Archive for September, 2010

>2010, eh? Be gone, please?

>I want spring. I want a new year.

Last night I had some bad news (family health), and it just made me feel that 2010 has been far too full of drama and excitement for my taste. I would like 2011 to be somewhat more, well, boring.

Anyway, when the present seems less that ideal, that’s surely a good time to forget all about it and start thinking about the future. I know one shouldn’t trust super market plants or bulbs, but today I was really just in the mood for some escapism and some dreams of the future, so I bought some fritilliria and alium bulbs on sale. I don’t know; somehow it just seems more tangible that there WILL be a future, there WILL be May and sunshine and warm days, and there will – hopefully – be pretty plants to celebrate it.

Also, I generally just love fritillaria, especially the sort that you see growing wild in meadows. Not the tall, emperial-looking plant, but the small, gently swaying plant with the oddly-patterned flowers. In Danish they are known as lapwing eggs due to their supposed resemblance to those.

The Alium, well… I don’t love them, but they have such a nice, unashamedly brash colour to them, and the way the flower spheres seem to soar on those tall stems is always a bit of a wonder to me.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=flanegarde-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0715314025&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrAnyway. Tomorrow I’ll be at work from 8-16, then travel to a far suburb to attend the first class of my 15-week coaching course where I’ll be from 17:30-20:45, and then I’ll be home around 21:30. Long day, but also busy, so the weekend is just around the corner. Friday afternoon I will be off to the summer house and the garden, carrying with me a bucket of perennials and a bag of a poor, bareroot rose draged from the ground at the wrong time of year. And 4 bags of bulbs…

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>Oh, the carnage…


This is what the garden behind our building looked like this afternoon when I got home from work. Gone is the mixed hedge with the brambles and raspberries, gone are the roses and peonies and autumn anemones, gone is the iris.

Well, of course not completely gone. This is exactly where I was out “poaching” last night, so I can now look at my loot without any feeling of guilt. Some of them might not survive my rather ad hoc storage, but some of them surely will, and those will get a new life in the country, far away from bulldozers and such.

Ah, and today I also noticed some colchicums that seemed to be begging to be rescued, so I will see if I can get those tonight before the bulldozers reach them tomorrow. I feel oddly shy about digging up plants and roots, so I will wait for the cover of darkness, even though it’s plain to see that otherwise they will be destroyed.

I feel a bit sad; the little garden at the end of the building was sort of growing wild but with traces of the old lady that used to live in one of the flats and who reportedly kept it in immaculate condition ’till she had to move to a retirement home at a ripe old age. I like taking some of that story with me to the garden at the summer house.

Hrm… I hope the new landscaping will turn out nice. The plans look good, but plans often do. At least we get rid of a lot of parking in the area between the buildings, so there will be more space for barbecues and sitting out on summer evenings. Here’s hoping for the best!

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>Back in Denmark

>When I got home from my conjugal visit to Aberdeen, a note had been posted in the stairwell, saying that anybody who were keeping anything in the building’s tiny garden or in the paved areas (bicycles, children’s toys etc.) should remove them ASAP, as the landscaping would – FINALLY! – begin Monday morning, i.e. tomorrow.

I have nothing outside, but… For a long time I’ve promised myself that once the landscaping work started I would try to poach/rescue some of the plants and bring them to the summer house garden. I had, however, thought I would get more than 12 hours notice.

Still, a man must do what a man must do. Out I went with the tiny trowel – all the digging equipment I had at hand – and a bucket. Turned out, though, that the trowel I normally use for house plants was NOT up for the job of digging up peonies and rose…

I did, however, manage quite a haul:

 In front of the bucket is a dark-red rose, and to the left is a pile of Siberian iris (I think; at least it’s a very large blue iris) . In the bucket you mainly see autumn anemones (Anemone hupehensis), but there is also a small cluster of columbines and at the bottom of the bucket a handful of peony roots with shoots.

