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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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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!

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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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20130703-195615.jpgWhat IS he doing now, you might wonder? Rustic jewelry? A fearsome weapon to bludgeon the slugs into submission? Or has he, indeed, finally lost his marbles and replaced them with stones?20130703-195624.jpgNo, it is none of the above. Rather, I am trying to make use of one of the presents my Mum left me when she visited this spring: a bag full of stones with natural holes in them. I am using them as a flexible means of reigning in the sweet peas that would rather flop over than climb the twigs and sticks that I provide for them. 20130703-195636.jpgThe stones at either end of the string are lopped around the posts of the Uncovered Terrace, and ind a week the sweet peas will have grown enough to hide the string completely.

I always use sisal string to tie up plants; it looks very bright at first, but weathers to a silvery grey with time. Strong enough to last 4-5 years in the garden, the fact that it’s a natural fibre means that it can also go straight on the compost heap when used to tie up herbaceous plants like my sweet peas.

There. Enough about stones on a string. Have a rose:20130703-211950.jpgLast spring I planted ‘New Dawn‘ roses around the two trees that hold up alternately the laundry line and the hammock, and the are growing well and doing exactly what I hoped they would.
At one end the glossy green foliage and the pale pink flowers form a textural contrast to the rough bark of an oak, and at the other they form a colour contrast to the blackish-red leaves of a cherry plum.20130703-213019.jpgBy now, most of the plants have at least one branch that had grown tall enough for the deer to leave them alone; this might be the key to growing roses in a deer-visited garden – fence them in until they are tall enough no longer to count as an easy snack!

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Jammin’


Around The Puddles I’m using wild strawberries for groundcover, and they’re doing an excellent job at keeping weeds at bay; in fact I think I’ll try to propagate as many runners as possible to use elsewhere in the garden. They have pretty little flowers in spring, and these days they are covered with tiny red berries that are absolutely delicious; slightly more sour than regular strawberries,

Wild Strawberries

Unlike regular strawberries, the wild variety has white flesh, and the red colour is only skin deep. This means that in order to retain as much of the colour as possible I added a dash of vinegar; the acidity helps bring out the colour in the berries, and the taste is easily masked by the sugar.

Cooked straberriesThe traditional recipe is 1 part berries and 1 part sugar, but with modern jam sugar you can reduce the sugar content without sacrificing the preservation period, so I tend to use as little sugar as possible; only enough for the taste to be sweet and jam-like. I add some water as well, just so the jam won’t burn, and then I simmer it for an hour or so until the berries are completely mushy and liquid sets quickly on a cold spoon.

Strawberry and rhubarb jam

I sterilise the jars with vodka. I could have used boiling water, but I’ve previously had jars explode on me when I poured in the boiling water, so now I use a dash of cheap and nasty vodka that we have sitting in the kitchen after a party some years ago; it’s not really drinkable, but it works well as a household spirit for all sorts of practical/cleaning applications.

Sadly, though, we only just had enough wild strawberries to make a single small jar of jam. Not exactly industrial quantities, so I re-used to pot to make a jar of rhubarb jam as well; the rhubarb crop this year is rather disappointing, and I suspect I should really give the rhubarb some sort of fertilizer next year so it will have something to grow on.

Since slugs ate most of my beans and my peas seem to have died during an extended dry period in late spring, this might be the only food to leave my garden. (Okay, so there will most likely be a few pears and apples and plums as well, but you get the point.) The strawberry jam will come back to Copenhagen with me today and be presented to my Mother-in-Law as a hostess present when we go there for dinner on Friday, and the rhubarb jam will remain in the Summer House for future breakfasts or afternoon tea. It might not be much, but there’s definitely a certain satisfaction in preserving a little bit of summer in a jar. And who knows; maybe the raspberries will produce enough berries for another jar, and in autumn there will be wild brambles in the forest…

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They’re Baa-aack…


The fearsome hunter and his weapon

Well, this spring I posted about how something was “missing” from the garden; the slugs were a long time in coming this year, but they’ve finally appeared. Sadly…

Their numbers aren’t as great as they have been other years; this morning I only found 34 while strolling around in the garden with my morning coffee, but I’m sure they will soon regain their former numbers unless I keep at it, so I do. At least now there are 34 fewer slugs that can eat my plants.

