Dahlias -Overwintering Dilemmas- 19 November 2019

I’m not usually a ditherer. I have a plan of action and I just get on with it. But the weather this autumn has put a spanner in the works. Unprecedented amounts of rain mean we are five weeks behind schedule with all jobs in the garden. And I am only now managing to sort out and store my precious dahlia collection.

This year, I’ve decided to leave half in the ground – in a raised bed with free-draining soil- and bring half indoors. This way, I’ve cut my losses. I’ll have some plants indoors to take cuttings from next spring, even if the ones outdoors fail to survive.

Here’s what I’ve done with the ‘outdoor’ dahlias:

OVERWINTERING DAHLIAS IN THE GROUND

1. I’ve waited until all the foliage has been blackened by frost. This sends the plant instructions to go into dormancy.

2. I’ve removed half of the foliage and dead flower heads. The remaining foliage has been folded over to cover the plant. Stems are hollow, so if you cut back stems and leave them upright they act like straws, directing rainwater down to the tuber.

3. I’ve put a 3″ deep mulch of compost over the tubers, followed by 6″ of dry leaves or straw.

4. Dahlias need to be kept dry and frost free, so I’ve covered the bed with some cloches, and packed the ends with dried leaves. These 1.3m by 3m beds are mounded up like ridge and furrow farm land. They are no-dig which also seems to aid drainage over winter by protecting the soil structure. No-dig basically means adding a few inches of compost every time you harvest a crop, and simply re-planting through the compost. No back-breaking digging is required.

LIFTING DAHLIAS FOR INDOOR STORAGE

For my indoor ‘insurance policy’ dahlias I’ve done the following:

1. Waited until the frost has blacked the foliage. Checked the soil. It is like suet pudding, wet and claggy. Heavy clay. This is an area of garden due a lot of compost mulch over the winter.

2. I’ve gently dug out the dahlias, being careful not to bruise them. Wounds are vulnerable to rotting, so care needs to be taken.

3. I’ve cut the stems back to 3″ and turned the tubers upside down to drain. They will go into a frost free potting shed.

4. When drained, I’ll store the tubers in dry vermiculite, straw, or compost, in the dark, under the potting shed table. Temperatures need to be 2-3C. Dahlias will survive a few degrees of frost- if they are dry. If it gets very cold, I’ll throw some fleece or old blankets over the tubers.

In February, I’ll place the tubers in seed trays of compost in gentle heat to bring them back to life. When they have shoots 1″ tall, I will split the large tubers in half with a sharp knife, making sure both halves have some stem.

I’ll also take basal softwood cuttings when shoots are 1″ tall, using a sharp knife and taking a small sliver of tuber with the cutting. These will be grown on in a frost free greenhouse and planted out end of May. Cuttings will make good size tubers and will flower in one season.

You can lift and save tubers from seed-grown dahlias as well. Just save the best ones, as seed produces very variable results.

Which option are you taking with your dahlias?

A BIT ABOUT HISTORY

It’s fascinating to hear that dahlias have been grown in Europe for 200 years. They originally came from Mexico and were grown in the botanic gardens in Madrid towards the end of the 18th century.

Dahlias are named after Andreas Dahl, a Swedish botanist, scientist and environmentalist. Plants come in every colour -apart from blue! The smallest are the Lilliput Series and the largest are dinner plate sized, a foot in diameter.

Dahlias are categorised by their appearance; there are waterlily, Pompom, collarette and cactus types. Something for everyone, really.

Here’s some of my favourites from my cut flower garden.

Arabian Night. Deep, dark velvety red. A stunning dahlia for cut flower work.

Nuit de’Ete, a lovely deep red cactus type. Lasts two weeks in a vase.

Nuit de’Ete amongst cosmos, persicaria and Ammi.

An pretty un-named variety grown from a packet of seed. Single flowers are much loved by bees and butterflies.

Dahlia David Howard. The best orange variety. Strong growing with long lasting flowers. Very beautiful in low autumn sunshine.

A very good book on dahlias has been written by Naomi Slade. Highly recommended. Just beautiful to sit and peruse over the cold winter months to come. When we will all need something cheerful to look at.

There’s a review of the book here : https://bramblegarden.com/2018/06/24/dahlias-beautiful-varieties-for-home-and-garden/

My dahlia tubers come from Gee Tee Bulbs: https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/dahlias

Links: National Dahlia Society: https://www.dahlia-nds.co.uk/

In a Vase on Monday ( although this is Tuesday- I still like to join in when I can ) https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Follow me on twitter @kgimson

On instagram at karengimson1

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you are growing in your garden at the moment.

