Archive for October, 2010

>A Touch of Frost


We’ve had the first frost this weekend. Minus 4 Celsius both Friday and Saturday night.

Now, obviously this meant that my hope that the white dahlia I brought up there would have a chance to look pretty for a while were dashed, but never mind. They had two nights of frost, and when I left Sunday afternoon I put them in the spare bedroom in the annex where the heating has been set to 5 Celsius, keeping it safe from frost.

Frost is pretty, though. this is the small smoke bush in the South-Eastern corner of the garden, and I love the contrast of the gleaming silver frost on those dark, purple leaves.

It wasn’t all about the frost, though; the days were beautiful with clear blue skies and it felt quite warm in the sun since there was hardly any wind. And of course, blue skies and autumn leaves is a wonderful combination.

I will leave you with a view of the fjord. It might be flat, it might not have much drama, but come on… It’s beautiful!

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>A haven

>I just needed to share with you how much I look forward to going up to the summer house and the garden. I look forward to planting bulbs, I look forward to potting the new dahlias and I look forward to starting the digging for the borders. Just thinking about it relaxes me. It makes me happy. It gives me the resources I need to tell my mum that we can handle this, whatever “this” ends up with.

Amazing what this little plot of land does for me. And by extension for my parents.

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The observant reader with rudimentary French skills will already by now have noticed that the title of this entry was chosen purely because it sounds good. The actual content of the entry is – perhaps predictably – somewhat less Stendahlian.

The fact of the matter is that on my way home from work I walked past the supermarket, and outside they had some glorious pots of chrysanthemums for very little money. And they looked great and tempting and everything, but next to them were these slightly forlorn-looking white dahlias, reduced for clearing for quite obvious reasons. (Just under 2$ per pot.)

I’ve already written about my struggle with a black Dahlia, Arabian Night:

Slugs were feasting on every shoot of the two rhizomes I bought in June, so they struggled to get going. However, next year I’m obviously going to get them potted much sooner, and possibly even indoors so they will be “adolescent” before they have to face the real world.

Anyway, back to the white dahlia! I’ve already mentioned I want to have white and purple-black flowers in the sun yard between the house and the annex, and I like the way the simple white flowers contrast the “slightly” more extravagant look of the dark, velvet- leafed purple-black flowers. Same general plant, same foliage, same size, wildly different flowers. There’s a certain beauty to the sort of contrast that also contains similarities.

Also, I do love dahlias. And I wanted something to celebrate my first weekend alone in the summer house for a long time. And my last weekend alone in the summer house for an even longer time. Yes, I asked my friends who are borrowing it while their bathroom is being redone if they could give me that weekend alone to just get away from everything, so from Friday evening to Sunday evening I’ll be all alone with the house and the garden. (Then comes two weekends in Rome, one weekend in Aberdeen, one weekend in London and one weekend in Aberdeen before I will have my next weekend in Denmark.)

So there. The sun yard will be all set for autumn next year, and the spring and summer blooms will be a project for spring, rather than just now. I will put the white dahlias in larger pots and dead-head them so they might give a little joy this autumn, but mainly I bought them for next year. Dahlias aren’t hardy in Denmark, so I will dig up the rhizomes in late November and let them spend the winter in the shed before potting them again in early spring. I love this. The continuity of it all, the sense that a season past will return next year. And the year after. And the year after.

It is obviously very banal, but it’s also something I enjoy immensely about having a garden. Seasons.
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

(Yeah, and we’ll drop the rest of the poem, ’cause love is not waning in my life, thank God. You can look it up if you want; W.B. Yeats The Falling of the Leaves)

This year has actually been great for “seasons” in Denmark. We had a cold winter with plenty of snow, where people went ice-skating on the lakes of Copenhagen, then a temperate spring with sunny days interspersed with rain and wind, a GLORIOUS summer and now we’re well into an autumn where we’ve had both rainy days with gale-force winds and bright sunny days with the most beautifully luminescent blue sky. It has been like a children’s book of the seasons, every season distinct from the next.

