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On gardening as therapy


My mum called me on Sunday while I was up in the garden. My dad was supposed to go into surgical examination on Thursday to see why he was still having a sore throat and trouble swallowing after they’d blasted the cancer with radiation therapy. That was postponed due to his regiment of blood-thinning drugs, so he went in today.

Anyway, on Sunday I spoke to my Mum for nearly two hours. A long time, given that I hate being on the phone. The first hour was all about my Dad, and the second hour was almost entirely about… Roses!

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(I know that’s an asters, not a rose, but it’s a plant I got from my Mum’s garden, so it is appropriate in this entry!)

My Mum is trying so hard to cope with my Dad’s illness and arranging the move and everything, and it seems her relief from all the “serious” stuff is to think about the garden. When Life is all about the next six months, at times it’s good to think about the next six years, as one does when planning a garden.

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(Okay, this is not a rose, either, but it’s also from my Mum’s garden)

We garden for the future, and planning a garden is all about imagining what Life will be like years ahead. My Mum wants a garden for two, and I hope that’s what she gets.

(Both the images above were taken in our garden, but the plants come from my Mum’s garden.)

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So cute…


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I know they eat our hazel nuts – all of them; there’s not a single nut left on the tree – but I still love these cute rodents!

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Cloudscapes


Tonight:
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Two nights ago:

These are views from the windows of our new apartment. Can you even imagine the sheer pleasure of sitting in the middle of the city and enjoying sunsets like this? A dark mass of trees in the cemetery across the street, and hardly a building to be seen.

Oh, and this is the sort of pattern projected unto our walls by the setting sun:

So why do I share this on a garden blog? Well, there is a view of trees, which will be my fig leaf… But also, our garden is by our holiday home, so I don’t get to spend as much time enjoying it as I might like, and as a consequence it is important that I can enjoy beauty and nature in the apartment as well. I dare say I can!

(I can even see some blooming pink cone flowers on a grave between the trees, but they are too far away to get a good shot of.)

Meanwhile, tomorrow after work I shall be heading up to the garden. The forecast is mediocre, but who cares. I need to get up there.

(And yes, this means I won’t be attending that garden blogger meet-up on Saturday. I have to be back in Copenhagen Sunday morning, so there just won’t be time if I want to see the garden in September for the first time since late July.)

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It looks like my parents might have bought a new house.

For a long time they’ve been looking for a new house; somewhere newer, with fewer maintenance needs than the house they bought when my mother was pregnant with me. And the garden I grew up in.

Their old house is a 1940′s house with a large garden – twice the size of the new garden and sloping, whereas the new garden is flat; a piece of virgin land.

I love the fact that they’re leaving the old house while they still have the chance to make a new home for themselves in a place that is much more suited for their retirement. Less work, more time to just enjoy their home. And while the old garden is lovely and their neighbourhood is full of mature trees and lush gardens, their new home will have a stunning view over the Århus Bay and the ruins of the island fortress of Kalø Castle. (And it’s fairly close to my younger brother, his wife and their two kids, which is also a reason they chose to move so far outside town.)

And… I love the fact that they haven’t found some dull, down-scaled version of their present home, but something so very different and modern. I mean, just look at it; it’s unashamedly different and radical and special. And it’s a standard house. This house has been designed by one of the better architectural studios in the country (not perhaps the best; it’s not BIG, Schmidt Hammer and Lassen or Henning Larsen), 3xNielsen. It is a piece of architecture in its own right, but these houses are designed to be built on any plot of land and they have been, from one end of the country to the other. And they still manage to stand out, somehow.

I have no idea how my childhood home is going to be translated to fit into this sort of open floor plan, but I’m excited to see it. (And no, the walls aren’t sloping as the picture makes them seem; it is the cut of the window that gives them the crooked angles. And that’s my dad in the picture, looking somewhat out of place in the post-modern surroundings, but I am sure once the space is furnished with their things it will be softened and comfortable-looking.)

It will be exciting to see how they choose to do their garden. I can’t imagine that there won’t be a vegetable patch for my dad’s potatoes and my mother’s marigolds, and there are bound to be a few perennials and flowering shrubs as well. I can imagine the rooms, but not the garden. Still, I remember when both my sets of grandparents moved from their farms into small one-story houses; those houses retained exactly the qualities of the much larger homes my grandparents had in their farm houses, so I expect that my parents can transform this modern, sterile building into something warm and welcoming. Just like their present home.

So I guess my childhood home will remain, albeit in a different location.

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There is one Danish gardening TV show that is in a league of its own. Over the past 17 years, every summer Søren Ryge (pictured below) has broadcast 30 minutes of live gardening TV every week through the gardening season.

