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Archive for July, 2012


The Flâneur Husband and I went up to the garden Friday afternoon after work, and this is what met us:

Flooded Garden

Our summerhouse had more or less turned into a moated castle, only without the crenelated towers and the drawbridge. The latter would have been useful, since we were both in our city shoes… Mine were leather, so I traversed the lawn with difficulty and returned – wearing my wellies – with a pair of clogs for the Flâneur Husband so he wouldn’t have to wreck his suede (NOT blue) shoes.

The neighbours told us that on Thursday the area had 80mm of rain, which is a lot more rain than falls in the average month of July, and since this has been a wet summer the ground was saturated and there was no other way this could have turned out.

Merged Puddles

Needless to say The Puddles were hard to spot, since they had merged with the lawn in that corner of the garden to form a Great Lake – or at least a garden version thereof.

I was somewhat annoyed with this, as this was not what we had expected to see on that sunny afternoon, but the Flâneur Husband seemed absolutely put out by it and very worried about whether it would damage any plants and how long it would take to subside. I, on the other hand, have seen flooding like this in the garden several times the first year we had the garden – before we had the drain installed – so I was pretty sure the plants would stand up to it with no problems, but still…

The - wet - Sunny Border

My poor dahlias were standing in 3 inches of water, and I’m pretty sure dahlias aren’t naturally aquatic plants…

Still, after some food and a glass of wine – and the turning-on of the drain pump to pump water out into the stream behind the house – the mood lifted and we had a lovely evening after all, taking advantage of the photo-op to take some pictures of how flâneurs deal with a flood:

Flâneur Husband

Flâneur Husband

Flâneur Gardener

Flâneur Gardener

-A glass of Chardonnay and a leisurely stroll through the garden, even if it had to be in 3 inches of water! And yes, I like to don some tweed in the garden from time to time as the picture shows.

The next morning, though, the lake had all but vanished from our plot. The Puddles were still merged into a single pond-sized puddle, but the lawn was visible and the ground was generally just boggy and wet, rather than flooded.

Boggy Garden

It was a sight for sore eyes to wake up to a garden where wellies wasn’t de rigeur, and even the dahlias were now on dry (i.e. boggy) ground:

Dahlias on dry ground

The upside to this flooding is that hoards of slugs seem to have drowned in the water; sadly, though, loads of earth worms also perished.

Today, Sunday, the garden looks wonderful – and dry! The Flâneur Husband mowed most of the lawn today before heading back to town, and Idid the rest this afternoon. There’s laundry drying in the sun, a mild wind is keeping the temperature in the sun bearable and I’ve put away the tweeds in favour of a pair of swimming trunks and a chair in the sunny courtyard.

Mowed lawn

(I might not air my dirty laundry in public, but I don’t mind putting my clean laundry on the Internet!)

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We have five clematis’ (what IS the plural of “clematis”? Clemata?)  growing up the posts of the covered terrace, and while most of them are what I think of as the “normal” clematis variety, i.e. the jackmanii type or similar, one of them is a little bit different.

First of all it’s not purple like the rest of the clematis’ (clemati?) growing along the covered terrace; it has yellow flowers with a bell shape that is very different from the flat flowers of the other clematis’ (clemata?) and only four petals.

The first year we planted it, it did very little at all. Whatever growth it managed to put on was swiftly devoured by slugs, so I really thought of it as a failure. The next year, however, it grew and grew, but produced only 3 flowers over the entire season, so I was beginning to think I might have put it in the wrong spot; it is in The Evening Border, so it only gets sunshine at the very end of the day.

This year, though, it has decided to both grow and flower:

Clematis Rampant

The flowers aren’t as showy as on the other clematis’ (clemati?), but they are definitely there. Loads of them.

Yellow clematisThe flowers have a very elegant bell-shape that is very different from our other clematis’ (clemate?) and they look rather striking against the lush green growth.

I still wonder, though, if it might be happier in a sunnier spot, but for now it will stay where it is. Apart from anything, we don’t HAVE another place where it will fit at present…

Anyway, if any of you happen to know the name of this clematis, feel free to let me know. We bought this plant ourselves, but instantly threw away the name tag… -And it has annoyed me ever since!

