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Posts Tagged ‘dahlia tubers’


My Mum came over last week for my Mother-in-Law’s 55th (okay, 65th – but don’t tell anybody!) birthday, and she brought quite a haul with her. She brought a large trailer full of goodies for me, including of course my dahlias that have overwintered in her frost-free shed and were potted up in early May.

The haul also included:

  • 9 large pots for the terrace, the Courtyard and wherever else we might want to stick them. Most of them a 15″ or more in diameter, so they can hold their own even if I use some in the garden to add some height or focal points to the beds and borders.
  • 1 bicycle – because the two bicycles that came with the house when we bought it were both rather shabby and needed replacement, and my Dad’s bike was just sitting in her shed, taking up precious space.
  • 1 sun bed (or whatever you call it) so my Mother-in-Law has somewhere to recline gracefully in the garden when she visits. We used to have two, but they were both nasty plastic things and fortunately both have collapsed under visitors in the past year so we could throw them out. My mother’s sun bed is made of aluminium and a nylon mesh, so it’s much more solid – and doesn’t need to be stored inside during winter!
  • 1 plum tree ‘Anita’ that she originally bought for her own garden but then decided against. It’s 2.5 meters tall and will have red plums as far as I can see, and as Anita is the name of my Mother-in-Law my Mum felt that it belonged in our garden.
  • 1 large toolbox – without tools – so we can get our tools in the apartment organised, rather than having a screwdriver here and a hammer there and not knowing which is where.
  • 1 small wardrobe that used to belong to my great-great aunt or something like that. It’s dark oak with a weathered mirror front and it will help us keep the house tidier by simply giving us more space to stick things out of sight.
  • 1 bag of stones with holes in them – don’t ask me why she brought those, but I’m sure I’ll find something to do with them.
  • 1 crate of home-made apple juice.
  • 2 pots of cuttings; lavender and something else I can’t quite remember what is. These come from my Grandmother’s garden, so of course I really hope they with root and be happy.

She also brought her new dog; it was the first time I saw her since I went to check her out before my Mum decided to buy her:

Flâneur Puppy

She’s grown so much, though admittedly she’s still a tiny dog and probably won’t be very big when fully grown, but she’s adorable and rather well-behaved for a puppy. She seemed to enjoy sitting on the steps of the terrace and supervise the garden while my Mum and I sat on the terrace.

The plum tree was planted immediately, whereas the rest of the plants and pots have just been dumped in a corner to be placed in permanent locations next weekend when the Flâneur Husband and I shall be spending the weekend in the garden. The tree has been aligned with the small apple tree and one of the axes of the terrace, so in time it should look like a logical placement without being too stringent.

Plum tree 'Anita'

The white tub at the back holds the dahlias that needed a thorough watering, so they got an overnight soak, whereas the tree that has lived for nearly a year in a tiny plastic pot has been nursed a lot more so it was ready for planting. I’ll have to re-fill the planting hole, I’m sure, as the soil is certain to settle quite a lot. I loosened it so much that when I’d planted the tree and watered it, I tried firming up the soil but ended up ankle-deep in mud…

I do like fruit trees… So pretty in spring, and yet not purely ornamental. This plum tree fits in with my original idea of letting the less-used North-East side if the garden become an orchard of sorts, and with an apple tree, a pear tree and a plum tree it seems like we’re well under way. I suspect, though, that we will need another pear tree in the garden somewhere, since the pollination of our current pear tree is at best rather haphazard and it has never yielded more than two pears in one year.

Anyway… Lots of presents from Mum – again – and lots and lots of hopes for how they will enhance the garden. And planting a tree is always so satisfying. As the Danish poet Piet Hein wrote:

You have shares in a future;
For that you must plant a tree.

Perennials are for ourselves, whereas trees will only look good when they are old – and I shall probably be in my grave, or close to it. The trees are planted for a future we might not see ourselves, but if you look at our new plum tree and squeeze your eyes nearly shut I swear you can almost see what it could look like 60 years from now.

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Nine dahlias dancing

Eight slugs a-slugging

Seven swans a-swimming

Six deer a-laying

Five GO-OLD rings

Four cunning birds

Three duck’s legs

Two pheasant cocks

And a partridge-less wonky pear tree!

Dahlias

The dahlia bed really is one of the stars of the garden, especially in late summer and throughout the autumn until the very first frost. It’s a completely random mix, and there’s nothing very stylish or organised about it. Yet, the flowers are so lovely, from the singles through the semi-double hybrids through to the full-blown cactii.

White dahlia

The white dahlias stole the show this year; they came through, even though I had grown them from seed. They put on a firework from early July through October until the first frost killed them off.

