Archive for July, 2011

Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

(From W.B. Yeats: The falling of the leaves)

– At least, this is what the weather feels like this July. Cold, windy and wet, these days would fit right in during November, and they’re certainly a far cry from hazy, warm summer days.

I’m getting in an autumnal mood, beginning to think about what there is to do in the garden this autumn. Digging, moving, planting. Great stuff, really!

(Of course there’s still a hope that we might actually get some summery weather in August, and maybe a touch of Indian Summer in September, but who knows.)

I could moan about the absence of sunshine and hot days, but instead I revel in planning activities for when autumn arrives properly (so not only the weather, but also the calendar says “autumn”).

  • I want to move the roses. There are currently two roses (one red, one white) standing rather close to the house, and they look like they’d appreciate getting a bit more space, so I will carve out some more space for them from the lawn and move them perhaps ½ to 1 meter out. This should give them space to become slightly more bushy in appearance, and it will also give more space to add other plants around them.
  • The rudbeckia are not happy where they are, getting only a touch of evening sun. I kind of knew that when I put them in the Evening Border, but I’m thinking that once I create the Sunny Border, that’ll be just the spot for them.
  • The small hosta in the Ambitious Border looks somewhat sullen, so it can be moved to the Evening Border where it will only get a few hours of sunshine every day.
  • The cotoneaster from my mother’s garden doesn’t have an actual home yet, being just sat with it’s root clump atop a piece of lawn, so I need to work out where to stick it. Perhaps in a large pot in the courtyard?
  • In the Ambitious Border there’s a perennial that I don’t know the name of that is being strangled by the shrubs in the hedge towards our South-Western neighbour, and I think it would be happier either further away from the hedge or even in the Sunny Border.
  • The Chinese anemones are very shade tolerant, but I think they might need to be transferred to a place with at least some sunshine, as they are currently not doing a great deal where they are.
  • The perennials (mainly different types of iris and one aster) on the site of the previous sand box need to be moved into the Ambitious Border.
  • Parts of the kitchen garden might be moved to the North-Eastern part of the garden, between the pear and the apple trees. This is still up for debate internally in my mind, so the idea might be scrapped later on.

Later this week I’ll go up there with my husband, and I can’t wait to walk around the garden with him. I do hope the weather will be at least a touch less autumnal, just for those few days… Fingers crossed!

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-If you were one of my recent purchases… The other day I saw a clematis The President for just under 10US$, and I had to buy it for my husband. He’s coming to Denmark for a 2-week holiday tomorrow that will include a stint at the summer house, so I figured he’d like to plant something new, and The President has the most amazing dark blue colour so I figured he’d like it. (And we both like clematis…)



And then… Today I came across a clematis Multi Blue. Most of its brothers and sisters were blooming, but with a much deeper blue than in this image, so it’s even prettier, and the small petals inside the flower are slightly wider and bluer than in the picture as well, so it’s actually a real stunner. And I couldn’t help myself.

I know these purchases are a bit too similar for the casual and mixed effect we’re aiming for in the garden, but if they’re placed either right next to each other as an ensemble or in different parts of the garden I’m thinking it will be just perfect. Each is pretty, and each grows to 2.5-3 meters with a fairly narrow spread (about 1 meter), so they will be easy to position in the garden or even in large pots in the courtyard.

Also, these plants came in relatively decent-sized pots, considering they’re cheap super market plants, and this seems to indicate that the grower might actually have cared at least a little for them. They look and feel healthy, and with the rather damp and temperate summer we’re having they won’t be scorched when brought out into the “wild”.

At some point, though, I also – desperately – want a white clematis Montana, possibly to grow up into the open crown of the blood mirabelle tree; the dark-red foliage of the tree would look stunning accompanied by green foliage and white flowers. (I might end up with a rambling rose multiflora instead, though, as I have a couple of off-shoots of that standing around in various spots. Same look, though!)

Have you guessed that I like climbers?

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A is for Aesthetics

Plural but sing or plural in constr : a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.

Some gardens are purely intended as useful production units for fruit and vegetables, but these are – I believe – excessively rare. Even the most utilitarian vegetable gardener seems to plan their plot with at least a small regard for beauty or take some degree of pleasure in the inherent beauty of their crops.

There is, you’ll agree, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ oh, so very special about a firm, young carrot.

For most of us, though – even if we do incorporate some productive elements in our gardens – the aesthetic value of the garden and the sheer joy of the beauty of plants and being under an open sky seems to be the main driving force when we plan, tend and think about our gardens.

My personal design aesthetic is heavily influenced by the couple of years I spent thinking I should be an architect (that phase passed after studying for a couple of years…), and especially by the Vitruvian principles of firmitas, utilitas and venustas. The idea that a building should be both durable, usable and beautiful in order to be succesful is appealing to me, and I somehow think of this concept as being transferable to  gardening.

