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Archive for the ‘perennials’ Category


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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The puddles have been iced over most of the winter, but they seem to have survived quite well; the water lilies are sporting new shoots that are ready to head for the surface soon, and now that I’ve cleared out the algae it’s also possible to see that some habitants are still living there – and some have returned from winter hibernation on land.

Always have a toad in the Puddle

I spotted one toad in The Puddles, but the one pictured above is actually one that was rescued from the drain well where it had fallen in, so I had to fish him out and relocate him to The Puddles where he has a chance to get out of the water if he wants to. Or she; what do I know.

Newt

We also have two newts in one of The Puddles; that’s one more than last year, and I continue to be thrilled by these creatures. When I was a child my Grandmother took us over to the bog to catch salamanders to release in their forest pond, so I’m ecstatic to have them join me in the Flâneur Garden quite of their own volition. I’m hoping desperately that they will decide to use The Puddles for procreational purposes, but I’ll leave that up to them…

Aquatic snail

Another set of volunteer immigrants are the aquatic snails. I really have no idea how they got here, but I guess they must have come as stowaways on some of the plants that I’ve set in The Puddles. Somehow I like these much better than land-based snails and slugs. (Well, except for the Roman snails which I also love.) The largest one has a shell that’s nearly an inch long, so they are not completely tiny.

Of course we also have water beetles, water bugs and lots of other insects – including a population of mosquito larvae that is quickly being decimated by the other inhabitants of The Puddles, much to my satisfaction.

The area around The Puddles looks quite bare still, but the perennials are beginning to shoot and soon it will once again be slightly overgrown and the black edges of the three tubs will be obscured by hostas, sedums, wild strawberries and so on, so I’m chuffed to bits and full of anticipation.

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crocus

Spring finally arrived in Denmark last weekend, and today I arrived in the Flâneur Garden to have a lovely and relaxing weekend here that may or may not include hard physical labour. We shall see about that, all depending on whether the chain saw will work or not. (The chain saw is, by the way, not for the crocuses – or should that be ‘crocii’? – but for the piles of fir logs cluttering the lawn after the Flâneur Husband and one of his friends took down three trees before Easter.)

Crocus

Oh, look, there’s another crocus! The top one was in The Evening Border on the North-West side of the covered terrace, but this one was growing under the hazel bushes. I have no idea how these bulbs came to either of these places, but I’m just glad to see some colour in the garden after all the snow and ice.

I also found a small host of pale mauve crocuses growing under the rather misplaced brambles by the entrance to the courtyard. They really ought to be moved this weekend while I still notice them so next year they can flower in a slightly more prominent position.

Tulips

One flower that isn’t blooming yet but hopefully will is the tulip. Or rather, the tulips. I didn’t get the bulbs in the ground in the autumn as you’re supposed to, so they spent the winter on a garden chair on the covered terrace – ensuring they definitely got more frost than if they’d been 4″ in the ground – but apparently the bulbs I bought were not aware that they should have spent the winter underground, as they seem perfectly happy to grow after I finally got them into the lawn bed 4 weeks ago. I guess some times plants don’t realise – or care – that the gardener is a bit negligent or caught out by early winter.

Puddles in need of clean-up

Things are also growing in The Puddles. It’s amazing how much algae will appear with only a week of spring weather! The tiny solar-powered pumps that normally provide some modicum of movement in the water were taken out before the onslaught of winter, but it seems it’s time to put them back in as soon as I’ve pulled out all the brown leaves and algae – after all, leaf mulch is excellent for beds, borders and whatnot, but not so great for puddles.

Please note, though, that there is also something green growing between The Puddles! The sedum ‘herbstfreude’ are looking very promising, and I almost feel guilty already that I’ll probably be giving them the Chelsea chop in about a month and a half… (Last year the mature plants grew too tall and flopped over into the adjacent puddles, which is clearly not a great look, whereas the new cuttings grew to only half the height and stayed out of the waters.)

In that area – and anywhere else in the garden that I have them – the irises and day lilies are also looking very good. Oh, ye trusty oldy cottage garden perennials; you never let me down! And in The Ambitious Border there are tiny red peony shoots, and the roses of course seem to just YEARN for warmer temperatures so their budding leaves can unfold.

Speaking of roses… I had a small “accident” on my way from the city to the summer house today. I had some waiting time between arriving in the town of Frederikssund by train and leaving by bus, so I did some rather flâneur’ish shopping in a supermarket – a bottle of wine and a box of candles is surely all the sustenance one needs, right? – and then before I knew it I had added a few plants to the basket. One was a “Sutter’s Gold” rose, but there was also a red currant and 10 plugs each of blue lobelias and purple petunias. All are destined for the lawn bed, except for the petunias which will most likely go in pots in The Courtyard. The red currant will fit in nicely with the black currant and the gooseberry that’s already in one end of the bed, and the “Sutter’s Gold” rose will be a nice complimentary contrast to the “Blue Rhapsody” roses in the other end. And the lobelias will help cover some ground so it won’t be too weedy, at least I hope so.

So there. Things have finally thawed in this neck of the woods and spring has fully arrived. Who’d have thunk it just two weeks ago, eh?`

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Well, Summer Time starts tomorrow at 2AM – or should I write 3AM?

Anyway, today was a mix of things. We got up and had to go up to Elsinore – Helsingør is the real name of the city, but I guess most of you will only have heard of it through Shakespeare – for a funeral. A man my Dad’s age who died of cancer last Saturday. It was a friend of my Mother-In-Law’s, so I didn’t know him very well. I liked what I knew of him, though; he was intelligent, well-read and enjoyed talking ancient Danish history and Medieval literature with me whenever we met at my Mother-In-Law’s.

