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Archive for the ‘winter’ Category


I like going on hiking holidays, ascending the odd fell and enjoying the challenge of scrambling up crags and hillsides to finally be rewarded by the view from the peak. Sadly, the Flâneur Husband doesn’t really share this slightly masochistic fetish, so it’s a good thing that I can now enjoy all the thrills of a scrambling hill-climb in the privacy of our own kitchen when I want to make my morning coffee:

Kitchen demolition

Getting to the kitchen sink this morning was quite a climb – and perhaps not very dignified to look at, had any spectators been around – and I sort of wish I could have had my coffee FIRST  and THEN climbed Mount Debris!

Indeed, we are spending the Easter week tearing out the old kitchen – though we won’t be installing a new one just yet. We have to re-plaster walls and ceiling and then change the floor boards before we can install a new kitchen, so it’s quite a project and we will get through it by the tested approach of “step by step” (“Ooh, baby”, as New Kids On The Block would have added when I was a pre-teen). The Flâneur Husband has this weird notion that the two success criteria are:

A: We get a new kitchen
B: We have fun doing it

Whereas I am much more realistic in my approach and define my criteria of success as:

A: We get a new kitchen
B: Neither of us files for a divorce

(This sort of DIY job is always going to put a strain on a relationship in my opinion, even more so than, say, going to a family reunion or a trip to IKEA.)

Anyway, I’m sure you will all be glad to know that I made it safely to the sink and back (and got only one rusty nail up my foot while climbing the daunting Mount Debris) and am now reclining in the safety and comfort of the sofa!

So, not much gardening in this blog entry – but then there’s still snow on the ground and nothing to do in the garden anyway. However, the solitary cobea scandens seedling that I posted previously has now been joined by one other seedling – and a third seems to be craning its neck in preparation for emergence, so that will have to do for “spring” right now.

On Saturday, though, I’m heading up to the garden anyway to spend some time chopping up the trees that the Flâneur Husband and his friend took down last weekend. I haven’t been up there since the first weekend in March, so it’s about time I went and gave the weather a good talking-to and told it to spring-up and be done with snow and freezing temperatures day and night!

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I have a plan for the garden. Honestly, I do! However, at present it exists only inside my head, and the last plan of the garden I drew up was the first summer we had the garden and the holiday home, so it’s rather outdated now:

Drawing up plans

The Ambitious Border now reaches almost down to The Ugly Fence – with the inclusion of The Puddles – and the rose patch was discarded and instead there are now roses a bit here and there in the garden. The Temporary Nursery was a holding pen where plants could live until I got the borders ready for them, so that has now reverted to lawn, and the rectangular flower bed on the South-West side of the covered terrace has turned out to be the semi-circular Sunny Border.

And of course there’s the last addition, the Lawn Bed, which is filling up quickly with roses, soft fruit bushes and a spot reserved for perennials as and when I acquire them. I don’t know which, but I’m sure any perennial will be prettier than a stretch of lawn. (And okay, MAYBE I’ve already hoarded some cheap perennials as roots, so they will go in the ground when spring arrives and should in time be able to fill out the blank space.)

Add to this the beds and borders that do not yet exist – except in my head – and the garden is pretty much under control. The Lawn Bed, for instance, is only half of a grander scheme to create a line of flowers between the hedge/shrubbery and the lawn proper – but with a narrow-ish grass path behind it to increase the feeling of depth and provide easy access to the back of the beds. There will also be a narrow grass path between the lawn bed that I dug out last autumn and the second lawn bed that will be a visual extension of the first and might end up merging with The Woodland Patch.

This weekend I’ve let the Flâneur Husband go up to the garden without me – but with a couple of his friends – and they seem to be having fun with card games, red wine and a chain saw…

Flâneur Friend in a tree

Flâneur Friend in a tree

We have a row of pine trees towards one neighbour and from our side they look rather dull – and from the neighbour’s side they look downright ugly while also blocking their afternoon and evening sun… So down they will go, and fortunately the neighbour has some lovely mature trees that will be our new view, so we too will get something prettier to look at. Win-win, I think, especially since cutting down those pines will give more light to the hedge (a pink spirea of sorts interspersed with cherry plums and hawthorn) so it might grow a bit taller.