After all, we want our gardens to be beautiful, but we also want them to accommodate our utilitarian needs (a vegetable garden, a terrace,  maybe a barbecue or a firepit) and last – but not least – while most of us are prepared to do a fair bit of maintenance, we also tend to desire the garden to have some durability; plants should be suitable for the local climate, pavements should be stable and trellises should not come tumbling down in an autumn gale.

So remember this the next time you plan an addition to your garden: Will it be beautiful, will it be durable and will it serve its intended purpose. If the answer to any one of these questions is “no”, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Please visit ABC Wednesday for more alphabetical blog entries.

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New Site, New Look

So I finally took the plunge and moved everything from Blogger over here to WordPress, and I still haven’t quite gotten everything in its right place but that will come.

I decided, though, that the move was a good enough occasion to change the look of the blog; originally I chose the dark background of http://flaneurgardening.blogspot.com/ because I figured it would make pictures “pop” but it’s not ideal for reading and also easily looks kind of bleak and depressing, so I’ve gone for something lighter this time around.

Perhaps I will change this theme again shortly, since I’m not quite happy with it, but it does the trick for now and that’s what matters. Contingency is king!

So there. Welcome to my new home!

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>I went up to the garden yesterday with a friend who hadn’t seen the summer house yet, so I’d scheduled an afternoon and evening of indulgence in order to give him the best possible impression.

Instead of the mediocre (at best) weather forecasted, it turned out to be a sunny and warm afternoon, and we even chose to retreat into the shade of the blood mirabelle tree in order to get out of the heat. That’s always a sign that it’s a nice day!

Anyway, for dinner I made a pea risotto with Serrano ham wrapped chicken filets, and I thought I’d share this with you.

First, grow your peas!

(I’ve cheated a little and grown some previously…)

Pea Risotto (2 portions)

  • 2 cups shelled peas (fresh or – if it must be – frozen)
  • The pods from the peas (or if using frozen, another two cups of peas)
  • Some chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube, or indeed just a roughly chopped onion)
  • A few herbs – I like to use a tiny sprig of fresh thyme, but 2-3 sage leaves also works a treat. Just don’t over-do it, as the herbs can easily over-power the subtle pea taste.
  • 1/2 litre of water
  • 1 cup of risotto rice (arborio or similar)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion (or a handful of shallots if you have them)
  • 1 lump of butter (for frying the onions, garlic and rice, so you decide how much a “lump” is…)
  • 1/2 glass of white wine for the risotto, and 1 glass of white wine for the cook
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese – I like to use pecorino (a hard Italian goat’s cheese), but obviously Parmesan or Grano Padano would be just as suitable
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

So we start with the peas :

Shell the peas and put them aside while dumping the shells in half a litre of water along with the thyme, stock (or just chopped onion). Turn up the hob to maximum and let the broth boil for 10 minutes, then turn it down to the lowest heat and simmer for two hours.

And yes, by the time the pea shells have cooked for a few hours they will look disgusting, a sort of brownish green. No worries; you won’t be eating those, but the both will have a nice subtle taste of peas, and that’s what matters. Strain the broth and pour it back into the saucepan and keep it on a low heat while you cook the risotto. Discard the shells.

Chop the onion/shallots and the garlic as finely as you feel like. No need to be too fuzzy, I think. Put the garlic and onion in another saucepan with the butter and gently turn up the heat to sauté them until clear. Then add the rice and stir until it’s evenly coated with the butter. Add half a glass of white wine to the pan and pour yourself a glass as well, as this is the point when you will be stuck at the cooker for the next twenty minutes… You might as well enjoy it, right?

For the next 10-15 minutes you need to stir the rice every few minutes, adding a ladle of broth whenever the risotto starts to thicken.

When the rice is nearly tender, add the peas and continue as above for another 5 minutes until the rice is completely cooked. Add as much cheese as you feel you can do without tainting your conscience (in my case that’s a LOT of cheese!) and stir it in. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper, but remember to be generous with the pepper…

Serve with some grated cheese on top and another grinding of black pepper.

In theory risotto ought to be served on its own as a starter, but I like to serve it as a main, so I normally break the protocol and serve some flesh on the side, in this case chicken filets wrapped in Serrano ham and pan fried. Oh, and if anybody is wondering, the glass at the top contained a lovely crémant de Bourgogne (Paul Delane – not very expensive, and nowhere near the price of Champagne) which went well with the dish, the bubbles undercutting the richness of the risotto rather nicely.

