Archive for February, 2011

>Vegetables? And flowers?


Ever since we got the summer house and the garden last summer we’ve been wanting to have a small vegetable patch. We won’t be up there often enough to really manage a proper vegetable garden, but at least a few vegetables would be nice…

I’ve had peas and beans firmly placed as must-haves for a long time, and today as I stopped by the supermarket I was lured into buying. Damn those tempting displays of seed packets!

I bought two packets of a simple snap pea which will be lovely. But… The beans? Oh, my; they look gorgeous and I would love to have those colours in our garden. The yellow beans are as lovely as any summer flower, and the black-ish blue beans have a certain exotic allure to them. The green beans, though? They’re plain, normal, expected. And also childhood summers spent nipping beans in the front step of the house.

I love them all, and I love that none of them are fussy at all; they just want to be sown directly into the ground once the risk of frost is over, and then you essentially leave them to get on with their business.

I also couldn’t help getting some flower seeds. I don’t actually recall having ever seen yellow lupins before, in spite of my passionate love for lupins in general. They look beautiful, though, and they will make a nice counterpoint to blue and pink lupins.

And the blue flax… I love flax! This is actually a fairly new cultivar that combines the colour of linseed flax with the size of the flower flax (normally a beautiful scarlet). They’re so light and breezy and will work well in so many contexts because they’re so simple.

The yellow lupins and the flax are both annuals, so we can use them to fill any gap in the borders without having to worry about moving them next year if we find out they don’t work there. Also, equally important, they’re both soil-improving plants that can be used as green fertilizer. The lupins trap nitrogen in their roots, and both plants have roots that loosen the soil structure.

Also, they both grow to about a meter in height, and I think they’re both very pretty. I will definitely want to sow them in large clumps, both as individual focus points and as part of the mixed borders. And I can’t help thinking that the blue and yellow might make for a stunning display together against a green backdrop.

And yes. This is another entry brought to you by a gloomy February day when I needed to buy myself a little spring optimism. Tomorrow, though, is March, and the weather looks set to become milder over the next few weeks. Within a month it will be time to cultivate the soil and start the first sowing…

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>The garden inside



Yesterday I wrote that I’d given my husband a four-foot white lilac for his birthday, but that wasn’t to be the end of it. At his birthday lunch yesterday two of his friends showed up with two four-foot viburnums…

This means that I now have almost an entire hedgerow in my sitting room window, and no idea how I will transport these plants up to the garden by public transport. I suspect I may have to rent a car if I want to bring it all up in one go…


Another present was a small bag of mixed tigridia pavonia bulbs. Now, I can’t help thinking these flowers are perhaps a bit too gaudy for the borders in the garden, but they might look stunning in a pot in the courtyard where their exuberant personalities might be allowed to shine without looking out-of-place. After all, gaudy or not they are beautiful and can bring a wonderful splash of vibrant colour to the courtyard.

He was also given 10 kg of all-purpose fertilizer, which I’m not really sure what to do with. I think our soil is rich enough as it is, and with added compost I think we can keep most plants happy, but I guess it can be used in the pots in the courtyard…

This morning as I went to the supermarket to get us some breakfast I noticed that spring must – surely – be on its way, at least from a commercial point of view. The supermarket has started carrying not only spring flowers and bulbs, but also tubers and rhizomes of peonies, dahlias and other summer blooms.

Obviously I was unable to resist… My husband changes his mind about lots of things related to the garden, but he keeps saying he likes peonies. Well, I salvaged some peony tubers back in September, and that is a purple, full cultivar that I don’t know the name of, so now I’ve bought a Shirley Temple (white, and though the picture shows it being completely white I seem to recall that they normally have a faint pink hue to them) and a Karl Rosenfield (red). And should the husband ever change his mind about liking peonies, at least I know for a fact that I have loved them since I was a little boy, so they’re definitely welcome in our garden.

