Archive for June, 2011

>Here are a few images from St. John’s Eve in Frederiksberg Gardens:

Estimated attendance was 30-40,000 people, and for Denmark this is quite a lot – about 0.5% of the population of Denmark… And this was just one bonfire of thousands and thousands up and down the country.

And here’s your’s truly, raising a glass to a lovely summer evening:

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I wish you all a very happy solstice! At least here in the Northern hemisphere it’s the longest day today, with the sun rising at 4:26am and setting at 21:59 in the garden, making the day 10 hours and 44 minutes longer than the shortest day this past winter…

This is the wonder of living in the North, even if it’s not even the far North; we might have dismally long, dark winter nights, but we also have these white nights where even in the middle of the night we only get a sort of murky twilight but never darkness.

In Denmark we celebrate the solstice a few days late, on the Eve of St. john. On this night bonfires are light throughout the country but especially along the beaches, and to me that is a very special tradition. When I lived in London I once celebrated St. John’s Eve by flying to Denmark on the 23rd to go to a bonfire by the beach and then back again the next day.

There are all sorts of ancient superstitions connected with the bonfires; they’re supposed to scare away the forces of evil and should in this way help secure the harvest later on, but they also have a sinister echo of barbaric executions, as it is tradition to place a doll representing a witch on top of the bonfire. I’ve never really been keen on that, really… I much prefer the more recent tradition where this year’s high school graduates throw their notes from the past three years into the bonfire; seems less morbid, somehow, than re-enacting an execution by burning.

The bonfire, however, is a wonderful celebration of light, which is of course also at the origin of Christmas celebrations, and as I won’t have time to go up to the garden on Thursday evening to attend the community bonfire on the beach there, instead I shall go tonight and have my own little solstice celebration, though perhaps without a bonfire but with lots of sunshine according to the local forecast. I can then go to one of the many bonfires in Copenhagen on Thursday if the weather is nice.

So once again, a very happy solstice to all, whether it is the summer or winter solstice where you are.

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I came back from a 4-day weekend in Paris last night, and it’s been an amazing trip.

We did absolutely nothing. We haven’t been inside a single museum, church or such sights, and we have had no plans for what to do each day when we left the small studio apartment we’d rented. Flânerie, in other words.

That’s what I love about visiting a city that one knows so well; there’s no real need to do anything in particular except enjoy life and our time together.

The picture is one of only two that I took during our trip; a facade in the Rue de Montmorency that is covered in plants, from ivy to bamboo. I figured that would make a sort of link between the flânerie and the gardening…

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Just as a follow-up to my last post, here’s a picture of what the kayak looked like on top of my parents’ tiny car…

A list of the plants my parents brought comes towards the end of this post…

And this is the recently acquired spare spare bedroom… We only have one bedroom in the main house and a small spare bedroom in the annex, so in order for me to have some sort of privacy while my grandmother inhabited the main bedroom and my parents occupied the spare bedroom I went out and bought a small tent. I love sleeping outdoors, and even in a tent you get a much more immediate connection to the nature around you.

My parents are fussy people. They need to be constantly entertained, it seems, and I some times struggle with that constant need to “do something together”. I like lying back with a book and relax, so how does one reconcile these two modes of enjoying oneself?

Easy, once I found the answer…

My dad mowed the entire lawn, together with him I sawed up a pile of wood into foot-long pieces and then he played around with the electric wood cleaver and turned it all into suitable logs for the fireplace. He’s looking old and tired, mainly because he really needs to gain weight, but there’s still work in the old man, and he really seemed to enjoy being able to do something for me that helps me and makes him feel he still has a “value”.

Meanwhile my mother volunteered to weed the Ambitious Border, and then she went on to extend it with the perennials they’d brought, which basically meant digging up another 2 meters of lawn… Then she weeded the Evening border, and finally she sowed annuals between all the perennials to fill out the borders this year.

And every series of works needs an overseer. In this case Freja, my parents’ dog who is named after the Norse goddess of love and fertility. What better overseer for a garden, eh?