I’m not entirely sure how many trees they have cut down yesterday. It might be one or two. Either way, it’s a start! And it will open up an area of the garden that we never use, so perhaps a new plan should be made for that area. There is already a pear tree and an apple tree a few meters from the hedge towards that neighbour, so I might add the plum tree my Mum will be bringing over later this spring. (She bought it for her own garden but then decided she wanted another variety so I’m getting an 8ft tree for free!) It’s beginning to sound a bit like an orchard, isn’t it, so maybe that’s what it will be. I’ve always loved fruit trees for their mix of the ornamental and the tasty, so more of them, please!

So plans and hopes and dreams. What a gardener does while the snow is still on the ground, right? It seems like I’ll have another couple of weeks to plan and dream, sadly, and while I don’t want to moan about the weather I do wish it would turn more spring-like soon so I can get cracking with the planting and weeding and everything else that needs doing.

 

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I woke up this morning to this view:

20130313-082853.jpg

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!

20130313-083015.jpg

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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Squirrel

Today for the first time I saw a squirrel come into the covered terrace, even though the blackbird tried to scare him away. However, what is interesting is that this was a black squirrel, whereas I’ve only seen red squirrels in the garden up to now.

squirrel

Apparently all squirrels on the Danish islands used to be black, but red squirrels from Sweden and Northern Germany were introduced in the 1930’s and have all but out-done the black squirrels. So a black squirrel is a rare treat, though perhaps he doesn’t look as glamorous as his red cousins with their fiery-orange fur.

Mind you, this little fellow is a clever one. Between the picture above and the picture below, he jumped down onto the terrace floor, grabbed one of the feed balls that I have left on the floor for the robin and the blackbird and other birds who prefer to forage on the ground, and in a second he was off over the low wooden wall, carrying the feed ball with him in his teeth.

As he was scampering across the lawn with his loot, a crow swooped down on him to steel the feed ball, but he deftly took refuge in the oak tree and eventually made his way to the hedgerow with his dinner.

Shortly after this incident the second feed ball on the terrace floor was attacked, this time by the pheasant:

Pheasant

(And yes, the windows need cleaning, but that will wait until spring…)

He managed to peck the feed ball to stumps before dragging it out into the snow and then sauntering off towards the hedgerow, leaving me to tidy up his mess. Now really, Mr. Pheasant? Was that quite necessary?

Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, but that’s what you get with a phone camera. I guess some day I should ask for a proper camera for Christmas or a birtdhay or whatever, but for now I’ll just count on your imagination to make these pictures look like wonderful wildlife photography!

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I have several problems with the feed balls that I put out for the small birds in the covered terrace. They do attract all sorts of passerine birds – blue tits, great tits, nuthatches and a robin – as well as blackbirds and the occasional woodpecker. (Woodpeckers, by the way, look rather silly when hanging upside down from a feed ball suspended from the ceiling…)

However, it seems I am also feeding the local pheasant, a few crows, jays, magpies and even a field vole.

Pheasant

Now, I ask you, does the picture above look like a blue tit? A robin? Any other bird you’d feed with store-bought feed balls? Indeed not… (The picture, by the way, is from Wikimedia Commons, as my phone struggled to get a decent shot of the pheasant through the windows, in spite of it being only three meters away from where I was sitting in the sofa…)

And, well, if my phone struggled to get a picture of a pheasant on the terrace, you can imagine why the next picture is also from Wikimedia Commons:

Field Vole

For some time now a small field vole has taken to foraging for food on the terrace, hiding under the low wooden perimeter walls whenever anything moved, but today the little critter decided that rather than constantly running out, nibbling on a feed ball and then running back to the shelter of the wall, he’d drag the feed ball with him to the wall so he could sit under the wooden wall and nibble at the feed ball just in front of him. Clever, I grant him that, but of course hardly why I bought the feed balls.