As I hadn’t prepared for this, I had no idea what to do with everything, so I tried googling for help but realised I wouldn’t in any way be able to do this properly.

Instead I opted for instinct! I had half a bag of potting soil (for house plants), so I cut the tops of all the rhizomes (except the autumn anemones) and put them into the bucket with the potting soil, and the autumn anemones I cut back to the newest leaves and placed them on top of the rhizomes with a shallow layer of soil on top. This should prevent the rhizomes drying out for some days, though I really would like to get them in the ground as soon as possible.

The rose I cut back to 5″ above the roots, except for a tiny new shoot, and I’ve bagged it up with a small amount of soil and tightened the plastic bag around the stems to prevent it dying.

I’m fairly confident I did the best I could do with the means at hand, but we’ll see how much of my loot survives. The main issue will be how weird I will look, traveling with public transports for 1½ hours with a bucket of perennials and a rose in a plastic shopping bag…

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>A weekend in Aberdeen

>I’ve just spent a weekend in Aberdeen, Scotland, visiting my husband, and I thought I would share some details with you. No, it will not be sordid and it will DEFINITELY be safe for work!

My husband’s apartment in Aberdeen is rather swanky, at least by my standards, but especially the fact that he has a private balcony that seems more like a huge deck:

Yes, that’s a private balcony… Unfortunately it only has morning sun, but never the less. When he moved there the deck was a desert. An impressive desert, but still. The landlord, though, agreed to give my husband GBP 200 to buy some plants for the balcony, so we got a bit of this and a bit of that. 200 pounds won’t make a deck that size into a sprawling jungle, but still it could make quite a difference. And it did.

We decided the balcony was really TOO large to use, so most of the plants were put along the railing of the part that gets the most sun, and then some rhododendrons were placed across like a miniature hedge, marking the limit of the inhabited part of the balcony:

Apart from the rhododendrons we got digitalis (alba), honeysuckle and clematis, and though the digitalis were really the stars for a long time, the clematis has now taken over the show:

Slightly gaudy – as clematis often are – but also very lovely. And let’s face it; with such a decidedly modernist building it can be nice to have a plant that just goes “look at me! I’ve got pretty flowers!!!”…

It’s not a great example of container gardening, I know, and it was never going to be. It’s a company-rented apartment with a 2-year lease (since his expatriation ends – we hope – in 2012), so we weren’t going to spend too much money and energy on it. However, I do think it’s a great example of how a rather sterile-looking environment can be made more inviting by adding just a few plants. Neither of us have quit smoking – yet – so it’s a pleasure to be able to go and smoke in a nice place with plants and bumble bees and butterflies. It wouldn’t be a pleasure to stand outside in the Scottish climate on a balcony that looked about as cosy as an operating theatre!

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>I want to tell you a bit about the area where the summer house is situated.

It’s located in a summer house area at the Northern end of Hornsherred, a peninsula nestled between the Isefjord and Roskilde Fjord, an area where human settlement goes back thousands of years.


The forest near the summer house is littered with a few dozen tombs, dating from the late Stone Age and the Bronze Age, making them anywhere between 3000 and 6000 years old. The landscape is very fertile and gentle, and the fjords would have made transport easy in a time when travel across land was difficult and slow. The Fjord is sheltered with fairly shallow water, so it would also have been a great supply of food.

Thousands of years later the area just South of Roskilde Fjord became one of the most important in Denmark, with a royal residence at Lejre and later at Roskilde, where even today the monarchs are buried in the cathedral.

Around 1800, presumably after the British attack on Copenhagen (Damn that Wellington!), a small fortification was constructed at the North end of the Hornsherred peninsula to preven enemy ships entering Roskilde Fjord, and though the buildings and cannon have long since disappeared, the ramparts remain, as does the military presence in the area due to a large military range just South of the forest.

A bit further South on the peninsula – some 10-15 kilometers from the summer house – lies the palace of Jægerspris. Originally a castle from the 13th-14th century, the oldest remaining buildings now date from 1590, and except for the brief period 1673-1679, the palace has been the property of the royal family up to the end of the absolute monarchy in 1849 when it became state property.

