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Amazing colour...Mataura's Sue Dawson admires one of the many dahlias she has growing in her garden. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

Sue Dawson credits her mother-in-law with inspiring her to grow dahlias.

In her Mataura garden Mrs Dawson has about 170 plants of the national flower of Mexico growing.

Mrs Dawson said her husband Ken’s mother Clara Richardson encouraged her to plant dahlias.

“She was a lovely lady and she always had a nice garden,” Mrs Dawson said.

Mrs Richardson was not the only family member fond of the species, as cousin Walter Jack of Invercargill was a renowned dahlia breeder.

Mrs Dawson had been growing dahlias for about 40 years and enjoyed the show the plants brought to the garden.

“They flower for months and months and there’s so many different varieties nowadays.”

The couple had been living at their present address since September 2018.

The dahlias, which grew from tubers, had been growing in the garden for about a year.

When planting the tubers she spaced them carefully.

“If you plant them close enough together you can’t see any weeds and they hold each other up.”

Over time the plants produced more tubers which needed to be dug up and shifted to a new place to grow.

“Once they have been in a couple of years I might be able to start giving some away.”

Every week she de-headed the dead flowers, which took about an hour.

The plants were sprayed with insecticide in mid January and at the end of February to kill any pests especially earwigs.

She left the tubers in the ground over winter but cut the plants back after the first frost.

“That’s a big enough job without digging them up.”

Lakeland Autumn was her favourite variety this year.

This year “is probably the worst season we’ve had for donkeys years, ’cause it has been so cold and wet.”

A native of Mexico and Central America, the plant enjoyed the heat and usually started flowering by Christmas.

However, this year it was the middle of January before flowers appeared.

“They just took so long to flower this year.”

At the Gore Garden Club’s harvest show in March, Mrs Dawson won best dahlia in the show with a bloom called Amy Cave, and also won most points in the intermediate section.