It was a good visit, and I’m so pleased they seemed to really enjoy the house and the garden. And I’m so pleased with all the work they did, leaving me free to cut back the “cemetary” by 50%:

We have a low yew by the entrance to the garden, and while it does provide some seclusion from the drive it is also just ugly and straggly and not very nice… We refer to it as The Cemetery because it looks kind of depressing and had a completely unbecoming shape. But now half of it has been cut away, keeping only the upright parts that shelters the garden from the drive. This leaves a couple of square meters of mainly bare soil (with a few privet plants that can be transplanted to provide more coverage towards the road) that might eventually be turned into a perennial bed or be planted with a sun-loving shrub or bush. And you know what? Now that I’ve cut it in half it has the chance to show off it’s beautiful branches and I’m sort of falling in love with the plant that I used to want to get completely rid of!

The most important plant my parents brought up to the garden this past weekend was a small kolkwitzia amabilis that is a root shoot off their large kolkwitzia. It’s tiny still, about half a meter in height and roughly the same diameter, but it will soon grow and begin to seem like more than a small shrub in the lawn just to the right of the “cemetery” in the picture above. I planted it in the lawn, because it’s overhanging branches and fountain-like shape will probably shade out everything growing next to it, and besides I quite like solitaire bushes.

They also brought a few groups of goldenrod, which we already have a fair amount of, but it’s a nice staple perennial and adds height to any bed, so it’s fine by me.

Then there is a single acanthus (which I wrongly called agapanthus in my last post). It’s unassuming at present but does have the potential to be a stunner in a year or two.

There were 5-6 small globe thistle plants as well. The husband has previously been less-than-enthusiastic about intentionally planting thistles in the garden, but I suspect he will be won over when he sees their stunning lilac flowers that seamlessly transforms into the round blue seed heads. (Also, it’s one of the few perennials that happily end up growing to 2 meters in height in Denmark, and that alone is, surely, a reason to have it.)

They also brought a very leggy root shoot off a variegated evergreen shrub that loves full sun. It’s roots were quite small, though, so we chopped it down and set the cut-offs as cuttings in some pots in a shady corner, leaving only 30cm of the 2-meter shoot on the root and planting that in the hedgerow as a temporary measure. It will not get enough sun there, but while it establishes its roots it will be in a shaded and moist position that should suit it.

A small cotoneaster is confusing me… I don’t know quite where it will look “right”, so for now it has been “dumped” behind the annex. Perhaps it should go into a large pot in the courtyard, but I can’t really make up my mind.

There were some other perennials as well that I can’t recall at the moment, but then there is the emotional star piece; a blue anemone – anemone hepatica – that my grandmother brought. A tiny, easily missed plant, but pretty as you like and with a stunning shade of blue that few other flowers can produce.

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>I’ve just tidied away the last gardening tools and sat down with a cup of coffee, and now I can hear the rain begin to fall on the roof over the terrace. If that’s not timing, what is?

This weekend my parents came bearing gifts of kolkwitzia amabilis, cottoneaster, agapanthus, globe thistles, (more) goldenrods and an unidentified evergreen shrub with variegated foliage, and then my grandmother – who is 88 and can’t travel with vast numbers of plants came with a small pot of pennywort (Anemone hepatica or Hepatica nobilis, depending on which taxonomists you listen to) from her garden.

However… My parents also brought something that was not a present from them: My wedding present from my husband! Our garden is now equipped with a 5.5 meter sailing vessel:

All right, I know it’s upside-down in the picture, but it’s a kayak. A real, honest-to-God kayak! I’ve known about it since the wedding, but because the kayak used to belong to my older brother it had to be transported over here and that didn’t happen ’till my parents brought it on the roof of their car.

It’s beautiful! Sleek, slender, gracious and absolutely marvelous. And right now the only water it will see for a while is rain, sadly. I still have to buy a pagaj, which is the real term for the double-sided paddle used in a kayak.