In 1854, however, King Frederik VII bought the palace from the state and used it frequently with his second wife, the commoner who after her royal marriage became known as Countess Danner. Her background and the Copenhagen bourgeoisie’s reaction to their marriage was supposedly one of the reasons the couple spent so much time in this rural retreat, and this means that they are perhaps the historical persons most closely connected to the area. At the King’s death he left the palace to his wife, and she in her turn left the palace with all the estate to a foundation named after her late husband with the primary purpose of running the palace as an orphanage. To this day the palace is still an institution for children in difficult circumstances.

(As an aside: For a few decades the palace also contained an educational institution for educators and child-minders, which is where my mother took her education back in the 1970’s.)

Apart from “history”-history, there are also natural features, like the King’s Oak, possibly one of the oldest living plants in Northern Europe. 1200 years old? 1500 years old? 2000 years old? Nobody really knows… It’s dying now, though, and the two other of the “Three Oaks” have already died within the past 50 years. Still, beat-up and worn as it looks, it goes on living for now. There’s something utterly amazing about that sort of age in a tree, and it’s part of the reason why I love that we have an oak in the garden, even if our oak is only perhaps 50 years old.

The closed lane where the summer house is is actually a fairly new thing. Up to the late 1940’s the area was meadows and pasture lands for a local farm, but with the post-war growth in disposable income in the nation, the local farmer cashed in by dividing his land into plots for summer houses. Kuno, who has had a house up the road since 1958, has told me that when they bought their house there were no large trees between their house and the fjord, and now the area looks as if the plots are carved out between the tall trees.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=flanegarde-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0333659171&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrAnyway, this is just to give an impression of one of the reasons why I love the area.

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>Learning the lingo…

>For a while I’ve been wondering just exactly what all those North-American bloggers were talking about when they said their garden was in zone this-or-that. I mean, I realised it had to do with the climate, obviously, but I had no idea how warm or cold a zone 3 would be as opposed to a zone 8. Or even which was the colder of the two…

Now, though, I’ve discovered that my garden is in a zone 7, and this gives me at least a point of reference for understanding what sort of climate other bloggers are gardening in. Because yes, obviously it’s nice to know if you should copy an idea or just take a VERY loose inspiration.

On Friday I’ll be going over to visit my husband in Aberdeen, Scotland. Obviously I can’t wait to see him, but I’m also quite looking forward to telling him about my preliminary plans for the garden. He doesn’t know much about gardening, nor does he seem to care an awful lot about the details, but he does seem to appreciate that I make all these plans and projects so the garden will end up a haven for the two of us – and any friends we might invite. He wants this garden to be wonderful, just as I do, even if he doesn’t know how to take it there or really cares too much about the process.

He does, however, need to be informed and agree, because I don’t want to start something that he doesn’t like. -And let’s face it; what people like and don’t like in a garden is hard to tell in advance, so I need him to more or less sign off on my plans so we won’t suddenly end up in a situation where I’m doing something opposite to what he thought we had agreed.

In other words, I need a full-scale presentation, complete with a plan of the house and garden, suggestions for planting (with pictures) and whatever else I can find to get him to see exactly what I mean. I don’t care if he disagrees – plans can be changed – but I would mind terribly if we misunderstood each other.

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>And I forgot…

>On Friday Kyna posted an entry where she wrote this:

We planted it on our first wedding anniversary, so I have a very soft spot in my heart for this tree.

 Now, I’m a big softy, as is my husband, and as we got married just 15 days ago, this obviously started some thoughts in my head. First of all, should I get my husband something along these lines for our first anniversary? (Because you might as well plan ahead, right?) And second of all, my uncles and aunts wanted to send us a bouquet for our wedding, but my sensible mother decided – correctly – that the money would be better spent by depositing it in our dedicated honeymoon account. However, if they wanted to give us flowers, then perhaps we should indulge them. After all, the price of a bouquet will not get you far on a honeymoon, whereas it might get you a couple of nice roses or shrubs.

