In A Vase on Monday- 28th October 2019

The first frost sees me running up the garden, collecting dahlia flowers in buckets. Even slightly faded, tatty flowers are harvested. Every bloom has suddenly become precious. It will be a whole nine months before we have any more of these glories.

In amongst the dark blood red dahlias are these interlopers. I didn’t plant them. I’ve been growing cactus dahlia Nuit d’Ete for around 20 years. Alongside, there’s some white dahlias called My Love. Could they have crossed to produce this striped flower? It’s a mystery. A very pretty interloper, even so. It can stay.

Frost means the end of tender flowers such as dahlias. Plants will collapse virtually overnight. Last year I left the tubers in the ground and covered them with a foot of dried leaves and a cloche. The secret is to keep them relatively dry. However, this year I will lift them all. The ground is sodden. We’ve had 266mm of rain over the past two months, double the usual amount. Five months worth of rain in the past five weeks. There’s no way I’m going to be able to keep the dahlias from rotting, unless I lift them.

So, using very sharp florists’ scissors, I collect buckets of flowers for the house, before tackling the tubers. Tubers are carefully lifted to avoid bruising. They are cut off leaving 3″ of stem. Turned upside down to drain. Then put in a dark, cool, frost free shed. After a week or two, I’ll wrap them in newspaper, or put them into pots of dry compost to overwinter. They will be started back into growth in the greenhouse in February, cuttings will be taken, and the whole cycle of planting and harvesting will go round again.

I also picked some verbena bonariensis, diascia, the last of the Nicotiana Mutabilis, some very late gladioli, and herbs such as rosemary and lavender.

There is one last flower from Dahlia Obsidian, a tuber I bought from East Ruston Garden in Norfolk a few years ago. I like to buy a few plants when I’m on holiday to remind me of the visit. This one is particularly good for pollinators, being an open, single flower.

Added some Amaranthus, love lies bleeding. I have grown the red and the white form this year.

And this is what the flowers look like, all put together. I had enough flowers for four or five vases.

I put the verbena mixture in a Kilner jar that used to belong to my great aunt Betty. She was a keen cook and preserved everything in those jars. She gave me about 100 when I first set up home. Happy memories; I use them every day and think of her.

It’s warm and sunny enough to sit in the garden today. After all that rain, I’m not spending a second shut indoors! I’ve even written this sitting outside on an old garden chair covered with a cosy woollen blanket. My feet are getting cold, so I’ve put a few bricks under them as a makeshift foot stool. No doubt there will be more frost ahead, but I’m determined to get outdoors as much as I can this winter and not get stuck by the fire.

Have you had a frost in your area yet? Are you leaving your dahlias in the ground or lifting them, like me? Let me know how things are growing in your part of the world.

Links : Cathy IAVOM

Dahlia Nuit d-Ete

East Ruston Old Vicarage

Dahlia Obsidian

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you for reading, and for getting in touch.

21 thoughts on “In A Vase on Monday- 28th October 2019

  1. It is a week and a half later, and we still have no frost here. It may have technically been cold enough, but I did not notice it. (Frost may not develop if the humidity is to low.) I got a picture of the thermometer at 32 degrees, but I do not know how accurate it is.

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  2. Although a hard frost can finish off the season for many flowers, it is a wonderful excuse to cut lots and bring them indoors! I love the single dark red dahlia. It reminds me of one called Honka which I saw at Coton a few years ago for the first time… perhaps I will try growing some one day!

