Join the Studio Club and create a more seasonal life.

You’ve viewed

You haven't yet viewed any products on our store. If you've been here before, you may need to sign in.

Journal

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 do

Comments: 0 (Add)

Snapdragon social

Flowers picked, stripped and plonked in a jug. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
I was planning to do a fancy arrangement but then they looked so light and pretty as they are.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Simple so often the best.
The tansy is about to flower in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
When I arranged flowers for weddings I always thought that the best thing about having properly seasonal flowers was that you would remember every year as plants came into bloom. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
I got very involved with weddings, couples became good friends and I still associate plants in my garden with specific people. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Tansy would not be a good plant for a wedding though really - its history is a dark one, tied up with abortion and despair - but it is the plant I associate with my first attempt to dye fabric with plants.  Every year it blooms I realise how far I have come.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
For that first attempt was was a failure - too big a piece of fabric, not enough scouring and then a hissy fit at the lack of colour, which ended up with chucking too much ferrous sulphate into the pan and ruining it further into a blotchy grey.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
This weekend I go to Gartur Stitch Farm @katgoldin to learn more about dyeing with local plants and indigo with Julia @woollenflower . ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Then, after that, I shall harvest this year's tansy . . . .⁠⁠ 
⁠⁠
A sunny evening in the studio.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
The fabrics I have been dyeing over the weekend rinsed and drying on the clothes horse.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Maybe it is the heat, maybe its the perfect ripeness of the plants - I don't know - but this batch of foraged colour is particularly mouthwatering. Lush and soft and perfectly balanced.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
This is the last lengths that I am dyeing for the summer sampler sets of plant dyed fabrics, ribbons and threads that will go into the Studio Members shop at the end of the week.  I will email out the link when they are live.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Making things like this is small scale and slow - so much love and care goes into these sampler sets, from the picking of the plants to the hand drawing of the gift cards.  I wouldn't have it any other way.⁠⁠

If you aren’t already a member of the Studio Club and would like to join -  to see behind the scenes, get the monthly journal and access all the members only blogs, courses and shop - the link is in my bio.
'You have to be fast to get the sweet peas'.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
This is what I was told last Sunday at Drymen Community  Garden Open Day. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
They were talking about the dozen or so bunches I've been taking down to the Crop Swap outside the Village shop on Drymen Main Street each Saturday morning for the past couple of months.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
They are first things to be snapped up from the table.  I was delighted to find that many were being taken to neighbours, dropped off with the newspaper on the way home.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
If feels right for this most generous of flowers.
Did you have a spirograph as a child?⁠⁠
⁠⁠
The dahlias have started blooming and I'm thinking I could use one to draw them.
This is my Studio - where everything happens. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
At the moment it is surrounded by a bright and jazzy mix of loosestrife and buttercups and poppies - teasels, tansy and sanguisorba rising up, ready to carry on the next act of the show.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
This little patch of land - really just a bank of spoil from building the studio - is different every day, an ever changing inspiration.⁠⁠ A reminder that things ebb and flow, bright and muted, high and low. 
⁠⁠
The heart of the Studio Club.
This was a new thing for me. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Mass rather than lines.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
An applique cushion made from pieces of my natural dyed fabrics, a still life of shapes - some hand quilted, some machine embroidered.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Strawberry moon and vases.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
I'm currently spending time sitting in the shade most days, working on more pieces a little like this, aiming to put together a little collection for the Studio Club shop in the next couple of weeks.⁠⁠
⁠⁠
There will also be some more sampler boxes of plant dyed fabrics as the last ones sold out so fast!⁠⁠
A close up of the Studio shelf. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
The white allium is from a garlic bulb in the poly tunnel - stressed and desperate to seed - snipped from the spread of drying bulbs that scent the hot air.
snapdragon.life
FacebookTwitterPinterest

About Snapdragon Life

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.

 

Learn more about why here

Loading