So I ask you, the few people who read this:

What should I get for the garden to commemorate our wedding?

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>I just got back after a weekend in the summer house with two friends. They’re having their bathroom re-done, so I’ve lent them the summer house for the next 2-3 weeks. (Or as long as they can stand being that far away from town…)

Anyway, I’ll start this entry by showing off one of my (MANY!) heroes:

In Denmark, this is known as a “cross spider” because of the markings on it’s back. (It’s upside-down in the picture, but really has a Latin cross on it’s back.) Now, I don’t love spiders. In fact, spiders make me panic slightly, in a manner most unbecoming to a member of the supposedly not-scared-of-spiders “stronger” sex. However, Spiders eat insects! -And if this fellow eats even just a single mosquito, then I’m happy to let him string his web wherever he likes, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my pottering about.

What else to report? Well, I took some more rose cuttings and potted them directly (the original ones are still tempting fate in a water-based medium), and I also took some buddleia and cornel cuttings just for the sake of it. As the house is now inhabited for 2-3 weeks, my plan to let the cuttings stand in the South-facing kitchen window have been scuppered, so instead they are now standing in the workshop in front of a shaded North-facing window. I read somewhere that rooting cuttings was all about moisture, not light, so I’m hoping that is true.

I had a strange idea this afternoon as I was pottering about: Hops seems to be a very difficult plant to get rid of (and I sort of want to get rid of it in places, and sort of don’t, cause it’s PRETTY), but if I could make some use of it, maybe I could convince myself that it is a good thing to have a slightly-too-large hops plant crowding my poor honeysuckle on the South wall.

Hops… With some malt, yeast and water… Why not? Supposedly, making your own beer – in a decent quality – is not too difficult, and it would be kind of awesome to make beer from the hops in your own garden. After all, the house is known locally as the “Carlsberg house” after the owner before the last one, who apparently used to work for Carlsberg, the largest Danish brewery. I’m not sure it will happen, though, especially not this year, but it would be a convenient excuse to let the hops grow as much as they want. (And the want to grow a LOT! 5-6 meters in a season, easily.)

I’ll finish off with an autumnal motif from a corner of the garden:

-I love the golden colour of these mushrooms, even if I wouldn’t want to eat them. (No idea if they’re poisonous or not, but they’re very tough so that alone eliminates my curiosity to look them up.)

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>I’m still down with an insistent lurgy, so I’ve been lying on the sofa with my computer, and that has lead me through a few different gardening sites and garden blogs. (I find it quite frustrating, really, since they give me all sorts of ideas that are either impossible in my garden or just not for this time of year or even the next few years as we are establishing OUR footprint on the garden.)

Anyway, I came across a blog with the most beautiful name – A Sense of Place -which threw me back to the days when I thought I wanted to be an architect and spent two years at the Aarhus School of Architecture. Creating a “sense of place” was something that I was very much drawn to back then; buildings that were rooted in their locality, rather than space ships that had landed from anywhere, such as chain hotels, where you really cannot tell from the room if you’re in Shanghai or Cincinnati.

And of course, thought I, this approach is really something that one should remember also when gardening. Not only to create a garden that is at home in it’s location (i.e. not planting tropical plants in Scandinavia), but also to create a garden that has a distinct identity and is somehow defined by the house and the surrounding gardens and landscape.

This pictures shows the most important feature of the garden; the house. A small wooden housee, bordering on the twee and definitely NOT asking for a very rigid or formal garden. (Which would anyway be way too high-maintenance for a summer house…)

The patio faces directly left, so that is where we tend to sit in the evenings, meaning that there needs to be something to look at, and also that there needs to be a lawn area large enough for croquet, kubb and similar lawn games. Also, we relocated the bonfire pit to be aligned to the patio entrance so we can enjoy the dying embers from the patio sofa. In other words, that part of the garden needs to keep some of the functionalities it has while adding some ornamental focal points along the west fence.