And, a photo I haven’t shared before. A picture of my mother in law Joan. Regular readers will know that I grow my cut flowers to keep a connection with Joan. It’s something we both love and it’s a way of sharing my garden with her now she is living in a care home.

A walk Around My Garden – 16 November 2019

Today’s photos have a golden theme running through them. For a few short weeks, everything glows. It’s a last gift from the garden before we descend into cold dark days. And it’s a very welcome gift. Even the flowers are golden. The last dahlias make a cheerful posy for the garden table. Tubers of favourite David Howard dahlia are tucked up under a foot of dry leaves now. Here I’ve found some blue borage and a few nasturtiums to go with the solo dahlia bloom. I feast my eyes on the sight. It will be another 9 months before I see dahlia flowers again.

Luckily, in the poly tunnel, my ‘Aunty Dorris’ chrysanthemums are coming into flower. My father in law has been growing these since the 1950s after receiving cuttings from his aunt. Sadly he’s had to leave his garden, and the precious plants have come my way. I’m determined to keep them going, in memory of Aunty Dorris and as a tribute to their shared love of gardening. There will be a steady flow of flowers to the care home where my relatives now live, right up until Christmas time.

White Swan chrysanthemums are also flowering. I grow them in 12″ pots in an open-ended poly tunnel. They don’t mind the cold, but the rain spoils their flowers. There’s often enough for Christmas table decorations.

Stepping out of the poly tunnel door, this is the scene. A bank of wild cherry trees make a golden veil. Next spring there will be snowy white cherry blossom, followed by luscious red fruit. There’s always something to look forward to. Nothing stays the same. I remind myself this, when there’s bare stems and cold dark days ahead. Winter is not my favourite time of the year, but I store up memories of the past, and at the same time, look to the future. My garden provides a kind of winter armoury.

Alongside the greenhouse, there’s a group of hazel trees. We harvest a few cob nuts each year, but squirrels take most of them. It’s cheerful to see catkins – or lambs tails- forming already.

Through the hazel and maple trees, you can just spy the summerhouse. Fallen leaves make a golden footpath leading the way.

Tall golden beech trees make a backbone for the summerhouse. It will be six months before we see lime green shoots and new leaves again.

Surrounding trees and the back fields are reflected in the summerhouse windows. Sunset is a favourite time to sit here and ponder on the growing year coming to a close. And also think about all the flowers, fruit and veg I’ll be growing next year.

What plans have you for your garden next spring? Are you enjoying the autumn colours just now, as we are here in the Midlands? Get in touch and let me know how things are going in your garden right now.

While you are looking at these photos there’s some music to go with them. Here’s the link to Yellow (Coldplay) sung by Jodie Whittaker for Children in Need. It’s very appropriate for my post this week. At 1.35.09 on the timeline. Or number 12 on the playlist.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07sc6bw

Children in Need; https://www.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk/shows/got-it-covered/

Links : SOS. I like to join in with Six on Saturday, but always have more than six to share https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/16/six-on-saturday-16-11-2019/

In a Vase on Thursday 10th October 2019

Rich Venetian shades. Just the joy we need for October days. Temperatures are dipping and nights drawing in, but the cut flower patch is blazing with colour.

Dahlia Nuit d’Ete is flowering well, standing up to the wind and the rain. We had the wettest September for 20 years. And October doesn’t look like it’s getting any drier. We’ve had 134mm of rain in ten days. That amount usually falls in two and a half months! With swamp-like conditions it’s impossible to work on the borders. Luckily my cut flower patch is divided by little slabbed paths, so I never need to step on the soil.

Alstroemeria Laguna and Serenade

In amongst the dahlias there’s pink and red alstroemerias grown in pots. If you pull the flower stems out of the compost when you pick them, more blooms will follow. Pull instead of cut is the message. It seems destructive, but promotes further flowering. These are tall varieties suitable for cutting. I accidentally bought some dwarf types once, which looked pretty in the borders, but were hopeless for flower arranging. So take care when choosing plants.

Dahlia Arabian Night

An old favourite I’ve grown for years. Very reliable and doesn’t seem troubled by rain and wind. Earwigs don’t seem to go for the darker shades, preferring the whites and pale-flowered dahlias. If your plants are being nibbled by earwigs, place upturned pots of straw or corrugated cardboard on canes near the flowers. In the morning you can tip the earwigs and their bedding into a wildlife corner, or amongst fruit trees. Earwigs are voracious predators of aphids and vine weevils. Worth relocating away from your dahlias.