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In early spring I took a leap of faith and ordered 10 bare-root roses from the online shop of a major supermarket here in Denmark. The price was ridiculously low, so obviously I was prepared for inferior quality and perhaps less than 100% survival rate. I ordered 5 New Dawn climbing roses and 5 Rhapsody in Blue roses, and if just one of each survived it would still be cheaper than if I had bought them directly from a reputable nursery, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Well, the New Dawn roses were duly planted around the hammock trees (a cherry plum and an oak), both of which could do with some decoration, and in spite of being planted as close to the trees as possible these roses are doing just fine. The deer took a nibble of them at first, but then they sprouted new shoots and even some flower buds, so all is well.

The Rhapsody in Blue roses, though, were destined to have their own section of The Ambitious Border, but… That section hasn’t happened yet. At all. So in order to keep the plants alive I heeled them in in a pot, all five together, and stuck it in a shady corner of the courtyard until I could get around to creating a place for them to live.

That was four months ago…

Rhapsody in Blue

Much to my surprise, all five plants are still alive and well, and they are even flowering! Five roses, squashed together in a 10″ diameter pot, and they have survived and even thrived!

Rhapsody in BlueI’m amazed at how well they are taking their maltreatment. They’ve not had any fertilizer, compost or anything; I just stuck them in a pot and filled it with clay because I thought it would just be for a few weeks and clay has such great water retention, but clearly clay is all they want!

Eventually, though, they will go out into The Ambitious Border as originally planned, but considering how well they are doing in their temporary pot I may or may not end up leaving one of the five plants as a potted rose. (Though in a larger pot…)

It just goes to show that not ALL supermarket roses are bad – though most probably are… Especially the ones sold in-store in 3″ pots… Mind you, this particular supermarket chain doesn’t stock the plants themselves; they are just the middle-man; the roses came from a Danish nursery and were then shipped with an independent logistics company, so they were by no means the sort you’d find on shelves outside your local supermarket.

And though hardly any of my readers are Danish, just in case… Roses from bilka.dk are great value for money!

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-I kill slugs, therefore I am

I’m sure this is what Descartes meant to write, right?

The fearsome hunter and his weapon

The fearsome hunter and his weapon

The death-toll last night ended at 83 slugs that will no longer prey on my dahlias. During spring we didn’t really see many slugs, probably due to the dry weather, but the wet and – to be polite – temperate summer has brought them out in droves.Like last year. And the year before.

Some of the other animals that eat our plants and flowers are accepted and even loved; The Flâneur Husband has repeatedly said about the deer that “they were here before us”, indicating that we just have to accept and adapt. This attitude doesn’t really transfer to slugs, though… Perhaps because they’re not as cute? Maybe it would all be different if Disney made a cute movie about a mother-less slug that grew up having to fend for itself, avoiding pellets and angry flâneur gardeners with sharp hoes? I somehow doubt it, though.

No, the slugs must die. If not all of them, then as many as possible. I could go all nationalistic and say that the Iberian slug is an invasive species and we need to protect our local flora and fauna by doing our best to eradicate it or at least keep it at bay, but the truth is they eat my dahlias and they’re just gross. DIE, I said.

And they’re devious little monsters… This was my view last night as I was sitting on the covered terrace with a cup of coffee. (Okay, it was a glass of Chardonnay…)

You don’t see it? Well, how about this?

You see, they don’t just stay on the ground, oh no. That would make it too easy to hunt them down. No, they think nothing of climbing shrubs and trees when it takes their fancy!

Pesky little bastards… DIE, I said!

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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost 1920)

Come, join me on a flâneur commute to the garden:

Today I decided that rather than take the train and bus up to the Summer House I’d bring my bike on the train and then cycle the 18km (11 miles) from the station to the house in Kulhuse.

Okay, so it ended up being a lot longer and taking more time than originally planned, because the weather was lovely, and when travelling by bicycle you have the option of taking detours and doing sightseeing, which is not really possible on a bus.

For the first 8 kilometres, though, I followed the main road up to Jægerspris village. First of all it is a pretty stretch of road and second of all it has a great bicycle track along the road.

The FjordWhether by bus or by bike, when I cross the bridge over Roskilde Fjord I always feel a sense of calm; I’m leaving the World behind on the other side of the Fjord and retreating to a simpler place.

Bicycle TrackThis is the bicycle track along the road, so you can both see the beauty of the road and the practicality of having the bicycle track (centre) apart from the road (in the left of the photo).

Bike

In Jægerspris village I turned off the main road into the grounds of Jægerspris Castle. After this point there is no bicycle track along the road, and the road becomes very straight, so cars tend to go very fast on the narrow road and it’s just not a nice place for a cyclist if you can avoid it.

