There is an old adage down on the farm that says “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But despite my best efforts to stick by that rule, my many cases of spectacular failure prove its truth.
For years we have as a hobby been growing dahlias, their magnificent blooms impressive for most of the summer and fall. And after the first frost, one of my tasks is to dig out all the tuber clumps, then wrap them carefully in newspaper for winter storage.
Over time we experimented with various storage mediums, the most memorable was sawdust obtained from McClary Stockyards. While the shavings were clean they had, while resting in their pile at the yards, acquired a noticeable tang of cow manure, revealed only when the tuber nesting warmed in the confines of the house.
Shortly thereafter I was tasked with repacking the dormant dahlias with something less aromatic.
The tubers are overwintered in a former wine cellar. It maintains an even coolness required for the clumps’ survival, and is vacant because we long ago discovered that wine doesn’t last long enough in this house to require long-term storage.
When we first converted the room and loaded in our first winter of resting plants, I also stored some other stuff in the available space. That included a couple of large desiccant containers and a sack of the material formerly used to keep moisture at bay in a boat and camper.
It was revealed in the spring that desiccant not only keeps vehicles free of moisture, but sucks it out of dahlia tubers too! Most of the crop was completely dried out and rendered useless.
So it was, this past week, déjà vu.
After years of successful wintering, last fall when talking to a dahlia expert, I asked how he stored his tubers. “It’s a good idea to have a little fan in the room. Keeps the air circulating.”
Thus installed in the former wine cellar was a tiny unit that hummed away until last week when I began the process of removing the clumps in preparation to divide them for planting.
The little fan, I can only assume, had the same debilitating effect as the desiccant. Some tubers stored last fall weighing a pound were now lighter than the two sheets of newsprint that contained them.
It didn’t take long to discover that more than 75 per cent of the 150 or so dahlia clumps were either lost or severely compromised.
Fortunately, due to the plant’s prolific root production – they grow something like potatoes – we will still have a planation, though perhaps not quite as exotic as previous years.
As for next winter’s storage, I’ll stick with what has proved tried and true, and quit trying to fix what wasn’t broken in the first place.
On the other hand, it was with a hint of nostalgia that I learned of Providence Health Care and the provincial government deciding to replace rather than “fix” St. Paul’s Hospital.
Having lived in various apartments in Vancouver’s West End in the 1960s, St. Paul’s has always conjured fond memories. Not of the thousands born there, nor the thousands more who were healed or ended there lives there, but for the vibrancy of its former role as a nursing school.
Many times when having a party, I or one of my friends would call one of the pay phones on the various floors of the nursing residence, and invite whoever answered, along with her friends, to come on over.
I’m still surprised how often that worked! And a little saddened that in today’s world the trust of those times are long gone.