Dead dahlias

Still, once they died off I could dig up some wonderful tubers to safe for next year. (And since we don’t have a frost-free shed to keep them in they’ve been sent on a winter holiday at my Mum’s and she’s taking good care of them. She’s already re-packed them once because they were getting damp, and I think she deserves credit for this.) Of course I might just buy some more dahlia seeds this spring so we can have even more of these wonderfully diverse flowers next year. They come in so many shapes, so many colours, and I love them all!

Cactus Dahlia

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I recently splurged on a new pair of wellies. My old ones were a) two years old, b) not a very good quality and c) leaky, so I think it was a justifiable expense. After much humming and hawing I ended up selecting a very fetching little number from Karrimor, and they are definitely leagues beyond my old one, though they didn’t cost more. Only goes to show, sometimes price and quality are in no way connected…

New Wellies

So to test them I went down to the fjord to see if they will hold the water out, and they DO! Now, this is perhaps not surprising, but having worn leaking wellies for a couple of months now this really is a wonderful feeling! I got them a size too large, so I need to wear two pair of thick woolly socks for them to fit, but this was on purpose since there really is no inbuilt warmth in wellies.

God, I love them!

They do look very much like a new pair of wellies still – not surprisingly – but I’ll soon have them muddied up so they fit in with the rest of my gardening attire. (Please note how both knees have gone on my gardening jeans…)

Anyway, since I was down there and had the phone out, here’s the view:

Swans on the fjord

The weather is being very “November”, but fortunately with very little rain, so it’s all right, even though I’d like to see the sun again some day. The white dots on the water are swans – hundreds of them! I guess they find it easy to fourage in the shallow waters of the fjord – my new wellies could probably take me 300 meters out in the fjord before the water becomes too deep…

There’s not too much going on in the garden right now; I’m prepping for winter, mulching over roses and other plants that could do with a duvet in case we have a cold but snow-free winter like the last one. The lawn has had it’s final cut, all plants are planted – or at least healed in in temporary positions – and my dahlia tubers are visiting my Mum and her frost-free shed over the winter. (She’s pampering them; she just changed their newspaper wrapping this week since it was a bit too damp… I hope she doesn’t spoil them too much so they end up not wanting to come back to my garden and my rather hap-hazard gardening style!)

Does anybody else send plants off to stay with relatives over the winter? Ah, so it’s just me, then… I suspected so.

Anyway, it’s early morning here, so I’d better crack on with the chores. There’s coffee to be drunk, hot buttered rolls to be eaten and – of course – a warm cosy fire to be cuddled up in front of. Gosh, so many things to do!

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The frost came and killed the dahlias, as was to be expected.

Dead dahlias

However, there is more to dahlias than meets the eye; once the plants had their first taste of frost it was time to lift the tubers. And… Time to prove my grandmother wrong!

My grandmother, much beloved and cherished, claimed in spring that growing dahlias from seed would not generate viable tubers in the Danish climate, but I dare say I have 90% proved her wrong. (The last 10% will come when they sprout in spring!) At least it seems very likely that my tubers will be viable, since the larger of them are 2″ in diameter.

Dahlia tubers

The tubers are fat and healthy-looking, and I’m quite sure that if I overwinter them properly they will grow lovely flowers next year again. Which brings me to the title of this entry… I didn’t really know where to store the tubers over the winter, since we don’t have a frost-free cold room to put them in. However, tomorrow I’m travelling across the country to visit my Mum, and she has kindly offered to store my tubers for me through the winter.

So… I’m packing up my dahlia tubers and bringing them with me to my Mum’s place! Since my grandmother will be hosting her 90th birthday in April it means that I will naturally see my Mum at that time, and so I can get my dahlia tubers in time for planting them out.

Yes, it does seem a bit silly to bring dahlia tubers across the country, but then I do seem to have a habit of travelling with plants, so why not tubers? I brought them inside last week so they have cured for 7 days in a low-humidity atmosphere, and I think they are ready for winter now. My Mum has a large frost-proof shed where my little box of tubers can spend a cosy winter and then by spring they will return to me and the garden.

Oh, and I’m going to my Mum’s place to help her plant her new garden. She has already discovered that she has bought two perennials too many; two Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ that she has decided to donate to me… So that fits in nicely with my packing; I’ll be bringing a box of dahlia tubers with me over there and bringing a couple of plants back with me on Sunday!

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They survived the whims of a hap-hazard gardener, they survived a two-hour ride on public transport, they even survived a sustained slug attack for months (okay, the entire summer), but will our heroes be able to survive THIS?

