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Archive for March, 2012


Some people claim that tulips are garish, vulgar flowers (I know; they are philistines the lot of them!), but that HAS to be out of ignorance. Not only are there lots of delicately shaped lily tulips, and of course the botanical tulips with their spear-like petals, but there are also tulips like this:

Potted tulips, with flâneur index finger for scale

I DARE anybody to call these tiny flowers garish or vulgar… They were in one of the pots in the courtyard when we bought this place, and since they would just disappear in the garden proper I’ve left them there, but I absolutely adore them.

Normally I’m a size-queen when it comes to flowers; the bigger the better! But sometimes a small, delicate flower just steals my heart like this tulip has done. I’ve seen snowdrops larger than this flower! (Heck, I’ve seen snowflakes larger than this flower!)

They’re right now in a pot with some strange, perennial weed-like plant (that has lovely yellow flowers in summer), so I’m considering moving the tulips to a pot of their own once the bloom is spent; they are so easily overlooked, yet I think they deserve special notice, both because they are pretty in themselves and because the prove just how different a tulip can be from a tulip, so to say.

You can get large, double, multi-coloured tulips if you want to, but if that’s not your style then don’t forget that tulips are so much more than that. If you look around, there’s bound to be a tulip you’ll love…

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I’m packing to go up to the summerhouse and the garden for the weekend straight from work today, and I think this might be one of the more challenging aspects of growing seedlings in an apartment and then bringing them to the garden by public transport; I have a big sports bag that is now stuffed with seed trays and I desperately hope they will survive the journey intact…

Also, what to do when I get to work? Do I unpack my seed trays and place them in sunny windows around the office to the bemusement of my co-workers, or do I leave them in the bag and feel guilty for keeping them from sunshine for an entire day?
I do think it would be easier if the garden was just outside the sitting room windows, but a remote garden is better than no garden!

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I slipped up a while back, lured by the temptation that dreams of summer hold on a poor gardener during the last month of winter (i.e. February)…

A newsletter coaxed me – rather too willingly, I fear – to visit a seed-pusher’s website, and before I knew it I had place an order where only one item was actually on my list of things to grow this season.

The above is a randomized mosaic of the seeds I ended up with, ranging in difficulty from “suitable for children” (PERFECT!) to “Experience useful” (i.e. sow at 24C, then keep moist for five weeks, place in plastic bag in the fridge for 2 weeks, do ritual shamanistic dance to encourage germination, transfer seedlings to individual pots, have nervous break-down and end up throwing them from the roof of the apartment building at innocent passers-by).

In other words I don’t count on all of these seeds to actually produce plants… But if at least some of them do – which does seem likely – they will be lovely additions to the garden and would make me forget the failures along the way. (Or so I hope.)

Except for the vegetables (which will – not surprisingly – go into the vegetable beds) and the climbers (ipomoea and Asarina antirrhiniflora which will go into the hedgerow to add some summer blooms and some bulk) I haven’t the faintest idea where the rest will go, but I suspect I might have to do another major “carve-new-flower-bed-out-of-the-lawn” project, probably as part of The Ambitious Border. I know for sure that there will be very little – if any – space for them in the Sunny Border if I want to reserve some space for dahlias.

But here’s to wishing, hoping, dreaming and – perhaps – realising some of these wishes, hopes and dreams.

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I’ve been wondering how to protect my garden – and in particular my dahlias – from slugs, and though I have (organic) slug pellets and am not afraid to use them, it does seem I will need something more powerful.

A few years ago while I was in Greenland on summer holiday I bought a tupilaq. Or rather, a modern replica of one, since mine was carved for sale, rather than as a spirit avenger.

The tupilaq was manifested in real, human-made object. It was made by people to the detriment of their enemies. It was a puppet-like thing, but was thought of have magical power onto the victim.” (Wikipedia)

Now, in the garden my main enemy is the Killer slugs (Spanish slugs), so I figure I might as well try to get my tupilaq to target those.

