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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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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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I woke up this morning to this view:

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Snow falling heavily outside, covering the cemetery in a blanket of soft, white flakes. Very pretty, but hardly spring – will you agree?

However:

Outside it might be snowing
But inside I hope it’s growing!

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I’ve sown a batch of cobea scandens / Cup and Saucer flowers that The Flâneur Husband gave me – along with other seed packets – as a “congratulations on your first day at work” bouquet. All right, so the convention is that when you buy your partner flowers you generally don’t ask them to grow them themselves, but… Will you agree that four packets of seeds is the perfect flower present for a gardener? Especially seeds that should be sown 4-6 weeks before the last frost…

It means we have a little piece of spring – with promise of summer – in our window in the apartment, and I really look forward to seeing something emerge from the soil!

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A few weeks ago, as we were getting ready to leave the summer house and return to the City, I decided to cut some of the deep blue aquilegias that grow  between the paving stones in the courtyard. I know they’d bloom while I wasn’t there, so I figured the budding flowers would look nice in a vase in the apartment, and so they did.

The buds dutifully turned into flowers, and I was happy. It’s my favourite colour of aquilegia, but sadly we only have it in the courtyard where it is a weed, really, so I was so thrilled last week when I noticed seed heads starting to form; there must either have been some kind little fly that chose to pollinate these flowers, or else they were just shaken sufficiently when I have been airing out the apartment, because today they look like this:

The colour of the dried petals is a truer blue than the actual flower, which has a slightly purple tone

Of course there’s always a risk that the seeds won’t be true to type, but considering that I have no other colours of aquilegia in the apartment, I’m feeling confident that the seeds will produce the same lovely colour if I sow them out in the Ambitious Border.

So, this means that I have now used cut flowers and branches to propagate forsythia, dogwood and sedum so far, and with aquilegias in the making. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Free plants are the best!

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No, this is not going to be another post about what it looks like when I work from home, surrounded by vases of blooming forsythias or whatever. This is about REAL work, the kind that will produce visible, tangible results in the garden.

There is a large table in the bathroom that would probably be ideal for changing nappies if you had a baby, but since we don’t I have put it to other use:

I use it as a work surface for sowing seeds and potting up cuttings, and then the results are transferred to the windows around the apartment, especially the bedroom window since this is the window that gets the most sun (from dawn to around 1pm). The sitting room windows get slightly less sun, so I use those mainly for cuttings and for growing on tubers and roots.

This is what I currently have growing in the apartment (with a few omissions because there were pots I forgot I had tucked away):

As you can see I’m cheating by starting off the dahlia tubers in the apartment. This is because the slugs love them, and I figure a larger plant will be more able to survive a slug attack than a completely new shoot. There are also dahlia seedlings, pots with dahlia seed that has yet to make an appearance and – because the tubers grow so happily – a small pot with three dahlia cuttings that so far look like they will survive.

There are also two pots with tomato seeds and of course a tray of sweet peas. (And a box of DEGT seed – Don’t Even Go There – i.e. Zantedeschi Aethiopica with a germination period up to 3 months…)

And in the back of the dining table you can see a vase of dogwood branches that have rooted in the water. The variegated foliage is still pretty and adds a touch of spring to the apartment, but more importantly the roots are well-developed and eventually I will cut the branches back to only a couple of leaves and then plant them out in the hedgerow. I’m sure they will be happy there, and with dogwood there’s never even question about whether it will survive.

I do wish I could go out into the garden every afternoon after work, but since that’s not an option I do enjoy being able to get things going in the apartment, even though it will be a nightmare to transport everything up to the garden by bus and metro and train and bus…

(Oh, and tomorrow I’m flying over to the Flâneur Husband in Aberdeen and will be returning on Sunday with a suitcase full of three small rhododendrons that I will then plant in the garden on Monday… It seems silly in a way to move plants that far, but on the other hand they’ve brought him so much joy during his expatriation that I think it’s perfectly sensible to bring them to Denmark so he can continue to enjoy them.)

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I’m packing to go up to the summerhouse and the garden for the weekend straight from work today, and I think this might be one of the more challenging aspects of growing seedlings in an apartment and then bringing them to the garden by public transport; I have a big sports bag that is now stuffed with seed trays and I desperately hope they will survive the journey intact…

Also, what to do when I get to work? Do I unpack my seed trays and place them in sunny windows around the office to the bemusement of my co-workers, or do I leave them in the bag and feel guilty for keeping them from sunshine for an entire day?
I do think it would be easier if the garden was just outside the sitting room windows, but a remote garden is better than no garden!