Instead I opted for the forest lanes and tracks, which are perhaps a bit rougher but also immensely more pleasant.

Monument to Gerluf Trolle and Birgitte Gøie

The castle grounds are scattered with monuments to the Great and Good men (and VERY few women) of Denmark. This particular monument is actually for a married couple from the 1500’s, Herluf Trolle and Birgitte Gøye, and in many ways she was probably more important than him.

Forest Puddle

The forest North of Jægerspris is wonderful. It’s a mixed forest of beech, oak, birch, fir and pine – and the odd other tree in-between. Parts of it is still run as a commercial logging forest, but most of it retains the air of the old royal hunting grounds with dense undergrowth in places, open clearings in others and small puddles and ponds scattered throughout.

FieldsIn places the track suddenly opens up and you cross a short stretch of fields before returning to the forest. I love the contrast of coming from the enclosed, shaded forest track out into the open where the sky is high and the barley moves in the wind.

Forest Pond

This pond was absolutely gorgeous. You could only just glimpse it from the track, so I got off my bike and stumbled through the bracken and honeysuckle until I got to the edge of it. On the far side of the pond you can just about make out a few white dots of the flowering wild water lilies.

Snoegen - The Twisted Oak

This is Snoegen, the twisted oak, one of the three famous oak trees in our local forest. I’ve never gotten around to seeing more than one of them, so I took a few detours to include them all in my trip. The last living branch fell off the tree in 1991, so now the only leaves on the tree are ferns and a small sapling oak that has sown itself in a gap and is now growing in the decomposing tree.

It’s difficult to tell the actual age of these old oaks, but the twisted oak is estimated to be around 8-900 years old.

Kongeegen - The King's OakThe King’s Oak is the only one of the three large oaks that’s still alive, though it too is in a rather decrepit state. Its age is estimated to anything from 1400 to 2000 years, making it a likely candidate for the title as the oldest living organism in Northern Europe.

The oak used to have a 14-meter circumference, but one of the main branches has fallen down, taking a huge section of the trunk with it, so now the tree is only a small fragment of what it once was. The photo is taken from the “back side” of the tree.

It was never a very tall oak, though, and in fact all the old oaks are rather short and stubbly, indicating that the landscape around them when they formed their main shapes was probably open land, rather than forest as today. And the forest is part of the reason that the old oaks die; they have been smothered by taller trees around them, and the last one living may or may not be only one winter storm away from dying.

Storkeegen - The Stork Oak
Still, there is a certain grace to a slow decay. This is the Stork Oak, named after an 1843 painting entitled “Oak with stork nest in the North Forest by Jægerspris”. The last living branch fell in a winter storm in 1980, and the trunk is completely hollow. The shorter section to the left in the photo is actually taller than me, just to give some scale to it.

This is the youngest of the three oaks, estimated at around 700 years, and it was the only one I had seen previously. All the oaks are within walking distance of the summer house if you take a 2-3 hour walk in the woods, so it’s appalling that I haven’t seen them all before.

The meadows by the fjordAnd then the track reaches the meadows by the fjord where cattle graze the marsh. This is the sort of landscape that used to be where the summer house now lies; back in the 1950’s a lot of farmers made a lot of money by transforming poor agricultural land – including pastures – to plots for holiday homes in this area (and indeed in many other coastal areas of Denmark) as the post-WWII austerity quickly moved towards a time when the working class became middle class.

Our cul-de-sac of holiday home plots was created in 1952, and back then there wasn’t a single tree here and even the plots closest to the road had a view of the fjord. Now, though, it’s difficult to recognise the meadow when you look at all the mature trees. The only way you can tell the story of the landscape now is by digging into the soil where it is quite obvious that just under the fertile top soil there is clay sediments with various sea shells from when this was part of the fjord. (Or you could go down and look at the dike and the pumping station that does its best to prevent the area from flooding during heavy rain…)

Cactus Dahlia

My journey ended here, with another dahlia blooming in the garden. In fact there are quite a few now, though it’s still not quite the fireworks border that I hope it will be a bit later in summer. This one is another one grown from seed, and I quite like how it seems to be a semi-double cactus hybrid. One of the wonders of buying mixed seeds is that you don’t know what you’re getting, so you have the element of surprise!