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For some strange reason the Flâneur Husband doesn’t find her attractive and seems keen on getting rid of her, so perhaps he’d also prefer if she took up residence in the summer house, rather than in the apartment. I love her, though; she’s made of reindeer antlers, and while some parts of her have the porous texture of the inside of the bone, her animal companions and her breasts have a glorious ivory-like glow to them that begs to be touched. She might not be the conventional “looker”, but she has a certain voluptuous fertility to her that makes me think she’ll enjoy protecting a garden.

She has a friend:

His shape is simpler – more monolithic – than hers, but he has another thing going for him; he was made from reindeer antlers that have been buried in the boggy soil outside Nuuk for a year or two so the antler would start to rot and as a result begin to take colour. The pale pink of his head and the greenish tint of his diamond-patterned body are the results of this. Mind you, the best thing about this tupilaq is the contrast between his smooth head and tail and the sharp feel of the diamond pattern on his body; this is one item that seems designed to be touched!

He will remain in the apartment, simply because I love holding him and feeling the different textures, but she will need to find a place in the summer house. After all, all’s fair in love and war, right? And I love my garden and have now declared war on the slugs, by means natural (i.e. organic) and supernatural!

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So this weekend the Sunny Border was completed!

Flâneur Gardener digging away merrily

The last fiddly bit towards the covered terrace was finally cleared of turf, and a few perennials were rescued from in-between the grass. This was mainly my project, while my husband busied himself around the garden, cutting back the poplars towards one neighbour and the hazels towards another and lopping off a branch of the red-leaved cherry plum tree.

Then we installed that nasty-looking plastic barrier towards the lawn, and it turned out as invisible as I’d hoped for, so that was good, and finally I could start loosening the soil so we could add some compost (the birthday present my husband got from his mother).

Flâneur Husband shovelling compost

We also did a bit of tidying up, moving piles of branches out back and generally trying to make the place a bit more presentable, though it’s still too early in the season to mow the lawn. (And it desperately needs a haircut!)

The result

It’s just a clean slate right now, or almost, but I think it will end up looking great. I put back some perennial sweet peas and a geranium that had been struggling in the tall grass up against the wall, and then there’s a line of stepping stones before the larger part of the border where the roses and larger perennials will go. I put in a few clumps of iris from my mother’s garden, because I think they will look great in front of the roses what will eventually go in beside them, and at the far end I moved some Japanese anemones (also from my mother’s garden).

I do need to be careful not to cram it full of everything that will fit in there, because I suspect some plants may want to grow a little over the summer, but so far it definitely has great potential.

My husband keeps saying he doesn’t want it to look too twee, so his knee-jerk reaction when I talk about planning the planting and coordinating colours is that he’d prefer something much more random, but obviously I’m not letting him have his way here. The colours will be mainly blues, purples and reds, ranging from light to dark hues, and with a bit of luck I’ll be able to have flowers in the border from May/June to the first frost.

I’m really rather excited about this!

Next weekend the plan will be to start tackling the vegetable beds. They’re terribly overgrown, and one of the beds has been used as a depository for dried perennial stalks that need to be cut up and go in the compost bin. And perhaps put in an effort to do some weeding in the Ambitious Border…

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-Or something like that…

The lupin seedlings have now started breaking through the soil, and obviously I’m terribly excited about this!

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-Apart from anything, this means that when my husband comes to Denmark on Sunday there will be an obvious defence for why there are trays of compost in the windows in the dining room: “But LOOK! There are things GROWING!”

I do, though, have one problem. I THINK these seeds are Lupinus mutabilis, an annual scented lupin, but then they might be mixed in with perennial lupins, since I did a rather poor job at labelling my seed envelopes. Must do better this year!

But of course I love all lupins so it doesn’t matter too much; it just makes it slightly more tricky to plan where these should be planted. (Will they be there just for one year or will they be perennial? Will they be white/pale blue or will they be dark purple?)

