At home I have kind neighbours who don't mind watering my 200-odd pots and at Whichford I have the marvellous Miss Babs, so I don't have that awful sinking feeling on returning from a trip to find sad, wilting plants.
|Overflowing just a little|
Back to work
Although Miss Babs had also managed to do some dead-heading for me I could see that the plants had taken advantage of my absence to grow rampantly, so my first job was to work through all the pots doing a really thorough dead-head, prune,tidy and prop-up. It is also a good way to get re-acquainted with the garden after any absence.
In some groups the plants had spread so successfully the pots were almost invisible. I removed pots of spent lilies and agapanthus, which gave me a little more space to play with and so the group pictured right has been spread out a little but the large long tom containing Lophospermum erubescens remains invisible under a cascade of reddish-pink blooms.
It is more important than ever to keep on top of the dead-heading so that all the extravagant late-flowerers don't exhaust themselves long before the cold weather arrives.
|Taking yellowed leaves off Salvia leucantha|
|Dead-heading Dahlia 'Moor Place'. Cut right at the base of the pedicel.|
When the new flower on the right has finished cut further back to
where new shoots are emerging
Dahlias need really thorough dead-heading to keep looking good. I cut the flowers off pom-pom dahlias such as 'Moor Place' as they are fading; they produce lots of flowers and if you wait for the petals to fall the rising tide of new flowers and growth will mean that you can't find all the dead-heads and the plant will stop flowering.
Always cut right at the base of the pedicel (flower stem), back to where a new shoot or another live stem arises. If you leave a stump it will die in an unsightly, straw-like way.
Dahlias have their day
I love dahlias, they flower all summer, peaking just when the days are shortening depressingly. The fashion police are at last letting us enjoy their fabulous colours and varied shapes and sizes without having to excuse our weakness and lack of taste.
|Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' in the garden at Whichford pottery|