Archive for February, 2011

>Lunch at work today was uninspiring to a degree where I decided to skip it and go for a walk instead.
Down at Christianshavn Square there was the usual flower stall, so I went over to it, considering whether to buy myself a bunch of something, but then I saw them.

Bedraggled, past their prime and looking altogether rather sad.


However, their rather sorry state meant that potted hellebores (6″ pots) were reduced to 10 kroner, just under 2 US $. How could I resist?

I bought 3 pots. They might not look like much right now, but if they’re given a nice spot to live over summer, outside of the confines of their small pots, I’m confident that by next winter they will pay us back with lovely white winter flowers. 

Now, why hellebores? Well, I blame it on Carolyn, who wrote An Ode To Seed Strain Hellebores. I know my purchase is nowhere near as exotic as the examples in her entry, but they’re pretty flowers and at that price there was just no way to not buy them.

So now I’ll have to work out what these lovely little plants need to be happy and thrive. Google, here I come!

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>Drainage Dreams


Flooded lawn

Here’s a quick update on the drainage plans…

Just over a week ago we had a contractor coming up to have a look at the garden so he could make a price estimate for establishing drainage under the lawn. Well, on Thursday he called me with an estimate that is more or less within the budget and that covers what we want/need.

It’ll be a simple project, really; two strings that run from the lowest corner of the lawn around either side of the house to a pumping well behind the annex, from which we can then pump surplus water out into the stream. Each perforated drain pipe will lie in a trench of gravel, so the drain will have a much larger holding capacity than just the pipes themselves, and hopefully that means that a lot of the water will be able to seep into the ground, rather than having to be pumped out into the stream and end up in the fjord.

On top of the gravel trenches with the drain pipes will be a layer of landscape fabric, covered with the top layer of soil where the lawn will be re-established. To cut costs we’ve agreed that he won’t re-establish the lawn, so once he’s done we will have a scarred and battered lawn that will need re-sowing over all the trenches and wherever the digging machine has ruined the grass.

It won’t be too expensive, but it won’t exactly be cheap, either. On the other hand, we’re talking about a trench of over 100 meters in total, so we will get a lot for our money. An added benefit is that the soil from the trenches will not be removed but instead be placed wherever we would like it, so that means we can create slightly raised beds around the problem areas so the perennial borders will be more or less guaranteed never to flood, regardless of the volume of downpour.

Now we just need to find out when he can do it; we would like it done as soon as possible, but of course the frost needs to be entirely gone for this winter and the ground needs to be moderately dry, so it’s not easy to guess when it will be done. Hopefully, though, it is not unrealistic to hope for it do be in place before Easter so we can spend the Easter break planting and sowing.

I really look forward to getting this done.

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>I’m not sure I’m really keen on the format of a circulating “stylish blogger award”. However, I’m hugely flattered that Go Right In My Garden and Gardens Eye View have decided to recommend me like this.

In accepting this award, these are the things you should do:

1. Post linking back to the person that gave you the award.
2. Share 7 random things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered bloggers
4. Drop them a note, and tell them about it!

1: This is already done, and I can definitely recommend stopping by their blogs.

  • Go Right In My Garden is based in Malaysia, and it’s one of the examples of how having a blog can introduce you to different parts of the world without leaving your home. And trust me; on a gray and cold evening in February in Denmark it is a wonderful act of escapism to visit a garden in the tropics. I might not be able to grow the plants she grows, but I can still take inspiration from her garden and the shapes and colours she uses.
  • Gardens Eye View is from the opposite end of the world; New York. That climate is obviously much more comparable to the climate here in denmark, so this blog is not only inspirational, but also practical, like recent entry, Crazy for Columbines, shows.

2: When writing a hobby blog like this, I should think I scatter random information about myself throughout the entries. Sometimes relevant, sometimes more of an odd tangent… A list like this, though, would probably not be very enjoyable to read, so I’m skipping this part.

3: 15 is an awful lot, I think. And on second thoughts it’s far too few. If I just link to the list of blogs I follow, I hope I won’t have missed out too many.
Some, though, deserve special mention because they’ve actually played an important part in getting this blog off to a good start.

  • Kathy Purdy over at Cold Climate Gardening was a very good help when I started this blog, directing me to sites like Blotanical where I’ve found loads of great blogs to follow – and also been found by a few readers, which is obviously part of what makes me continue this blog. After all, if I didn’t have at least a small audience, then I might as well just keep these jottings in a note book or on my laptop.
  • Fer at My Little Garden in Japan is one of the bloggers I’ve encountered through Blotanical, and his World Garden Carnival is both a great gateway to other garden bloggers and a way to introduce others to your blog. He hosts the carnival once a month with a different theme each time, and you can get an overview over past carnivals by clicking this link.

