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We have five clematis’ (what IS the plural of “clematis”? Clemata?)  growing up the posts of the covered terrace, and while most of them are what I think of as the “normal” clematis variety, i.e. the jackmanii type or similar, one of them is a little bit different.

First of all it’s not purple like the rest of the clematis’ (clemati?) growing along the covered terrace; it has yellow flowers with a bell shape that is very different from the flat flowers of the other clematis’ (clemata?) and only four petals.

The first year we planted it, it did very little at all. Whatever growth it managed to put on was swiftly devoured by slugs, so I really thought of it as a failure. The next year, however, it grew and grew, but produced only 3 flowers over the entire season, so I was beginning to think I might have put it in the wrong spot; it is in The Evening Border, so it only gets sunshine at the very end of the day.

This year, though, it has decided to both grow and flower:

Clematis Rampant

The flowers aren’t as showy as on the other clematis’ (clemati?), but they are definitely there. Loads of them.

Yellow clematisThe flowers have a very elegant bell-shape that is very different from our other clematis’ (clemate?) and they look rather striking against the lush green growth.

I still wonder, though, if it might be happier in a sunnier spot, but for now it will stay where it is. Apart from anything, we don’t HAVE another place where it will fit at present…

Anyway, if any of you happen to know the name of this clematis, feel free to let me know. We bought this plant ourselves, but instantly threw away the name tag… -And it has annoyed me ever since!

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It’s so tempting to just post a pretty picture of blooming rhododendrons or bearded iris, but instead I bring you a small discourse on that fabled thing whose existence I sometimes doubt: A fine tilth.

I’ve heard rumours about it, of course, and seen it on gardening TV shows, though I’m sure it’s all done with mirrors, or possibly computer animation. For all I know, there IS no such thing as “a fine tilth”.

When I put my spade in the ground, this is what I contend with:

A 10″ layer of dense, compacted soil that will NEVER become “a fine tilth” – or even a mediocre tilth…And then comes the pure clay.

Now, don’t get me wrong; when I don’t have to dig holes in it I really appreciate my soil; even the top soil is packed with clay particles, so it has excellent water retention properties and I will never ever have to water a flower bed or a vegetable garden! (But god, it’s heavy stuff to shift around…)

Then comes another layer – perhaps another 10″ – of pure clay mixed with sediments from when this area was seabed, though in some areas these two layers are separated by an inch of sand. That’s the only real issue I have with my soil; it prevents rain water from seeping into the ground, so the top soil gets rather soggy after heavy rain. However, the drain we had installed last year more or less takes care of this, so at the end of the day I suspect I couldn’t ask for a better place for my plants.

They will never dry out and wilt, and the soil feels rich and nutritious, so I’m quite sure there is also very little risk of them going “hungry”.

The two pictures above are the Rhododendrons that used to grow on the Flâneur Husband’s deck in Aberdeen and that I carried home in a sports bag as checked-in luggage on the flight… I’m amazed how well they came through that ordeal, and they seem to be really happy in their new country.

This is a rhododendron that was in the garden when we bought the summer house, but it’s putting on the best display I’ve seen from it so far, and I’m completely in love with it. The buds have a striking blue colour, though the flowers turn out much more purple – which is also pretty!

And here’s a shot from the day after:

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Sometimes it seems like I get nothing done in the garden and it’s all pretty much as when we bought the summer house two years ago, so I think it’s sometimes important to go back and see what has happened:

We got the drainage installed in 2011 after a late summer in 2010 that saw the above scenario repeated again and again. A drain pipe was dug down in a large circle around the house, two strings that converged in a shallow cleaning well near where this picture was taken and in a deeper pumping well at the back of the house.

The pump, though, has proven more or less unnecessary; the mere fact of the digging having pierced the thick layer of pure clay that lies 8″ under the soil level seems to have made it possible for the water to soak into the ground without us needing to pump it into the small stream at the back of the house.

