We took a trip back to Ragley Farm recently to visit our friends there, and as we walked around our old haunt we momentarily concluded that Vivi's flower garden had been converted into a breeding ground for parasitic warrior ghosts or maybe white gremlins. I drew my battle axe and charged the garden but Vivi managed to convince me it was just wool protecting her dahlias before I caused too much damage.
Traditionally, Vivi dug up her Dahlias in late fall and stored them in sawdust in the barn to avoid the risk of frost-kill over winter. However, for successful indoor Dahlia storage you need to dry out the plants a bit first, and Vancouver Island's damp winters (and Ragley's damp barn) lowered the plant survival rate. Next, she tried leaving her Dahlias in the soil and mulching them with hay and straw. This was also problematic, because the mulch would rot and in the process rot her dahlias.
This winter, she tried wool donated by some Icelandic Sheep farmers down the road. The Dahlias are looking great so far, despite a week or two of -5 to -10 Celsius weather this year.
Vivi's got nothing bad to say about this system. She's had a few mice finding the mulch quite nice as shelter, but they haven't caused any harm.
She also mentioned that the wool blanket doesn't prevent her from having to dig up the plants, since you need to split them to achieve the highest quality blooms. Vivi ends up splitting each plant into 15 or 20 pieces. A story for another post, perhaps. Thanks to Vivi, and to Vanessa for great photos.
Anyone else reading this got some suggestions for overwinter plant protection? Leave a comment! Or email firstname.lastname@example.org