July's plant of the month is the dahlia
July's plant of the month is the dahlia, a real glamour puss and a flamboyant star of the late summer border. Gardeners can't get enough of them at the moment: maybe it's because they're such great value for money, providing spectacular colour from mid-summer until the first frosts.
There's a variety to suit everyone, from the simple, large daisies of the 'Bishops' series to tall, showy cactus types like striking deep red 'Spartacus'. Pompons like 'David Howard' make wonderful cut flowers, while the dwarf forms look fabulous in containers.
You can buy fat tubers at your favourite garden centre from spring onwards, or as potted plants in flower right now – a fantastic way to inject instant colour into your borders. Plant in a rich, fertile soil in a sunny spot. A stake helps support taller types, and don't forget to protect against slugs. Feed with a high-potash liquid fertiliser (any tomato food works well) to encourage more flowers.
In milder areas of the country you can leave dahlias in the ground – just pile some autumn leaves over the top to keep the crowns from freezing. Alternatively, lift and store in damp compost over winter to enjoy their dazzling displays anew next year.