I’d rather call this “recommendations” than “Stylish Blogger Awards”… Go, read, comment, enjoy!

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>Taming of the Shrew


Pardon the title, but on Sunday morning I found this little fellow in the courtyard. I’ve always imagined a shrew to be a wild and fearsome creature, judging by Catherine, The Shrew, in Shakespeare’s play, and I was rather amused when I learned that the animal by that name was such a little cutie.

This particular cutie must have died during the night, but there was no visible signs of it being mauled by a predator. I gently buried it (i.e. threw in on the compost pile) and then started googling. Because one thing is recognising a shrew when you see it, another is knowing whether it’s a good or a bad thing to have shrews in your garden.

Opinions on the internet seems divided; there are a host of shrew-deterrents on sale for gardeners, and on the other hand I read that they each all kinds of insects and slugs, so I’m inclined to live and let live. Last summer I noticed a small hole in the lawn over by the South-Western hedge, and I’m now inclined to think that might have been a shrew hole. I won’t try to cover it up any more…

So there. Deer, pheasants, shrews, a multitude of birds. I look forward to continuously discovering new wildlife in the garden. (But no more slugs, please….)

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My husband seems to be really keen on creating a romantic oasis in the courtyard. He wants plants, lushness, flowers, abundance…

Well, it wasn’t hard to talk me into that, of course, and last weekend I assembled all the pots we have and put them in the courtyard to see what we have to work with. We do have just over 30 pots (plus the brick planter I made on Saturday), but it’s clearly far from enough.

Still, it will do for a start; it’s not enough to crowd the space as it should do to make it feel like a truly intimate space for two (and maybe a few more on occasions). It will be a place for lazy breakfasts and tête-à-tête lunches, and maybe the odd afternoon drink. Or perhaps maybe two.

The furniture will be very limited; just a round table and two iron chairs (more on those below) and the stone-topped trolley-table that doubles as additional kitchen work space on nice days and as a gardening work table. (And yes, it is cleaned properly between the latter and the former…)

The furniture: One ugly white round table (legs of metal tubing with a plastic-topped wood-composite top) and two so-so black metal arm chairs with a tiny bit of grape leaves ornamenting the edge of the chair backs. I’ve sanded down the chairs but haven’t painted them yet. The table got the full blasting-down on Sunday, first with a chisel to remove the loose bits of plastic around the edges and then I attacked the entire table with a steel brush (on a drilling machine) for absolute ages before washing it down, letting it drip off and putting it in the sitting room so it will be completely dry and ready to paint.

The table and chairs will turn a glossy dark – VERY dark – green.And yes, it IS inspired by classic racing green sports cars, but it also seems to me like a colour that will suit the red buildings and supplement the colours of the foliage in a darker tone. I really hope I will be able to give it all a nice finish; it doesn’t have to be perfect, of course, but I want it to feel lovely and look beautiful.

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>Playing With Bricks

>I have previously mentioned that I had seen some bricks lying around at the back of the garden, and this past weekend I finally got around to picking them all up.

I think they might at some point have been used as the base for a wood pile, but that must be quite a while ago, since each brick was completely embedded in the soil and the whole length of the once-wood-pile was overgrown with grass and had later been used to pile up cuttings from the garden (mainly twigs, small branches and bamboo).

This is what I managed to gather. 54 bricks, all in perfect knick even though they are clearly nasty modern concrete bricks, coloured to look like real bricks. They do look nicer in the pictures than in real life, but on the other hand it’s not entirely bad, as the bricks are a mix of colours from gray to red, which does mean that even though each individual brick has no charm whatsoever, the combination of them somehow acquires a bit of life.

I wrote my husband and asked him what he thought we should do with them; use them for edging the Ambitious Border, build a planting box in the courtyard or something else entirely, and he was so hooked on the idea of a brick planting box that there was no doubt about what to do:

I played around with the bricks and ended up with this constellation; a simple box, roughly 2′ * 4′ * 8″ in external measures which seemed a good size for the small courtyard. However, I’d just made it in the first space I thought of, and after seeing it up against the wall I realised that we wouldn’t be able to paint the wall behind it.

The solution was to move it so it was up against the fence at the North-Western side of the courtyard, with just enough space to paint the fence when needed (but I’d want more space when painting the actual buildings so we don’t risk not being able to do it well enough.) and plenty of space between the end and the wall of the house.

