Archive for May, 2011


“I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium. The carrot has mystery. Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees. There is, you’ll agree, a certain je ne sais quoi oh so very special about a firm young carrot”
(Quote from the movie “Withnail and I“)

Now, I do realise that the small plants above are peas and not carrots, but I think the dear old Uncle Monty in the movie did have a point that there is something alluring about growing vegetables and seeing them sprout with the knowledge that one day in a not so very distant future, these plants will be supplying your dinner table.

It’s very satisfying in a way that is not superior, but different to growing purely ornamental plants. I also feel great satisfaction upon watching a budding rose (rose petals are lovely in salads or marmalades, of course, but I doubt most people grow them for this reason), but the vegetable garden will always have a special place in my heart.

And it’s so EASY! That’s almost the best part; it really just takes a plot of bare soil and then you pop in the seeds and watch them shoot and grow.

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>I’m way behind on the vegetable garden, but fortunately my main goal for this year was just to have plenty of beans and peas, and these should do all right, even if I’ve come up to a late start due to the drainage project.

This picture is actually a couple of weeks old, so the little pea shoots in this row are already much larger. This bed is an old cold frame where the glass has broken, so I decided I would use it as a bed anyway. Beside the row of peas at the back there will be a row of low yellow beans (haricots) at the front of the bed, and that’s it for this bed.

And in this picture you can see the two raised bed frames that I made out of pallet wood from a fire wood delivery last autumn. The rear bed was sown with low peas in early May, whereas the front one was only sown with beans last weekend. These beans are climbers, so I’ve made a trellis to support them and when they grow up they will also help block a view into a neighbour’s back garden. The row towards the neighbour is standard green haricots, whereas the row towards our garden is purple/black haricots.

(Oh, and between the two rows of peas I’ve sown some white radish seeds that came as a bonus with a seed order, and between the beans I’ve sown pot marigolds because my mother and grandmother always had them in their vegetable gardens.)

I love beans… And by choosing varieties in different colours I’m hoping that the vegetable garden will actually be rather pretty to look at, especially since it’s bordering the part of the lawn that gets the most sun and is consequently used the most.

And peas are a must for me. I have fond childhood memories of both the peas in my parents’ vegetable garden AND of roaming through the pea fields on summer holidays at my grandparents’. I’ve only sown snap peas, since they’re mainly intended to be eaten fresh, rather than to provide a stockpile for the winter to be stored in the freezer.

I’m going up to the garden again tonight for the weekend. The weather forecast is for plenty of rain, but hopefully also a bit of dry weather tomorrow before lunch, so I might get a little done in the garden and then I guess I can spend the rainy afternoon painting garden furniture. Looking forward to it!

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>Free flowers are the best!


This is the large blue/purple iris that I tore out of the ground by hand back when I rescued a load of plants from bulldozers before they began the landscaping around my apartment last autumn. Only one of the tubers is blooming this year, but the rest look healthy and I have full confidence that next year they will be joining in.

Same flower, different view. I love how the flower is different from every angle; the shapes and colours somehow shifting dramatically as you walk around it. Also, notice the nearly black bud on the stem where the next flower will appear once the top flower withers away.

All right, all right… That’s the last picture of this iris, but i just thought I’d show you yet another side and yet another range of colours. This is probably the most dramatic plant in our garden, and I’m so glad i ran out and tore it from the ground that evening before the bulldozers started the next morning.

This iris has a special place in my heart. It was one of the presents from mum, and I’ve loved it since I was a kid. This wasn’t a few solitary tubers torn from the ground, but two large (1ft diamenter) clumps that I dug up from my mother’s garden and transported by train and bus across the country to the place where it now is preparing to bloom. I love the yellow patterns on the petals, especially when it’s like this; recently emerged from its sheath, but not yet unfurled in it’s full glory.

And this yellow iris? I cannot take credit for this one, at least not fully. It is from my husband’s grandparents’ allotment where we went at Easter and were given free reign on the allotment with a spade and two large cardboard boxes that ended up full of perennials. (I might have had more opinions about which plants we HAD to have than my husband, but I don’t think he minded.)

And then the last iris; a yellow iris that was in the garden when we bought the summer house. Perched on the edge of the small stream behind the house it’s very much out-of-sight, but I love going back there and enjoying this little secret beauty. In time, though, I suspect it will join its family in the garden proper, perhaps in a dedicated patch of iris in part of the Ambitious Border. It won’t be until autumn at the earliest, though, and maybe not even this year.

So there it is. A few examples of free flowers, and some are even heirlooms from two gardens that meant a lot to my husband and myself when we grew up. I like this mix of his and my family history, thrown in with something “new” – at least to us. And I love that some of the most spectacular blooms in the garden have come with no price tags attached.

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>Where did they go?


The noxious garlic potion that Fer recommended is certainly doing exactly what it was meant to. Last weekend the aphids were neck-a-neck on this rose, and last night I could only find 3-4 of them!

Definitely a success!

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As you can see, one of our roses is severely infested with aphids… The spider in the web next to this rose seems to get a lot of them (at least it’s cobweb is full of dried-up aphids!) but that’s nowhere near enough.

