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Posts Tagged ‘sowing’


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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  • Pack up loads of plants from the windows of the apartment and bring them up to the garden.
  • Dig a hole for that poor blackcurrant that has been lingering on top of the ground – yet surviving – for nearly a year now…
  • Mow the lawn/jungle if and when the weather is suitably dry.
  • Plant up pots in the courtyard.
  • Weed the Ambitious Border and the Evening Border.
  • Sow the vegetable garden.
  • Build ad hoc cloches for the tomatoes and dahlias.
  • Divide and plant the hostas from my mother’s garden that have overwintered in a pot in the courtyard.
  • Wash all the bedlinen to get that musty winter smell out of them.
  • Take at least one outing on the fjord in my kayak.

It’s a tall order, but if I get just half of it (okay, two thirds!) done I’ll be happy enough.

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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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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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So what is this project that involves a transparent plastic box, you ask?

Well, it’s the dahlia flower bed, of course! I needed to find a solution for sowing them in the windows in the apartment and then being able to transport the seedlings up to the summer house and the garden – by public transport!

Miniature green houses cost a bundle, and as often as not they seem slightly flimsy and not really up for being transported by metro, train and bus, but these plastic storage boxes are cheap and sturdy, and they’re small (30 * 40 * 12 cm) enough that I can stack them in one of the large IKEA bags and schlep them up to the garden once the seedlings need to go into the ground. (And hopefully they’re JUST high enough that I can put the lids on when I need to transport them, even if I might have to gently bend the little plants if they grow too well…)

But of course growing the seedlings will have to wait for a while, since I can’t realistically plant them out for another 2-2½ months, so I will sow in April and then plant them out when it seems the weather has warmed up enough for the little darlings.

-And before I can plant them out, I also need to execute the other leg of this project; creating the bed they will end up in! It’s currently just a stretch of lawn, and though I’ve already started skimming off the sod the ground is also heavily compacted clay soil and will need to be worked quite a bit to become as I would like it.

-Which is where my husband’s birthday present from his mother comes in… His wish-lists tend to be somewhat unorthodox, and this year she had originally thought she’d buy him a load of firewood for the summer house, but when she called me and asked what I thought we had just ordered a load ourselves, so she jumped to another item on the wish list; soil…

Now, it’s great that she spoke to me about this before ordering anything, because we obviously don’t need soil as such; we’ve got plenty of that, but the issue is that it’s too clay-rich and heavy, so we just need to amend it. So on her behalf I ordered a ton (literally; 1000kg!!!) of fully mature coarse compost… My hope is that this will help make the ground more free-draining and generally lighter to work with and easier for plants to grow in. (And there should be plenty for the new bed as well as some for the Ambitious Border and the raised vegetable beds.)

I look forward to getting on with this project, but of course we will see how the weather behaves.

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