Archive for November, 2010

>Presents from Mum


What, you might ask, is that picture all about? Well, I went to Jutland to visit my parents this weekend, and on Saturday morning my mum and I went into their garden and started digging. I ended up with a large suitcase and a sports bag full of perennials from the garden I grew up in. They are not only plants of various sorts that I grew up with, but the actual plants – or descendants of them – that were there when I fell and scraped my knee or when I hid away from the world with a comic book on one of those hot summer days that one’s childhood miraculously seems to brim with.

As proven in Back in Denmark, moving plants is no problem when you’ve got a decent public transport system and plenty of stamina. The suitcase weighed in at around 30kg / 65lb, and the bag that I carried in the sports bag added another 10kg / 22lb to the load that I was schlepping across the country on a train and two separate buses…

This is the loot spread out on the lawn on a crisp November morning. Iris, asters, black-eyed Susan, aquilegia/columbines, autumnal anemones, English blue bells, African lilies, goldenrods, evening primrose and loads of other plants. Lovely!  Except, of course, that I haven’t actually finished clearing anywhere for my planned flower beds.

Mind you, some determination and a spade will get you a long way, so while my ambitious mixed border along the South-Western hedge is still merely a few pockmarks on the face of the lawn, I managed to dig out two beds by the terrace.

Along the North-Eastern side of the terrace I put the autumnal anemones. My mother has them along a North-facing wall, so I figure this is a pretty similar environment to where they came from. I hope they will be happy there… The advantage and disadvantage of planting in late autumn is that it looks so hopelessly forlorn and sad, but I have full confidence that these plants will stand tall and proud in 6 months time and will start blooming in August. And if not August 2011, then August 2012. I have patience.

The bed in front of the terrace was a bit of a challenge. The lawn went all the way up to the terrace, but with the vestiges of a flowerbed struggling along here and there and three clematis climbing up the posts of the terrace. I pretty much gave up saving the plants from the bed that once what here, so I skimmed off the top soil to the depth of the grass roots and threw it in a corner of the garden for future use.

However… The terrace rests on a layer of sand and gravel, so I couldn’t dig down into the soil for fear of disturbing the edge of the paving, and furthermore the skimming revealed that the bed that used to be there was lined with concrete tiles (for lack of better description). This meant I had to add soil on top of the existing compact soil, and this meant I had to get that soil somewhere… So I skimmed the grass of an area of the lawn where the Ambitious Border (as it will henceforth be known) will appear by magic one day, and then I dug up a wheel barrow of soil, mixed it with some sand and some mulch to make it workable and spread it in the bed. It felt right, and I hope the black-eyed Susans will agree, since they are the ones who will have to live with it.

The rest of the plants will mainly go in the Ambitious Border, so since it doesn’t exist they have just been plopped in any which way wherever there was space. (Oh, I forget; the goldenrods actually got their permanent place. There was a small patch of them in the garden already, and since I find that they only really work in great quantities I basically just beefed up that area, doubling the size of it. Also, the single first-year evening primrose was plopped in there, since it will anyway only be around for one year – if I’m correct in remembering it as a biennial plant – and then I can make new plants from the seeds or get seeds from my mum. I forgot to take a picture of this area, but I’m sure you get the general idea.)


My back is aching from all the digging, my left ankle is still sore after I dropped the suitcase on it when leaving the train and my body is generally just tired and in need of rest. My head, though, has really benefited from the exercise and fresh air; it was hard visiting my dad in hospital and seeing him so worn out by the radiation therapy and the struggle to get enough calories through the feeding tube. He had hoped to come home Saturday, but since he keeps loosing weight and he had to have the gastric feeding tube replaced today after he accidentally tore it out (ouch!), so now it looks more likely that he will be coming home after next weekend at the earliest.

Digging in the garden with my mum was great, though. We chatted, worked together and there was something practical in it for me (plants) and for her (all the plants were basically removed as part of weeding the garden). She is a wonderfully strong woman, but this is taking its toll on her. I wish I could do more for her.

At times like this a garden is a great – safe – miniature universe to flee into. The worst that can happen in our garden is that the flower beds are flooded and a few plants die. No big deal. Plants can be replaced. It’s harder with parents.

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>Winter is coming

>And I’ve changed my weekend plans so I won’t be going to Aberdeen to visit my husband with my mother-in-law but instead will visit my parents Friday to Saturday which leaves Sunday free for a day in the garden.

The weather forecast is promising for Sunday, so I’m hoping to put in a fair amount of work in the garden. More digging, more readying the pots for winter and more raking of leaves to add to the compost heap. And most of all Sunday will be a day for both digesting and fleeing the impressions from Friday and Saturday.

The reason for canceling a weekend with my husband is that I really need to see my dad, who is going in for surgery yet again on Friday, and my mum who seems so very much affected by this whole ordeal. And it will not be easy on me, I know, so that’s why I need the Sunday in my little refuge where everything is simple and works according to more or less predictable laws of nature. Seasons change, plants are doing what they are wont to do and to some extent I understand the rules and am in control of everything. And what I don’t control in the garden is really not that important. Whereas in a hospital room I can control nothing, understand little and yet it has such a huge impact.

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
(William Carlos Williams: The Red Wheelbarrow)

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There had to be some sort of flânerie involved, right, so these are just a few snapshots from Rome as a place-filler…

Above is a view over Rome from the Castel Sant’Angelo, which was one of the must-see sights during our week in Rome that ended yesterday. It was where my husband proposed to me the first time we got engaged. (Yes, there was a second time, since the initial wedding was cancelled in 2008 and then I proposed in Berlin on the roof-top terrace of the flat we had rented for a long weekend. And that proposal did end up with a marriage – okay, a civil partnership – in September this year.) Anyway, long asides aside, we had a wonderful week in Rome, and this time we had rented a flat in Testaccio – South Rome – yet again with a roof terrace. It’s a thing we have…

This picture doesn’t really do justice to the view, but it does say something about the size of the terrace, especially considering that it was taken down the narrow part of the terrace. To the right of me when I took the picture is a slightly wider area with a dining table that could seat 6.

Anyway, the terrace brings me to what – in a somewhat round-about way – relates this entry to gardening. Container gardening! Rome is full of potted plants; in the streets, on the multitude of roof terraces, on balconies and on window sills.

That is the souvenir I’m bringing home from Rome; inspiration for the paved sun-yard garden at the summer house. The sun-yard will never – ever – have a Southern European feel to it due to the red wooden buildings and fences that surround it, but there’s nothing wrong with using the inspiration to create something that still chimes in with the surroundings.

I’m thinking terracotta pots and tubs (which also works with the Danish tradition anyway, so it’s not a complete departure from the location), dark green foliage against the walls and fences and then some lower flowers in s lightly subtle colour scheme.

In other words, I want to have English-inspired borders, classic Danish vegetables in the kitchen garden and a Roman-inspired sun-yard. Eclectic? True, but I also think it can melt into a coherent whole.

And to finish (and to prove that I really WAS in Rome just yesterday) here’s a picture of your’s truly on the roof-top terrace of the Hotel Raphaël. And yes, that’s the dome of San Pietro just to the left of my head. (And a perfectly lovely pinot grigio in the wine glass.)

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