Now, I know supermarkets aren’t the ideal place to buy any sort of plants, but since I don’t have a car I really cannot go to nurseries all that often, and given the cheap price of the plants you buy in supermarkets (and the fact that they are from a company that I’ve had good experiences with last summer) I think it can still be worth picking up a few plants along the way. If they fail, they will have cost me very little and if they thrive I shall not care about the price. Also, the peony tubers look very healthy, with 3-4 shoots on each tuber, so I feel confident that they will be all right.

And now the husband is sitting on a flight back to Aberdeen, and I’m sitting in a small apartment surrounded by bushes. He won’t be back in Denmark again before April, but at least we can look forward to having 5 days together over Easter and then 10 days together in May, both times with a few days together in the summer house and the garden.

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>So sweet and heady…


Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, and though I had decided to gang up with his mother to pay for his birthday party today as our present to him, I couldn’t help looking for a little something to give him yesterday.

As I was walking towards one of the large department stores in Copenhagen I passed a florist, and so instead of getting him some small trinket I ended up buying him a 4-foot white lilac…

It’s now standing in my flat, looking somewhat out-of-place, but I’m sure it will look great once the frost goes away and I can bring it up to the garden and set it free from its pot.

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>Is it spring yet?

🍸 fear not…

This is a picture of the canal outside my office on December 23rd when it was frozen and the harbour tour boats only just managed to push through the ice:

And this was the canal today, not only iced over but with snow on top of the ice:

And as you can see, today has been a gray day.

Still, I guess I should enjoy that I work in such a pretty neighbourhood. To the left is the old Copenhagen Goods Exchange from 1640, in the centre is Christiansborg Palace, the house of parliament and – in previous incarnations before the last reconstruction – the main royal residence in Copenhagen, with the majority of the present palace dating from the 1920’s but built in a mock-baroque style. Oh, and to the right is another 1600’s building, Holmen’s Church. Perfect for a lunch-break rest when you just need somewhere quiet to sit and gather your thoughts.

Oh, how I yearn for spring.

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>Planning spring


 I’ve been writing about how last week saw me having trouble containing my urge for spring, resulting in the purchases of pots of hellebores, iris, crocus and grape hyacinths.

Well, here they are in the early morning sunshine on Saturday. The weather all weekend was truly stunning; slightly frosty during the day, and down to minus 12-15 Celsius at night, with clear skies to provide lots of sunshine and amazing starry skies, with the added bonus of a full moon on Friday evening.

The house was warm and cosy, though, thanks to the trusty wood-burner, so I confess I spent most of the time inside, looking out into the garden over my novel.

 But back to the recent purchases. We start off with three pots of white hellebores. I mentioned they looked a bit battered, hence their reduced price, and this is probably the most faded of them. However… I chose this one because it only has three petals/sepals. The two others have five, as I believe is the norm, but I quite like this subtle mutation. I hope it’s not just a one-off, but that it will continue like this through the years.

I bought two pots of iris, and though I thought they were both yellow, one of them has bloomed while it was waiting in my kitchen, and the flower is decidedly non-yellow, much to my pleasure. So there’s a pot of each colour, which is only a bonus.

I have a thing for iris, so these tiny specimens should definitely have a place in the garden where they can be seen in spite of their small size.

 And crocus; I bought a pot of white crocus and a pot of this lovely striped blue crocus. Further to these we already have some crocus that came as stow-aways with a clump of goldenrods from my parents’ garden, and I think they will be orange, as most crocus in my parents’ garden are.

The last pot is blue grape hyacinth/muscaris. I prefer grape hyacinths when they are clustered together in large numbers, but even this tiny pot makes me smile. Consider it – like the other plants in this entry – a statement of intent, rather than anything else.

The heavy frost at night means i wasn’t able to get them into the ground, not even in temporary locations, so for now they are standing in their pots in the sunniest corner of the courtyard to give them at least as much warmth as possible. I don’t know if it will be enough; the pots will definitely freeze through-and-through, but as these are hardy little buggers I guess they have a fair chance.

If they make it, they make it, and I’m prepared to accept casualties if that happens.