Still, I guess my complaints are all just for show. In fact I’m thrilled whenever I see my little vole, and I love the fact that the pheasant cock has been on the terrace four times today, at one point lingering there for a whole hour, mere meters away from me. I even find it amusing when the crows come into the terrace, because let’s face it; crows really aren’t good at navigating in small spaces so they keep knocking into garden furniture and woodpiles et cetera.

It really is the best reality show to be found. I love how everybody has their own personality; the blackbird is the bully, that much is for sure, and she constantly tries to get all other birds out of the terrace, though when the pheasant arrives it seems she gangs up with the tiny robin to find strength in numbers. Though a robin and a blackbird really don’t seem to be enough to scare a large old pheasant cock…

The great tits have a clear pecking order; there is an older, rather dishevelled-looking bird that seems to have a mane of grey hair, if you can imagine what that would look like, and he/she is definitely the boss of the other great tits. The blue tits don’t care, though; they are playful and carefree, bordering on the irreverent, and they flutter merrily about whenever they are chased from a feed ball. They will also gladly perch three at a time on the same dangling feed ball, which does cause problems if they are scared away as their wings seem to get in each other’s way, occasionally causing them to drop as a ball of feathers for half a meter before they disentangle themselves and manage to actually fly.

Then, of course, there are the nuthatches. They seem to be entirely indifferent to all other birds on the terrace; they merely come to eat, and if there’s no room on any of the feed balls they fly back out into the garden. The woodpeckers are the same, though they don’t care if there is room or not, as all the small birds obviously evacuate whatever feed ball a woodpecker decides to land on.

The jays and magpies are, of course, rascals. They eat very little but make a great mess of things. It seems they’d rather play football with the feed balls than actually eat from them. They put on a great show, but I can’t help thinking they’ve sort of missed the point of the whole concept.

My favourite, though, is the little robin. The Eurasian robin is a tiny bird – unlike the American robin which is a thrush, I believe – and he seems so shy. It takes next to nothing to get him to seek shelter under the garden furniture, but for some reason he has decided that – unlike the rest of the birds – he will pay little attention to what happens inside the house. When I rise from the sofa the tits will almost invariably be scared away, but the robin will keep pottering about, pecking at a feed ball here and a pile of dead leaves there.

But personal favouritism aside, of course the pheasant is the star of the show, and he knows it. He is clearly proud of his appearance, and rightfully so. Also, there is something fascinating about such a large bird visiting the terrace and being only meters away from my spot in the sofa corner. And, of course, I reared a brood of pheasants once when I was a child. I bought 18 pheasant eggs and got one of my broody hens to lay on them. (Did you know pheasant eggs have the most beautiful olive shell?) She managed to hatch 17 of the eggs, which was far better than I had dared to hope for, and she was a wonderful mother to them, though she seemed very confused that their natural instinct was to run away whenever she warned them of a possible danger – like anybody coming anywhere near them – rather than cower down and hide as chickens would do.

I never tried to domesticate my pheasants; they were destined to be set free on my paternal grandfather’s farmland, and the more of their wild instincts they kept, the better for them. My grandfather loved to go hunting, so I sold the pheasants to him, and just in case you find me cynical, these pheasants got to live a great life outside in fields and hedgerows, and if they had the sense to stay on my grandfather’s land they will all have died of old age since he was a very poor shot and not a single one of them ended up on his dinner table or as a feather in his cap…

(Apart from pheasants and chickens I also had ducks at one point – they suffered an untimely death as I had bought the ducklings as an investment and thus put them all down and sold them off for Christmas dinners when they were nice and plumb. But they did have good lives, I assure you.)

However, now night has fallen, the birds have gone to where birds go to sleep and there is nought to be seen on the terrace – indeed the terrace itself is barely visible in the darkness. So now: Time for dinner!

