Do start off dahlia cuttings: If you want to take cuttings it's time to get your tubers sprouting! Start them off as soon as you receive them by placing them in large pots or deep trays with a generous helping of a general purpose compost. Partly fill your container to half cover the tuber and water (without allowing the water inside the tuber). When the shoots are around 8cm use a sharp knife to cut them away from the crown just above where they join the tuber. Trim off any growth under the top pair of leaves, dip in hormone rooting powder then pot up using John Innes No.2. As the stems develop, pinch out any growth from the middle of the cutting to help create a bushy plant. Harden off before planting out around May. Do keep an eye out for slugs and snails that will feast on your young plants.
- Do care for your soil: Healthy soil is the key to all good growing so take some time to enrich yours before the spring gets started. Dig in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or leaf mould and, if your soil tends to be heavy, add some sharp sand or grit.
- Don't cut back perennials: It's still too early to cut back the old growth from perennial plants. Leave the old growth to protect the new emerging shoots until early spring.
- Do move shrubs: If you have any shrubs in the wrong place, now is the time to move them while they're still dormant.
- Do deal with pests: Look out for any pests that have been hibernating and destroy them before they have a change to breed and cause havoc.
- Don't use old compost: Old compost is a favourite hiding place for vine weevil larvae that destroy plants by munching on their roots. Clean post with jays fluid to ensure there are no germs left behind and fill with fresh compost.
- Do remove weeds: Emerging weeds can be pulled up as they start to appear to prevent them from sowing seeds and becoming an invasive problem over the summer months.
Agapanthus (African Lily) are not just good looking flowers they bring a little of the exotic to the garden with their stately elegance, the colour choice is blue or white but there is a good choice of blue from the light blue to dark indigo blue and from pure white to silver white with a hint of blue. Agapanthus are not the hardest plants to grow but they are also not the easiest they will need a little help and encouragement but once established they will reward you from July to late August with an amazing display with their large open flower heads which are excellent for cut flowers.
Agapanthus grow from rhizomes not bulbs or tubers they produce fleshy roots which like to be constricted, the leaves depending on the variety can have different shapes and colours from light to dark green, grey green and variegated. Like so many garden favourites choose the right variety for your garden, if you’re unsure Agapanthus Africanus Blue or white or Blue Giant are good hardy varieties they are excellent plants to start you off, you can always grown the other varieties in pots and bring them indoors for winter care.
If planting Agapanthus in pots use a mixture of soil and compost mixed with a little sand and grit to help drainage. Feeding every couple of weeks or at least once a month when you see the green shoots appear with high potash feed Tomato fertilizer is excellent for this; it’s also important to add some general fertilizer as well to make sure the Agapanthus plants receive the best nutrients you can give them.
If growing in the garden follow the same feeding tips for growing in pots, they are not hungry feeders but will reward you with a fabulous flower display, always leave the leaves to die back naturally and leave until at least March before you remove them, this will give some protection to the crown of the Agapanthus plants, a good mulch is required if you live in very cold areas. You can plant non hardy varieties in pots and sink them just below soil level which will hide the pots then after flowering remove them for winter; I have a few varieties in pots which I move around the garden to highlight different areas and plants. Agapanthus like a well drained soil/compost
Agapanthus are tolerant of salty winds and so make good coastal plants, hailing from South African they love the sun so plant in a south facing position where they will produce stronger stems and more flowers over the years, they don’t suffer from major pests or disease, the taller varieties will do well in windy conditions. Agapanthus are drought tolerant but they will need some water at least twice a week, it’s important they are planted in a part of the garden that does not hold water as they do not like to sit in water, the best time to plant Agapanthus from bare root is from March to May
Agapanthus plants can be slow to establish one or two years but when they do you will not be disappointed and the wait will have been worth it.