I changed the construction a bit when I moved the bricks. This picture doesn’t show it, but whereas all the other courses have 5 bricks on the long sides, the lower course at the back only has 4 bricks, leaving gaps between each brick. Clearly, the reason for this is drainage, something with which I am obsessed due to our wet soil.

I know, I know… Normally you need to do all you can to preserve moisture in raised beds like this, but… We can’t have a summer house garden that relies on being watered regularly, so the plants will have to be drought tolerant and in that case I think it will be easier to just make sure that the soil will always be fairly consistently dry.

You can see there are already some plants in the planter, but they’re only temporary residents, awaiting that our drainage project for the lawn is completed so they can be planted out into more generous amounts of soil. These are lilac plants, and they deserve a special explanation:

I had been to the shop and as I was returning I stopped in front of a house that’s called “Syrenhuset”, The Lilac House. Aptly named it is, too, as its front garden is surrounded by a lilac hedge of generous proportions. I leaned in to inspect the buds, bursting in spite of winter still being going, with last weekend’s thaw only being an interim situation in the months of frost, and suddenly I realised that I was being eyed somewhat suspiciously from a window and then a woman came out and asked me what I was doing.

Well, what do you answer? “I was just admiring the buds on your lilac bushes” seems a somewhat implausible answer, but it was the only one I had, and we ended up chatting a bit and when she heard how I’ve always loved lilacs she offered that I could have some of her off-shoots. So she got a fork and I got four medium-sized plants out of the ground and politely declined more, since I just don’t have anywhere to put them, really.

3 have gone temporarily into the brick planter, and one has been placed where they will perhaps all go, in front of the ugly fence. Either way they’re 3-4 foot plants, and though they were moved without any soil (after all, I had to carry my shopping bags as well as 4 small bushes!) they do have a decent amount of roots, so I hope they will be all right. At least some of them…

Anyway, this planter might not be a large thing, but it holds so much soil compared to even a large pot. So much soil, so much surface area, so much planting potential. We want tall plants in this planter; a backdrop to the pots that will stand in front of it. Perhaps a climber that can take on the fence? Clematis? Or just annual sweet peas?

God, this became a long entry, but I just couldn’t show the lilacs without the story of how they came to be in our garden. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers….

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>Tools in our garden

>Fer over at My Little Garden in Japan recently posted an entry about the tools he uses in his little balcony garden, and I’d actually thought about doing something similar myself. Here is an entry that I wrote this weekend but had to put off posting until I got to a computer with internet access so I could add in pictures aplenty.

But really, a spade is a spade is a spade, so I will stick to the ones that I actually like and that are perhaps less predictable than a how, a rake and a spade. When we bought the summer house last year, the workshop came fully equipped with tools ranging from small trowels to a motorized firewood-splitter (or whatever such a thing is actually called), so we haven’t had to buy anything except a pair of secateurs and a chain saw. (Though after the chain saw we realised that there was already a chain saw tucked away in the workshop… Oops.)

There were also some non-gardening objects that have been turned to garden use, for instance this:

The previous owners had a young son, and his bath tub has proved itself quite useful in many ways, for instance when bare root plants need a good soaking before being planted out or when a pot has been planted and needs to be watered thoroughly without disturbing the plant.

We definitely have no water shortage, as apart from our generally wet soil we also have a stream at the back of the house, which means that we don’t have to waste clean tap water on the plants but can use the slightly murky water that drains from the forest inland. I can’t help thinking that perhaps – hopefully – this water is not only an environmentally friendly way to water the garden when needed, but also a tiny source of nutrition for the plants; surely SOME nutrients must be washed out by the stream, and they will then end up in our garden when I use it to water the plants.

I like to use my hands for the smaller tasks. I like the feel of soil, whether wet clay of dry warm compost, and I like the earthy smell that lingers on even after I’ve rinced my hands. Mind you, when dealing with decomposing plant compost or thorny plants, the gloves are invaluable; I have a real appreciation of the sensuality of having nothing but your skin between you and the world, but everything in moderation, especially when tackling brambles.

I do like to read garden books, but the most valuable garden books to me are the ones I write myself. I keep a small notebook up in the summer house where I make notes of what I’ve done when I’m up there, hoping that this will help me learn what works and what doesn’t and when exactly this or that task was done last. (E.g. when was the septic tank last emptied? 26 October, that’s when.) I’ve only been doing this for a few months, but I intend to continue because it also gives me a nice sense of accomplishment and an incentive to get at least a little done every time I’m up there so I can put an entry in the book.