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On Saturday I travelled over to Jutland to visit my Mum, and though the plan had initially been for me to help her with some of the work still to be done in her new garden (levelling soil, shifting a few shrubs that have keeled over in the rather harsh winds around her hill-top house) this was hampered by frozen soil and four inches of snow. Not much point in trying to do anything in the garden… So I ended up setting up her new smartphone, downloading some apps she might like and getting her a cheap data subscription.

However, I did get to check up on my dahlia tubers that I sent on winter holiday chez Mum. They are doing fine, it seems, in her frost-free shed, and I can’t wait to get them home and into the soil, though that will not be for another 3 months. I still find it silly that I’ve actually taken my dahlia tubers across the country to over-winter at my Mum’s, but then I just don’t have a frost-free place to store them in the Summer House – or at least not a place with a constant temperature, as the house itself is heated to 5 degrees Celsius when nobody’s there but 22 degrees when I go there… I think the changes in temperature would confuse the tubers and possibly stress them, so they are better off in my Mum’s shed.

I look forward to getting them back, though, and there are a few other plants that my Mum bought for her garden but then decided against (including a plum tree with the name ‘Anita’, which also happens to be the name of my Mother-in-law) that she will be bringing over to the Flâneur Garden some time in spring. I’ll need to think hard about where I might find room for a tree… Because clearly I’m not turning down a free tree! The other plants are smaller and can more easily slot into the garden wherever there’s room, but a tree that’s already 3 meters tall will need a bit more consideration, especially because it’s not going to be as easy to move as, say, a pot of heuchera or a dahlia tuber…

Anyway, after visiting my Mum for a few days I headed for the island of Funen to visit my Grandmother. She’s 89 and was recently in hospital for 5 days, so it was sort of a “enjoy it while it lasts” visit. Her “new” house where she moved with my grandfather in 1992 or 1993 has a small suburban garden, and it’s slowly becoming less and less intricate. She has hired somebody to keep it for her, of course, but she is accepting gracefully that it’s becoming a “survival of the fittest” garden where some of her specimen plants perish because they are out-competed by their neighbouring plants. It’s still a lovely garden with great variety, though, and of course the stunning view over Storebælt, the Great Belt between the islands of Funen and Zeeland.

She’s a wonderful woman, always was. My Mother-in-law insists that she is gentle and sweet, but while I admit that she is that, too, she is also headstrong and stubborn. She’s a Strong Woman, as farmer wives have to be. But in this context, it’s perhaps most important that she’s a Gardener. My grandfather was in control of the pigs, the fields and the orchards, but she was in control of the house, the garden and the vegetable garden.

Her vegetable garden on the farm was so large that, rather than digging it, my grandfather would use a tractor and a harrow to do the autumn digging. At the back there was a long row of berry bushes; raspberries, red currants, black currants, gooseberries and so on. They would yield hundreds of pounds of berries every year, and provided the resources for gallons and gallons of cordial, jam and freezer bags. Then came row upon row of leeks, cabbages, marrow, carrots, potatoes, beans (peas were grown as a commercial crop, so part of that was frozen for home-use), and of course various herbs. Everything was interspersed with flowers, especially marigolds; they weren’t there to attract pollinators but simply to be used as cut flowers in the house. The scent of marigolds always reminds me of that vegetable garden.

The garden proper was vast. There was a vast expanse of lawn, stretching down from the perennial borders by the house down to the shrubberies before the hedge towards the road. There were huge trees – 2-300 years old – and lots and lots of flowers, but most of all there was a feeling of hiding places. You could always find a corner that nobody could see.

Her “new” garden is much smaller, of course, but it’s still lovely. There’s a flat area around her house and then there’s a steep, densely planted slope down to a more gently sloping lawn with a single flowerbed intersecting it. The lower part of the garden is interesting because of the plants, but from the top part your eye keeps being drawn – literally – out to see.

Both my Mum’s and my grandmother’s garden have sea views, which obviously helps any garden, and both are very much based on “back bones”; shrubs and structural plants that makes everything look ordered and tidy, even if the smaller, more fragile plantings might have been overgrown by more vigorous plants. I guess that’s the key to any elderly-friendly garden plan; to have something that looks neat and tidy as long as you get somebody in to mow the lawn and cut back some bushes every so often.