I think, though, that it was the parallel to my Dad’s death that kind of shook me. It was really hard for me to sit at that funeral, harder than I thought it would be. There is still a lingering sadness, remnants of grief. Something – someone – that is not there any more. For all that we didn’t have in common, for all that we didn’t understand in each other, for all that was not right, he was still my father. Was, not is. The past tense can be cruelly acute in certain circumstances.

When we came back to Copenhagen I continued – alone, as I needed some solitary time – up to the summer house. The snow has nearly melted in the garden, though there are still patches of white here and there – and a layer of ice on my three miniature ponds – but spring is coming. Some day, and hopefully soon. I wanted to have a few days alone up here, so I will be here until Monday evening. The lawn is littered with branches and other bits of the trees Denis and one of his friends cut down last weekend when they were up here, but that can wait. After all, the lawn won’t need mowing for another month, given that the ground is still frozen in places and the grass hasn’t grown since November.

I do have some plants to plant, though, if the ground has thawed where they need to go. Astilbe, sedum, phlox, heuchera, eryngium and loads of other Latin names. And I can sow some hardy annuals so they are ready to germinate whenever the soil warms up to 5 degrees Celsius. All right, so it’s a miserable spring to be gardening in so far, but eventually REAL spring will arrive and there will be stuff growing and flowers blooming – and I will be able to get my dahlias in the ground and set the gladiolus and lily corms.

Perhaps later in spring – when we are done with the kitchen rebuild and there will be plenty of weekends in the garden – I might even consider digging out another flower bed in the lawn. The one I dug out in autumn will soon be filled to capacity, so I need more space to plant flowers in. One can attend too many funerals, but one can never have too many flowers.

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The frost came and killed the dahlias, as was to be expected.

Dead dahlias

However, there is more to dahlias than meets the eye; once the plants had their first taste of frost it was time to lift the tubers. And… Time to prove my grandmother wrong!

My grandmother, much beloved and cherished, claimed in spring that growing dahlias from seed would not generate viable tubers in the Danish climate, but I dare say I have 90% proved her wrong. (The last 10% will come when they sprout in spring!) At least it seems very likely that my tubers will be viable, since the larger of them are 2″ in diameter.

Dahlia tubers

The tubers are fat and healthy-looking, and I’m quite sure that if I overwinter them properly they will grow lovely flowers next year again. Which brings me to the title of this entry… I didn’t really know where to store the tubers over the winter, since we don’t have a frost-free cold room to put them in. However, tomorrow I’m travelling across the country to visit my Mum, and she has kindly offered to store my tubers for me through the winter.

So… I’m packing up my dahlia tubers and bringing them with me to my Mum’s place! Since my grandmother will be hosting her 90th birthday in April it means that I will naturally see my Mum at that time, and so I can get my dahlia tubers in time for planting them out.

Yes, it does seem a bit silly to bring dahlia tubers across the country, but then I do seem to have a habit of travelling with plants, so why not tubers? I brought them inside last week so they have cured for 7 days in a low-humidity atmosphere, and I think they are ready for winter now. My Mum has a large frost-proof shed where my little box of tubers can spend a cosy winter and then by spring they will return to me and the garden.

Oh, and I’m going to my Mum’s place to help her plant her new garden. She has already discovered that she has bought two perennials too many; two Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ that she has decided to donate to me… So that fits in nicely with my packing; I’ll be bringing a box of dahlia tubers with me over there and bringing a couple of plants back with me on Sunday!

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Why, pot up cuttings, of course!

A month or so ago I cut the flowering stems of some sedums and put them in water, hoping they would root. Well, four out of 8 did, which is less than my normal success rate with sedum cuttings, but never the less it’s something, especially since I also have three sedum cuttings potted up in one of the windows of our city apartment.

The ones in the city apartment were potted up in their entirety, including the flowers, but I decided to use a different tactic on these. The rooting stalks of sedums normally also produce new leaves, so I cut away everything but the roots and the new leaves.

Sedum cuttings

I potted them up individually in a rich potting soil (intended for growing tomatoes and other such hungry plants), so they should have enough nourishment until spring when I intend to plant them out.

Sedum cuttings

Each pot has a set of roots and a small set of new leaves, and I’ve put them all in a tub of water overnight so they will get a good soak. I will lift them out of the tub tomorrow morning and hopefully this will be enough water to last them a while, since I intend to leave them inside for at least a couple of weeks so they can continue rooting without worrying about frost.

(Mind you, the sedum cuttings I took last year survived being put out into the freezing cold winter, even though they did die back from their new growth and had to start over in spring. This meant they were significantly shorter than my other sedums this year, but that was actually a good thing, since they didn’t flop all over the place like the sedums I moved from the fern patch to The Puddles.

The Puddles in AutumnMost of the sedums in the photo above have flopped and then tried sending upright flower shoots, except for the cuttings from last year who just grew their flowers on short stalks. (And yes, I know I need to get the leaves out of The Puddles ASAP, but I will do that some other day,)

So for now, with my cuttings potted up, I will relax with a glass of red wine by the cosy fire and then head off to bed.

Roaring fire

-Is it wrong that I think this is a lovely way to spend a Friday evening? After all, I think I have outgrown the clubbing days of youth several years ago… (Okay, I might sound like I’m 74, even though I’m 34!)

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