The Ambitious Border is still very much a work in progress; I nearly finished weeding it this weekend, though I took a break on Sunday because my back was aching, my shoulders were sore and I was generally tired. Still, it is now possible to see the perennials that I planted over the past two years, and there is the promise that they will fill out the border and turn it into the lushness of the dreams I harbour…

Still, it so far houses plants from my parents’ garden, the Flâneur Husband’s grandparents’ allotment, my grandparents’ garden as well as plants from the courtyard by my old apartment. It’s not really meant to be a “heritage border”, but these recycled plants are just so lovely as well as being proven performers in the Danish climate.

Apart from The Ambitious Border, the Sunny Border (newly carved from the lawn) is perhaps the most ambitious bed in the garden; whereas The Ambitious Border was sort of just thrown together more or less on top of the lawn, the Sunny Border is dug down into the lawn, the soil fluffed and mixed with compost to create perhaps the best soil in the garden so far.

The main part of it is dedicated to dahlias this year, though of course that might change next year, but the bed is marked at either end by perennials; Japanese anemone (or is it Chinese? I can never remember… I actually have an easier time remembering that it’s anemone hypehensis!) at one end, and blood iris (oddly enough also known as Japanese iris… I sense an accidental Asian theme!) backed by red L.D. Braithwaite roses. The honeysuckle, perennial sweet peas and a single clematis bring up the rear of the border.

The Sunny Border is on the South-Western side of the covered terrace, and on the North-Western side is the Evening Border, which is a narrow border that had been so unattended that it ended up looking like part of the lawn. I noticed some struggling perennials along the terrace and did some exploratory digging which revealed an edging of concrete paving stones an inch under the lawn, so the bed has been restored and – unfortunately – planted with rudbeckia and alium, both of which need much more sunshine than they get in this shaded border.

It might be a good spot to stick the hostas from my parents’ old garden; they will get lots of light but very little direct sunshine.

The vegetable garden is currently just two narrow raised beds made from the planks that formed the frame around a delivery of firewood, but I rather like that rustic look. Last year I had beans and peas, and I plan to grow the same crops this year, though with the addition of 2-4 inches of compost to the soil so it will be rich enough to sustain the same crop for another year. Mind you, this year I will sow the pulses in rows near the edges of the beds and then a row of brassicas in the middle, so at I’m trying not to wear out the soil.

There’s also a concrete circle which is used for rhubarb and horseradish; I might move the rhubarb up on the bank by the small stream to give the horseradish more space, and I think the rhubarb crowns could benefit from getting more space.

There’s also the area that used to be a large, flat-ish yew, but it was so ugly that I cut away half of it, though perhaps some “cloud pruning” might have been a better option. Mind you, it gave room for the three rhododendrons that the Flâneur Husband had on his deck in Aberdeen and which I brought home in a suitcase on a plane. They survived with not even a broken twig!

And of course I – WE – have shared the garden with other people. The above picture is from last year at pentecoste when my parents and my grandmother visited me in the summer house. My dad mowed the entire lawn and together we sawed loads of firewood. It is perhaps the last time my dad ever did anything practical for me; he really enjoyed being useful, and I hate to think about how he feels these days when his cancer has returned and reached the point of no return. He will never see our garden again, because he’s simply too tired to take the three-hour trip across the country to visit us here.

My mother is hoping to make it over some time in late May or June, just so she can get away from being the dutiful wife and nurse. She loves gardens and plants, and she seems thrilled that I share that passion with her and her mother. The mere concept of loving plants and gardens seems to be almost an heirloom, passed down through generations.

Also, my mother doesn’t have a great theoretical knowledge of plants and soil types, but she has a very basic – almost gung-ho – knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. “These plants prefer this, but they will be just fine here anyway” and so on. And she’s a mean weeder!

Anyway, this post has gone on for long enough. For one thing I’ve got other things to get done, so must run off, and also this post has fulfilled its purpose of making me feel that I have done at least somethingin the garden over the past two years.

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No, I’m not branching out into religious garden ornaments.