On the right side in the picture is a narrow-ish lawn that goes all the way back to the stream that forms the Eastern border of the garden. That is the ideal place for lunches and day-time reading in the sun, so we need to maintain some of the lawn. Up against the house you can see the rather neglected and wild-growing honeysuckle, and there’s also a rather dull white rose that has been strangled by a patch of Joe Pye weed. Now, the rose can stay, and I would love for it to have some good company, perhaps of more interesting rose varieties. I can definitely see us having a lovely lunch on the lawn next to a bed of roses…

Across from the yet-non-existing rose bed I would like to create a herbaceous border to provide something beautiful before the rambling hedge towards the neighbour to the North, and down towards the stream (or “up towards the stream” as it technically is) I would like to create a vegetable garden. Many vegetables are beautiful plants, so if I created some raised beds that could be a beautiful way to end that view. Tall climbing peas and beans, pretty little lettuce heads and so on.

At the opposite end of the house – the North gable – there is a white climbing rose up against the house and out in the lawn there is an apple tree and a pear tree, both of which are rather new trees, probably planted within the past 5 years. Well, I would like to build on that and give that area – which is also where you enter the garden – a bit of an orchard feel. My grandfather had an apple plantation that was converted to cherries when I was about 10, so I have a certain fondness for orchards and would love to have more fruit trees and berry bushes. This is me projecting my personal identity and history onto the garden, but I think that’s part of what helps create something personal and individual.

Behind the house – along the Eastern border of the garden – runs the stream, and that area is generally quite dark and used for utilitarian purposes (bicycle parking, compost heap, wood pile), and I guess that’s the way it will remain. Our compost heap, though, is on the border to one of our neighbours, so we want that tidied up so they don’t have to look at that eye-sore from their garden. It does, though, have a marvelous growth of reeds and a rather wonderful yellow iris, so while the reeds obviously belong there, the iris might move elsewhere to be a bit more on display.

And then between the house itself and the annex there’s a small paved courtyard that looks a bit miserable at present but has a huge potential. The kitchen has a door out to the terrace, and the guest bedroom is in the annex across, so it’s a place where people pass through a lot when we have visitors and obviously it just needs regular weeding and loads and loads of lush pots. The pots are there, so I just need to find stuff to put in them. It will never be a Mediterranean-style courtyard, what with all the red-painted wood, but I will definitely be drawing inspiration from that type of container gardening and adapting the choice of plants to the style of the buildings. Somehow…

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=flanegarde-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0881926434&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrI guess writing all this down has actually made me realise that I have some very clear plans for the garden. Four distinct areas, each with it’s own identity, but without separating the areas from each other by anything other than the house itself. A flow of paces, if you will. And writing this has made me want to work more on the identities I want to create in each area; what style of planting, specific layout plans and so on. Not that everything will happen within the first year, but at least that would provide me with a vision of what the garden could look like.

(A vision that will most likely change a thousand times, or so I hope. After all, what gardener dreams of achieving a perfect garden where there is nothing more to plan and no more pet projects to ponder? How dreary it would be.)

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>Over at coldclimategardening.com I came across a suggestion from another gardening blog to “write your garden’s mission statement”, and I quite like that as a concept. For now, though, I am utterly unable to do so,  except perhaps that a vital part of it is to simply enjoy being in it, working in it and seeing others enjoy it. As is perhaps the case for most gardeners, really…

I went up to the summer house and the garden yesterday afternoon after dropping my husband off at the airport. When I got off the bus it was pouring down, so on the 5-minute walk to the house I got absolutely drenched, but what’s a bit of water, eh? I was there to relax and enjoy a cosy Sunday afternoon and evening, and that can be as well done in front of a fire as on the porch in the evening sun.