And finally a picture I also posted last night, but please disregard fallen bit of fence and focus instead on the birdhouse in the top-right corner of the picture.

A couple of white wagtails seemed very interested in it, flying in and out of it all Sunday morning. Now, I know that they were most likely just looking for insects, especially as it is a starling birdhouse  and not at all suited for wagtails. However, seeing birds fly in and out of the hole reminds me of last summer when the starlings were nesting there, and I look forward to welcoming them back. Eventually.

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>A week and a half ago there were some quite high winds over Denmark, and it appears we have a casualty… The Ugly Fence:

Now, I’m not saying I will mourn this, but… This was really not the best timing. We’d made our peace with The Ugly Fence, as it is surely practical if not pretty; it hides the garden away from the road and provides a nice boundary, so we’ve been making plans to cover it with climbers and somehow camouflage its ugliness under prettiness.

Well, with one section of the fence now blown down, we have two options: Tear down the entire fence or repair it as best we can. Tearing it down would give more light to the small thorny hedge towards the road, possibly allowing it to grow denser and higher. But… It would also mean waiting for a couple of years to see if that will work or not.

We’re not patient…

Repairing the fence would mean we would probably have to stabilise the fence posts, fix the section that was blown down and somehow get it structurally sound again in spite of one corner of the frame having split and generally made it a rather onerous task to put it back together again. And after this weekend I can honestly say that when the one man is myself, this is NOT a job for one man only.

So what will we do? Well, the husband is not keen on having a summer where the garden is open to the road, so we need to put up something. The solution will be to temporarily restore the fence and then have a good think about what to do in the long term.

Ideas? Either replacing it with another fence of similar height but perhaps less brown and rickety. Or perhaps fixing the posts and use them to create a trellis for a mix of climbing plants that can provide a dense cover. Or planting fast-growing bushes that can give cover within a year or two so the temporarily mended fence can be pulled down completely.

It’s just annoying that this should happen. I mean, we have so many other projects on our minds these days that we don’t really need to start fence-building right now. And then Sunday evening the power went and I couldn’t fix it myself, so after half an hour of desperately trying anything I could think of to get the power back, I finally caved in and called an electrician. On a Sunday evening… He came within half an hour, spent 45 minutes changing the residual-current device and charged a surprisingly reasonable price, especially considering that it was a Sunday evening. Power was back, all was well. The today I came home to my flat after work to discover that a plumber working to unclog my upstairs neighbour’s drain had somehow managed to push it down the pipe in a way that created a strong enough pressure to push the clog UP my kitchen drain with bits of it spraying have my kitchen with smelly brown gunk (thank god that drain pipe only serves the kitchen zincs of the building!) and the remainder thoroughly clogging up my u-bend and the connection to the drain. ARGH!!! So that’s what I’ve been relaxing with tonight.

It’s not all frustration and things going wrong, though; I have other pictures from the weekend that I will post in a more positive entry of sunshine and flowers.

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>Yesterday I spent 9 hours working on an excel reporting tool for another department at work. 9 hours straight of looking at a screen filled with little cells with numbers, formulas and other mind-numbingly boring things. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy a spot of meditative spreadsheet work, but a full day is just too much for me, especially since I’m not terribly skilled at Excel and have to learn things as I go.

Terribly non-garden-related beginning to an entry, you might think? Not so! Today I will be going up to the garden after work to spend a sunny, frosty weekend there, and as I was shopping for provisions yesterday I also ended up with two pots of crocus (1 white, 1 stripey blue) and a pot of blue grape hyacinths (muscari armeniacum?) as a way of mentally escaping my day in Excel Hell. After all, what is less like a spreadsheet than a pot of spring flowers?

This means I will be schlepping a total of 8 6″ pots of winter/early spring flowers with me up to the garden, and I look forward to planning where they will go. As the majority of the borders haven’t been created yet, it seems likely that most of the plants will just be re-potted to give them larger living quarters, but I think I might add at least some of the bulbs to the small border in front of the house that will be filled with yellow rudbeckia come summer.

