New beginnings


I have said goodbye to the lovely Flâneur Garden. I moved back from Houston in May to get divorced, and from July 1st I now have a tiny-but-pretty little apartment in Copenhagen.

The Summer House belongs to the Flâneur (Ex)Husband, so I said my goodbyes last week and left the keys to the house behind. (And yes, I did get a guy to come mow the lawn so I left the garden in a somewhat more arranged state than the wilderness it had grown into while I was away. A lovely wilderness, but at times impractical.)

Sad gardener

We’ve had our ups and downs, the little house and me, but we got through it all, somehow. I loved being up there; it was a safe space for me during some turbulent times with my husband moving first to Scotland, then back to Copenhagen, then to Houston and then came the flood, a kitchen rebuild in the Copenhagen apartment and of course my own move to Houston.

It wore me out, as you might see from the sudden drop in activity on this blog. But the Summer House and the Flâneur Garden never stopped being a treat for me.

Now, when the only soil I own is the dried mud stuck to my Wellington’s, it’s perhaps time to re-think a lot of things. First things first, though; if I can’t be a Flâneur Gardener, then at least I could fly to Berlin last weekend and stroll around museums, galleries and parks.


I have no idea what will happen with this blog. Less gardening, of course, but I’m loath to give up on the blog completely because it was an outlet for many years. And I do like writing… So maybe I’ll change the URL and find a new hobby to write about, maybe I’ll get a small allotment, maybe I’ll… Well, time will tell.

If anybody still reads this, thank you for following that 5-year journey that is now ended – for me. The garden still stands, and it will still be loved and cared for. It’s just my custodianship that is now at an end.


Would I were…

eϊθε  γενοίμην  .  . . .would I were
In Grantchester, in Grantchester !—
Some, it may be, can get in touch
With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
And clever modern men have seen
A Faun a-peeping through the green,
And felt the Classics were not dead,
To glimpse a Naiad’s reedy head,
Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: . . .
But these are things I do not know.

(Excerpt from “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” by Rupert Brooke)


There’s a reason I haven’t really posted about Houston life here. I don’t like it. There; I’ve said it. I can walk in the private park of our gated building, but if I want to get outside the gates I have to take a taxi because walking or cycling is neither pleasant nor safe in Houston. I’ve been hit by cars a total of 11 times in Houston – and fortunately I haven’t been injured any of those times, but it does make me feel rather unsafe venturing outside the gates.

I take a taxi to go to the supermarket, even if I just need a bottle of milk. While that does mean that a bottle of milk can be rather pricey, I don’t want to drink my coffee without milk. And I can’t safely walk or bike the 1.5 miles to the supermarket; God knows I’ve tried…

A flâneur who can’t walk anywhere is hardly a flâneur at all. And a gardener with no soil is hardly a gardener at all.

A long absense

I know I should have posted some updates over the past many months, but so much has been going on.

My Husband was sent on a temporary 9-months assignment to Houston, Tx, from November last year, then in December the summer house and garden was flooded when a storm pushed the North Sea into our little fjord so it rose 7′ above normal tides, and then…

photo 5

They wanted him to stay on, so as of July 25th I’ve been living in Houston.

We’re keeping the Copenhagen apartment and the summer house so there’ll be something to come back to when we eventually move back to Denmark, but there’s no time frame on our stay here.

Our new apartment is lovely, though; it’s in a slightly-too-fancy building with gates and pool and a private park, but what really sold me on it was this:

photo 1(2)

photo 3(1)

The view up and down the Buffalo Bayou from our balcony. We have the same view from our bedroom and from the library. It’s like being perched in a treetop, overlooking the river. In the early mornings there are bats flying around on level with our balcony, and in the late mornings there’s a single rabbit who likes to forage on the narrow strip of grass below it. Oh, and in the park there are turtles in the ponds and butterflies and dragonflies and I’ve even seen a humming bird in the bougainvillea on the balcony!

It’s a different world, with days spent by the pool and constantly feeling warm because the temperatures have not yet dropped. Last night was cold with a low of 23 degrees Celsius, but we will reach 32C today.