I did venture out in the garden to do a small bit of my to-do list; I cut some branches from the two small rosebushes and from the large rambling rose, and now I have officially started my very first attempt at plant propagation by cuttings! I’m terribly excited by this, of course, and fully expect to be sorely disappointed. (Which is why I’ve taken some 50 cuttings and plan to take more…)

This first batch of cuttings will be treated in the simplest way the internet has told me of; simply standing the cuttings in willow-water (steep pieces of willow-wood in water for a few days and then remove the wood) as willow apparently contains a natural growth hormone that will make the rooting more successful. What do I know; I just do what the internet tells me! (As my blog desription on coldclimategardening.com reads: “City-boy has just bought a summer house with a garden and is now trying to make sense of it all.“)

They are now taking up almost all of the work-space in the already tiny kitchen, but it’s the only place there was room for them. It’s a South-facing window, but as it’s a summer house there’s no heating on, so I’m guessing they will not get over-heated there.

Over the weekend I plan to take more cuttings (since the roses really need to be cut back to form bushes, rather than the straggling freaks they’ve been this summer), and that will give me a chance to try out a few of the other methods for rooting cuttings that I’ve read about. Obviously I need to see if rooting them in pots will provide better or worse results, but I also want to do some inside and some outside, and I might even get around to a garden centre to buy some of the commercial rooting hormone powder thingy that I’ve read about. Or I might not. I have a rather phlegmatic (yet enthusiastic) approach to these cuttings: Either they want to grow or they don’t want to grow. It’s no big deal, but at least I’m trying to give them a chance. Their choice!

Also, for our wedding we only asked for contributions towards our honeymoon, so my mother decided that the money my dad’s family wanted her to buy a bouquet of flowers for us with was better spent as a bank transfer to our account, but last night as I was on the phone with her, telling her about my lastest gardening exploits, she pointed out that since they originally wanted to give us flowers, perhaps that money should no go towards the honeymoon, but rather be spent on plants for the garden. I like that idea, actually; having a wedding present that lives and endures in the garden for – hopefully – many years. So whereas the rose bushes in the garden are both white tinged with pink, and the rambling one pure white, I might go out and buy two or three roses in other colours. Red is a must-have, of course, and I’ve always adored yellow roses, so there should be one of those as well.

(Did I mention I’m out with a terrible cold at the moment, hence the rambling nature of this entry and the time to write at such excruciating length?)

My husband loves roses, and I’m gaining a certain fondness for them, too, that will no doubt turn into a full-on love affair if any of these cuttings survive or even – fingers crossed – bloom. I’ve already decided where the rose bed should be; in front of the kitchen window where I discovered the poor, neglected white-with-pink-rims rose. It was hidden behind some very sturdy and aggressive perennials, so I need to dig those up and move them elsewhere. They’re pretty, but they’re strangling the rose. (Also, the rose has been planted literally inches from the wall, so it needs to be moved a bit out so it can get some air and grow in a more balanced way.)

Why should the rose bed be where I found that rose? Several compelling reasons, really, all of which combine to make it a must:

  • There was a rose there already, so surely it has the right-of-way!
  • It’s a South-facing wall, so they will get plenty of sun and be happy!
  • It’s a South-facing wall, so it’s right next to the part of the lawn where we spend most time during summer, so we will get to enjoy them more there than anywhere else!
  • It’s right outside the kitchen window, and one should always have something pretty to look at when doing the dishes!

This of course means that apart from doing all the cuttings and keeping fingers crossed they will grow, I need to dig out a rose bed right next to the house. Which means a lot of work, considering that the perennials there are VERY established and seem to have deep roots. And a lot of work that has to be done in one weekend, as we have previously-mentioned issues with water on the lawn and I really don’t want water directly up against the foundations of the house, thank-you-very-much!

I guess this long, rambling entry has gotten me a bit closer to my mission statement for the garden: I want to make it into a garden that my husband and I can enjoy separately and together! I can enjoy doing the work and seeing my work producing results, and he can enjoy the blooms and the peace of it all. And we can enjoy being there together, Far from the Madding Crowd. A haven for each of us and both of us. How I do it? Time will tell, but I will keep you posted…


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