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Archive for August, 2010

>The end of summer?


>We’ve had a glorious summer in Denmark, but the rain that has so far been pouring down every day in August (not all day every day, but some every day) has led me to finally give up my dreams of a golden late summer. We’re heading for autumn here, and all I can do is hope that it will be a beautiful autumn.

After all, there might not be much to do in the garden in autumn (except cutting back, pruning and so on), but the summer house is right next to a large forest, so I am looking forward to the autumnal colours that have already shown themselves in tiny glimpses. The oak in the garden is beginning to turn ever so slightly, and the young beeches have a distinctly golden hue to their leaves that they didn’t use to have.

My boyfriend – soon-to-be husband – is flying back for our wedding, so he will arrive on Friday and leave again the Sunday 16 days later. He loves the garden, but has this crazy idea that things will grow lush and flowery if left to their own devices, so the pruning and cutting-back will have to wait until he has left the country. I suspect he won’t much appreciate the sight of a rose or a honeysuckle cut down to the bare minimum. As he won’t be back in Denmark before Christmas, I plan to do a stealthy cut-back that he might never even notice…

Ah, I’m forgetting one important thing: seed collecting! I’ve gathered a bag of random wild meadow flower seeds to sow in spring, and I’ve also been poaching (with permission) from a few gardens in the neighbourhood. Some, like the lupins and columbines, have been sown already to be able to flower next year, though the majority were sown directly in the garden and are consequently likely to have drowned entirely, whereas others are being stored in the workshop for sowing in spring. (And I’m still waiting for the pods of the sweet peas to turn dry so they can be harvested as well.)

I love summer, but now that it’s drawing to a wet close I am beginning to regain my love of autumn. All is as it should be; seasons change, weather changes, life – and gardens – endure.

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There’s a small apple tree outside the bedroom window, and it’s bearing as much fruit as it has room for on its few straggly branches. It’s quite a young tree, so the branches aren’t really strong enough yet to carry that load, and one of them in particular has gone from being almost perpendicular to almost touching the ground. (You can only see about a third of the apples in this picture, but it was the best I could get.)

Well, I made a support for it from a few old pieces of wood, and now it should hold until the apples are ripe for picking. It looks sturdy enough, and I’m quite proud of it in the sort of way where you know there’s really nothing much to be proud of, but you are. You see, my maternal grandfather had a farm with a commercial apple orchard, and I’ve always had a great respect for that man so it means a lot to me to have an apple tree, even if it is only a 5-year old tree that could be snapped at the trunk by hand if I wanted to. It’s an irrational and emotional attachment to this tree that makes me so pleased that I have it – and that it will give apples enough for me to eat through autumn, though they are not the type that will keep well through an entire winter.

Last night I thought I would bring some of the garden with me to my city flat, so I went out and found some flowers that would cheer up the place and make the flat and the summer house connected somehow. At least temporarily.

That’s when I realised that right now there are only pink flowers in the garden. (And very few white ones, like the white sweet pea in the picture.) I love the hydrangea, even though it’s perhaps slightly garish and touching on the vulgar. When I lived in Paris I knew a woman who loved tulips with a passion because – as she said – the possessed a certain beauté bête, a stupid beauty. She meant no disrespect by this; merely that they were such simple, yet exuberant flowers that she could not help but love, in spite of finding them much less interesting or elegant that other flowers that she loved less. Well, I sort of feel the same way about hydrangeas, especially when grown in alkaline soils like ours so they have the bubble-gum pink colour, rather than the slightly more elegant blue. (Though I confess I might have to turn these pink hydrangeas into blue ones to get them to fit in with the bed they’re in.)

Also, the small bowl contains blood mirabelles (to translate directly from Danish). Basically they’re regular mirabelles but grown on a red-leaved mirabelle, so they have the most wonderful, deep, dark purple colour that doesn’t really show in the picture. The flesh is kind of boring – not very sweet and perhaps a touch bland – but the skin has a lovely tartness to it, and they’re so deliciously plum that they almost burst when you bite into them.

In actual garden reports, I can tell you that the lawn was again severely flooded by rain this week, and the small stream behind the house (that drains part of the forest further inland) has swelled to a degree where the lawn would be a lake if it weren’t for the low 1 1/2′ dike that runs the length of the stream; the water level this morning had sunk a bit but was still just above the level of the lawn… Draining the garden really is a key thing to get done before spring if I want to live out my dream of planting borders in any serious way.

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So, I’ve been preoccupied with other stuff and have been neglecting this place. Not that anything really worth mentioning has happened in the garden, but as you see from the picture above, a rose is blooming under the kitchen window. It was hidden behind some rather tall perennials that I have now cut down and will be digging up and moving at some point.

The rose, like the two other roses in the garden, seems to have been left largely to its own devices, so it’s sort of straggly-looking and needs pruning. Not this year, though; for now it can just be pretty in that slightly unkempt way.

In other news, not much. I’ve mainly been struggling to keep various plants at bay and then there was another flooding of the lawn when we had the equivalent of an average August’s downpour in 24 hours on Sunday. *sigh* We have to do something about drainage at some point soon if I want to be able to do everything I want next summer.

The flooding does have its plus side, though; it helps determine which plants can survive a rather-more-than-moist soil. The dahlias that I planted in the area where the sandbox used to be seemed to disintegrate after just a few hours of being flooded, whereas the lupins and sweet-peas don’t seem affected.

Also, since my boyfriend would like a kitchen garden (he wants to grow potatoes, which is NOT going to happen! The poor things will rot before they can be eaten.) I’ve been mapping the (relatively) dry areas of the garden and located one that I think will do. I would still insist on making it a kitchen garden of raised beds to ensure that the soil doesn’t become water logged, and even so I don’t know it it would be possible to grow any root vegetables. BUT: As the sweet-peas are doing so well, I’m assuming that regular peas would also do well in our soil, so I’m contemplating a kitchen garden purely with peas and perhaps climbing beans next year, just because it would a) look instantly lush and bountiful with the climbing crops and b) it would provide some temporary cover towards one of our back neighbours that have just cut down their dead bamboo hedge.

And of course raised beds achieve a more ordered and “neat” appearance than just a plot of bare soil, which is also important as the kitchen garden would be right next to the South-facing part of the lawn where we tend to sit a lot. It must be pretty as well as practical. And as for practical, a raised bed is easy to equip with a frame and clear plastic covering to turn it into a cold frame in spring to achieve earlier crops. Or net covering to keep all sorts of animals away. Or slug fences. It’s just practical, okay?

When we bought the house and garden, we also inherited a large compost heap that has been rather poorly managed, but I’m quite sure there should be some good mulch in there that could be used to boost the soil in the raised beds.

My boyfriend is coming to Denmark over the weekend, so I will take him for a walk around the garden and see if he agrees. After all, this is not my garden, but ours, so I want to make sure he is as pleased with it as he can be.

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