Dahlias Adieu

The frost descended like a cold smothering wind over the weekend, snuffing the life out of the garden. The temperature was on a downhill slide all day, so we rushed to harvest what was left in the vegetable garden, and hauled it to the garage for future feasts.

In spite of the drought, it was a wildly productive year. We were rewarded with record eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes, but I’m daunted by a mountain of green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes will be on our menu for weeks.


My triumph this year was a butternut squash vine that grew willy-nilly from the compost, like an unplanned, miraculous pregnancy. It yielded a dozen picture perfect specimens. Every year the compost pile unveils a star. One year, when all the tomato plants succumbed to blight, I had one perfect tomato plant inoculated from harm in the compost pile. I’ve had statuesque avocado trees that I’ve dug out of the compost too, but our anti- tropical climate doesn’t provide a long enough season for them to develop fruit. It fascinates me that it’s not a free for all in the compost, but each year, their is just one prize winning crop.

DSC_0760The vegetable garden is my great love, but dahlias give me joy beyond measure. It’s a miracle these voluptuous flowers begin as sad, gnarly, shriveled tubers.

Choosing which dahlias is the most challenging part of growing them.  JJ, Brooke, and I circled our favorites on a frigid February night – JJ, a fire engine red, called Angels of 7A, so appropriate because he’s eternally grateful to the angels who nursed him back to health up at Yale. Brooke choose a brilliant fuchsia collarette with a striking yellow eye, called Bee Happy.

My favorite, was Mikayla Miranda, a heavenly lavender and blush pink – seen below is this heavenly heap of dahlias.


Treasures from the garden.

Alas, the time has come to cut off the frosted stems, dig the tubers, and store them for the winter. I choose this variety because my son married his beloved Natalie in May.DSC_0011

My technique for storage: I wash the soil from the roots and leave them on the lawn to dry for a few hours. Then I gather them up, careful to keep the name tags in place, and lay them in their own nest of newspaper for a few days in the garage. When I’m certain the tubers are dry, I lay them on a fresh bed of newspaper, and cover them in peat moss. Lastly, I spritze the peat with what I imagine is holy water, sending them off to sleep until I see them again in the spring.  (I know I am supposed to peek in and have a look at them every six weeks to make sure all is well, but …… that is why I don’t have a horticultural halo!).

One winter night, we will pore over Swan Island’s offerings for 2016, and dream of warm days and the joy of luscious bouquets of dahlias.

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One Response to Dahlias Adieu

  1. Deirdre says:

    Such a cheery piece!

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