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Overwintering Dahlias - What I do

The dahlia is a plant that originates in Mexico - there it grows wild and the Aztec name was acocoxóchitl.

It is suited to warmer climates and in most parts of the UK needs to be protected from the frosts of winter. There are a couple of main methods of keeping them away from frost. Some people lift the tubers and store them in sheds, cellars or garages. However, if I take anything indoors it tends to die or be eaten by mice, so this is what I do instead.

That Aztec name acocoxóchitl gives the clue to why I think most dahlias freeze in the winter. The word translates as 'hollow stemmed plant' or 'water carrier' - and the stems were used to carry water on journeys.

In the garden - if you chop the tops off your dahlias to neaten them up over the winter, you are creating hollow straws for rain water to be channelled straight down to the tuber underground, pretty much guaranteeing that it will freeze over the winter and turn to mush.

Instead I do nothing for the first 3 weeks after frost - I just leave the tattered mush of a plant to gently collapse, closing up the tops of the stems as it does so.

Then I remove any broken stems - the ones that snap and fall over - and pour a dry mulch of some sort over the tuber. This is usually spent compost from my tomato plants and garden pots. The rest of the plant remains intact - flowers and collapsed stems stopping the water from getting into the stems. I check the mulch after heavy rain to make sure it hasn't been washed away, and top up if needed.

Last year I added a second mulch of sheep fleeces to half the dahlias to stop the need for topping up. Many fleeces have no commercial value at the moment, something that seems ridiculous, and farmers are often glad to have them used. Wool fleeces make a great insulated and slug repellent covering in the garden*.

To keep the dahlias cosy I simply stuffed the fleeces carefully around the bases and then left them alone until late March/April when the soil begins to warm again.

This does mean that you have a garden that looks a little as though there are rather scruffy sheep lying all over it - and that may bother you. Last year both lots of dahlias came through the winter fine here - the ones with the fleece mulch and the ones with the old compost mulch - but though we had a lot of rain (and I did need to top up the compost mulch a couple of times), it wasn't a particularly frozen winter.

* I have been offered a large bag of fleeces by a neighbour, so I am intending to cover all my fallow vegetable beds with them over winter, possibly over a layer of manure and grass clippings to make a kind of sheet mulch. They are also wonderful for planting hedges and trees into as they keep the ground weed free and gradually rot down. The ones I put on the beds for the winter will probably be reused in some tree planting we have planned for the Spring.

Tags: gardening

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When I was at University it was the time of the Poll Tax, an unpopular tax made even more unpopular by being implemented in Scotland a year before the rest of the UK - 'Thatcher's guinea pigs'.⁠⠀
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It was a time of demonstration and violence with 50,000 marching in Glasgow, 1 million Scots refusing to pay. ⁠⠀
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It was a time Sheriff's Officers and poind sales of possessions. ⁠⠀
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Coalition student groups were formed - Socialist and Feminist and Anarchist and so on - there were big meetings in the Union, debates about a name and a logo and a manifesto. I remember lots of young, middle class, white men talked at length.  I remember that very, very little got done - a bus was organised to take students to Glasgow for the protests. ⁠⠀
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In the meantime, up the hill from the campus, three women (I thought of them as old at the time but I'm sure they were the age I am now) simply stood outside the auctions and asked nobody to attend.  They stood by the front doors, they explained their reasons, they prevailed.  They possibly looked randomly menacing in that way middle aged women can.⁠⠀
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People calmly bought back their possessions for 50p and their debts were squared. Action, meaningful results, a recognition that the personal is political - all while the student groups still debated their slogans.⁠⠀
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I've been thinking about those women a lot recently. If they were the age I think they were, they will be queuing up for their vaccines this month.
In my happy place.⁠⠀
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In the winter months The Studio is the centre of my working life. ⁠⠀
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This was yesterday.  Trimming pieces of vintage velvet fabric for the Studio Club shop; alpaca socks drying in the dispatch room behind me (we now have size 8-10 in stock too); a roll @scottishlinen seconds to experiment with hogging the cutting table.⁠⠀
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Bright and light and inspiring.
Starting the week with a photo from last year (simply because I lost a lot of this weekend to fatigue, so didn't take a new photo.)⁠⠀
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Budgie, my beautiful and psychotic cat, with a windowsill of white amaryllis. ⁠⠀
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Worth a second outing.
The proposed airstream conversion is in for planning permission approval at the moment, so that we change change its use from (neglected) artist's workshop into beautiful holiday accommodation.⁠⠀
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In my vision for this we get to use the paid holidaymaking element to subsidise some artist's residencies - painters, writers, musicians, makers coming here to soak up the landscape and be inspired.⁠⠀
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At the moment though I'm still at the stage of answering environmental health questions about quite how loud I am in my Studio and how we will light the path to the compost loo.
Yesterday my elder daughter, who lives in London, messaged me to say that our local DPD driver Slav was being given an award by @official.dpd.uk for his outstanding service. 

It was because of the hundreds of messages that they had been sent commenting on his helpfulness, incredible good cheer, and parcel based problem solving.⁠⠀

Slav has been an important part of my lockdown life here. ⁠⠀
When roads look like this, good delivery drivers are a vital (and hopefully appreciated) part of life.⁠⠀
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As my younger daughter chimed in “Go Slav!
This photo is from last week - but I see through the gloom that it has snowed overnight .⁠⠀
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This part of the garden is outside our bedroom, the beech hedge borders the road, it used to be a drive when our bedroom was a garage.⁠⠀
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Now it has a birch tree (symbolic for me of my miscarried babies, as I had to leave their actual birch trees behind when we moved here) surrounded by lots of box grown from small plants and cuttings.⁠⠀
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We buried Jasmine, my scruffy miniature schnauzer, here in the summer, so in some ways it is becoming a garden for sitting on the bench and remembering and watching the birds.  I shall ask my ever generous  friend Nadja for some snowdrops to plant in the grass.⁠⠀
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In my mind, eventually, the box balls will become like the ones on the front of @arnemaynardgardendesign book Garden Design Details - but this year they remain unclipped. ⁠⠀
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I suspect box blight in the back garden and @jekkamcvicar points out that unclipped box does not get blight.⁠⠀
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I love old gates - particularly old gates that stand in the middle of old unused spaces, leading to nowhere, keeping nothing in.⁠⠀
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A memory of another time.
Last year - while I was dyeing socks out on my Studio deck, I was also dyeing wool yarn. ⁠⠀
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Wool dyed with docks and nettle, gorse and meadowsweet, onions and plum bark all from the garden and lane.⁠⠀
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Over the winter I gathered the wool skeins together - all the soft bright colours - and knitted myself an oversized stripy jumper. ⁠⠀
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@rhiannonconnelly described it as wearing 'a hug from my garden' and I think she was spot on. ⁠⠀
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The pattern is the 'After the Rain' sweater by @heidikdesigns but with random stripes as I wasn't sure how much of each colour I had. #aftertherainsweater
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At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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