You may notice that this picture doesn’t show one of those plastic boxes I bough for seed-sowing because miniature greenhouses were so expensive… Well, it turned out that my local supermarket suddenly decided to have small 18-unit “miniature greenhouses” for DKK 30 a piece (just around 5 USD), so I purchased two of those and will do a comparison to see what works the best. The quality is decidedly so-so, but it might be good enough to last a few years and the size means that I should be able to transport them up to the garden without problems.

IEK!!! This is exciting!!! Can I please skip work and just stay at home and watch my seedlings? (Okay, I can’t. I get it. I’ll hit the shower and get going, then.)

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One of the reasons I love having branches in the windows is the way they seem to blur the difference between indoors and outdoors.

They become a continuation of the view inside the apartment, and at the same times help extend the sense of space of the room by repeating the patterns and structures of the trees in the old cemetery across the street.And of course they bring some spring to a view that still bears the hall-mark of winter, except for the patterns of yellow aconites and white snowdrops against the green lawns.

-And in the half light around sunset they become a black lattice-work, silhouetted against the blues, reds and oranges of the setting sun!

In other windows-related news, my lupin seeds have germinated and the sweet peas can’t be far behind. They’re still not visible, but there seems to be a shift in the soil surface, indicating that something is pushing up here and there beneath.

I had an accident last week. I swear, I didn’t mean for it to happen, but… Oops.. The result is now displayed on my dining room table; another pile of seed packets, and I really don’t know where to sow them. Well, I DO, of course, but I didn’t mean to expand the Ambitious Border this season. Now, though, it seems I shall have to, since I will otherwise be short of space for sowing these annuals and perennials.

For now, though, my focus will remain on the Sunny Border. My husband is coming to Denmark on Sunday evening, so I will go up to the garden tomorrow after work and spend Saturday finishing the Sunny Border (should it be renamed the Sunny Semi-Circle, purely for alliterative reasons?) so it will be ready for planting.

I will need to measure the Sunny Border so I can do a more detailed planting plan for it. Right now my ideas are mainly in my head, and that means they constantly change… I do know the honeysuckle and the clematis against the wall will remain in place – and that I’ll do my best to eradicate the hops! – and that my husband’s roses will be planted there when they arrive, but everything else seems to change all the time. Some times I think mixed border with staple perennials that will compliment the roses, some times I think of a raucous drift of annuals, massed in colour blocks.

Drawing up a plan would force me to be more concrete and to commit to the plan I develop. It would also make it easier to start considering textures, heights and seasons of interest. This is going to be a major focal point in the garden, so I think it deserves a less gong-ho approach than I often take to the beds, plopping in plants wherever there’s room for them. I have plenty of plants to fill the Sunny Border, so I have the luxury of being able to choose my selection a bit carefully from the different plants available to me.

Thoughts right now:

  • Blue iris might look nice with the red L.D. Braithwaite roses – and would echo the blue-purple of the clematis against the wall
  • Peonies in whites, pinks and purples could give some bloom in early summer, before the roses really get going and take over the show
  • Tulips and other spring bulbs could get a warmer – thus earlier – start here than anywhere else in the garden, and their dying-down foliage would then be masked by the perennials in early summer
  • I need to think of something semi-low for the front of the border. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ could be an option, since it has such a constricted growing pattern and will be fairly easy to weed around
  • This first year I will definitely be bulking up this new border with my attempt at growing dahlias from seed. They have the advantage of being plants that almost invite a gardener to move them around the garden from year to year, since they’re lifted every autumn. Later on they might be clustered around the garden in various beds.
  • I have a lovely purple asters that would give add some interest in the very late autumn, right up to the first frost – and even a bit after that.
  • And now I’m running out of space, aren’t I? See, this is why I need to draw a plan, since otherwise I will inevitable plan to have 80,000,000 plants per square meter, and that’s probably not realistic…

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