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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.)

Going on Holiday


Our holiday officially began Friday last week, but unofficially it started the weekend before when the Copenhagen Jazz Festival kicked off. A full week of live jazz – from traditional New Orleans to world fusion to experimental modern – all over the city. Some concerts were held in dedicated music venues, but the best ones – in my perception – are the free open-air concerts in little squares all over the city.

Copenhagen Jazz FestivalThis really is Copenhagen at its best; sunny and warm, with live music playing all over and people having a pint or a glass of wine while relaxing and enjoying Life.

Copenhagen Jazz FestivalAnd let’s face it: Going to this sort of festival is somewhat more civilised that going to the big rock festivals like Roskilde, where 70.000 people cam out in a field and get drunk around the clock… Now, I quite like camping, but I prefer doing so far away from everybody else, and definitely not somewhere where drunken people will fall over your tent at 4 in the morning.

The jazz festival ended this last weekend, so we had our final outing into the world of jazz on Friday evening – which knocked us out the entire Saturday. We’re not as young as we used to be, but we somehow often seem to forget this… Anyway, that meant that we were fit for fight on Sunday, the last day of the festival but more importantly also July 14th, Bastille Day.

Bastille DayFor many years, one of the French restaurants in town (L’Éducation Nationale) has held a Bastille Day celebration where the entire street is closed off. There was a petanque court, live French music and little stalls that sold French delicacies, and of course the restaurant and the other bars in the street had set up lots of tables outside. It was a wonderful day, and for a couple of francophiles like the Flâneur Husband and myself it was definitely not to be missed. (The Flâneur Husband lived in France until he was 3, though his parents are Danish, and I have just been in love with France since I lived in Paris for a year after high school.)

So there; we’ve been enjoying the best that Copenhagen has to offer, and I think it’s actually been quite nice to play tourist in Copenhagen in the sense that even though we didn’t do any sight-seeing we’ve spent a lot more time about town that we’d normally do.

Today we leave the city and head for the garden for a while. I have to go in to work on Thursday for one day only but apart from that we’ll stay in the Summer House for as long as we feel like it. On Saturday we’ll be having our annual Summer Party in the garden; around 20 people for an al fresco lunch, followed by frolicking in the garden with drinks and garden games until the late hours. Some people will go back to Copenhagen in the evening, but most will stay over, either in the house or in tents in the garden. It’s always a great party, and somehow we are lucky enough to have the sort of guests who voluntarily go around the garden the next morning, picking up bits of trash and discarded beer cans so it looks pristine when they all leave.

And now I must go wake up the Flâneur Husband… Time for breakfast, and then we’ll be off as soon as we’ve packed our bags!

Planning ahead


Last autumn I sowed some hosta seeds that I gathered from a park in Copenhagen. I have no idea about the cultivar, but it was a large plant with plain green leaves, so pretty much your stereotypical giant hosta. The seeds did nothing in autumn, so I thought I’d have to re-use the pot and the compost for other purposes, but somehow I didn’t get around to it, and look what has happened:

hosta seedlingsTiny hosta seedlings! I’ve never seen a hosta seedling before in my life, but there’s no mistaking it; the leaves are definitely true hosta leaves from the very beginning. I find this very exciting and can’t wait for the plants to be 3′ tall and just as wide… I wonder how many years they will take to fully mature; I’m guessing at least 2-3 years, but really I have no idea.

Inspired by this success I’ve sown up 4-5 pots of other perennial seeds that I had sitting about. Some bought, some collected. They include Chinese meadow rue thalictrum delavayi, yarrow achillea millefolium ‘Cassis’, liatris scariosa ‘Gracious’ and some others I can’t remember. I desperately need more perennials to fill out my beds and borders – and thus reduce the need for weeding – and this seems a good way to do it. It’s cheaper than buying 50 new plants, it’s probably likely to produce healthy and hardy plants, and of course it’s also infinitely more fun to grow the plants from seed, rather than receiving them in 2-litre pots, ready to plant in the beds.

Hopefully they will be ready to be planted out next year – if the seeds do anything – and then it might be another year before the plants begin to look mature, but it’s worth waiting a while for a crop of new plants, right?

I’ve also done a second sowing of some annuals and veg – peas and beans – thinking that they might just have time to get going before the end of summer, but that’s less thrilling than the perennials that I hope to see bloom in my garden year after year… Long term planning/hoping, but so far I’m excited.

Now I just have to wait; the pots with the perennial seeds have been placed in the shade so they won’t dry out too much over summer, and I will be watering them whenever I’m in the garden so they can survive the next month and a half where the season forecast calls for dry and warm weather. My little babies will be all right if I have anything to say about it!


