Dahlia Rewards


Dahlia are a wonderful addition to any garden.  Their uses are limitless and allow you the freedom to change your garden design year to year.  We use them in our perennial border, shrub border, vegetable garden, and even in mixed pots.  Although not winter hardy (USDA Zone 8 ) in our area (USDA Zone 6)–they require lifting and storage for winter–the dahlia is tender with an attitude.  As the blooms of many of our perennial standouts peter out with the first few cold snaps and light frosts, the dahlia’s colors become more vibrant.  With 6 months or more growth the hollow stems hold their delicate blooms high and proud, daring mother nature to bring the killing frost we all know will come–but when?  These bold colors coax one into the garden on finger-numbing mornings reminding us that the growing season is not over.

There is a seemingly endless list of dahlia types, which are classified by petal arrangement and the shape of the flower.  Each type varies in bloom size, plant height, appearance, and vase life.  A wonderful addition to flower arrangements, the double-flowering types do best as single-flowering blooms tend to drop their petals.  We make sure to keep cut dahlias on display in the main house throughout the fall.  I am currently keeping a close eye on the weather forecast for the cold snap that will end their season, and have big plans to cut every dahlia bloom to fill the house.

Once a killing frost arrives we will cut the stems to approximately 3″ above the ground and mark with a descriptive tag.  Using a garden fork, we will dig each clump while taking care to avoid spearing the tubers.  Gently shaking and brushing the soil from each clump, a descriptive tag is tied to the stem to guarantee identification in the spring.  The clumps are placed on a shelf to cure for a few days before being moved to winter storage.

For storage, we use leftover sawdust from our sawmill, plastic zipper bags and bulb crates.  After curing for a few days, each clump is inspected for wounds and signs of disease.  It is recommended that wounded areas be dusted with sulfur to inhibit disease, but to date we have not taken this step in our overwintering process;  instead we check the stored tubers every few weeks for adequate moisture and signs of disease.  Diseased tubers are removed immediately.  If the sawdust becomes dry, water is sprinkled in each bag to avoid drying out of the tubers.  The crates of tubers are stored in an area where the temperature is not allowed to dip below 38 degrees or above 50 degrees.

Throughout the winter, as we check the tubers, I gaze at the laminated photos attached to each bag and imagine where that dahlia will live next season.  I know already that ‘Crazy Love’ will end up in a container or two, and ‘Gallery Art Deco’–a gift from Katie Kramer–will go back in the shrub border again.

Appreciating what is in the garden now and dreaming of next year is a wicked balancing act.  Beautiful gardens are made with planning, but accidents are often welcome additions.  We will pot up our dahlia tubers in April to assist with planning and placement in May; however, this is not a necessary step as they can be planted directly in the ground within a week or so of the last spring frost date–about the time you might plant tomatoes.



Dragging hoses

The last I posted, it was ramp season.  You would only have to check the weather or better yet visit www.kymesonet.org–click on Oldham County–to know what we have been doing:  dragging hoses.  Before I sound ungrateful for the rain we have had, I know other counties like Henderson and Union have suffered worse–receiving less than 16 inches in 2012.  THAT’S FOR THE WHOLE YEAR!  Woodland to date has had 26.04 inches.  I am grateful.

One might wonder, why not throw open the hydrants and make it rain?  If it were only that simple.  We have livestock to consider.  If we were to pull all the water the garden desires, the bison would not receive what they need.  For healthy bison I will stand proudly next to my stubby 3-4′ okra plants and maybe even accept a racquetball sized pear-apple.  There are always dreams of next season to keep me going.  Thoughts of harvesting okra with a ladder and bushel baskets full with 100 pear-apple rather than 50.  Either way the fruit tastes just as sweet.



Snow Crazy




Kentuckians are famous for commenting on our unpredictable weather.  In case you don’t understand what I’m referring to, imagine a 48-hour period with bright sun, wind, dark clouds, rain, hail, tornados, wet snow ending with clear blue skies.  That really happens here.    This winter has been mild–to say the least–and I have been crossing my fingers for snow and freezing temperatures.  In 2012 we have had temperatures ranging from 15.2 degrees to as high as 70.8 degrees F.



If you are interested in learning about weather across Kentucky, check out the commonwealth’s official source for weather and climate data.  http://www.kymesonet.org.

It is through the Mesonet site that the current temperature and conditions at Woodland are displayed on our homepage.  The Mesonet station for Oldham County is located atop a bison pasture.

Sunday I went to bed making a mental  note of the pictures I needed to make time to take of the different varieties of Crabapple, Daffodil, Hyacinth, Iris, Witchhazel and more.  Uploading these photographs is a wonderful way to keep up with bloom time from season to season.  Monday morning greeted me with a beautiful blanket of heavy wet snow and a number of voice mails desperately wondering if EVERYTHING IS DEAD!  For those that are worried about their flowering bulbs–no need.  The snow has melted off at such a rate, it counts as nothing short of a good slow watering.  Most of our spring bulbs handled the snow like champs but a few of them looked completely smashed.  