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I slipped up a while back, lured by the temptation that dreams of summer hold on a poor gardener during the last month of winter (i.e. February)…

A newsletter coaxed me – rather too willingly, I fear – to visit a seed-pusher’s website, and before I knew it I had place an order where only one item was actually on my list of things to grow this season.

The above is a randomized mosaic of the seeds I ended up with, ranging in difficulty from “suitable for children” (PERFECT!) to “Experience useful” (i.e. sow at 24C, then keep moist for five weeks, place in plastic bag in the fridge for 2 weeks, do ritual shamanistic dance to encourage germination, transfer seedlings to individual pots, have nervous break-down and end up throwing them from the roof of the apartment building at innocent passers-by).

In other words I don’t count on all of these seeds to actually produce plants… But if at least some of them do – which does seem likely – they will be lovely additions to the garden and would make me forget the failures along the way. (Or so I hope.)

Except for the vegetables (which will – not surprisingly – go into the vegetable beds) and the climbers (ipomoea and Asarina antirrhiniflora which will go into the hedgerow to add some summer blooms and some bulk) I haven’t the faintest idea where the rest will go, but I suspect I might have to do another major “carve-new-flower-bed-out-of-the-lawn” project, probably as part of The Ambitious Border. I know for sure that there will be very little – if any – space for them in the Sunny Border if I want to reserve some space for dahlias.

But here’s to wishing, hoping, dreaming and – perhaps – realising some of these wishes, hopes and dreams.

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-Or something like that…

The lupin seedlings have now started breaking through the soil, and obviously I’m terribly excited about this!

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-Apart from anything, this means that when my husband comes to Denmark on Sunday there will be an obvious defence for why there are trays of compost in the windows in the dining room: “But LOOK! There are things GROWING!”

I do, though, have one problem. I THINK these seeds are Lupinus mutabilis, an annual scented lupin, but then they might be mixed in with perennial lupins, since I did a rather poor job at labelling my seed envelopes. Must do better this year!

But of course I love all lupins so it doesn’t matter too much; it just makes it slightly more tricky to plan where these should be planted. (Will they be there just for one year or will they be perennial? Will they be white/pale blue or will they be dark purple?)

You may notice that this picture doesn’t show one of those plastic boxes I bough for seed-sowing because miniature greenhouses were so expensive… Well, it turned out that my local supermarket suddenly decided to have small 18-unit “miniature greenhouses” for DKK 30 a piece (just around 5 USD), so I purchased two of those and will do a comparison to see what works the best. The quality is decidedly so-so, but it might be good enough to last a few years and the size means that I should be able to transport them up to the garden without problems.

IEK!!! This is exciting!!! Can I please skip work and just stay at home and watch my seedlings? (Okay, I can’t. I get it. I’ll hit the shower and get going, then.)

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One of the reasons I love having branches in the windows is the way they seem to blur the difference between indoors and outdoors.

They become a continuation of the view inside the apartment, and at the same times help extend the sense of space of the room by repeating the patterns and structures of the trees in the old cemetery across the street.And of course they bring some spring to a view that still bears the hall-mark of winter, except for the patterns of yellow aconites and white snowdrops against the green lawns.

-And in the half light around sunset they become a black lattice-work, silhouetted against the blues, reds and oranges of the setting sun!

In other windows-related news, my lupin seeds have germinated and the sweet peas can’t be far behind. They’re still not visible, but there seems to be a shift in the soil surface, indicating that something is pushing up here and there beneath.

I had an accident last week. I swear, I didn’t mean for it to happen, but… Oops.. The result is now displayed on my dining room table; another pile of seed packets, and I really don’t know where to sow them. Well, I DO, of course, but I didn’t mean to expand the Ambitious Border this season. Now, though, it seems I shall have to, since I will otherwise be short of space for sowing these annuals and perennials.

For now, though, my focus will remain on the Sunny Border. My husband is coming to Denmark on Sunday evening, so I will go up to the garden tomorrow after work and spend Saturday finishing the Sunny Border (should it be renamed the Sunny Semi-Circle, purely for alliterative reasons?) so it will be ready for planting.

I will need to measure the Sunny Border so I can do a more detailed planting plan for it. Right now my ideas are mainly in my head, and that means they constantly change… I do know the honeysuckle and the clematis against the wall will remain in place – and that I’ll do my best to eradicate the hops! – and that my husband’s roses will be planted there when they arrive, but everything else seems to change all the time. Some times I think mixed border with staple perennials that will compliment the roses, some times I think of a raucous drift of annuals, massed in colour blocks.