Oh, I’m rambling now. Pardon me. I’m just really thrilled that on Friday I will be going up to the house and the garden and be just me. Me, dahlias, bulbs, digging, maybe a home-baked apple pie and CERTAINLY a fire in the evening, accompanied by an Irish coffee or a glass of red wine. There are still lots of reason to worry and be upset, but there are also plenty of reasons to rejoice in how wonderful Life is. In spite of everything.

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>Search & Rescue

>This afternoon when I came home from work I took a small walk around the desert that now surrounds my apartment building, just looking at the flat, barren soil and hoping that it will become nice eventually. (Yes, I guess that in spite of my socialist and liberal leanings I do have rather a conservative streak when it comes to my surroundings, hence perhaps the somewhat 1950’s decor of my sitting room.)

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=flanegarde-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1576875504&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrAnyway, up where the fence used to be I came across two tiny survivers. Two ivy plants had survived due to their small stature and their horisontal growth, so the bulldozers hadn’t gotten to them. Well, what is a man to do when faced with such plantlings in distress, other than pull them out and bring them inside to a pot of soil, a drink of water and a bit of TLC. Who knows; if they can survive a bulldozer, maybe they can also survive in that corner of the garden where nothing so far seems to want to cover up that rather dreadful fence we have towards the road.

Here’s to hope!

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>A Place to Dream of…

>These are stressful days. Work is all over the place (which I kind of like when I’m at the top of my game but not so much when I spend most of my energy on my private life), my granny has fallen and broken a wrist and of course my father is currently in hospital, being examined to determine the extent of the cancer he was diagnosed with last week. And there’s more, but these are the most important things and should indicate that I have enough on my plate these days.

My head’s exploding with thoughts and emotions, and I have a really hard time relaxing. It helps when I think of my husband, though he’s all the way across the North Sea in Scotland, but it actually helps even more when I think about the summer house and the garden. Being with my husband is wonderful, but somehow demands that I put in something to get out something (as relationships work). I might be allowed a down-time, especially these days, but on the other hand I know he has a need of me and my attention as well.

The garden, though, doesn’t ask for anything. Doesn’t need anything. If the lawn isn’t mowed, the shrubs not pruned or the what-ever not what-evered, there’s no harm done. I can invest energy in it if I want, but I can also just sit back and relax. It is, as a Danish poem says about a loyal friend, “Nought but a tree with green grass at its foot / to learn my burning forehead against”.

And just thinking about it, just knowing that it is there, can take me mentally to a calm and quiet space where I am myself and can recover from whatever the world throws at me. Like tonight when I need to call my mother to hear if there is any news from the hospital and if she’s okay. She needs me to have energy, and I get that from going – mentally and virtually – into the garden.

I want iris in my garden. I want Hemerocallis in my garden. I want roses and lavender and sweet-peas and dahlias. I want G&Ts in the sunshine and a fire inside when it rains. I want love and life and abundance. Wanting all this makes me happy. No matter what else is going on.

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>The plants I “rescued” from being bulldozed outside my apartment building suffered quite badly from being stored in my flat, even if I tried to keep them moist in a bucket of potting soil. They weren’t exactly perky-looking when I arrived at the summer house last night, so I dug them out of the bucket and soaked them over-night in a tub of water. Not sure if that made much difference, but it was what seemed most likely to help the poor plants into shape.

Then today I dug through the soil in a small square (4′ by 4′) that used to be covered by the sand box and thus was relatively grass- and weed-free. I added a bit of compost and sand to the soil (heavy clay soil) to lighten it an ensure that the plants have the best possible chances of still being there next year, and at the end it really did seem like fairly nice gardening soil. It had some structure to it from the compost, some lightness from the sand and some richness from the original clay soil. Now, I know nothing about soil conditions, but it just felt nice.

In the square I dug some trenches and put down the iris rhizomes (Iris Siberica), the anemones (pink anemony hupehensis) and peony roots with shoots (some purple peony of unknown type), and I hope this will keep them through winter as I try to prepare some more permanent areas for these plants.