It might be a somewhat macabre start to the day, strolling around the garden in my bathrobe with a sharp hoe to cut the little bastards in two, but it’s effective, and when carried out regularly it actually seems to do a better job at controlling slug numbers than pellets did when I tried those.

Further to the 34 slugs, a meagre 4 common garden snails also crossed my way, and these were expedited in much the same way as the slugs.

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My Mum came over last week for my Mother-in-Law’s 55th (okay, 65th – but don’t tell anybody!) birthday, and she brought quite a haul with her. She brought a large trailer full of goodies for me, including of course my dahlias that have overwintered in her frost-free shed and were potted up in early May.

The haul also included:

  • 9 large pots for the terrace, the Courtyard and wherever else we might want to stick them. Most of them a 15″ or more in diameter, so they can hold their own even if I use some in the garden to add some height or focal points to the beds and borders.
  • 1 bicycle – because the two bicycles that came with the house when we bought it were both rather shabby and needed replacement, and my Dad’s bike was just sitting in her shed, taking up precious space.
  • 1 sun bed (or whatever you call it) so my Mother-in-Law has somewhere to recline gracefully in the garden when she visits. We used to have two, but they were both nasty plastic things and fortunately both have collapsed under visitors in the past year so we could throw them out. My mother’s sun bed is made of aluminium and a nylon mesh, so it’s much more solid – and doesn’t need to be stored inside during winter!
  • 1 plum tree ‘Anita’ that she originally bought for her own garden but then decided against. It’s 2.5 meters tall and will have red plums as far as I can see, and as Anita is the name of my Mother-in-Law my Mum felt that it belonged in our garden.
  • 1 large toolbox – without tools – so we can get our tools in the apartment organised, rather than having a screwdriver here and a hammer there and not knowing which is where.
  • 1 small wardrobe that used to belong to my great-great aunt or something like that. It’s dark oak with a weathered mirror front and it will help us keep the house tidier by simply giving us more space to stick things out of sight.
  • 1 bag of stones with holes in them – don’t ask me why she brought those, but I’m sure I’ll find something to do with them.
  • 1 crate of home-made apple juice.
  • 2 pots of cuttings; lavender and something else I can’t quite remember what is. These come from my Grandmother’s garden, so of course I really hope they with root and be happy.

She also brought her new dog; it was the first time I saw her since I went to check her out before my Mum decided to buy her:

Flâneur Puppy

She’s grown so much, though admittedly she’s still a tiny dog and probably won’t be very big when fully grown, but she’s adorable and rather well-behaved for a puppy. She seemed to enjoy sitting on the steps of the terrace and supervise the garden while my Mum and I sat on the terrace.

The plum tree was planted immediately, whereas the rest of the plants and pots have just been dumped in a corner to be placed in permanent locations next weekend when the Flâneur Husband and I shall be spending the weekend in the garden. The tree has been aligned with the small apple tree and one of the axes of the terrace, so in time it should look like a logical placement without being too stringent.

Plum tree 'Anita'

The white tub at the back holds the dahlias that needed a thorough watering, so they got an overnight soak, whereas the tree that has lived for nearly a year in a tiny plastic pot has been nursed a lot more so it was ready for planting. I’ll have to re-fill the planting hole, I’m sure, as the soil is certain to settle quite a lot. I loosened it so much that when I’d planted the tree and watered it, I tried firming up the soil but ended up ankle-deep in mud…

I do like fruit trees… So pretty in spring, and yet not purely ornamental. This plum tree fits in with my original idea of letting the less-used North-East side if the garden become an orchard of sorts, and with an apple tree, a pear tree and a plum tree it seems like we’re well under way. I suspect, though, that we will need another pear tree in the garden somewhere, since the pollination of our current pear tree is at best rather haphazard and it has never yielded more than two pears in one year.

Anyway… Lots of presents from Mum – again – and lots and lots of hopes for how they will enhance the garden. And planting a tree is always so satisfying. As the Danish poet Piet Hein wrote:

You have shares in a future;
For that you must plant a tree.

Perennials are for ourselves, whereas trees will only look good when they are old – and I shall probably be in my grave, or close to it. The trees are planted for a future we might not see ourselves, but if you look at our new plum tree and squeeze your eyes nearly shut I swear you can almost see what it could look like 60 years from now.

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