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Seed Sowing and Dahlia Preparation

March 22, 2015

It doesn’t take much to get me gardening again – the sun on my back, a large bag of compost for sowing, some wooden stick labels  ( 50)  from the Pound shop, a Sharpie Fine Point marker pen, some clean pots and I’m off. Oh and seeds of course…



Sown today were Ammi majus, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, Linaria ‘Canon Went’, Rainbow chard, Butternut squash, Beetroot ‘Red Ace’ and a salad leaf mix. These are now in the heated propagator and will then transfer to the pop up greenhouse as soon as there are signs of germination.

And the post arrived with a lovely parcel of red dahlias won by me from Julie’s blog Peonies & Posies in a generous give-away from  Sarah Raven.


I am really delighted and have potted them up into 2 litre pots with fresh potting compost and they’ll stay in the dry and warmth indoors in a light-filled space. I’ll keep the soil moist and they should steadily put out green shoots and be ready to plant out when all danger of frost has passed. Here are the tubers looking as Sarah says, like bunches of salami, but I’ll photograph them again when they are in flower.



Sarah Raven’s growing instructions are clear and I’ll be sure to pinch out the tip of the main shoot as they grow and to remove all but five shoots sprouting from the tuber to encourage bushy plants.  These can be used as cuttings to make more plants which I will most certainly attempt. Last year I was inspired to grow flowers by Louise Curley’s book The Cut Flower Patch and it was fun and successful and this year I want more space for more flowers.

With this in mind I’ve planted up the new bed with 18 perennials. They were only just through the soil in their 9 cm pots so not much to show in the bed as yet but as soon as it’s looking good I’ll take a picture and give the planting plan. To save money I moved and divided up Phlomis fruticosa from the allotment and Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ from elsewhere in the garden. Whilst planting the bed I spotted the emerging shoots of Geranium psilostemon and remembered Beth Chatto describing them ‘like waxy lipsticks’ pushing through the soil.




And I’m really pleased that I prepared four pots of Allium sphaerocephalon bulbs in October to poke in and around other plants in the new bed.DSCN4166

The Sarcococca is no longer scenting the air but Skimmia fragrans is although you have to get up close for the full benefit. It’s an evergreen shrub that prefers shade and the leaves have a scent close to the scent of kaffir lime leaves.  The flower has a spicy, sweet perfume and is most noticeable when the sun  has warmed up the air. It’s in a pot in the garden but would do well in a crowded conservatory where other plants could provide shade.


On the allotment the first two rows of potato ‘Winston’ went in possibly a bit early since the soil is only just warming up. I covered the rows with a fleece to give some protection from ground frost. It’s an early cropper that grows big for baking and has a great flavour. In a week or two ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Maris Piper’ can be planted. Two more rows of broad bean seedlings were planted too and the red-flowered broad bean Crimson Flowers has been sown in a pot outside the kitchen door.

I picked some hellebore flowers to float in a shallow bowl on the kitchen table…


9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2015 12:25 pm

    Yes, those look exactly like waxy lipsticks! Many thanks for your detailed tips on the dahlias. I have what is hopefully going to be a very grand cafe-au-lait dahlia in a pot in my cold frame but now I know better after reading your post and shall move it into the house where it will be warmer. We are still having frosts some nights so I hope I haven’t killed it. I didn’t know about pinching out the tips and leaving only five shoots either. Noted with thanks.

  2. March 22, 2015 2:09 pm

    It’s probably safest to move it indoors for a week or two. Sarah Raven’s instructions are always so clear and straight forward.

  3. March 22, 2015 2:24 pm

    It’s starting to happen isn’t it. Finally I’ve got my act together and sown enough to fill the propagator and cleared out the greenhouse.
    Allium sphaerocephalon is one of my favourite bulbs, they will look great when they come into bloom.

  4. March 22, 2015 2:55 pm

    Yes it’s a great time of year for us gardeners-there’s something useful to do every day to get those beds full.

  5. March 23, 2015 12:23 pm

    Ooo! It’s all so exciting. I’ve potted up some dahlias and I’m just waiting for a delivery of some others. My windowsills are already jam-packed with seedlings and I’ve had to order a an extra shelf for the greenhouse to cope with everything I’m growing. It’s very lovely to hear my book inspired you to grow cut flowers. 🙂 I always forget about skimmias and their scent. My parents sued to have quite a large skimmia bush which smelt incredible. Another for the list ….

  6. March 23, 2015 12:38 pm

    Yes it’s all go here. Has your second book been published yet?

  7. Spade & Dagger permalink
    March 23, 2015 9:45 pm

    I planted Winston potatoes on my allotment this week – they really are the variety of choice this year for many gardeners online.

  8. March 24, 2015 10:21 am

    They are new to me -I bought them in the allotment shop and read about them later. I’ll look forward to seeing just how delicious they are.

    • Spade & Dagger permalink
      March 24, 2015 3:29 pm

      I bought blind too and then found that just about everyone I read about was also planting them this year – they should get a good testing out for taste and cultivation anyway. Will be interesting to compare.

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