And yes, I do miss Copenhagen – and especially the summer house and the Flâneur Garden – but Houston life is good on us. And the day after tomorrow I fly to Denmark for a 2½ week “vacation”; I need to sort out the apartment – which I left as kind of a mess when I flew to Houston – and I need to sort out the summer house and the garden so it becomes welcoming and nice for the friends and family who will be taking care of it while we live in Houston. We will be back every now and then, but probably no more than twice a year, so we are relying on the help of people who love the house as much as we do and who want to use it and make sure it remains a living, breathing home, rather than an abandoned, dusty relic.

When I left Denmark the summer house had had new floors and walls put in after the flood in December, and I hope to see a fireplace, a kitchen and a bathroom installed when I go there next. Everything will be new and lovely, but everything will be the same way it used to be. We’re not upgrading, we’re not changing the look and feel of the place, and we’re not in any way trying to get anything but the place we loved – and continue to love from afar.

The garden will have to change, though; the flowerbeds have already become overgrown with grass and weeds, so only the bushes and the most vigorous perennials will remain. It will be a low-maintenance garden where the strongest survive. A few of our inherited perennials might die under the lawn-mover of people who have no way of knowing what’s a weed and what’s a plant from my grandmother’s garden, but so be it. We knew that was one of the many sacrifices when we decided to move abroad, and I think the garden will survive and retain it’s back bones.

And I know that we shall always have a home in Denmark, no matter how long we stay abroad.

The last couple of days

I went up to The Summer House last weekend to clear it of all the flood-drenched items – furniture, linen, bedding, books, chattel in general.

The trip up there was devastatingly beautiful. Sunshine, blue skies and a scattering of clouds – and birds as in the picture below.

20131216-172206.jpgWhen I arrived the neighbours were already busy, clearing their house of everything that had been in it. The sight of their house’s content piled up on the still-flooded lawn was rather abysmal and disheartening, but that is their stuff and I won’t show you what it looked like. One’s possessions tend to look rather shabby when drenched with fjord water and piled up on a flooded lawn – there were numerous cases of this up and down the road.

20131216-172217.jpgI had a carpenter come by on Saturday and another on Sunday to make an assessment of the damage and give an estimate of the works needed. The floors needed to go, so the first carpenter did some exploratory cuts to see what was underneath. Not surprisingly there was soaking wet insulation, another layer of wet wood and then a puddle on the ground underneath the floor.

20131216-172226.jpgThe main part of the house – the sitting room and the kitchen – is in the oldest structure of the house, and that’s basically a log cabin, only with very narrow logs, so it has been insulated externally with Styrofoam and an external wood cladding. The insulation and the cladding might have to go – apart from anything because Styrofoam is highly flammable – but the main structure remains healthy and with moderate moisture measurements, considering the circumstances. 2′ up the wall the moisture levels are at 25% relative humidity which is not far from what you’d find in a healthy unheated wooded cabin in winter.

20131216-172234.jpgIt was sad, though, to clear the house for all non-salvageable items. Like books… At the bottom of the pile to the left is a small collection of Astérix and Lucky Luke comics I bought while I lived in Paris. At the top to the left is the cookery book that my aunt gave me when I tuned 18 as a “get out of your parents’ home” present – hence the 10 months in Paris… And then there’s Mrs. Beeton on the lower right; I bought her myself, but I’ve loved her dearly.

20131216-172247.jpgAnd then there’s everything else. The entire “previously covered terrace” is full of furniture and other wet stuff, and then there’s a large pile on top of our double bed, standing in the watery lawn. And there’s another pile behind the house. It really does look like so much junk piled high, but when it was dry it was the trappings of a holiday home. Still, it is replaceable stuff, and for some absurd reason I’m thrilled that the dart board we’ve never used has died in the flood whereas out croquet set, Viking game and petanque boules have all survived.

So there. Much is lost, and to be frank I’ve had a rather miserable weekend emptying the house and the annex. And yes, it’s taking it’s toll on me, but I’m pulling through. The house is safe if I just stay cool and get things done. And I will get things done.

Tonight, though, I will enjoy the fact that there is nothing I can do right now. And I will indulge myself in a bout of misery and feel really sad about our poor little house that we love so much. It will survive, no matter what I have to do, but it has taken quite a beating and it can still make me cry now, nearly 1½ weeks after the flooding happened.

