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Yesterday as I was returning to our city apartment from a week in the holiday home – and the garden – I got off the bus early to walk home through Assistens Cemetery which our apartment overlooks.

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It’s a stunning urban space of trees, lawns and – of course – tombs. Part of it is still a functioning community cemetery, but large sections have been reassigned as a recreational green space, though obviously within the cemetery context. So no ball-play allowed, but picnics and topless sun bathing is acceptable – though you don’t find many sun bathers in the snow.

Assistens Cemetery

The cemetery has some amazing mature trees, and the space is just so peaceful. Even in summer when there are picnics and sunbathers around, people somehow seem to remain respectful of the space and be more calm than in other parks; it invites a more tranquil state than some of the more classic parks around the city, and I think it is so beneficial to have an urban green space that is calm and reflective in its nature.

Assistens Cemetery

The best part about the cemetery, though, is that it is just across the street from our apartment. We can watch the sunset across the tree tops from our living rooms, and it’s an amazing privilege to live in the city – 15 minutes on foot from the very centre of Copenhagen – and have such a view as well as such a relaxing place to go for walks just outside your apartment.

Assistens Cemetery

It looks great in the snow, but to be honest it looks great at all times of the year, and there is not a single day when I don’t look out the windows and feel grateful for being able to live with a view like this. Imagine this view in spring, or summer, or autumn… You come home through the city, make your way up the stairs to the fourth floor and then when you enter the sitting room you see this sort of view, consisting only of trees and shrubs and lawns… -And even perennials on some of the graves.

The part of the cemetery in front of our windows is the historical cemetery, also referred to as the “museum cemetery”. This means it has not been a functioning cemetery in 50 years or so, and some of “the Great and the Good” of Denmark have been buried there, including the world’s first existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen is further to the left, and the Nobel prize winning physicist Niels Bohr is also out there, as well as loads of artists, musicians, writers and so on. They are a pleasant and calm lot to live across the street from.

Also, I love this view. I really do. I love the garden, but there is no way I could ever produce anything like this cemetery. It’s amazingly beautiful, and the maintenance is wonderfully done; decay is obvious on many of the old tombs, but that is part of the place’s identity. Some headstones have tumbled over and been left like that, and perennials and wild flowers are used to accent certain graves so it’s not just a lawn studded with beautiful trees.

And now, in December with snow all over the place, this is the main Christmas ornament of our home. No amount of baubles could compete with that view.

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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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