A plant that thrills me is the one above, Angelica Archangelica or kvan as it has been called in Scandinavia and the North-Atlantic islands for over a thousand years. I sowed some seeds in pots in the courtyard last spring and this year I decided they deserved to be released into the wild, so they have been transplanted to the bank by the stream where they will blend in nicely with the rather wild area of grasses, reeds, irises and a single rhubarb that was relocated there when I needed to make room for the horse radish in the cement circle that still houses another two rhubarb crowns.

I first saw kvan in Nuuk, Greenland, where it grows in the wild as well as in the few gardens that exist in the old colonial part of the town. It is a beautifully light and airy plant, growing up to 2 meters here in Denmark, though in Greenland it only reached half that height due to the much shorter growing season and of course the shallow layer of soil on top of the bedrock. And it’s tasty as anything; at one of the top restaurants in Nuuk I had it served as a compote with some local reindeer venison (as part of a rather extravagant 10-course dinner made primarily from locally grown/raised/caught ingredients…) so I really hope for some nice big plants so I can enjoy both the flowers and the flavour!

(I imagine a kvan and rhubarb jam would be rather nice with a home-baked roll and a cuppa! Or perhaps the candied orange peal in my grandmother’s Christmas cookie recipe could be replaced with candied angelica? Oh, the options!)

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A while ago, A Woman Keen On Sensible Footwear (a.k.a. Wellywoman) commented on one of my recent posts that she wasn’t aware that forsythias would root in water.

Well, the proof’s in the rooting, as they say:

Granted, it does take some time, which is why this lovely vase is grimed over with lime scale, but it’s a perfectly easy way to propagate this bush, either to create more of it or to create new undergrowth if it is beginning to get too top-heavy and tumble over.

I generally find that most branches will root in water, given enough time, and the trick with the forsythia is just to let it bloom away, drop its flowers and then wait for the leaves to appear. Once you have leaves on your branches, the roots will be there in very little time, with no need for rooting hormones, special treatment or anything.

In the vase above – as in all my vases of forsythia – I have mixed the forsythia branches with red dogwood. The red stems create a nice counterpoint to the brash yellow flowers, and once the flowers are gone the dogwood – in this case a rather pleasantly variegated cultivar (ooh, look at me throwing proper gardening words about; “variegated”, “cultivar”!!!) – will start showing leaves sooner than the forsythia. And of course the dogwood have as lovely flowers, even if less attention-seeking, as the forsythia. And the dogwood, too, roots before long.

Considering that I’m trying to replace an ugly wooden fence with a hedgerow of living plants, I think this sort of propagation is about as easy a solution as you can get! I could, of course, also just start pinning down overhanging branches, leaving them for a year and then cutting them loose and transplant them, but this is so much quicker and also adds to my connection to the garden. I have it right here with me in the apartment!

The pot at the back of the picture above is the sedum flowers I brought in as a bouquet last autumn and decided to keep, since they started rooting.

So far it seems that my success with cuttings is a one-all; I have had no success with rose cuttings, in spite of taking numerous the year before last, but I’ve had great success with flowers that were just picked to be pretty in the apartment and then decided they wanted to live!

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It seems that one of the winter storms has had a casualty in our garden! On of the fir trees by the drive has fallen, but it was not very pretty and it fell on the area un-affectionately known as “the cemetery”, so that’s all right.

The picture adequately describes what a small root system it had, and considering it was a 30ft tree I guess it’s not surprising that it toppled over.

It does mean, though, that our garden is more open to the road, so I will have to think of ways to mitigate this accident and make the most of it. I’m pretty sure we already have small-ish plants in that area that will be able to bush out and give coverage within a few years, so I’m not too worried.


On the plus-side this will give us some fire wood to keep us warm! (Though probably not this winter, since it needs to season.) So tomorrow I will play the chain-saw gardener and have some fun with that.

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Merry Christmas

So I’ve had a bit of a busy autumn with little time for the garden and even less time for blogging about it, so here’s just a quick seasonal greeting to let you know I’m still around and will resume blogging when the gardening season kicks off again in a few months…

This is what our apartment looked like at noon on the 24th, just hours before our family arrived to celebrate Christmas with us with tree, roast goose, presents et cetera. It was a perfect Christmas, and I hope you all had an equally lovely time.

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