I thought you might like to see some dahlias to remind you of summer, of how fabulous dahlias are, and how to keep them over winter.
The heavy frost last weekend has put paid to them in my garden for this year, but a plant that flowers profusely for at least four months, that’s sixteen weeks of florist-standard flowers, deserves a round of applause and some attention.
The frost blackened the leaves, signal that some kind of action is needed to protect them so they’ll produce flowers again next year. After trimming away the dead growth, leaving about 4in.10cm. of stalk, there are two choices:
- leave them where they are and cover them with 4in./10cm. layer of well-rotted manure or compost, make the layer deeper of you live somewhere very cold. This is the easiest thing to do, but the plant will be later to get growing so the flowers will arrive later too, but honestly when life is very busy that’s a reasonable compromise.
- or you can carefully dig up the dahlia tubers and store them.
Tubers that are dug up have to be stored somewhere cool and dry, like a shed or cold greenhouse.
- Spread them out on a shelf with the stalks facing downwards for a week or two, then brush off any remaining soil, be gentle to avoid damaging them.
- I store mine on a shelf in a wooden crate, laid out with a bit of room between them with the stalk pointing upwards, under a thin layer of straw. I still have some of this from when we kept chickens, but you can use sand [it doesn’t absorb moisture] or loosely cover them with fleece. The aim is to keep them away from frost and damp.
- They can stay there until March, but check them occasionally and make sure they have enough light when they start to grow.
I went to a wonderful dahlia study day at Wisley Gardens a few weeks ago, the RHS do this sort of thing so well. Fergus Garrett (of Great Dixter)and others gave talks with brilliant information and slides of plant combinations.
I came away with lots of information, apparently tubers are at their best for four-five years, after that flowers are smaller and fewer. Then it’s best to either replace them or take cuttings when they sprout in late spring, these cuttings will grow into stronger plants that have the vigour of youth,
Read about the Dahlia Show at Wisley, some of the fabulous varieties and where to buy them here.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson.