The last dahlias

Choices. Do I go and have a shower and make dinner, climb out of the dirt encrusted jeans, scrub the grot from the fingernails?

Or just write the damn blog and start being a bit more informative to all you patient people.

You win. the guilt! Where did November go?

I will pause to put a log on the fire. We have autumn / almost winter here on the mountain top. Freezing cold starts (frosts!) but gloriously sunny still days. I don’t think today made it higher than 9C. But without the wind it was glorious.

And as the word ‘frost’ looms, I know I need to grab the last of the dahlias and say farewell to the cut flowers for another year.

This one is lingering on.

Not my favourite. But I think if you just cram them into a vase the whole overall blast makes one smile.

This selection has been on the kitchen worktop all week.

But as of this morning, it’s all compost now.

And I have now spent today cutting back the stems in the potager.

It’s an almighty mess. Flowers toppled all over each other, making a mockery of my plans to stake the dahlias.

I can stake carefully in May. June feels like I’m winning. And then it’s the glorious jungle where I ponder how to get it right next year. I did brilliantly two years ago. But I am learning that as the dahlias put on girth, they grow ever taller and the stems get harder to control. And my spacings were way too ambitious.

I Have Plans.

Big plans. The back of the potager has a long narrow bed that produces little more than a chore of disappointed weeding.

You can perch nicely on the warm stones. And chase bindweed roots. But I have decided to lift the lovely red Chris Banks pots out of the way, remove all the last of the gravel (so 2019) and level it off.

Then cover it in the new pale green weed proof fabric I had embraced in the soft fruit orchard. And plant the dahlias in their usual pots through the fabric and learn how to properly stake the plants.

They will appreciate the warmth from the stone wall behind them. And if I stake properly they won’t lean all the way to the path (hah!). Oh and run the irrigation hoses along the bed because they need a good drink to become the show.

That was the start of my ideas. I have older irrigation hoses that no longer need to be trip hazards at the house end of the potager. There is no irrigation in the raised beds at the front of the potager any more.

So where to put them? Not cut them off (that was my original plan) but snake them all the way from the house end along past the kiwi fruit and end at the fig.

Weeding and cutting back the fig tree was marvellous fun. I found a sucker so well rooted that I levered it out and transpanted it to the end of the east garden.

The dahlias will have a new home. And I have just six months to come up with yet another idea to control these amazing flowery beasts.

I wish I could weld. I have a zillion reinforced concrete rods that I could turn into towers. I can see the idea in my head. But haven’t made friends with an ironmonger to turn them into reality.

Possibly push three fat rods in around the pots and run twine around. I have that system on the honeysuckle up in the courtyard. But the soil here is very shallow (I’m on the bedrock at the back of the bed here) and I would love to be able to have something I can position in spring and not have to fuss.

We are only halfway through our second severe lockdown, so I doubt I will run into an ironmonger anytime soon. I could ask the builders. (Yes, still here.) But I don’t think they want any more projects. They are doing the joints and the mortaring of the garden room this week as the stone masons are too busy to come back.

I promise pictures soon.

Here’s a teaser:

The autumn light that hits the cladding turns everything a burnished copper. Not what we imagined and we are thrilled.

Gazing at buildings doesn’t shift that tonne of gravel. Or the soil that can be better served in the raised beds (once it has been very carefully sifted to rogue out bindweed roots and stones).

Luckily I’m a fan of the endless design conundrums that this potager throws at me. Even if the daylight hours are shrinking.

You will see progress I promise.