Zena Robson, Woodborough Garden Centre - Think ahead to fill in floral gaps

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Bishop of Llandaff is a favourite variety of dahlia Bishop of Llandaff is a favourite variety of dahlia

If you grow big oriental poppies, they will have gone over by now and the leaves will be starting to look really tatty, so shear them right to the ground. They will grow a new mound of neater leaves.

They are an example of an early summer flowerer that does not repeat and therefore is much better placed in the mid-border so that when they are cut down, there is something else growing in front that will mask the hole left behind.

One way to mask holes like these is to use potfuls of annuals sunk into the ground. Things like cosmos can be potted up, say three plants in an 8” plastic pot, then grown on until you finally either plant out as is, or plunge-plant the whole thing. This is a great trick if you have been growing summer bulbs like lilies, so they do not have to remain in the soil over what could be another soggy winter.

Another plant to use for gap-filling or for transplanting into a decorative pot is the dahlia. We have been growing some lovely ones, many of them single or semi-double flowered with dark leaves. Bishop of Llandaff remains a firm favourite with its red flowers contrasting with the purple foliage.

Cerise-pink flowers look great too, such as in ‘Fascination’, or ‘Rosa-munda’, a semi-double. Then we have the shorter forms such as ‘Single Juliet’.

‘Party’ is dark-leaved with a really bright yellow single, and then ‘Swan Lake’ is a delicate lemon colour. If you want a couple of really in your face numbers then we have the ‘dinner-plate’ heads of ‘White Perfection’ and a new one, ‘Brigitta Aleida’ which is a dark maroon.

Dahlias benefit from constant dead-heading. The trick is to distinguish the new buds from those going over. The new ones will be round and firm to the touch, whereas the ones going over tend to be conical in shape and a bit flabby. Cut out the stem down to a joint rather than just taking the head off, so they’ll keep flowering for ages.

I have been battling on another front – my strawberries, grown in a large pot and off the ground, have been the victim of attacks by woodlice.

Normally woodlice are nothing to worry about unless they get in among some seedlings, as they generally eat decaying matter such as found in log piles. I wandered out to the front area one morning and looked at the strawberries – baby woodlice gorging themselves on my fruit. I filled the watering can and gave the pot a good drowning, picked off the half-eaten strawberries and determined to go out every morning to pick my breakfast – so far it has worked!

Looking at my strawberry plants, they will throw out runners soon as well. These are the new plants that will give the best yield next year, so pop a pot of compost under the strongest ones and pin the runner into it.

Once it has rooted, cut it from the parent plant and grow it on to take the place of the old one.

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