Also, by now in the year, it’s too late to pot up dahlia tubers, but the perfect time to buy gorgeous potted dahlias to fill your garden with.

Arthur’s favourite dahlias for pots

The bigger the pot the better. Some tall varieties, decorative dahlias like the ‘Café au Lait’ dinnerplates, need big pots such as the terracotta planters Sarah has in the Dutch Yard at Perch Hill.

Best for pots, Arthur recommends single dahlias – they are more floriferous, flower earlier and go on until the first autumn frosts, the more you cut the more flowers you get and they are highly attractive to bees and butterflies.

When cutting for the vase, Arthur’s top tip for single and anemone dahlias is to cut them early in the morning.

The dahlias especially bred for Sarah Raven are great in pots:

‘Lou Farman’ – named after Sarah’s business partner, a gorgeous magenta starfish, tall and airy like a cosmos.

‘Molly Raven’ – named after Sarah’s daughter, reminding her of Venetian marbled paper, with lovely dark foliage.

Best companions for dahlias in pots

Don’t choose hungry plants that will compete for energy. Keep dahlias as the main show and pair with

·       Climbers like Thunbergias and Rhodochiton.

·       Annual grasses like Panicum ‘Sparkling Fountain’ and the millets.  

Sarah’s favourite dahlias for pots

The more Sarah grows in containers, the more she thinks dahlias are the winners, especially in her chunky terracotta pots in the Dutch Yard, key for taller varieties like ‘Lou Farman’.  

‘Josie’ – a beautiful bright orange anemone dahlia, around 60cm tall, loved by bees and pollinators. Great for a table centre pot, grown in ribbed zinc planters.  

‘Abigail’ – brand new to our bred for Sarah Raven range, named after our head horticultural buyer, Abigail, who has worked for Sarah for 10 years, discovering a passion for dahlias along the way. Similar to ‘Blue Bayou’ but a richer, deeper purple mauve colour, around 75cm tall.

‘Bishop of Auckland’ – for beautiful lacy foliage and claret flowers with anthers drenched in pollen, a little tall and needs staking.

‘Happy Single Kiss’ and ‘Roxy’ – very compact and good even for window boxes.

Care tips for dahlias in pots

Watering - don’t drench them too much when first potting up. Once they have spread out, follow the method for watering Josie, head gardener at Perch Hil, uses. Water pots for a full minute, then go back and water for another full minute to allow water to penetrate. On hot summer days, Arthur recommends a liquid feed, after watering when the soil is properly drenched.

Deadheading – important if you are not cutting flowers for the vases. Cut down to pair of leaves to produce more axillary buds for more flowers. To tell the difference between new buds and spent ones, new buds look like shiny button and are never pointed. Finished flowers are always pointed and soggy.

Staking – a lovely way to stake dahlias in pots is to use silver birch or hazel nests for the dahlias to grow up through. Willow stakes are good too - be careful not to pierce the tuber.

Earwigs – when biologist Dave Goulson came to teach at Perch Hill a few years ago, he taught Sarah that earwigs love to eat aphids. Use Sarah’s method of stuffing a terracotta pot with straw and suspending upside down on a cane. Earwigs climb up the cane and nest in the straw. Take these nests anywhere you have aphids, by your roses or lupins or tomatoes in the greenhouse and scatter the straw for the earwigs to munch on and provide natural aphid control.

(Listen to podcast episode 48 for Sarah’s interview with Dave Goulson on protecting our insect populations.)

Lifting and storing dahlias - stop watering your pots at the end of October, lift and store dahlias somewhere dry and and frost-free. Dahlias in pots will get frostbitten and do need to be lifted.

How to make Sarah’s salad with edible dahlia petals

·       Pick some lettuce for crunch, any summer variety like ‘Reine de Glaces’

·       Then add some punchy flavoured leaves, wild rocket or one of the mustards

·       Pick some sharp flavoured herbs – lovage, mint, chives - to chop and add to the bowl

·       Add more crunch with some sliced bulb fennel or radish (radishes will be ready 4-5 weeks from seed to cropping at this time of year)

·       Scatter over some coloured dahlia petals

·       Dress with olive oil, lemon and salt

Read how to create a delicious organic salad for more varieties to try.

Dahlia petals make incredible confetti for weddings too.