Bright pops of colour for the winter garden
Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Yes it's freezing outside so you may think I'm a little bit bonkers for gardening in this weather and I think I agree with you to a certain extent, but my inner gardening freak really needed to do something about this…
Sad isn't it? A sad little frost burned dahlia curling into itself to escape the cold. Looking at it every day from my kitchen window is a reminder that the warm days of summer are long gone and venturing outside in this chill requires at least four layers of clothing. Shall I bother? No, I think I'll stay inside. This is a mistake. Winter is a time when you can see the bones of your garden. Seeing it laid bare can help you to formulate plans for spring planting. More than this though, there are some really tough and quite beautiful plants to be seen (and smelt) at this time of year.
I love to plant cyclamen coum in pots on the deck in November and December. So I eased the sorry dahlia out of the soil carefully trying not to damage the emerging narcissi bulbs. I will store the dahlia in the greenhouse over winter. To do this knock any wet soil from the dahlia tubers (they look a bit like potatoes) and cut the frost damaged stems back. Store upside down in a dry container, you can cover it with straw or hessian to protect it from frost too if you like. I've found by doing this the dahlia tubers start to shoot earlier in spring than if I leave them in the ground or a pot over winter so I get a longer flowering period the following summer.
I bought the cyclamen from a local garden centre. If you intend to plant cyclamen outdoors make sure you buy the hardy outdoor variety. They are the ones that are kept outside at the garden centre, they are generally more compact than the varieties intended for indoor use. There are an array of colors available, from pure white or pale pink all the way through to fushia, deep scarlet and burgundy. I pack them into the pot because I know I will be moving them in spring to a shaded spot in the garden under the laurel where they can naturalize over time. If you intend to keep them as a permanent feature in the pot leave about 10cm between the plants to give them space to grow, but be aware that they are a magnet for vine weevil so you will need to treat the soil with nematodes at intervals from spring through summer.
I added a handful of plant food to the soil prior to planting the cyclamen and teased it into the soil with my fingers to avoid burning the roots . Once the cyclamen is arranged in the pot add extra compost in-between the plants and firm them in with your fingers. Think of it like tucking your kids in at night, you want them snug but not too tight. Sweep up any excess soil around the base of the pot then water in well. Now, doesn't that look happier?