Mrs. Beeton’s Rhubarb Jam Recipe:

I mentioned at one time that I’d made some rhubarb-and-ginger jam after a recipe from Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery, and somebody asked for the recipe. Well, in Mrs. Beeton’s own words:

INGREDIENTS – To each lb. of rhubarb allow 1lb. of preserving sugar, 1/2 a
teaspoonful of ground ginger, and the finely grated rind of 1/2 a lemon.
METHOD – Remove the outer stringy parts of the rhubarb, cut it into short lengths and weigh it. Put it into a preserving-pan with sugar, ginger, and lemon rind in the above proportions, place the pan by the side of the fire, and let the contents come very slowly to boiling-point, stirring occasionally meanwhile. Boil until the jam sets quickly when tested on a cold plate. Pour it into pots, cover closely, and store.
TIME – From 1 to 1 1/2 hours, according to the age of the rhubarb.

The rhubarb jam is in the tall jar, whereas the shorter jar contains a strawberry-and-lemon jam of my own invention. (If you’ve made jam once, surely you can then start improvising, right?)

And let me tell you… The ginger packs a punch! To my taste buds, the rhubarb jam is not for breakfast use, but much more suited for afternoon tea. TEA, not coffee… Coffee clashes with the ginger in quite a bad way, I can tell you, whereas a cup of Earl Grey tea becomes even more perfect with a slice of toast with rhubarb-and-ginger jam. If you have rhubarb in your garden, give this a go! You will not (I hope and believe) regret it…

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>The garden is a bit neglected these days while I spend weekend painting our new apartment, but never mind. The beauty of plants is that they will grow without any attendance from their supposed “owner”.

The hedgerow is filling out nicely. It’s still too low, of course, but it will get up there eventually. And the lawn is too high, but:

There are advantages to not getting around to mowing the lawn too often. The insects love it, and especially the bees are a treat to watch as they flutter about in the clover. And no, our lawn is not very regulated… We have clover, violets, bellis and loads of other small flowers dotting the lawn when it hasn’t been moved for a while.

I love how close they let you get to them; all pictures on this blog are taken with my cell phone camera, so my hand was literally inches from this bumble bee… Hence the title of this entry; I was crawling around on hands and knees, trying to get the best possible picture of this little bee that refused to sit still and pose for me.

Just look at the pollen bags on it’s hind legs! Fascinating little critters, really…

The regular honey bees are perhaps less cute, but they’re still very welcome guests in our garden!

The thyme from seed is doing well in the courtyard. I guess I should have thinned it, but that will come this weekend when I plan to use some of it for a dressing.

And just because… This is the black dahlia Arabian Night at its blackest; when the sun hits the flower you get the full, deep red velvet sheen of the petals, but in the shade the colour recedes into black and especially against a bright background.

And that’s it for now. Off to work I go.

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The snap peas are getting ready to go… They’re 4 ft high, and with a row of sweet peas at the back to attract pollinators. And they’re MINE! And they started as SEEDS and are now almost at the point where I can start harvesting them.

The white radishes are almost past their prime, really, and I need to start eating them and re-sowing where I’ve pulled up the plants.

The pears have a long way to go yet, but they’re there! Last year our pear tree gave not a single pear, but this year we have perhaps 10 pears… Grand! (The apple tree that gave around three dozens last year has not produced a single apple this year, though, and it seems the flower buds were frozen off before the pollinators had a chance to get to them.)

Like the pear, the plum tree didn’t produce any fruit last year, but this year it seems to be doing fine, producing some 40 plums. I look forward to seeing what type of plums they are and whether they’re any good or – like our mirabelles – somewhat dull.

In other news, the past Saturday gave Copenhagen approximately 150mm of rain in just two hours… Streets flooded, basements (including the one where we store a large part of the furniture for the new flat) filled with water and disruption to public and private transport, television signals, cell phone reception, and even the national weather forecasting service… Fortunately our furniture seems to have survived relatively unscathed, so all is well for us.

Oh, but I have more pictures… And I need to show them to you!

The red rose that I tore from the courtyard outside my flat last autumn… 

And the white rose that came with the house…

And one of the lilies in the courtyard, almost ready to bloom. 

And a day lily in bloom…

And the (almost) black dahlia “Arabian Night” that I bought last year.

Oh, and the clematis… This one is the most spectacular, its dark puple flowers hover like exotic butterflies around the white post of the patio, adding a dash of dark, rich colour to the greenery of the lawn and the post-bloom rhododendrons towards the road.

After all, while I love the utilitarian plants in the garden, a garden is essentially – the way I use it – a frivolous pursuit and in some way a luxury. Just like a blooming flower that serves no practical purpose, other than to be pretty and to make people happy. The garden does that for me.

The peas, the day lilies, the pears; all serve the common purpose of creating one happy Flâneur Gardener. In spite of torrential downpours, basement flooding and whatever.

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