It might be just a house, but it’s MY house. And NOBODY  messes with my house! If I have to tear out the floor myself, I’ll do it. I will do whatever it takes. It hurts so much to see it like this, and the only comfort is that some day in spring I will go up there to spend a weekend in a lovely, healthy house. Even if I might have to camp out on the floor the first couple of weekends.

I’m still here…

I’ve somehow not really found the time to blog much this summer and autumn, but I wanted to share this with you guys. The Flâneur Gardener is still here, but the garden is in serious trouble.

We had a fairly bit storm at the end of October which knocked down three trees, but those trees were scheduled to be felled anyway, so we were just happy they fell the right way and didn’t hit the house. And everything else was more or less all right except a knocked-over fence by the entrance to the garden.

Then came Bodil. The storm in October, Allan, reached all-time record wind speeds for Denmark, but Bodil was almost as hard and whereas Allan lasted a few hours, Bodil lasted 24 hours and blew from a direction that forced lots and lots of water from the North Sea into the internal Danish waters, including Roskilde Fjord 200 yards from our holiday home and the Flâneur Garden.

Storm Surge December 2013Another three trees went down, but that’s not a problem. They, too, were scheduled to be felled. But this is a picture of Sunday morning, and the storm was on Thursday-Friday and the dike was surpassed on Friday evening. Sunday morning we had a good foot of water around the house, and deeper in other parts of the garden, but from the marks on the house it’s clear the water was 3-4′ around the house at it’s worst.

Storm Surge December 2013The garden has been flooded before, but a) that was rain water, b) that was before we installed the drain and c) it never reached the base of the house. This time, though, it’s sea water, and I’m dreading what the salt will do to the plants. Basically, everything I’ve planted over the past 3½ years is in danger. Everything I did since we bought the garden and I started this blog. It’s heart-wrenching, really. But regardless of the effect on the garden we can get it back in order somehow. Some day.

At least there will be very few killer slugs next year!

The house, though…

Sad gardenerI can start over with the garden even if nothing survives (and something WILL survive, I’m sure), but the house… I love that little wooden house; it’s the best place in the world to sit and do absolutely nothing. It’s taken quite a beating. There has been close to 2′ of water inside, the furniture is all over the place – and wet – and there’s a brown slush covering every surface the water reached. Heck, even the fridge keeled over…

Storm Surge December 2013Everything is wet. And the floor? It’s not a dark, exotic hardwood… It’s a very pale raw beech floor, but it’s covered in filth. (And that’s the fridge blocking the entrance to the kitchen.)

Storm Surge December 2013Everything is wet and dirty. And it will remain wet until they get the power supply for the area back up. Then I can start testing to see if the heating works and can help dry out the place, and then I can get some dehumidifiers in place and generally do some damage control.

The floor in the bedroom has already buckled beyond repair, so that needs to be changed. The floor in the sitting room is made of sturdier wood so it might survive – or it might buckle when it dries.

I literally cried when I entered the house and saw what it looked like. So much is beyond salvage, and so much is only potentially salvageable. I cried, then I climbed over the fridge into the kitchen, poured myself a rather-too-large 16-year-old whiskey (sorry, Flâneur Husband…) and downed it in one gulp. And then I picked up the photo of my great-grandmother that was lying on the floor, pulled myself together and started wrestling the photo album out of the bookcase where the books were almost glued together.

I never hurt a book. I love them. But it was a photo album created by friends for the Flâneur Husband when he was moving to Scotland just after we bought the summer house, and for it’s sake I literally tore up the books around it. A picture speaks more than a thousand words, right? Even if those words ARE from the pen of Edgar Alan Poe, Oscar Wilde et al.

Storm Surge December 2013The album was ruined, but the individual photos were, when I came back to Copenhagen and pealed apart the album, all right and just needed to dry out, and this is where under-floor heating comes in handy…

Storm Surge December 2013I filled the bathroom floor with photos four times, leaving each “batch” to dry for 20 minutes and then removing them to the floor of the library and dining room for final drying and it worked. They are all all right, though all are completely buckled. A new album will be made of them.