I know this is VERY tangential on a gardening blog, but never mind…

I’ve been rowing kayaks since I was 11, but it’s been at least 4 years since I was last in a kayak comparable to this; it’s a proper racing kayak, so balance is gained mainly through speed just like on a bicycle. Most people will be able to go less than 2ft in it before falling over and landing in the water; I’ve tested it with a bunch of rowers who were used to rowing single scullers, and none of them even made it a foot after I let go of the kayak…

What has this, then, to do with the garden? A lot, of course, since location is key to a garden, and given that we’re so close to the fjord that I can pick up the kayak in one hand, the pagaj (once bought) in the other and walk down for a morning outing on the water. Roskilde Fjord is quite narrow, so the water tends to be calm and perfect for this type of kayak. (Were I to take this to Greenland, home of the kayak, I’d be a fool to even go near the sea with it, since it’s only suited for calm waters and only for rowing close to the shore.

Anyway, this is the most beautiful, romantic present anybody has ever given me. He’s given me the calm and quiet of being all by myself out on the fjord, and that really is something. I’ve married well! For more reasons than one.

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>Well, today during my lunch break I went for a walk as I normally do, and now the borders at the garden of the Royal Library are finally beginning to fill out and bloom, though they will get better as summer continues…

THAT’S what I want for the Ambitious border… Except it will be the Ambitious border on one side, the Sunny border on the other side and then about 4 meters of lawn between so there’s room to set up a table for lunch.

Is it ambitious enough? Hard to tell without showing what I’ve got so far…

I’d say it’ll be another 10 years before the Ambitious border will be as stunning as the first picture, but in a few years it should already be well on its way, and perhaps even next summer it will look a bit less bare.

The rather sparse planting is actually a deliberate choice, since the plants are mainly vigorous growers and will spread out over time, but it does make it look a bit forlorn this first year. Still, the plants are surviving nicely and a lot of them look set to bloom, even. The aqualegias are just past their bloom, the daylilies are budding up nicely and even the sickly hosta is doing it’s bit. And then there are the goldenrods, astilbes and Joe Pye weeds that will take any rough-handed treatment you give them. (And I’ve got plenty more goldenrods, irises and other perennials in other parts of the garden, waiting to be transplanted whenever I get around to digging them a permanent home.)

Eventually the Ambitious Border will be at least 15 – perhaps 20 – meters long and 3 meters wide, which is a meter wider than at present, but that will take time that I’m not sure I will have this year. The Sunny Border opposite it will stretch the width of the house including the covered terrace, so some 10 meters in length and perhaps just 1.5 meters wide, but that will happen after the bulk of the Ambitious Border has been set up.

Does this sound ambitious enough for you?

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>Back in November I visited my parents because my dad was in hospital (it was pretty serious, but he’s much better now), and I spent a lot of time with my mum, some of it digging things up in her garden so I could bring it back with me to our garden. I got around 40kg/90lb of perennials that I schlepped on trains and buses across the country in a suitcase and a sports bag and eventually planted in our garden.

Well, my parents are coming over this weekend, and my mother has said she’ll bring as many plants as she has time to dig up… Basically a mixed car trunk of perennials. FREE perennials from my childhood garden. Awr…

I’m so excited to see what they will bring. I know my mother has had a small kolkwitzia amabilis sitting in a pot over the winter that she wants to give me, but apart from that I don’t know what else she’ll bring.

It feels a bit like Christmas approaching, really… The only problem is I don’t really know where to put the plants, since I don’t have any free space, but I guess we can make space somewhere. After all, we have plenty of lawn that can be turned into flower beds, and as long as I do the hardest work myself I’m sure my parents would love to help.

Anyway… Free plants? Delivered to the doorstep? That makes for a happy Soren, I can tell you!

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>What have I done?