Amaranthus cordatus

Love lies bleeding. An easy to grow annual. Produces pendant tassel-like flowers. It’s also known as velvet flower, foxtail and prince’s feather. Sow seeds in half seed trays in March/April. Prick out seedlings into 9cm pots or full seed trays and plant out after frosts. Flowers all summer until the end of October and sometimes into November, depending on temperatures.

Penstemon Plum Jerkum.

A short-lived perennial. This came as a cutting from a friend. It’s a good idea to take insurance-policy cuttings in late summer. These plants are not totally hardy. It’s the winter wet that defeats them, so plant in well drained soil in full sun and protect from the worst of the weather with fleece. Take cuttings in July and August from non-flowering shoots. Cut below a pair of leaves, where there’s a concentration of hormones to promote rooting. Remove all but the top two leaves. Place the cuttings around the edges of a 9cm pot filled with 50/ 50 horticultural grit and compost. The edges of the pot provide the most free draining position for the cuttings, which helps roots to form.

Verbena Bonariensis

Another short-lived perennial requiring a sunny spot in well-drained soil. I lost all my plants in the Beast for the East big freeze last year. Luckily, it grows really well from seed and cuttings. Sow seed in the spring in half trays and prick out, as above. Or take cuttings in late summer. There are tiny side shoots just above a pair of leaves. Gently pull these down and you will have a short cutting.

Aeonium Zwartkop

Aeoniums are evergreen succulents with a shrubby growth habit. My plants collapsed in the wind and some of the stems broke off. They make a lovely, unusual addition to flower arrangements. It’s all about using what you’ve got in the garden. When I take the posy apart, I’ll cut the bottom few inches from the stems and stick them in a pot of very gritty compost. Kept frost free, the cuttings will readily root and I’ll have new plants to stand out on the patio next summer.

Trifolium pratense red clover

The lovely pink rounded flower on the left is just common clover. This year I grew a patch of wild flower meadow in a raised windowbox on legs. I’m always saying you don’t need acres of land to grow food, flowers, and veg. So I put it to the test. It worked a treat. I filled the containers with Dalefoot seed compost and sowed seeds direct in spring. Red clover flowered all summer, alongside blue harebells, yellow birds foot trefoil, scabious, corncockle, and vipers bugloss. It’s been a joy to watch bees, hoverflies and butterflies visiting my little patch of “meadow.”

Nicotiana mutabilis.

The pretty tubular flowers are colour-changing tobacco plants. These were sown and planted last year. They self-sowed over the winter, and have come up stronger and more beautiful this summer. I’m hoping they will do the same for next year, but I’ve saved seed and sown some more, just in case. Stems grow to 1.5m and produce clouds of trumpet-like flowers. They change colour as they age through various shades of white, pink and lilac. Glorious, and highly recommended. I’ll never be without it now I’ve seen it flower all summer long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Venetian shades bouquet, photographed on a windswept day in the garden. Golden beech tree leaves were swirling past my head as I was tying up the flowers. It seems autumn is on a fast forward setting. What is it like in your garden right now?

Links: I love to join in with Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme. But Mondays are my busiest working day. So I’m just going to post photos when I can. I’ll be reading all your posts when I get home from work.

IAVOM : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Dahlias : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/search-results?s=Dahlias+

Alstroemerias: http://www.postalplants.co.uk/catalogue.asp

Amaranthus :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Amaranthus-Love-Lies-Bleeding-Seeds.html

Penstemon : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/162416/Penstemon-Pensham-Plum-Jerkum-(Pensham-Series)/Details

Verbena Bonariensis; https://higgledygarden.com/2011/11/21/verbena-bonariensis/

Aeonium: https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/details%3Fplantid%3D64

I’m @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. Please feel free to share this post, linking back to bramblegarden.com

Six on Saturday. Wind-Swept Walk Around My Garden on 10th Aug 2019

I don’t like windy weather. It makes me unsettled. I worry about everyone’s gardens. So much effort goes into growing flowers, fruit and veg, it’s heartbreaking when it’s destroyed by the weather.

I’ve waited all day for the wind to drop. It hasn’t. So it’s a blustery, sort of a walk around my garden. My dahlia stems are pointing in all kinds of crazy directions. I should have staked them better. But I didn’t. This one is still looking lovely though. It’s a decorative double called David Howard. Beautiful, orange-blushed flowers 10cm across, set off by bronze-tinted foliage. Plants grow to about 75cm, unless toppled by the rain and wind……. sigh.