As for the cabbage–I believe it enjoyed the cold blanket.

What’s Blooming — February 2012

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’  is in full glorious bloom.  The flowers of this witchhazel resemble perfect lemon zests draped over its rust-red calyx.  A deer favorite, it is only in the last few years that we have been able to enjoy this fireworks display.  Fencing special plants can be a nuisance and an eyesore but when you are rewarded with blooms like this, it is obviously time well spent.  The warm weather has definitely played a part in this early bloom.  Phenology geeks pay attention as we are 4 weeks ahead of 2010 and 2011.


What’s blooming — January 2012

I believe my friend Natalie was right when she posted “Winter is canceled” on her facebook page.  Signs of this are showing up every day.  The daffodil and tulip foliage have  been peeking up for weeks and the fall planted pansies haven’t stopped blooming.

Everyone seems to be enjoying the weather–skipping around on some sort of temperate climate high.  I however long for a cold snowy winter.  Winter is supposed to be a slow time for planning every last detail of spring thru fall plantings.  There will be no time for planning once the ground is dry enough for planting.  I need cold weather and a good hard freeze!

Instead, the Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and the Helleborus x hybridus are blooming.   Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is showing tips of yellow but I will wait to share a picture until it is near glowing.  The only reason I will be able to  tolerate a mild February is that the Corylopsis buds are swollen near to bursting.

Diane was just planted in 2010 and is still quite small.  The few flowers it has are spectacular and slightly fragrant–it will be a show stopper.  

Bee Broccoli

The temperatures have dipped low enough in the evenings at Woodland that most of our flowers are gone.  There are a few dahlias hanging on but definitely fodder for the bees has depleted.  We had a few head of broccoli that weren’t harvested and have begun to flower.  Whoa!  The bees are mad for it!  The broccoli head are large –making plenty of room for a number of bees to share the space.  I imagine them rushing back to the hive and doing their little bee dance.

Bee waggle dance






IF you haven’t had time to clean your garden up for winter, consider leaving a few plants to flower.

Magical Fruit


Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Tiger’s Eye’ is a beautiful bean the color of my favorite crayon–maize.  It is decoratively lined with a deep rich burgundy.   I love beans for so many reasons, even before eating;  they are just so dang nice to look at in mass, and super satisfying to run your hands through.

‘Tiger’s Eye’ is a bush bean that can be eaten fresh or dried.  Originally from South America, the skin of each bean is so tender, practically disappearing when cooked.

Our Farm Manager, Kristopher Kelley, was lucky enough to have his Grandmother prepare him a big pot of ‘Tiger’s Eye’.  He raved about how delicious they were and described them as “meaty”.  We grew a limited supply–just over twenty lbs–and they were dropped off at Proof on Main this morning.

Fall Color

Fall is my favorite season.  It’s time to pull out the corduroys and hoodies and really dig in–attacking the final chores of the season.  The possibility of frost could be any day so we work diligently.   We are thankfully aware of the sun that warms our fingers, knowing that if it disappears the work still must be completed.

Everyone is all atitter about the beauty of the fall colors.  The oranges, yellows and reds of our deciduous trees are on display for all to enjoy.   It is the perennial border at Woodland Farm that really flashes in fall with a rainbow of colors.  As the temperatures drop, the colors seem richer and more vibrant.  The amazing red of the dinner plate Dahlia ‘Babylon Red’ against the striking backdrop of Anemone ‘Party Dress’ (Pictured right) is a sight not to be missed.  Although we have to lift the dahlia tubers each season, we leave them in the ground for as long as possible–clinging to the colors they display for as long as we can.   Other Dahlia varieties that keep us in color include:  Babylon Purple, Bishop of Llandoff, Crazy Love, D. soldera, Karma Corona, Kelvin Floodlight, Nuit d’Ete and a few more.  These guys aren’t the only show stoppers.

A few of our annuals  step up and shine one last time each season.  Self seeders like Bidens ferulaefolia ‘Golden Goddess’ and Nigella damascena ‘Love-in-a-mist” sprinkle  yellow, blue, white and purple throughout the border.


Watermelon Chicken

I’m sure the title of this post made your mouth water. Visions of beautifully glazed chicken with a sweet watermelon sauce beginning to form in your mind?

NOPE.  These watermelons are tasty treats for the chickens and their faithful guardian donkeys.  A quick swipe with the machete creates slices that are almost too perfect.  The first melon barely tossed to the ground brings the chickens running–a funny sight.

Phyllis, Liza and friend (pictured right) have not joined the pasture flock but still enjoy the same treats.  They like to have a small side of dill and cilantro, especially, with their watermelon.  

Mexican Sour Gherkin

Mexican Sour Gherkins (Melothria scabra) are just about the cutest little things you have ever seen.  Looking more like Barbie-sized watermelons than cucumbers, the tiny fruit delivers a powerful crunch.  The flavor is both sweet and sour.  The dense foliage is covered with the sweetest little yellow flowers. Definitely worth a shift from the vegetable garden to the ornamental garden.