And, incidentally, that is also the key to a low-maintenance garden for a holiday home, so I really want to emulate their current gardens, rather than the gardens these two women used to have. (Even if the latter remains my secret ideal, it cannot be my ambition.)

On a more personal note, my Grandmother is growing old, which is in some ways sad and in some ways just the way things have to be when you’re pushing 90. I spent less than 24 hours at her place, yet she repeated the same stories perhaps 3-4 times – many of which she has already told me over the phone within the past few weeks. It is what it is. She’s still lovely, and she still has a lot to offer, conversation-wise – even if some of it is repetition. In the evening she went out to the large dresser in her hallway and asked me to open the concealed drawer – SO COOL with a concealed drawer, and many of her large chests of drawers have that sort of thing built into the top console – and we spent two hours going through old papers, drawings, genealogies and various artefacts. My great-great-grandfather’s book of recommendations from various employers, my great-grandmother’s handmade book marks, my grandfather’s service records from the army… I do love family history, and I like knowing where I come from.

And yes, I can trace at least parts of my family back to the 1600’s – though there are very few claims to fame in there. It’s mainly farmers, pottery-makers and the odd dairy-manager… As for exotic touches, there are none. Through the past 13 generations it seems there are just Danes, Danes and more Danes… However, I have personal stories from my great-great-grandparents and onwards, so that makes it exciting. I know where they lived, what they did, what their hobbies were.

And yes, in the Summer House we have a picture wall where both the Flâneur Husband’s and my family are on display. His family is portrayed back to his great-grandparents and I have my great-great-grandmother up there as well – a widowed mother of 7 who managed to put all of her kids through school and who is generally considered to have been quite a character. I have two pictures of her; one of her as a young girl, trying to look serious before the camera, and one of her as a stern-looking old woman with her hair swept back into a tight knot. I never met her, of course, but I knew three of her daughters – who died at the ages of 97, 99 and 103 respectively – and you can’t help but have the greatest respect for a woman who raised three daughters who turned out so different from each other. From the farmer’s wife (my great-grandmother) to the Copenhagen debutante-turned-singing teacher to the first woman to be elected for the Copenhagen city council – and also the first female school principal in Denmark. The latter two lived together as spinsters to the end of their lives, and they bequeathed their rather significant savings to foundations for “young female performing artists” and “single mothers under education” respectively. How cool is that?

Of course, in my book case there are also the memoirs of several of my grandparents and great-grandparents. And I’m currently proof-reading my grandmother’s edition of my great-grandfather’s memoirs. They’re not published, but they are printed for the family to read and keep so the stories will not die out with the older generations. People live and die, but stories have the potential to live forever. Like the story about how my grandmother was taken on family visits by riding in the side-car of my great-grandfather’s motor bike, travelling 200 miles to visit my great-great-grandparents. Or the story of my great-grandfather stealing my great-grandmother’s diamond engagement ring to cut a heart and their initials in one of the window panes in front of the kitchen zinc as an act of apology after having – once again – spent too much of their savings on yet another painting… (That pane was removed when they moved from that house, and my mother currently owns it, though she hasn’t hung it anywhere at present. She must, or I’ll insist she give it to me. It’s the most romantic family heirloom I could imagine.)

Anyway, that was a very long entry with no pictures, so if you’ve read this far in this rambling entry, thank you. Have a picture of my Mum as a reward:

Mum in LA in 1972

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At 12:12 on 21/12/2012 the Winter Solstice will finally arrive. This means that today is the shortest day of the year, of course, and because the solstice happens just after noon the coming night will be the longest – by mere seconds. Tomorrow will be a longer day, and the night after tomorrow will be a shorter night.

Isn’t this WONDERFUL??? I know everybody talks about Christmas these days – myself included – but really the solstice beats Christmas…

Winter Solstice Sunrise

The picture above was taken at 9:15 as I was taking a walk through the forest and the sun was slowly making it’s way over the horizon. Technically speaking sunrise was at 8:41, but because of hills and trees I only saw it half an hour later.

