A dahlia display to 'wow' visitors
20 September 2010
Jon Wheatley from Winchester Growers is a regular at the London Flower Shows, and his dahlias are always a crowd favourite. At Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year he helped design the popular Home Grown exhibit. RHS Online caught up with him to see what has in store for the Autumn Harvest Show.
RHS: How different is planning an exhibit for a smaller show, as opposed to something like Home Grown at Hampton?
Jon Wheatley: There’s no difference at all in terms of the amount of work that goes into planning. It’s just about scale. It’s all about achieving the highest possible standard, with whatever you use.
We’ve been growing the plants for this exhibit for about two and a half months now - some of them were grown in Cornwall and some were grown at my own nursery. It’s late for the plants we’re going to use, so we’ve had to hold them back as they’ll all be flowering about a month later than usual.
RHS: Can you give us a taste of what we can expect to see from you at the show?
JW: You'll be able to see our exhibit from the door when you walk in, so we want people to go 'wow' as soon as they see it!
We’re going to use a range of different plants in with the dahlias that’ll really show them off, so it’ll be very seasonal but with spectacular shapes and colours and forms. I haven’t ruled out doing a couple of high quality floral arrangements showing how you can arrange dahlias.
RHS: What are your top tips for growing dahlias?
JW: Dahlias are great for autumn and certainly if you’ve deadheaded and fed them well from when you planted them, they’re absolutely great performers in terms of garden and cut flower use.
Always deadhead your dahlias because if a plant goes to seed it shuts up shop. If you remove the flowers as they finish you'll get a proliferation of flowers right through to the early frost.
Protect dahlias during harsh weather with fleece. Horticultural fleece is marvellous stuff - it’s like a thin white coating that’ll stop the frost getting at the flowers. The other thing we like to do is create a kind of mole hill of garden compost to put over the top of where your dahlias are planted.