A celebration of dahlias at Odstock garden in Bletchingley
PUBLISHED: 11:02 21 July 2017
At Odstock in Bletchingley, Averil and John Trott have developed a real plantsman’s garden over more than 40 years and specialise in dahlias
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2017
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Need to know
Odstock, Bletchingley, Surrey RH1 4LB.
Visitors welcome by arrangement May to September for groups 10+.
Light refreshments by prior arrangement.
Admission: £5, children free.
Contact: 01883 743100 / ngs.org.uk
The dahlia is one of the best plants to grow for summer through autumn interest, especially when planted in combination with grasses and perennials. A visit to Odstock, in Bletchingley, is sure to inspire, with owners Averil and John Trott’s special interest in these showy flowers, as well as grasses and climbers. The two-thirds-of-an-acre plot has been lovingly maintained and developed for all year-round interest and opens through the National Garden Scheme by arrangement from May to September. I particularly like July and August, when the dahlias are at their peak, their jewel bright colours drawing the eye behind neatly hedged borders.
“We have lived here for over 40 years, inheriting a large area of grass, some vegetables and a rose bed,” says Averil. “As the children no longer required it for play, the garden has gradually evolved. We maintain it ourselves – John with his interest in dahlias, the lawn and runner beans and I do the rest and have a particular passion for climbers, shrubs, acers, grasses and ferns.”
The garden is charmingly traditional with expanses of beautifully cared for lawns and curving borders, a rose and clematis walk, shrub beds, seating beckoning under the shade of mature trees and a no-dig vegetable plot. In addition there are some Japanese touches with stone lanterns amongst shady ferns and cloud-pruned conifers, inspired by visits to Japan, as well as far-reaching views to the Chanctonbury Ring on a fine day.
John’s interest in dahlias was inspired by his father, who grew many varieties for pleasure and to enter in local horticultural shows, while Averil finds dahlias invaluable for her flower arranging. They are presented here in a long border edged in low buxus, a touch of formality enclosing the tapestry of warm-toned dahlias with billowing ornamental grasses such as miscanthus and brightly coloured crocosmias. The array of types includes large waterlily and cactus shapes, striped varieties and smaller open single blooms. Conifers, purple leafed Cercis canadensis and Cotinus coggygria, along with euonymus and vines provide a foil to the rich hues.
Averil has a wide interest in plants and her collection of grasses adds cohesion to the broad palette of plants throughout the garden. As with all gardens the evolution is on-going and she enjoys making changes and adaptations to enhance the space. “Tough negotiations take place over the whittling away of the lawns as the plants grow or a new one is acquired,” she smiles. The couple clearly enjoy sharing their pleasure for gardening with visitors, who are made to feel welcome in this informal and relaxed garden. Gather a like-minded group together and make an appointment to view this summer.
Bishop of Llandaff: red with dark foliage
Moonfire: yellow with dark leaves
Park Princess: pink, mini semi-cactus
David Howard: clear orange, dark foliage
Ludwig Helfert: orange, cactus form
Get the look
• Expanses of lawn with island borders
• Formal touches within an informal space
• Framework from trees and evergreen shrubs
• Infill from annuals and perennials
• Plants allowed to self-seed
• Dahlias planted en masse
• Select a sunny sheltered spot with well-drained soil
• Dahlias are surface feeders
• Stake at planting
• Water through summer at root level
• Deadhead spent flowers
• Cut back at frost and mulch or lift tubers
• Dry store tubers until March, then pot up, water and grow on in the greenhouse
• Plant out in mid-May
Did you know?
• Dahlias are called ‘the flower of a thousand faces’ as a hybrid that readily changes its face and form
• Originate from Central America
• 10 classification groups
• The first tubers arrived in Europe in the 18th century
• Plants range from dwarf bedders to giant with flowers as large as a dinner plate