BRIAN KIDD: From the mud and rotting foliage, beauty will shoot again

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At this time of year I get a bit fed up with the weather. In particular I hate the wind, as regular readers will know.

I went into the garden to dig up the new dahlias we bought earlier in the year which have been glorious for more than four months, but a couple of weeks ago Jack Frost nipped the foliage.

The next day the gorgeous blooms were brown and the foliage completely black. It seems such a shame because the dahlias brought the garden back to life during the autumn

Unfortunately all the tubers have to be dug up and stored during the winter. It's a horrid job, all that mud and rotting foliage, but we have to get on with it.

First of all, cut the stems down to about four inches and put the stems into the compost heap after cutting them into small chunks

The next job is to wash off the tubers (the thick roots) with an old washing up brush and water to remove all the old soil.

The tubers are now left upside down for a few days to allow the moisture to leave the stems.

Now we have to store them over the winter. We need a place which is frost- free and where the temperature will remain above freezing all winter.

The tubers are best planted in boxes of dry peat or in the contents of the growing bags used for tomatoes. We use frail wooden boxes often found at the market.

During the winter, the tubers will remain in the peat to keep them dormant and frost-free, but in about early March shoots will appear on the tops of the tubers. That is the time to take cuttings to get more plants.

Dahlia cuttings are easy to root in April. Simply cut off shoots three inches long with a little slice of the old tuber. Insert the cutting into sandy compost in a plant propagator and they will root in about three weeks.

We have several clumps of dahlias which have been left in the garden because they are old varieties such as Edinburgh and Bishop of Llandaff. These are in a warm place in well-drained ground. If we have a spell of exceptionally cold weather the tubers could freeze and rot but we hope this won't happen

A good tip and one we employ ourselves, is to put a top dressing of well-rotted compost over the surface of the soil to a depth of about four inches and over an area about the size of a dustbin lid. Good insulation!

Despite the weather, the good news is that two varieties of camellia are in bloom, pink double and a white single. This really cheered me up the other morning.


This is the best time to plant tulips because the colder weather encourage slugs to be less active.

Don’t forget, tulips look great in tubs and pots.

People aren't growing tulips these days, but hopefully you will buy some and visitors to your garden will enjoy the revival.

If we don't buy them, garden centres won't stock them.