20130704-184301.jpgLook carefully at the picture above. Notice something odd?

Well, of course you do. You instantly noticed how the dahlia in the picture seemed intact and uneaten by slugs, right? After all, a dahlia in a slug-infested garden should look more like this:

20130704-184308.jpgHowever, both pictures are from my garden, though I must admit that the first dahlia was only planted this evening, so the slugs probably don’t yet know it’s there. Clearly the second picture shows a dahlia that the slugs know far too well.

But… Some time ago, the Flâneur Husband read somewhere that dead moss could work as a physical slugs barrier. It won’t harm the slugs, but  supposedly they don’t like crawling over the dead moss. It makes sense, really, as they don’t like coarse sand, sawdust and other coarse surfaces, so it might work.

To give it a go I had to get up on a stepladder and use a lawn rake to try to get enough dead moss off the roof of the annex, and as you see in the first picture I’ve spread it thickly around the newly planted dahlia in a barrier 6″ wide. I’m curious to see if it will work, but my fingers remain crossed for now (making it rather difficult to blog…).

Anyway, this entry won’t be all about the slugs.

20130704-184325.jpgLook; the first daylilies are blooming! Yesterday there were no flowers, but today there are two – with many more to come. This is an unknown variety from the Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden (perhaps hemerocallis fulva?), and it happens to look just like the daylilies my own mother and grandmother had in their gardens; it’s been around in Danish gardens since around 1900 and it’s as reliable as it gets. It spreads a little – enough to ensure that people could give their neighbours surplus plants, probably accounting for it’s wide use – but it’s manageable and perfectly adaptable to any weather the Danish climate can throw at it. 35 Celsius summer day? Fine. -20 Celsius winter nights? Fine. Rain? Fine. Drought? Fine. It’s a tough plant, and I love it for it.

I’ve also purchased some other daylilies for the garden last year; ‘Frans Hals’ and ‘Double Firecracker’. They are doing well enough, I guess, but they are still disappointing compared to the “heirloom” daylily. They are more prone to slug attacks – which is a major concern in our garden – and they don’t seem to bloom quite as effusively. Still, maybe they just need to mature, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt…

20130704-184416.jpgA plant that doesn’t need “the benefit of the doubt” is the deadnettle in the Evening Border. This year I haven’t really gotten around to weeding it – does it show? – and that means that there are some rather attractive long grasses growing there and a vast number of deadnettles. I quite like it, though it wasn’t the look I originally aimed for with this narrow border up against the Uncovered Terrace.

20130704-184406.jpgStill, sometimes wild flowers should be allowed to do their thing if they actually look as good as anything you could create yourself, and in between them are numerous rudbeckias and 3 hostas (as well as four clematis to climb the posts of the terrace), so it has become a mix of wildflowers and cultivated plants. I’m not quite decided about it yet, but I quite like the wildness of it, and the cultivated plants in the border are fortunately tough cookies that won’t mind the competition. It takes a lot to knock out a rudbeckia or a hosta, right? And the clematis prefers some undergrowth anyway, so it seems a good idea to wait and see what happens, rather than attack the border with a belated weeding frenzy.

20130704-184343.jpgAnother “wilderness” in the garden is between The Puddles and The Hedgerow towards the road; there’s a spirea japonica growing amidst a tall weed with flowers that somehow echo the flowers of the spirea. I quite like the combination, and it makes me happier about the spirea that I didn’t really like at first. I’m not sure what the weed is – or whether it might actually NOT be a weed but something a previous owner planted on purpose – but it grows to 6-6′ and dies completely away in winter. It might be a perennial, it might be an annual, but either way it spreads like crazy, so even though I like the foliage and the flowers I regularly have to pull out volunteers in areas where they don’t belong – and where they will inevitably flop over before blooming.

They are spreading around The Puddles, which is all right since there they are supported by the iris, the lady’s mantle, the hostas, the astrantias and the daylilies, but in other parts of the garden there’s just not anything sturdy enough for them to stay upright, and that quickly gets to look messy.

20130704-184252.jpgA weed that doesn’t look messy is this yellow-flowered groundcover. I don’t know it’s name, but I love it. I pulled up loads of it when weeding The Courtyard last year, and the weeded plants were all repositioned in front of the first puddle. It seems to be battling it out with the wild strawberries for supremacy, but hardly any other plants get a foot to the ground so I am planning to use it as groundcover in other beds in the garden. (Let’s face it; it grows freely in the lawn, so it’s not afraid of anything!)

And that will be all for this jumble of an entry tonight. If any of you have a name for the yellow-flowered weed – or the tall white-flowered weed – let me know. Eternal gratitude (or at least as long as I remember it, which might not be very long) will be your reward!

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