Søren Ryge

Live gardening TV. A gardener who strolls around his garden for half an hour, stopping here and there to dig up a perennial, pull up a weed or show the progress of the seeds he sowed last month, all with a camera and a microphone in train (and a set of VERY long wires to relay the signal to the OB van outside the garden).

Søren Ryges køkkenhave

This is just his vegetable garden, so you can imagine that there’s something to see throughout the gardening season. There are also large herbaceous borders, a small orchard, some chickens and whatever else one could possibly hope for in a garden.

The pace is slow; it’s just this man walking around his garden in whatever weather that evening happens to bring, talking and demonstrating as he goes along. It’s “comfort TV”; pleasant and relaxing to watch, but also with such a subtlety to it; his passion for his garden is what carries the show, but he doesn’t express it in elaborate words or gestures. It’s just obvious that he loves his garden and wants to share it with the rest of Denmark.

His garden isn’t perfect; it is far too large to be immaculate, and there is bindweed here and nettles there and everything looks like a well-kept but normal garden. (Just on a large scale…)

I love this TV show. I’ve seen many garden shows on TV, but none with such a down-to-earth format as this, and that is perhaps what makes it so compelling – and what makes it able to continue for the 17th year running. It’s beside and beyond fashions and fads that dominate so many other gardening shows, and perhaps that makes it a more realistic gardening show. After all, we don’t all change our perennials from year to year because they’ve become “so last year”, right?

And of course this TV show is in Danish, so why do I tell you about this? Perhaps because he’s the sort of gardener I would like to be. He seems to really enjoy his plot of land, and he tries to create something beautiful while accepting that there will always be flaws and that you probably won’t get things right the first time around. But that doesn’t matter; there will always be another year where you might get it a bit more right.

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One Year Ago…


Today is my first wedding anniversary, so I thought I’d just share a quick photo from our wedding Day:

Because when you think about it, this is one of the reasons I love having a garden: To be able to create a space for us that is beautiful, private and relaxing. I’m trying to create a set piece for lazy days in the sun, snow ball fights in the winter, evenings of too much red wine and so on and so forth; those moments of being away from the city and just relaxing together.

(And – perhaps equally important for a semi-hermit like myself – when my husband moves back to Denmark in 9 months’ time I guess it won’t hurt that I have the summer house and the garden to retreat to whenever I just need a day on my own.)

Anyway, I’m trying to stay clear of “mushy” here, but I’m really pleased to be married to a great guy and I can’t wait for him to move home again.

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Flashback Friday


Over at Kitchen Bouquet, Suzy is hosting a Flashback Fridays meme, and since I’ve already mentioned the goat my dad once brought home after a drunken card game in a comment to A Woman Of The Soil, I figured I’d let the goat be my flashback.

Basically my dad got drunk at the local boozer and won a goat, so the next morning we woke up to a goat tied to the flagpole in the garden. In the picture you can also see the cage for our angora rabbits.

It says quite a lot about my parents’ garden, I think; we always had animals (beside the dog) of some sort. We’ve had rabbits, chickens, ducks and I even reared 18 pheasants once to be released on my grandfather’s land. (If the pheasants had the good sense to remain on his land they will have lived to a ripe old age, since my grandfather was a terrible hunter.)

Anyway, the picture shows me and my older brother trying to get control of the stubborn goat. As it was, the goat remained with us only for a few days, since my mother was not keen on it. It was given to the local hotel where it spent its last years grazing in the park along two peacocks. Bizarre combination, I know.

 

For more information on Flashback Fridays, head over to Kitchen Bouquet.

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Having just re-read my last entry, I’ve come to think about what I want to escape to, and the following poem really embodies what I would like the garden to be. Our stream mysterious might not be a river, and there might not be a single chestnut in sight, but that feeling, that emotion, that bliss. THAT’S what I want.

There’s calm and comfort and repose, but also history, a local anchoring and a sense that plants can embody – or determine? – a way of life. And in our garden I hope there will always be at least metaphorical honey still for tea.

The Old Vicarage, Grantchester

(Cafe des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)

Just now the lilac is in bloom,
All before my little room;
And in my flower-beds, I think,
Smile the carnation and the pink;
And down the borders, well I know,
The poppy and the pansy blow . . .
Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
Beside the river make for you
A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
Deeply above; and green and deep
The stream mysterious glides beneath,
Green as a dream and deep as death.
— Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
How the May fields all golden show,
And when the day is young and sweet,
Gild gloriously the bare feet
That run to bathe . . .
                                     Du lieber Gott !

Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,
And there the shadowed waters fresh
Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
Temperamentvoll German Jews
Drink beer around; — and THERE the dews
Are soft beneath a morn of gold.
Here tulips bloom as they are told;
Unkempt about those hedges blows
An English unofficial rose;
And there the unregulated sun
Slopes down to rest when day is done,
And wakes a vague unpunctual star,
A slippered Hesper; and there are
Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton
Where das Betreten‘s not verboten.