>I could write a to-do list, but these can so easily make gardening – or indeed any other task – seem like a chore, so here comes a list of what I have done in the garden this year so far:

Vegetable Garden:

  • Created three raised beds
  • Sown peas, beans, radishes and marigolds
  • Erected trellis for the climbing beans
  • Planted tomatoes in a capillary box
  • Kept the beds weed-free

Ambitious Border:

  • Carved a 7-8 meter stretch of flower bed out of the lawn
  • Edged the rear of the border with paving slabs to create a clear limit towards the hedge
  • Planted the bed with Perennials and a few annuals
  • Kept the border more or less weed-free


  • Removed stray plants and grass around the two roses by the South-West of the house
  • Planted a new not-red rose in a huge pot in the courtyard
  • Successfully fought off aphids by the hundreds (thousands?) with a non-toxic home-made spray
  • Tried to reign in the climbing rose by the North-East side of the house, but not been quite ruthless enough with it…

The Hedgerow:

  • Torn down most of the Ugly Fence (with the help of a couple of winter storms)
  • Created a low retaining wall of turf and filled in with soil
  • Moved poplars, forsythia and various other plants from all over the garden to the hedgerow

The Sunny Border:
(South-West of the covered terrace)

  • Not so much…
  • Torn out long grass around the few plants that already grew there
  • Trained the honeysuckle along the low wall of the terrace
  • Dug up (most of) the hops that intermingled with the honeysuckle
  • Strung up twine for the clematis to climb
  • Supported the perennial sweet peas with twigs from the compost pile

The Evening Border:

  • Kept it weed-free
  • Planted alium (that are failing dismally, probably due to too little sun)
  • Planted a fourth clematis and strung up twine for it to climb

The Courtyard:

  • Planted up 30 pots with a variety of plants
  • Built brick planter out of bricks found behind the annex
  • (Almost finished) painting table and chairs
  • Sown a few herbs

The Lawn:

  • (Somebody else) installed drainage through the lawn all around the house
  • Mowed the entire lawn only once (last week…)

See? I could have written a to-do list just as long, but that would make me feel like I’d done nothing so far, when in fact I think I’ve done at least a fair bit. Sometimes it pays off to focus on the past, rather than the future.

Lots of things have actually been tidied up since this picture was taken a week ago

Ah… I feel good now! And I look forward to slowly adding more to the list as the year progresses. The borders all look a bit bare, since the plants have not really settled in yet, but they will over the year and next year it will look entirely different and much nicer.  And within a few months I will be able to lunch (partly) on veg from the garden while I sit in the shade of the oak and enjoy the view.

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On Wednesday I left work early and made my way up to the summer house for a long weekend. Thursday was Ascension Day, and in the finance industry we also get the Friday off for free, so I had planned to spend a day or two up there with my mother-in-law before she would then have visitors from Friday to Sunday.

Volunteering for a couple of days alone with your mother-in-law? Indeed! We seem to get along just fine, and we had a great couple of days together in the wonderful sunshine. I was literally outside from 5am to 11pm each day, and in the end I extended my stay with another day, which meant that since the mother-in-laws friends would be allotted the main bedroom and I didn’t feel like sharing a room with my MiL I ended up sleeping outside in the hammock.

Imagine waking up to the rising sun, the chirping of little birds and the freshness of the open air! Sounds rather like a peaceful awakening, no? No! I woke up because I could feel a strange weight on my belly, and when I opened my eyes there was a huge crow sitting on top of me… Now, the crow got as startled as I did when I woke up, so it immediately took off, meaning that my Saturday morning started with a vision of large flapping black and gray wings… I like nature, but all things in moderation, especially first thing in the morning!

Also we have a few blooming roses, and more on their way. This one above is one that was already there when we bought the place last year, but the little red rose next to it (that I pulled from the ground outside my apartment before the bulldozers arrive to re-do the landscaping) seems to be preparing at least a few buds and the large white climbing rose outside the bedroom window will probably start blooming within the next week. And then there’s a rose I forgot to take a picture of; a red rose that I bought for my husband because he likes red roses. It has one flower and one bud , but the red colour of the petals? Stunning, but not very red. At all. in fact, it’s a slightly darker shade of peach than the centre of the white rose pictured above… Ah, well; that’s what you get for buying a rose in a supermarket, but it’s pretty all the same.

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