Fortunately, Fer over at My Little Garden in Japan recently posted a recipe for an aphid repellent. Basically it’s water with washing-up liquid like my mother used to use, but with added garlic. And let me tell you, it reeks…

And spraying it on in slightly breezy weather? Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done…

Now i just have to continue to re-apply it every now and then and see if it works!

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>I’ve been in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, from Thursday to Sunday with work, and though I found it rather inspiring and marvellous, that’s not what this entry is going to be about.

On Thursday afternoon I managed to find half an hour between meetings and work socialising to do some sightseeing, and though I’ve been to Oslo numerous times with work I’ve never before found the time – or energy – to go see the new-ish opera house.

The architects behind this stunning building are Snøhetta, one of the most interesting contemporary architecture firms – in my book.

The building is overlooking the Bjørvika, a small bay in the Oslo Fjord, and it really makes the most of the connection with the water, with it’s white marble terraces sloping down into the bay.

The vast, sloping roof of the building has been clad in white marble like the walls, and on sunny days it is crowded with people lounging about on the slopes or jogging laps around the main stage tower. I love how inhabited the place is; it has become one of the most popular outdoors hang-outs in the city, taking on functions that we normally associate with parks and greenery.

Everywhere the slopes are broken up by seemingly random grooves and changes in the level so the great expanse of the roof does not become a monotone slab of marble, but rather references the irregularities of a sloping fell side. It somehow feels organic, though the exterior is composed exclusively of straight lines and hard materials.

Inside, though… The main auditorium – as in so many other opera houses – pushes out into the foyer, but while this is hardly a novel or innovative move, the handling of the surface is exquisite. Narrow strips of wood, creating a mosaic effects by their random depths that easily adapts to the curve of the wall whilst adding texture.

The next picture shows a part of the foyer that I find almost baroque, in the best possible sense. The alternation of convex and concave curves, the play with light and shadow, the sense of extravagant ornamentation through the simple material of the wood; it seems to repeat some of the main features of the Italian baroque, but in a clearly Scandinavian form language.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Oslo I can strongly recommend that you drop by this wonderful building. If nothing else, it’s the perfect place to relax with a cup of take-away coffee while enjoying the view out through the fjord!

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>Part of the garden still looks a bit like a battlefield after the drain has been put in. (They’ve completed everything except the finishing of the wells, so we now have a working drain!) Once they clear out for good I’ll start tidying up; raking soil off the lawn will instantly make it look much less messy and leave only the lines of bare soil over the drain.

Anyway, the most important plan for the weekend was to create the first part of the Ambitious border. Since the completed border will be some 20-25 meters long I’ll have to tackle it one section at a time, and this weekend I hoped to create at least 6 meters of it.

I put some old ugly cement paving stones to create a clean line at the back, simply so it will be easier to see where to weed and where to just let grow. Up against the hedge we will just let the buttercups do their thing, and I will also plant out a few saplings of trees and bushes there to widen the hedge. The border itself, though, will have to be weeded ruthlessly for the next couple of years until the border is established, and then the weeding regime can hopefully be reduced a bit.

This was one of the easier plant to move, though it didn’t actually go into the border. I discovered that a few of the annual lupins from last year had self-sown in the small holding bed, so I lifted those into pots to ensure that they’re given pride of place eventually when the border is larger.

Also, I like the idea of holding this tiny piece of garden in my hand; it’s this sort of thing that gives me a deep satisfaction, seeing things grow and develop by themselves, but giving them a helping and guiding hand…

This is what the 6-meter stretch I completed looks like. There’s an awful lot of bare soil, but I hope the plants will fill out over the next month or two, as this stretch has been used for the plants that we already had in pots and stored in one of the beds for the vegetable garden. I made the stretch slightly narrower than I want it to be eventually, but for starters I think it’s important to get the hole length of the border created, and then we can always expand the width over time. (I’d like it to be at least a meter wider…)

At the back:

  • Joe Pye weed
  • Gypsophila
  •  Astilbe
  • Goldenrod

At the front:

  • Unknown orange-flowering bulb from my mother’s garden
  • White, red and purple peonies
  • Dicentra spectabilis / bleeding heart
  • Orange hemerocallis / Day lilies
  • Hosta
  • Aqualegias / columbines
  • Centaurea montana / perennial cornflower

When you see the border from the other side, you can see how much longer it needs to be. But if I can do 6 meters on one day Saturday, then surely it will be possible… Though my back will be aching and my knees challenged!

And this? Well, I also found time to make some rhubarb jam with ginger and lemon, which is actually the first time I’ve ever made a recipe from Mrs. Beeton. The book also includes a recipe for roast black swan, but I’m guessing I’ll never get to try that one out.

And finally to MY new home… This is a picture from our new apartment. I got the keys yesterday, and it truly is a beautiful place. It’s not nearly as stately as the picture suggests, but it will make a lovely home for two eccentric gentlement of a certain persuasion. The picture is taken from the future sitting room, looking into the dining room and with the library at the far end. French double doors between the sitting room and dining room, solid double doors between the dining room and the library, where one should be able to sequester oneself…

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