And now to go all meta-blog on you: This blog, too, is a gardening tool to me. Writing at length about the garden helps me think things through in a way that I can’t do if my thoughts are not forced into words, and it allows me to explore dreams and plans and to concretise them and make them comprehensible – at least that’s the intention – to others. And while I primarily started this blog for myself, it has also become a way of letting my expatriated husband know what’s going on with the garden and what my ideas and plans are so he has the option of vetoing them. (Which he rarely does.)

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>Dogwood Delivering


There really isn’t much to look at in the gardem these day; everything is pretty much withered greens and browns.

However, yesterday a beam of sunshine hit our little part of the world and suddenly the dogwood/cornel really showed off, demonstrating that the pretty variegated foliage in summer is really just a minor thing compared to the colour of its branches. I love the contrast with the dark green of the fir needles.

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>A Woodland Fantasy

>I love rocks. I’ve collected stones since as long as I can remember, and still do. I have 3-pound rocks that I brought back from Greenland in my carry-on luggage, and rocks that I brought back from Croatia, England and the Danish shores.

Because I have had to house my collection in my apartment, my rocks have been living in my windows, gathering dust at an appalling rate and requiring constant cleaning, but recently I brought them up to the summer house. They are now sitting in a box up there, but they’re not going to stay inside; I want to integrate them into the garden and somehow make them part of it.

This is a major inspiration. The picture is taken on the walk from the bus stop to the summer house, and I love the texture of this classic piece of stone fencing, separating the old royal forest from the surrounding used-to-be-farmland-but-is-now-summer-house-district.

I love the colour of the stones; the mossy greens and grays that cover the original colours of the stones and somehow add a softer feel to them.

While I do have some stones from Greenland that will need to go wherever the angelica grows (since to me angelica is linked to the small, basic gardens of the old town in Nuuk), I am beginning to think I would also like to create a larger, boulder-filled area in The Woodland. Not a rockery, but something more akin to the boulder fence above, where the stone is not a ground covering for plants but a feature in themselves. It will have to be en miniature, though, as I can’t carry large boulders around on public transport. Even I have my limits. I might make a pile of large-ish stones under the permanent shade of the trees, though, and that could give a smaller version of the boulder fence. Eventually. Pick up a rock here, a stone there, and eventually it will become something.

I hope.

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>Yesterday morning I spotted another harbinger of spring in the garden; the eranthis/winter aconites are pushing up through the ground in The Woodland beneath the brown leaves that cover every square inch. I gently replaced the leaves, and when they’re ready the flowers will surely push the leaves aside. For now, I’m happy just knowing they are down there under their comfy brown blanket of leaves.

Winterling Ende Februar 2009

Sure, so the above isn’t my own picture, since currently our eranthis are nothing but a bunch of pale, curled-up seedlings hidden under the leaves, but eventually they will be green and yellow and wonderfully cheerful in their style-defying brashness. I truly find these to be inelegant flowers; too brazen and cartoon-like to even look like real plants, but at the same time I can’t help loving them. I can never look at them without thinking they look like little children dressed up as flowers for a school play, whereas the rhododendrons later in the year are a couple of stately women – slightly past their prime – dressed up for a royal ball.

Anyway, beside spring enthusiasm this entry was really supposed to be about lists. I’ve made a list of all the plants and all the flowerbeds, trying to find out which plants would suit each bed or area. It’s so reaffirming to see that there are actually so many plants that will be ready to be moved into a permanent setting later this spring (when the beds have been created), and I can almost see the borders, beds and patches for me, the blending and contrasting of colours and textures as well as the changes through the year. In my mind’s eye our garden is already beautiful and ready, simply because I can see what can be done.

Of course the list is not complete. I’ve marked every item on the list according to whether the plant exists in the garden already, whether we have seeds to grow them ourselves, whether they need to be moved. And I’m considering adding a new category: “Seeds/plants need to be purchased/pilfered”, with “pilfering” referring to “politely asking for cuttings, spare plants or seeds from anybody who has anything to spare”. Don’t worry; as most readers of this blog is abroad I’m not asking you for anything, except of course that inspiration and examples of plants that will look great/produce plenty of crops and thrive in a Northern climate.

Mind you, all “Seeds/plants need to be purchased/pilfered” will probably also be entered on a separate wish list so I have some sort of overview of what we would like to get for the garden. (And when I write “we” I mean “I”… The husband has so far mainly requested lushness, flowers and VOLUME, and I like that. I can work with that.)

Lupine R01

Okay, so that’s not my picture either.

Still, just making the list of what’s there and realising how many of my favourite flowers and plants will be in our garden even from this coming summer makes me so happy. Oh, the joy of anticipation! And the joy of discovering that some of the wish list plants – like the eranthis – are already there, and right where they need to be.

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