Double flowers like these last around two to three weeks in a vase. They keep on opening up, like a ripple effect, until the centre is revealed. Well-known florist Jonathan Mosley gave a demonstration at the Belvoir Castle Show recently and revealed a few tips on getting the best out of cut flowers: Use a very sharp kitchen knife to cut flowers, not secateurs which crush the stems rather than cut them cleanly. Walk round with a bucket of very cold fresh water, and drop stems straight in, so air bubbles don’t get the chance to form in the stems. Cut flowers early in the morning and stand them up to their heads in water in a cool dark place such as a potting shed or garage for at least 6 hours before using them in arrangements. Giving them a really good drink makes them last much longer.

I’ve decided to go for an apricot-coloured theme this week. It might help calm our shattered nerves. This is one of my favourite rambling roses, Ghislaine de Feligonde. It flowers in huge swathes in June, and then puts out the occasional flower right through the summer. Bees love it, it’s free flowering and doesn’t get blackspot. All cause for a celebration, I think. Plus is looks good in a a vase.

In keeping with the colour scheme, there’s some beautiful seedling spider day lilies bred by Pollie Maasz at Pollie’s Lilies. These ones don’t have a name as they are trial plants. Pollie selects the best from her trials and registers new names. It’s a fascinating process and I’m glad to have some of her “babies” to try out here.

I am very fond of New Guinea hybrid impatiens. They flower all summer for no effort other than watering and feeding with seaweed extract or liquid tomato fertiliser. I don’t even bother to dead head them, they seem to sort themselves out. This one is Magnifico Star Orange. Cheerful even when it’s raining and blowing a hooley in the garden. I can always pretend I’ve been transported to the tropics.

I love begonias. This one is from the Apricot Shades range and is good for containers and hanging baskets. It will flower its heart out until the first frosts, then I’ll bring it in to the frost free greenhouse for winter. Dried off and kept indoors, it can be started into growth each spring. A really good value plant and so many lovely colours to choose.

Finally, from my pelargonium collection, there’s this beauty. This is one of the species hybrid pelargoniums from Fibrex Nursery. I think it is Pelargonium Ignescens, but will stand to be corrected. I have quite a few from the nursery and the labels have long gone. This one dates back to the 18th century and has pretty soft, downy leaves too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk round my garden today, despite the howling wind! This is the view from the far hedge, in the back field behind my garden. It’s a wonderful place to stand and observe the weather. You can see for miles and today the farmer has started – then stopped – harvesting the corn. In a day, the crop will be safely gathered in, and the scene will change again, with ploughing the next sound we’ll be hearing.

Links: sos are https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/10/six-on-saturday-10-08-2019/#comments

Dahlia David Howard: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/57111/i-Dahlia-i-David-Howard-(D)/Details

Rosa Ghislaine de Feligonde https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/rosa-rambling-ghislaine-de-feligonde.html

Pollie’s dayliles https://www.polliesdaylilies.co.uk/

Fibrex https://www.fibrex.co.uk/

Winner of Dahlias book by Naomi Slade

Congratulations to June at The Cynical Gardener who has won my prize draw for a copy of Naomi Slade’s new book, Dahlias.

I wrote a review of the book Here.

I absolutely love the book, and find I’m dipping into it whenever I sit down and rest a moment in my potting shed armchair.

The book features mouth-watering photographs by Georgianna Lane. It’s easy to read and there are lots of hints and tips on getting the best out of your dahlias.

Who could resist these lovely, brightly-coloured single varieties.

Here’s some photos of my own dahlias in my cut flower patch. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the newer varieties highlighted in the book. I’m particularly keen to try the dark red and chocolate types, as well as the cheerful sounding “happy” series.

Some of mine have been grown from seed. They produce good size plants in one year.

Dahlias will be published by Pavilion Books on 2nd August, RRP price £25. Here’s the Amazon link for more information.

Please kindly share this blog on twitter, Pinterest, facebook or any other social media platform. Thank you. And don’t forget to say hello in the comments below.

Dahlias- beautiful varieties for home and garden

Book Review

Naomi Slade. Photography by Georgianna Lane

http://www.pavilionbooks.com. £25. August 2018.

Leave a comment below if you’d like your name to be put in the hat for a chance to win one free copy of the book. The publishers will draw out a name. Their decision is final. Sorry, it’s open to UK entries only.

