Sunday, November 20, 2016

Summer bulb preservation

Ok, I thought I should give you a proper HOW TO blog this week as I just dug up all my dahlias and canna and tender bulbs.  If you have these beauties in your yard and want to save them for next year, now would be the perfect time to dig them up.  Cannas hail from the tropical parts of America and dahlias (according to my brief research) are actually hardy at zone 6 or 7 and greater.  I believe that I would have to have quite a sheltered spot in my yard to attempt to over winter them in ground.  That being said, I do have Datura (zone 7) and gladiolas (zone 8 to 11 or 7 with protection) come back every year.  Perhaps next year I will run an experiment.

 I have quite a few dahlia plants that I started from seed several years ago.  Now these dahlias are not the big dinner plate types, but rather they have very pretty 3 inch sized blooms that cover the plant.   They are beloved by the bees and butterflies.  I also purchased a dahlia tuber on clearance this spring called Crazy Love.  It had a 4 – 5” flower.

Crazy Love bloomed until the frost killed it.  It looks like a lotus flower to me.  Lovely.

A honeybee on my dark pink seed raised dahlia.

The bumble bees did not seem to mind sharing with the other bees.
Often several bee varieties would be busy on the same flower.

My yellows were bright and cheerful.

This is my favorite color of the four colors of seed dahlias I have.
They do not have official names but I think of this one as sunrise.

We had a good hard frost a week or two ago and it killed all the foliage of the summer plants.  I let them get hit by the frost to kill the foliage back before I dig them.  It is easier for me to take care of them and something about the deadline of oncoming winter pushes me to get it done.  “If you wanna save them, you gotta do it now,” sort of thing.

I planted all my seed dahlias on the edge of the strawberry terrace.
Here they are telling me that they are ready to be dug up.

In the front herb bed where the pond was, I planted the Crazy Love dahlia along with a canna from my friend April out in Iowa and several Cape Flower bulbs which bloom in fall.  Really late fall actually.

Everything is dead… well, it looks dead.

My Cape Flower (Nerine bowenii) didn’t do much until late September and then it was gorgeous for almost 2 months until frost.

Alright, now you see why I think the work of digging up the bulbs and tubers are worth it.  The flowers are beautiful and are great for late summer blooms when a lot of the hardy perennials are spent.  Also because of the flat faces of my seed dahlias, they are excellent pollinator plants and that is important to me as well.

First I cut off the dead foliage to make it easier to manage the digging.

After brushing away the soil to find the tops of the tubers,
I gently work around the mass with my garden tiller tool to pull it out.

Lots of lovely fat tubers packed with damp soil. 

I brush off as much soil as I can using a small stick.

Cape Flowers send up their leaves in the spring, die back in the summer and then send up their flowers in the fall.
Their growth habit is similar to my Naked Ladies bulbs.

Cape Flower bulbs.  This is a good reason to label your plants as many times my different bulbs all look the same.

I went through the same process with my canna plant rhizomes.

Canna is wishing it lived somewhere warmer.

Trimmed back foliage and brushed off rhizomes of my red flowered canna.

Bulbs, rhizomes and tubers all drying overnight on my outdoor potting bench.

Once the various plants have been dug, I now need to cure them, or prepare them for their winter sleep.  I lay them all out somewhere they can dry nicely and any critters that may have hitchhiked along can run away.  Since I dug these on Thursday, the first of the very dry and warm last days of fall, I left them out for 24 hours.  I then brushed off any remaining dried soil and packed them away.

I use onion bags or orange bags to hold groups of the same kind of plant.  I also label whatever I do know.  I couldn’t remember the name of my purchased dahlia so I just labeled it pink and white and knew that I could look it up later and put the correct name on the tag as well.  The suggestion is to put them in a box with sawdust or straw to overwinter.  The goal is to not let them be damp but not let them dry out and shrivel up either.  A good balance which is sometimes hard to find.  I put them in waxed paper bags and fold over the top with a big paper clip and put them in my basement.  It has worked so far.

Well, that is pretty much it for how I dig and store my summer plants.  Next spring I will pull them out and replant them when the ground warms up enough.  I could start them early in pots but have found that the head start of a week or so of blooms isn’t worth the work, soil and space in the greenhouse.  Sometimes they even pout in the pot since they get root bound so fast.  Less work is good with me.

The other benefit of digging up my plants is that I make space for more bulbs and tidy up the beds.

The after of the Strawberry terrace

I love spring bulbs and I purchased about $25 worth on clearance (50% and later 75% off) but my biggest problem is where to put them.  Since we have taken out the pond, several scenarios have been discussed about what to do with the space.  I decided to go crazy and plant all the bulbs in the sunken hole left from all the compost rotting down.  Regardless of what we end up doing with that space, I will have a glorious display this spring.   I raked out the mulch, dug it a bit deeper and put in compost from my huge pile.

Layer 2 of 3 varieties of daffodil bulbs at 6” deep.  Layer 1 is alliums at 8” deep.

Layer 3 of 2 varieties of tulips at 5” deep.

Layer 4 of grape muscari and crocus at 3” deep.  I took handfuls of each bulb and tossed them in.
Then I turned them all right side up.  This helps make it more natural looking.

This is the definition of faith and hope to me.
By faith I put a bulb in the ground and I have hope for a beautiful future.
Finished front herb bed.  It too has been tidied all around the circle as well.

After burying all the bulbs I brought in woodchips to finish it off.  The ashitabi survived last winter in the big raised beds so I decided to plant it in the ground this winter and see how it does.  Since I am running out of space indoors, I am not bringing so many plants in this fall.  I even (gasp) composted a bunch.  I am going to cover the ashitabi and a silver sage plant (I put it in later next to the electrical box after I took the picture) with a pile of leaves for protection.

I will leave you with one last picture of fall.  My blueberry bushes turn the most amazing colors in the fall.  This is another reason why I think they are superior to an invasive burning bush.

Beautiful blueberry bush, not just for food!  

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