I look forward to a weekend of light gardening (finding places for the new plants), light handiwork (painting some garden furniture) and light reading (no high-brow literature, but a very enjoyable thriller). Yes… I know… I’m in my early thirties and I’m planning the least wild weekend ever. And I will enjoy it, as I always do. After all, next weekend my husband will be in town and we’ll be having a party for his birthday, so this weekend will be solitary relaxation and next weekend will be glorious socialising. Ain’t Life grand?

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>(Take this rose, lovely like you, Title borrowed from one of my favourite poems by Ronsard.)

I went for dinner at my mother-in-law’s last night, and this time I didn’t bring her roses but a bunch of blue iris germanica and a bunch of white iris siberica, hoping she would like these flowers as much as I do. I suspect, though, that she cares less about the type of flowers and mainly just like flowers, especially when they are surprise presents. She always serves me a lovely meal (this time it was new potatoes, steaks and a creme sauce, served with a green salad and a very nice, heavy Salento wine), so it seems only fair to give her flowers in return for her hospitality.

Tomorrow I will go up to the garden for the weekend. I look forward to it, as always. Will the aconites be out in bloom? What about the crocus; will there be flowers on the way any time soon? And the snowdrops, how are they faring? Has the recent storms done any damage to the trees? Will the forecast of sunshine with few clouds hold true? So many questions… I enjoy never knowing exactly what I will discover on Saturday morning when I finally get to see the garden in daylight again;  the thrill of knowing that there will be some development towards spring, even if spring proper is still some way off.

This season is really quite magical; the evenings are dark and cosy with the fire burning and candles aplenty, and the days are crisp and cool and wonderful for pottering about in the garden without doing any great deal of work or taking long walks in the forest or along the fjord. I crave spring, but until it arrives I am thoroughly intent on enjoying winter. Accept what you cannot change, and enjoy it!

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>Another (paid) Adoption



So yesterday I bought hellebores (niger) during my lunch break. Well, today I spent another 30 kroner (around 5 US$) on two pots of dwarf iris.

I suspect it might be Iris danfordiae, as it seems more or less the only species of iris that matches my purchase. The label had bright yellow flowers like the ones in the picture, and it’s clearly a spring-blooming iris.

However, as this is a supermarket puchase, the labelling is limited to “iris”, which is a bit like labelling a cucumber only as “vegetable” I guess. Also, as this is a supermarket purchase I’m not necessarily convinced that it will be a success, but at that price I couldn’t help myself.

Yes, I love flowers, but I love cheap flowers even more. And these days, with the frost recently returned to Copenhagen for at least another week (and looking set to stay for a fortnight), I desperately crave spring, which might also explain why I have such trouble with restraint.

However, apart from these trifles I’m also sending my husband links to sites that sell bare-root plants of a more significant size. Roses, a pear tree, that sort of scale. Dreaming is wonderful… And right now, a few of those dreams are standing in my kitchen, waiting to be transported up to the summer house and the garden on Friday when I go up for the weekend.

I promise that by then I will post pictures of the real plants in the settings they end up with, even if the settings will be temporary, at least for the hellebores.

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>Kama Sutra or Gardening?

>I have been thinking about how to make the hoops to support the plastic covers for our planned raised beds. We have loads of thin bamboo canes from a stretch of bamboo that flowered 3 years ago (as did most of the bamboos in Denmark, leaving loads of garden-owners with huge piles of dead bamboo…), so I figured they might be used if split and watered until supple enough to form the required curve.

However, googling “splitting bamboo” seemed to mainly produce links to a position from the Kama Sutra, and fascinating as the art of love-making might be, this wasn’t exactly helpful to me. I did, eventually, find a couple of useful links, and it seems it really is as straight-forward as one would think.

This has now been added to my list of small garden projects for the remainder of the winter. (The ACTUAL splitting of bamboo; not the Kama Sutra metaphorical one.)

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