Frosty dahlias

I had hoped our area would stay just clear of the predicted frost so I could see the very promising purple dahlia buds turn into flowers, but I guess that’s unlikely to happen, considering that it will be even colder tonight. Still, they put on a great show, all together, and I think that growing these from seed is probably the most satisfying garden activity of the year.

For now, though, there is nothing to do. I’m off to the city for the weekend, so I can’t cut them down and lift the tubers until next week. The frost is only on the surface, though, so it will just kill the flowers and leave the tubers unscathed – and the freezing has been so light that there is actually a small – very small – chance that the flowers will have survived well enough to be left standing for another week, considering that temperatures aren’t likely to dip below freezing again during the week from Sunday onwards, but you just never know.

Also, a few words of wisdom… When you wake up in the morning and see frost on the lawn it is NOT recommended to rush out to take pictures of your dahlias in your bathrobe; put on some trousers, or it will not just be the dahlias that feel a touch of frost…

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Yesterday after work I went home and started packing up for a weekend in the garden, and here’s mu luggage, photographed after 1 bus and 2 train rides (with the final bus ride to go):

  • 1 fuchsia – purchased in pot
  • 5  dahlias grown from tubers
  • 24 dahlias grown from seed
  • 2 dahlias grown from cuttings
  • 7 tomatoes grown from seed
  • 25 sweet peas grown from seed
  • 2 lavenders – purchased in pots
  • 20 or so gladiolus corms
  • 2 dahlia tubers

-So you know; just your average luggage when going on public transport!

Good thing nobody stared at me during the journey. No sirree, nobody at all… Except, of course, everybody who saw me logging around more plants than you find on your average well-planted balcony!

Today I’m planting out the dahlias in the Sunny Border; the forecast is for fairly mild nights during the next week, so I hope they will survive the change…  The Sunny Border will have no shortage of plants, that much is sure, especially if I sow a second batch so I have some spares to fill in any gaps. (Gardeners are like the royals; we should always have “an heir and a spare”, just in case… What with weather and wildlife doing as they please, we might as well be prepared!)

The fuchsia will go in a pot in the courtyard. I have no idea if it will be hardy enough for the Danish winters, so I might have to bring it inside when the frost begins, and that’s just simpler with a pot. (Plus the courtyard definitely needs some colour, and fuchsia is good at that.)

I’ve got doubts about the tomatoes; last year I grew them in a self-watering Styrofoam box, and that was actually my intention again this year, but I’m beginning to wonder whether to just plunk them in pots in the courtyard instead, or even in one of the vegetable beds (though I probably won’t do that, as space is limited there). We’ll see what happens!

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No, this is not going to be another post about what it looks like when I work from home, surrounded by vases of blooming forsythias or whatever. This is about REAL work, the kind that will produce visible, tangible results in the garden.

There is a large table in the bathroom that would probably be ideal for changing nappies if you had a baby, but since we don’t I have put it to other use:

I use it as a work surface for sowing seeds and potting up cuttings, and then the results are transferred to the windows around the apartment, especially the bedroom window since this is the window that gets the most sun (from dawn to around 1pm). The sitting room windows get slightly less sun, so I use those mainly for cuttings and for growing on tubers and roots.

This is what I currently have growing in the apartment (with a few omissions because there were pots I forgot I had tucked away):

As you can see I’m cheating by starting off the dahlia tubers in the apartment. This is because the slugs love them, and I figure a larger plant will be more able to survive a slug attack than a completely new shoot. There are also dahlia seedlings, pots with dahlia seed that has yet to make an appearance and – because the tubers grow so happily – a small pot with three dahlia cuttings that so far look like they will survive.

There are also two pots with tomato seeds and of course a tray of sweet peas. (And a box of DEGT seed – Don’t Even Go There – i.e. Zantedeschi Aethiopica with a germination period up to 3 months…)

And in the back of the dining table you can see a vase of dogwood branches that have rooted in the water. The variegated foliage is still pretty and adds a touch of spring to the apartment, but more importantly the roots are well-developed and eventually I will cut the branches back to only a couple of leaves and then plant them out in the hedgerow. I’m sure they will be happy there, and with dogwood there’s never even question about whether it will survive.

I do wish I could go out into the garden every afternoon after work, but since that’s not an option I do enjoy being able to get things going in the apartment, even though it will be a nightmare to transport everything up to the garden by bus and metro and train and bus…

(Oh, and tomorrow I’m flying over to the Flâneur Husband in Aberdeen and will be returning on Sunday with a suitcase full of three small rhododendrons that I will then plant in the garden on Monday… It seems silly in a way to move plants that far, but on the other hand they’ve brought him so much joy during his expatriation that I think it’s perfectly sensible to bring them to Denmark so he can continue to enjoy them.)

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