Drawing up a plan would force me to be more concrete and to commit to the plan I develop. It would also make it easier to start considering textures, heights and seasons of interest. This is going to be a major focal point in the garden, so I think it deserves a less gong-ho approach than I often take to the beds, plopping in plants wherever there’s room for them. I have plenty of plants to fill the Sunny Border, so I have the luxury of being able to choose my selection a bit carefully from the different plants available to me.

Thoughts right now:

  • Blue iris might look nice with the red L.D. Braithwaite roses – and would echo the blue-purple of the clematis against the wall
  • Peonies in whites, pinks and purples could give some bloom in early summer, before the roses really get going and take over the show
  • Tulips and other spring bulbs could get a warmer – thus earlier – start here than anywhere else in the garden, and their dying-down foliage would then be masked by the perennials in early summer
  • I need to think of something semi-low for the front of the border. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ could be an option, since it has such a constricted growing pattern and will be fairly easy to weed around
  • This first year I will definitely be bulking up this new border with my attempt at growing dahlias from seed. They have the advantage of being plants that almost invite a gardener to move them around the garden from year to year, since they’re lifted every autumn. Later on they might be clustered around the garden in various beds.
  • I have a lovely purple asters that would give add some interest in the very late autumn, right up to the first frost – and even a bit after that.
  • And now I’m running out of space, aren’t I? See, this is why I need to draw a plan, since otherwise I will inevitable plan to have 80,000,000 plants per square meter, and that’s probably not realistic…

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Today started out with a nice, mild, sunny morning with barely a wind, but then this afternoon the wind picked up and it started to snow. *sigh*

-And then as I was leaving the office the snow turned to rain… *sigh*

But: My dahlia seed order arrived today! That makes up for the weather, at least in part. *YAY*

(I also received a text from my optician that my new prescription sunglasses are ready to be picked up, but given that the weather forecast hasn’t a sun in sight before possibly Saturday, I decided that it’s not urgent to pick those up.)

I may try to limit myself (only four different packets of dahlia seed, and each packet will be split evenly between my mother and me), but at heart I think I might be a seed hoarder; I feel like buying all the seeds I can get my hands on – flowers, vegetables, perennials, annuals – even though I know there’s no way I will have the time – or space – to prepare enough beds for them. So I’m trying to make a list of what I need, and I guess I only really NEED to buy beans, and maybe some peas in case the seed I collected last year isn’t viable.

Last year I had three kinds of beans – or rather, I had two and the slugs had the low yellow beans before they had even reached 5 inches – and this year I think I will restrain myself to two kinds. I need to have normal French climber beans, and then perhaps runner beans, broad beans or some other slightly more rustic bean type. (The slugs stayed away from the climbing beans last year, perhaps because I sowed a row of marigolds between the two rows of beans; I shall repeat that this year and hope that it was the scent of marigolds that kept the slugs away. I collected plenty of seeds last year, so there should be enough to sow a row in each of the vegetable patches.)

I’ve already bought brassica seeds (radishes, kohlrabi and kale), so basically that will be my vegetable garden this year. I will need to watch the slugs, though, which is very difficult when I can only get up to the garden every one or two weekends… Slug pellets WILL be used, though of the sort that is approved for organic farming and is supposed not to harm any other animals than gastropods. They contain only wheat flour and iron phosphate, and I hope they are as harmless as they claim to be – except of course for the slugs.

(One summer evening shortly after we bought the summer house I collected – and killed – 179 Iberian slugs, a highly invasive species of slugs that seem to have a much greater appetite for plants – and procreation – than our native slug species… They are now endemic throughout Denmark and like cool, damp areas like, say, our garden! Wikipedia says: “The main reason behind problematic invasions of gardens by the Spanish slug is that it has adapted to a dry climate, where most eggs will dry out before hatching. The slug lays hundreds of eggs so that at least some may hatch. In the less dry regions of Northern Europe and Britain, the constraints of drought do not limit reproduction to the same degree.”)

(God, I have a lot of parentheses in this post!)

Anyway… Where’s my spring? And my weekend so I can get up to the garden and ger cracking with all the stuff that needs doing, including digging out a new bed from the lawn, extending the Ambitious Border and getting the raised vegetable beds into some sort of shape before the growing season starts!

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