Just digging through this small square made me realise just what an enterprise it will be to create a large herbaceous border on an area that is currently lawn. The digging, the cultivation of the soil and then the continuous weeding for a few years to get rid of any roots that I didn’t get out in the original preparation of the bed… Just the small square made my back ache, so I guess I will need to get in shape to be able to pull off the digging of an entire border! I wonder what the best in-door exercises for gardeners are…

I also cleared the ground around the white rose at the Southern gable of the house and cultivated the ground beside it so I could put in the red rose that I had also pulled from the ground outside my apartment. It’s flowers are not very large, but full and a deep red colour, so it should be a nice complement to the white renaissance-style rose that’s already there. If it survives… I know it’s a bit early in the year to cut down a rose completely and then move it as a bareroot plant, but hey; worth a shot, right?

My cuttings are looking quite well. Both the ones set to root in water (a white rose and a white climbing rose) and those set in potting soil (same roses, and also some buddleia and cornel cuttings). The next time I go to the summer house (in two weeks) I guess I will need to bring a few bags of potting soil so I can get the water-rooted cuttings in pots and leave them like that through the winter in the shed that will be (more or less) frost-free.

I don’t remember if I’ve told you, but I’ve lent the summer house to some friends who are having a new bathroom installed in their apartment and consequently were keen to borrow a place to stay where there was an actual toilet, rather than a porta-potty in the sitting room. This means that I only went up there from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon this weekend, much to my regret. It just seems like I’m a visitor there when they are living there, so I wanted to get back to my apartment tonight and just have a nice evening alone.

I miss the place. I haven’t had a weekend alone up there since… Well, since some time in mid-August, I guess. And initially they asked to borrow the house for two-three weeks, but obviously the builders are behind schedule so now it looks like it’ll be a lot longer, and from the weekend 23-24 October and five weeks ahead I won’t have a single weekend in Denmark, so I’m considering whether it would be rude to ask them to give me the weekend 16-17 October up there alone. I can’t wait until 27-28 November to have a weekend in my refuge alone… Also, there’s so much work to get started on before winter sets in, and especially the digging and cultivation will take time. I would really like to have broken the ground for the border before winter, even if the soil cultivation might have to wait until spring.

Also, whenever I go there I feel at peace. It’s a haven. It’s calm. I need that these days, what with work being all over the place (in a good way, but still not exactly relaxing), me starting an evening course in coaching in corporate organisations and stuff generally happening (like my grandmother taking a nasty fall and my father being diagnosed with cancer).

I’m sorry this is such a long, rambling entry. It’s just that writing about the summer house and the garden somehow – in a way I cannot entirely understand myself – makes me feel a fraction of the peace I feel when I’m there.  It’s a peace I can find elsewhere – most notably within myself – but the house and garden has become an embodiment of that rest and calm.

Anyway, this entry has been entirely pictureless so far, so here’s one:

It’s not easy to see, but this is the entry to a tomb from around 3000BC. Sadly – or amusingly, I guess you could say – the tomb was dug out in 1776 and the site was remodeled as a monument to the Queen Juliane-Marie. The original tomb chamber is still – almost – intact, but the mound was turned into a scenic viewing point with a terrace running all the way around it half-way up the mound and a rather more monumental entrance to the tomb chamber. Also, the entrance to the chamber was moved from the East side to the South end of the oblong chamber. (I only found this out through Google, though it struck me as odd when we entered the chamber, as all other tomb chambers from this period that I have visited have had the chamber itself at a right angle to the entrance.)

Around the terrace mid-way up the tomb are 7 stones, representing seven heathen kings from Denmark-Norway (in 1776 these two countries were joint under one king): Skjold, Frode the Peaceful, Dan Mykillati, Harald Hairfair, Gorm the Old, Harald Bluetooth (yes, he’s the source of the name of the bluetooth connectability) and Wittekind (who actually was a Saxon , rather than Danish or Norwegian, king). These are there due to the initial belief that the mound only dated back to the times of the kings of legend, when in fact it is perhaps 3500-4000 years older.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=flanegarde-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0859915026&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrJust imagine… 5000 years ago, this place was used to bury 4 individuals, though not necessarily at the same time. History goes a long way back in the area around our small summer house and it’s pretty garden with potential.

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