The Solstice is of course the reason the Romans celebrated their Saturnalia – which came to define the time of Christmas, it seems, since nobody really knows when Jesus was born (let’s face it, Christian or not there is firm historical indications that a man called Jesus lived in what is now Israel in the years after 0AD; whether he was the Son of God or not is a matter I shall let others discuss) – and also the time for the Norse Yule celebrations.

So whether you are Christian or not, the holiday season is a celebration of the coming of light. For the ancient Norse it was the coming of the light of the Sun, for Christians it was the coming of the “Light of the World”. However, leaving all religion aside I think that as gardeners we should definitely celebrate the coming of the light of the Sun; just imagine, in a few months it will be time for winter aconites and snowdrops, then daffodils and tulips and before you know it we will all be saying to each other “well, maybe next year I will find time to do X, Y and Z…”

Tonight I shall be celebrating the Winter Solstice by stoking a warm fire, cuddle up with a nice book and lots of candles. Light and warmth to ward off the darkness and the cold – even if the coldest months are still to come. And then, when I grow tired, I will retreat to a warm bed, cuddle up under the duvet and blankets and do my best to sleep through the longest night and wake up to a new day that will be just a little longer than today.

Happy Solstice to all, and a Merry Christmas and a Bountiful New Year!

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Well, first of all pardon the rather crude title of this entry, but it is addressed to the deer that seem so fond of nibbling on our roses and then do this:

deer droppings

I mean, I’m all for getting some free deer manure (well, “free” is an exaggeration; I pay it with perennials, rose buds and whatever else the pretty things like to munch on through the year), but couldn’t they at least be trained to leave their droppings where they have eaten?

If they’re going to stop and smell taste the roses, couldn’t they also leave their droppings there so they return the feeding favour to the plants? Rather than leaving the droppings on the lawn…

Speaking of the lawn… Now that all the snow has disappeared again I’m really happy I got around to giving it that last trim just before frost and snow set in; it somehow makes the garden look “tidy enough” with the cut lawn, even if there are twigs here and there and some leaves that have blown about. And yes, deer droppings.

Lawn in winter

The garden does look rather drab today, though, doesn’t it? Compared to the glory of what it looked like last week, it certainly is less bright and festive, but there are still a few highlights.

Goldenrod seed heads

I love how the goldenrods provide winter interest with their fluffy seed heads that seem to retain their fluffiness in spite of snow and rain; there’s a lightness to them that seem to contradict all the other down-heartened perennials that have given up the will to live – well, at least that’s how they look, though of course they will be back next year – and I love how they move in the wind and somehow look like a black and white version of their old, flowering self.

(Some might even say that their seed heads are more tasteful than the rather garish yellow bloom, but I love that, too.)

I’ll end this with a rather special treat: One of our fir trees is sporting the most stunningly beautiful cones at the moment!

Porcelain fir cones

Okay, the more botanically minded of you might remark that fir trees don’t normally suspend their cones from ribbons – and you’d be absolutely right, of course. Yesterday I did what one does when unemployed; I went for lunch in the Tivoli Gardens in central Copenhagen with my mother-in-law, and she stopped by one of the stalls and bought these two un-glazed porcelain cones that I think are absolutely gorgeous; I love un-glazed porcelain, though it can be quite a hassle to keep clean. However, for Christmas baubles I think it is okay as they are unlikely to get very dirty ever. (Well, unless you play around with them in the garden, of course, in which case you really have to be careful not to drop them.

Now, the reason they ended up in the garden was that while my mother-in-law was carrying quite a generously sized handbag at the time she asked me if I’d have room for the small package in my bag, so apparently they are a present. I think they will look lovely on our tree on Christmas Eve – when my mother-in-law will obviously also be there to enjoy them – and they somehow seem like a very beautiful modern take on the old-fashioned glass fir cones that we also have two of, inherited from my mother-in-law’s mother.