Oh, but the house. And the garden. And the roses. And the cute old arm chair that came with the house. And the beds. And the bed linen I bought in London in 2003 when I had just gotten dumped and thought that if I couldn’t sleep with a boyfriend at least I could sleep with a high thread-count. And the tweed blazer I wore in a blizzard on the Lake District Fells in England and on the fells around Nuuk in Greenland. And the T-shirt I used to look really hot in before I grew too old for that to be dignified and age-appropriate attire. And the compost heap. And the roses. And the perennials from my grandmother’s garden. And all the other stuff.

Even my kayak sank in the mix of storm and flooding.

Stor Surge December 2013(It’s the white stripe in the water…)

What you can’t see is that there was actually ice on the water, but a man has got to do what a man has got to do, and you can’t save a kayak without getting your hands wet. It has suffered no visible damage, which is great news as this was my wedding present from the Flâneur Husband. That makes it irreplaceable.

We are hoping – and actually believing – the house can be saved if we just turn the heating all the way up and get some dehumidifiers going. The annex might be more tricky; it’s harder to heat and it will be very hard to get the construction dry, and any way it’s an older construction than the main house and made of poorer wood. I will try, though. I will goddamnit do my best for every thing – living or material – on the plot.

Oh, yes… Small detail… The Flâneur Husband was offered a short-term assignment in Houston, so he moved to Texas on November 1st and will move home at the end of July 2014. He will be home for two weeks over Christmas, but other than that I’m on my own with this project. (Hence the frequent use of “I” in this post. I swear I’m not just being egocentric, but my husband simply hasn’t been to the house yet.

But… One book had been carelessly and messily left on top of a cupboard.

The Architecture of Happiness“The Architecture of Happiness” by Alain de Botton. (And yes, I put it there for the photo op…) It is, after all, a house of happiness, and we should – and DO – remember this.

I’m just so grateful that something like this has happened to our holiday home and not our regular home. Granted, it would take quite a surge to flood a 4th-floor apartment, but you know what I mean. So many people lost so much more.

Mind you, this is Denmark. Your regular house insurance won’t cover you in a force majeure situation like this, which is why there’s a government insurance scheme that everybody with a fire insurance on any building is covered by. People might have lost all their possesions, but at least they will get some sort of compensation so they won’t be destitute.

We, too, will get some sort of insurance pay-out to cover the damage. We won’t know how much for quite a while, but it will at least be quite a good help. And we can manage. This is a holiday home, after all, so we don’t need to find temporary housing or buy everything from scratch.


I just wish they would get the power back on up there so I could DO something. Without power I can’t turn on the heating, without heating I can’t dry anything, without drying anything the house and the stuff inside is just going to deteriorate. The power should be on tomorrow, though, so tomorrow after work I will travel 2 hours to get up there, battle to get the heating working and then travel 2 hours back, because the house won’t be fit for staying the night for a while.


All right, so I cried a little writing this post. It’s hard to see those photos. But I cry for two minutes and then the world moves on. And I move on with it, as is proper and fitting. It doesn’t ruin everything, but it IS a bloody nuisance.

Summer continues to live up to all our hopes and dreams here in Denmark. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far at 33,3 Celsius (91F), and unfortunately we are back at work and can’t even go up to the garden for the weekend as we have a wedding to go to. Not complaining, mind you, as weddings are always great fun. (We have another wedding next weekend…)

The only downside, really, is that I’m not relishing the thought of having to sustain 30+ temperatures in a suit and tie…

Anyway, if you’re stuck in the city during hot summer weather, Copenhagen is not a bad city to be stuck in. Last night we had dinner with my Mother-In-Law in the shadow of St. Nicolai Church and then went on to a pavement bar where we befriended the largest rabbit I’ve ever seen.

Flâneur Husband and RabbitOne of those absurd moments that are worth commemorating… I’m not sure why the owner brought his pet rabbit into town on a Friday night, but it was adorable in that slightly “MONSTER RABBIT” way.

But I meant to write about the garden, actually. I went up there after work an evening last week, and the bumble bees are busy doing their best to ensure a decent crop of blackberries:

Bumble bee and bramblesThere were literally dozens of them hard at work in the blackberry shrub, and there are hundreds of green blackberries waiting to be ripened and sweetened by the glorious summer weather. Methinks there WILL be blackberry jam this year!