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  3. Karen, I’m so sorry for the frost you’ve had. Luckily you have been able to save all the flowers in the garden. And I here in Madrid at night at 10ºC. Your photos are magnificent. Your dahlia intrusa is wonderful, I love it. Surely it is a cross of das Dahlias “Nuit d´Ete” with “My Love” made by pollinators. Dahlias with amaranth is a bouquet that I love. The weather is crazy, you with so much rain, it does not rain here but two weeks ago we had a DANA in the Mediterranean area: it is torrential rain, in many towns and cities 400 ml per square meter in three or four hours. We had to regret 5 dead. And now it seems that this week it will rain normally in northern Spain, but we need rain all over Spain. Karen you do very well in raising the dahlias and thank you very much for explaining how it is done and how it is preserved in Winter. The photos of your fabulous flowers make me happy to see their beautiful colors and make me smile. The verbena bonariensis, diascia, Nicotiana Mutabilis, late gladioli and rosemary and lavender in the foreground and in the background your fantastic tree dressed in autumn colors, I love it. Dahlia Obsidian is divine and a memory of a visit to a garden and a trip, I love it. What a wonderful memory I live of your great-aunt Betty: the 100 bottles of Kilnen that I give you. I love how the verbena mixture looks in the Kilnen bottle and I love that you remember it with love and a smile every time you use one of its bottles. I’m glad you had good weather to enjoy the garden and write this wonderful blog on it. Very good for you Karen! Get out everything you can outdoors this winter, but yes, very warm and then to the fireplace to keep warm. My dear friend, take great care of yourself and Mr B. Much love and good health for your whole family and for you. Loving caresses to Grace and Meg. Have a great week. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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    • Thank you Margarita. I hope you are well. It rained this morning, torrential again. But the sun came out this afternoon so I was able to walk Meg without getting wet. She is coming along so nicely and is such an obedient little pup. I’m glad my photos bring you joy. Sending many smiles your way. Enjoy the weekend. Affectionate greetings to you are your family. Love from karen – and Mr B, little Meg and Grace. xx


      • Karen, I’m glad the sun came up and you could walk with Meg without getting wet even if it had rained torrentially in the morning. It has rained a little here. How can I not be happy with your wonderful flowers! Thanks for your kind words. Memories full of love for Mr B. and for you, and also for Grace and Meg. Take care of you all very much. And keep warm. Have a very happy Sunday. Affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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    • I had to go to bed early! Must have made 100 trips around the garden with a wheelbarrow yesterday, rushing everything indoors. Hope yours are ok. A friend further south hasn’t had frost yet. Fingers crossed


  4. I have dahlias in pots that I lug into the coolest part of the cellar for the winter. Those planted in the ground stay outside and I haven’t lost any yet. Thanks for the tip about bending the stems. We had a fair bit of rain in September and the first half of October, but now it looks like a stretch of sunny days and possibly frosty nights — gorgeous autumn weather here on southern Vancouver Island.

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  5. That’s one pretty interloper! Your dahlias look better than mine did last week when I lifted them after they’d been pummeled by our hot, dry Santa Ana winds. While they don’t have to be lifted here, I do so because I want to grow a cool-season garden and watering my cutting beds regularly will rot the tubers if I left them in the ground. Frost is virtually non-existent in my area of Southern California so that’s one headache I don’t face but drying winds and haphazard rainfall are perpetual problems.

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    • Thank you Kris. Isn’t it interesting the different gardening challenges we all face. We have had such a deluge recently, it never stopped raining. And yet your rainfall is haphazard and much needed. The drying winds must also make things difficult. Thanks for reading


  6. Down to about 6 c in Wells….but I can tell that some plants are unhappy with this particularly after all the rain. I shall leave the one dahlia I have in the garden….yours are too numerous to loose.

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    • Thank you. If you leave yours in the ground, don’t cut the stems down as they become like drinking straws drawing the water down. Fold the stems over. If you cover with a double layer of fleece and some bark mulch, all will be well. Good luck


  7. The Obsidian Dahlia is a remarkable specimen. There’s been a touch of Alpine cold kicking around for a number of days. Clear skies always bring a touch of frost at this time of year for us. It’s certainly not banana plant weather!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s been fairly mild here until last night, bit of a shock to the system. I’ve been racing round all day trying to drag heavy pots into the greenhouse and dig tender plants out of huge pots. Next year, I’m going to plant the lot in the ground and they will have to take thur chances!


    • Thank you Derrick. The rain has been the problem. All the fields are flooded around about. Only the first frost last night, so can’t really complain. Hopefully it will kill lots of pests. Have a good week. Karen

      Liked by 1 person

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