Christmas

I do like them a lot, though obviously new ornaments will never be as cherished as the heirlooms – but ornaments bought at special occasions (like the handpainted baubles the Flâneur Husband and I bought in Pitlochry last year, including the yellow one above that somewhat incongruously features a pineapple and grapes) or given as presents will still rank highly and will definitely find a spot on my tree.

So there, an entry encompassing crap, garden, baubles and family. I wonder what sort of Google search people have to make to end up on this page…

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Many cities have Christmas decorations, some more spectacular than others, but I really like Copenhagen at Christmas.

Copenhagen City Hall Christmas Tree

Obviously there’s a big tree in front of the City Hall. It’s decorated courtesy of Children’s Aid, so each of the hearts carry their logo. It might not make a big difference, but if it gives them just a single extra donation, well, so much the better! (And the decorations are, of course, sponsored so the expense doesn’t come out of the money to be used for helping children and families.)

Copenhagen Christmas Lights

Most of the pedestrian streets in the old city centre are hung with fir garlands and various decorations that are illuminated after dark. It might not be as spectacular as the London Christmas lights, but I find it infinitely prettier. Simple, somehow comfortable and absolutely charming.

Copenhagen Christmas Lights

Today the thaw started, and the snow is melting away quickly all over the city. But we might get more frost towards the end of next week, so there’s still the chance of a white Christmas. Fingers crossed, right?

In the mean time, how does your city or town deck itself out for Christmas?

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First of all, let me show you what it looks like these days when I leave the city and go up to the summer house – and the garden…

Snow roadThis is what it looks like when I walk from the bus stop – end of the line – towards the summer house. The road has the forest to one side and some natural plots to the other, so it gives an all-together feeling of being away from the city. You do see houses on the left, but very few – and they are sheltered by trees and hedgerows.

Snowy Forest

To the right the forest spreads out; a mix of mainly oak and beech with pines and larks in-between. And lots of honey suckle, but you don’t really notice these in winter…

Deer Beds

In the garden, the first thing that you notice is that there are several spots where the snow has been melted away, even though it has been freezing consistently for weeks. This is where the deer have lain down to sleep, thus melting away the snow on the lawn. I find this very charming, and today two of these spots were clearly fresh – and there was a third one (top left of the picture) that was perhaps from last night or the night before.

Deer tracks

Actually, the snow makes it pretty easy to see how frequented our garden is by wildlife. Most of these tracks are by deer, but a few of them seem to come from smaller animals with paws rather than hoofs. Perhaps a fox? And of course lots of birds, ranging from the size that HAS to be crows to the smaller ones that might be tits or robins.

Robin / Erithacus rubecula

I have one robin that seems to like the covered terrace; while the great tits and the blue tits come in pairs – or flocks at times – there is only ever one robin at a time on the terrace, and I like to imagine it’s the same one. And now when there’s snow all around it seems – oddly enough – that the tits are less keen on the feeding balls, whereas the robin keeps coming. He/she doesn’t like the hanging balls, though, preferring instead to feed on the seeds that fall off when the tits are feeding, so I decided to leave a feed ball on the paving for him/her, and he/she really seems to enjoy this. (Please note how – apart from the tail and the beak – the bird seems to be as round as the feed ball…)

Snowy Puddles

Also, just because people seem to like this garden feature / folly, here is a view of The Puddles… You can just make out the outlines of the third one at the back, but really they are all frozen over and covered in snow. I hope this means my water lilies will be safe beneath the blanket of snow, but you never know… After all, they are rather shallow, so I might have to start over in spring.

Anyway, back to what this entry was supposed to be about – which was not wildlife, but snow lanterns!

Lanterns in the snow

Strictly speaking, these aren’t snow lanterns, but when the snow is deep enough, why not just immerse lanterns in the snow?

Lanterns in the snow

Now, those among you of a nautical persuasion might argue that I placed the lanterns in the wrong order (red = port and green = starboard), but these pictures where taken from the entrance to the terrace, so clearly they will then be in the right order when you approach the harbour / house. And after all, nautical markers are normally placed so they make sense when you approach port, rather than when you are leaving it…

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