ειθε γενοιμην . . . would I were
In Grantchester, in Grantchester! —
Some, it may be, can get in touch
With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
And clever modern men have seen
A Faun a-peeping through the green,
And felt the Classics were not dead,
To glimpse a Naiad’s reedy head,
Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: . . .
But these are things I do not know.
I only know that you may lie
Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
Until the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester. . . .
Still in the dawnlit waters cool
His ghostly Lordship swims his pool,
And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,
Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.
Dan Chaucer hears his river still
Chatter beneath a phantom mill.
Tennyson notes, with studious eye,
How Cambridge waters hurry by . . .
And in that garden, black and white,
Creep whispers through the grass all night;
And spectral dance, before the dawn,
A hundred Vicars down the lawn;
Curates, long dust, will come and go
On lissom, clerical, printless toe;
And oft between the boughs is seen
The sly shade of a Rural Dean . . .
Till, at a shiver in the skies,
Vanishing with Satanic cries,
The prim ecclesiastic rout
Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,
Grey heavens, the first bird’s drowsy calls,
The falling house that never falls.

God! I will pack, and take a train,
And get me to England once again!
For England’s the one land, I know,
Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;
And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
The shire for Men who Understand;
And of THAT district I prefer
The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
For Cambridge people rarely smile,
Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
And Royston men in the far South
Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
At Over they fling oaths at one,
And worse than oaths at Trumpington,
And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
And there’s none in Harston under thirty,
And folks in Shelford and those parts
Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
And Coton’s full of nameless crimes,
And things are done you’d not believe
At Madingley on Christmas Eve.
Strong men have run for miles and miles,
When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;
Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
Rather than send them to St. Ives;
Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,
To hear what happened at Babraham.
But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
There’s peace and holy quiet there,
Great clouds along pacific skies,
And men and women with straight eyes,
Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream,
And little kindly winds that creep
Round twilight corners, half asleep.
In Grantchester their skins are white;
They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
The women there do all they ought;
The men observe the Rules of Thought.
They love the Good; they worship Truth;
They laugh uproariously in youth;
(And when they get to feeling old,
They up and shoot themselves, I’m told) . . .

Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

(Rupert Brooke, 1887-1915)

And if you don’t like the poem, at least some of you might appreciate that he was excessively cute. I’ve had a crush on him for years… (But don’t tell my husband!)

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E is for “Escape”


This entry is part of Mrs. Nesbitt’s ABC Wednesday.

If there is one thing our garden is to me, it is an escape from stress. Not from reality, but from stress. Reality does not equal stress, though stress can at times form part of reality.

You can see the header of my blog above; a beautiful summer day with me and a friend relaxing in the garden (my husband is behind the camera), and below you can see the garden on a winter day when I was up there alone, enjoying evenings in front of the fire place with a good book and a glass of red wine.

Sure, there is a lot of work to do in the garden, and it has more than its fair share of projects pending, some overdue. But… If I don’t get a garden project done, no harm will come of it. It matters, but not a great deal. My husband is happy with the garden as long as things grow and there’s a general feeling of lushness, and actually so am I. (And the plants themselves will take care of that, even if the lawn has not been immaculately mown and the borders need weeding.)

When I sit at my desk at work I have a minimum of 10 program windows open at any given time, often more. I work on my attention-demanding projects while being ready to leave my desk at a 2-second notice to help a co-worker or take a call. In the garden I call the shots. The plants and the weeds and the pests all do their bit, but I decide what I feel like tackling and there is nothing that can suddenly become urgent out of nowhere. And though some things might have deadlines in the garden (no point in sowing annuals in August, for instance), these deadlines can come and go without problems, unlike the deadline for the move from my apartment to our new apartment.

In my everyday life, both at work and privately, things often happen randomly and with little warning, but in the garden there are certainties. Sure, the slugs might eat the bean seedlings and the deer might eat the perennials, but Spring follows Winter and Autumn follows Summer without fail. There is a predictability, a certainty that makes it recognisable each year.

I enjoy this. I enjoy the routines, the circularity of it all, the fact that while external facts might affect the game in the garden, I set the rules myself.

And I can pamper myself by setting aside time to just fantasize about the garden and plans for it, or occasionally I can even indulge in some bulb shopping or whatever. It’s a cheap hobby, and it gives me exercise, relaxation, joy. It gives me something to bring back to my Excel spreadsheets and my employee development talks with our agents.

And it gives me beauty. Beauty and a place to be alone, be with my husband or be with our friends.

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Beans


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With my husband home on a long-awaited 2-weeks holiday, finding time for blogging has not been one of my top priorities. However, I just wanted to share some pictures of the beans in the vegetable garden; some have been eaten by slugs, but most have survived and are now blooming with the prettiest little purple flowers…

I will post more when I am once again a grass (or garden?) widower…

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