But now I really must get off the internet and get that shirt ironed for the wedding today.

Will Autumn Ever Come?

Every gardener longs for Spring, and then for the glorious, florious summer. However, this particular gardener of the flâneur persuasion happens to be rather looking forward to autumn…

Not, mind you, that I’m not enjoying the first real summer in Denmark since 2010! I do not mean to sound like an ingrate; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the sun, the heat, the fact that shorts have – for the first time in my adult life – become part of my city attire. (Up to this year I’ve stubbornly refused to wear shorts within metropolitan areas, sweating away in jeans and chinos until I was well outside the city boundaries. I suspect it’s all about body issues; I never felt I had nice-looking – or even presentable – legs…)

So why do I long for autumn? Well, it’s quite simple, really… When it’s this hot and dry, all plans about moving plants or putting in new plants must be on hold, since a newly planted plant would die within days.

And my garden is full of plants that are NOT in the right place – and of places in need of new plants… Mostly I need to start planning for summer-long blooms, i.e. a succession of flowers from May through September. (So really it’s summer plus a month on either end…) This will be tricky as plants seem to bloom a fortnight or more later here in my garden than they do back in Copenhagen, only 50km / 30M further South; I suspect the damp clay soil has something to do with that, as it heats up less quickly than the mythological “fine tilth” of the Copenhagen parks…

Anyway, one of the places where the flowers bloom happily and at the right time is around The Puddles, but…

Hemerocallis 'Frans Hals'While I do rather love the ‘Frans Hals’ daylily, I do find that it sits uncomfortably with the pale mauve or lavender of the hosta flowers behind it, and I really need to change that. The trouble is, I suspect I will end up moving both plants, so I need to work out where each should go.

The hosta flowers fit in nicely with the other colours of The Puddles; mainly blues and purples of various shades with some yellow thrown in for contrast, but I’ve planted them between Puddles 2 and 3, and there’s just not enough room for them; they overhang the puddles as they were meant to, but perhaps rather too much… I think I need something slightly lower – or something slightly more upright – so The Puddles won’t be hidden away completely.

In other less-planned – and less planted – areas, the Lawn bed has shown me a surprising combination that I love to bits; a bunch of gladiloli that I bought as being “red” – hoping that would mean a true red – have turned our to be coral-red, and they are looking very nice with the orange of the nasturtiums sown around the feet of the ‘rhapsody in blue’ roses (that have not bloomed this year due to deer attacks and possibly also their move to the new bed – they will be fenced by next spring, I promise you!).

20130729-205642.jpgAll right, so there are some pink lavatera behind that really shouldn’t be there – and some bright blue lobelias that I won’t repeat next year as they just didn’t WANT to act as a ground cover), but if you look away from all that I rather like the hot colours and could imagine a blue/purple rose or four would look smashing alongside it all.

There are also some dark-leaved heuchera ‘Purple Palace’ that stand out, and I think they could happily be replaced with a red or orange crocosmia. They have the sort of upright and showy habit that means that you can dispense with glads and still have the same effect, only with an earlier and longer-lasting bloom. (And without having to lift the corms in winter…)

Apart from the “aesthetic moves”, there are obviously also some plants that need to be moved for their own benefit, rather than mine; The roses the Flâmeur Husband got for his birthday last year are looking rather sad, so they will go into the lawn bed somewhere – or maybe in the extension of the lawn bed, rather? – and the blue iris germanica needs to be lifted and divided, which will give me some much.needed extra plants for all my beds. Same goes for the sedum ‘herbstfreude’ between puddles 1 and 2, the hemerocallis ‘fulva’ and perhaps also the perennial sweet peas. (Though to be honest, one of the reason for dividing the sweet peas is just to get extra plants to give away to a friend who wants more flowers in her allotment garden.)

I’ll leave you with one example of a plant that I moved – and who has literally flourished in its new spot: The white rose that was standing against the kitchen wall and who is now the star of the lawn bed.

20130729-205702.jpgI have no idea what rose this is, but it’s tall and lanky – which is ideal for a mixed bed where I hope to have perennials growing under the roses eventually. (Also, the height puts her out of the deer’s way, as well as it puts her right into my line of vision when I’m having my morning coffee on the sofa while the garden is still in a grey twilight.)


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