Photo : My favourite dahlia Nuit d’Ete in my own cut flower plot in Leicestershire.

I’m away from home for a few days, staying with my mother-in-law Joan. Everything here is at a slower pace. Breakfast takes an hour, and over tea and toast she tells me how her husband Keith once won awards at the local flower show with his dahlias and chrysanthemums. The whole garden from the back lawn, to the greenhouse was set in regimented rows of flowers. I can picture the scene. This garden has been lovingly tended by my in laws for more than 60 years. And now everyone in the family is stepping in to keep it looking perfect. It’s quite a challenge, but one we all enjoy.

Today, between hoeing and weeding and keeping them company, I’ve got time to sit down and catch up with some reading. And top of the pile of new books is Dahlias by Naomi Slade.

photo: Naomi Slade with her latest book. My photo, taken at Chelsea Flower Show.

Over 65 types of dahlias are profiled in the book. There’s 240 pages of mouthwatering photographs and inspiring, easy to read descriptions. There’s an introduction followed by sections on history and botany; and the dahlias are split into themes such as “romantic,” “dramatic and daring,” “fabulous and funky,” “classic and elegant.” A growing and care guide gives cultivation techniques, information on selecting varieties, choosing a suitable site and soil and planting tips.

Photos are sumptuous. I’m particularly drawn to the darker shades; deep red and almost black. Rip City is one I’d love to try.

Karma Choc is another on my wish list. This small waterlily flower is excellent as a cut flower and lasts at least a week in a vase.

I’d never heard of the Happy Single range of dahlias. These are perfect for small spaces and containers, growing to 30-60cm high by 30-40cm wide. Such a wide range of cheerful, rich colours. You couldn’t fail to be happy with them! Varieties include Happy Single Flame, Happy Single Party, Princess and First love. Even the names made me smile.

To calm things down after all that colour, there’s some dazzling and very beautiful white dahlias. I enjoyed learning about all the different kinds of dahlias. I knew about cactus and water lily types, but didn’t know much about collarettes, and anemone- flowered forms. And ones called star, or orchid-flowering sound particularly appealing.

Here’s some photos of dahlias from my own garden. I’ve taken cuttings from mine to grow in my in laws garden. Having read Naomi’s inspiring book, I’ve made a list of new varieties to share between our two plots. And I’m hoping to learn some prize winning tips from my father in law. You never know, I might even enter the local flower show.

Naomi Slade is a writer, broadcaster, consultant, speaker and photographer. A biologist by training, a naturalist by inclination, and with a lifelong love of plants. She writes regularly for national newspapers and magazines. Her books include The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops and An Orchard Odyssey.

I really enjoyed reading her latest book. It’s brought back some lovely memories for my mother in law and sparked off a new plan in my head to grow more dahlias in their garden.

Right then…. back to the weeding. Must not let my in laws down! 🙂

A peek at my week. What I’ve seen- where I’ve been

Took Mum to Norfolk to see East Ruston Old Vicarage. A feast for the eyes. Loved this sunny wild flower meadow.


Got lots of container planting inspiration. Much scribbling down of names and taking of photos went on. Just look at the size of that brugmansia! You can see why it is called angel’s trumpets. The scent is out of this world. It’s underplanted with yellow argyranthemum, purple verbena, and lobelia. There’s even a grey-leaved melianthus squeezed in. Such an enticing entrance to an archway. 


Every second word we used had “exotic” in front of it! Loved this avenue of cannas planted with blue verbena bonariensis and orange tagetes. 

Saw two sumptuous deep red dahlias. Sadly no labels so we don’t know the names. I’m searching books though, so will post an update when I know for certain. 


I grow this tender purple-leaved Aeonium plant in the greenhouse at home. I might set it outdoors for the summer, now I’ve seen how lovely it looks. 

Also have this blue-tinged echeveria in a pot in my greenhouse. And I’ve got this Stewart Garden low planter which looks like stone, but is actually plastic. Much lighter to carry in and out of the greenhouse. 


Should NOT  have looked at the plant sales area. Fell in love with these two dahlias. Can’t wait to get home to plant them in my cut flower patch. 


Here’s a quick look at the barn we stayed in. It gets a five star rating from us. More information to follow. 


Do get in touch and let me know what you have been up to this week. It’s been sunny and hot in Norfolk and I’m expecting to arrive home to a lot of weeding and dead heading on the plot!