 

I should have taken this trip a long time ago. Many times. In fact, if I omitted all the detours and just took the direct route – and went at a normal pace, rather than taking it as flânerie-au-vélo – it wouldn’t take much longer than going by bus, and of course it would remove the reliance on the rather erratic bus schedule. Sure, I might not do it in the pouring rain, but then I have the bus as a back-up.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed sightseeing with me!

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Last week the Sunny Border got an extra layer of compost to raise the soil level slightly around the three L.D. Braithwaite roses my parents gave the Flâneur Husband for his birthday, and on top of that we added that big no-go, a mulch of shredded twigs and branches from when we cut back the purple-leaf plum that had too many dead twigs and branches to be sightly.

Sunny Border

It looks terribly tidy now it has been weeded and mulched, but the main point was really just to get rid of the wood from the tree so we wouldn’t have yet another pile of branches looking messy in a corner of the garden. (We have plenty of those…)

I will try to make some nitrogen-rich compost with a large share of grass clippings so the breaking-down of the wood chips won’t deplete the soil of nitrogen and harm the plants.

Over the summer we will probably get rid of some more branches by throwing them through the wood chipper; a pile of chipped wood just takes up so much less space than a pile of branches, and it will definitely improve the over-all look of the garden.

There will still be hiding-places for wildlife in the garden, though; we took all the trunks and larger branches and stacked them behind the rhododendrons so they are out of sight but might provide a habitat for insects and other critters.

Another main point of this exercise was that the Flâneur Husband likes power tools / toys, so I did the job of cutting up the branches in manageable sizes and he had great fun putting them through the chipper.

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Well, in that case I guess I had better throw in something about plants as a counterpoint to my latest entries that seem to have been more about animals than flowers.

Day lily - hemerocallis fulva

This day lily is a classic in Danish gardens. (I think it’s a hemerocallis fulva, but I might be mistaken.) This particular day lily comes from The Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden, but it was also in my mother’s garden, in my grandmother’s garden and in my great-grandmother’s garden. In other words, this is a classic country garden perennial, though these days it seems to have fallen from grace and is largely out-done by newer, more showy day lilies.

(The photo above was accidentally taken with the flash on, which is why the colours seem so vibrant; in the real world it’s a somewhat duller shade of brown-tinted orange.)

Any way, it’s one of those plants that I am not 100% in love with, but it wouldn’t be a proper garden without it, so it has been given a prominent position in The Ambitious Border! And it is pretty much the sort of plant you put in the ground and then never worry about again; it’s hardy as you like, and it spreads very moderately, so it will fill out nicely but won’t overrun its neighbours. Oh, and it blooms at the perfect time for a holiday home garden; in mid summer when we will be spending the most time up here!

I do want some of the modern, more showy day lilies, though… Real lilies are so-so when it comes to hardiness around here, and since I already have heaps of dahlias that need to be lifted every autumn and over-wintered in a frost-free place, I think a fully hardy alternative to lilies is a wonderful thing!

Another wonderful thing is happening in the Sunny Border; my dahlias have started blooming! A few are from tubers that I’ve bought, but most of them I grew from seed in the windows back in the apartment in Copenhagen.

Dahlia giant hybrid

They were mixed seeds, so there’s no specific name for any of them. I bought 4-5 different seed packets – giant hybrids mixed, giant cactus hybrids mixed and so on – and if they are even remotely pretty I intend to lift the tubers in late autumn and over-winter them. So far it looks promising

The slugs love them, of course, but I knew they would. Fortunately they tend to go more for the foliage than the flower buds, so though the plants themselves might look a bit sad, the flowers are mainly all right. (The damage on the flower above looks too subtle to be done by the slugs; they tend to do more “whole-sale” damage…)

Dahlia Giant Cactus Hybrid

It’s still early days for the Sunny Border; there are just a handful of dahlia blooms, but there are plenty more buds waiting to burst, so I definitely think it’s safe to say that growing dahlias from seed has been a success!

And it really was dead-easy; I had a germination rate of close to 100%, and all the seedlings survived being transplanted into the bed. (Some have been more mangled by slugs, winds and rain than others, but that’s hardly the plants’ fault.) Even if one just grew them as an annual and didn’t worry about lifting the tubers in autumn, this is still a great set of plants for very little money. Also, I grew them! From seed! To use the terminology of today’s youth: This is AWESOME!

I really post too many close-ups. I’m sure you all know what a dahlia or a day lily looks like, whereas you might not have any way of knowing what The Ambitious Border or the Sunny Border looks like. I shall do my best to get some larger shots soon so you can see what the overall look of the garden is.

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