Archive for September, 2012

-And I just can’t hide it!

A very good friend of mine is getting married in 15 days and tomorrow is her hen night. And it will be hosted in The Flâneur Apartment!

I’m going to cook my ass off to make sure she has a lovely meal and a perfect evening. I got up this morning and started rubbing salt, thyme and bay leaves into raw duck thighs, for Christ’s sake… I’m going all in, as much or perhaps even more than last Christmas.

There will be afternoon snacks (bruschetti with a variety of toppings), a starter of home-made ravioli, a mains of home-made confit of duck with trimmings, a salad course, a cheese course and a dessert of various home-made chocolate truffles.

Claire of Promenade Plantings recently advertised for guest bloggers during her vacation, so you will be able to see most of the recipes and their results on her blog on October 6th, the day my friend is getting married. Why on HER blog, you ask? Well, her blog has a mix of gardening and foodie stuff, so it somehow seems to fit in with her style better than with mine. (I will, though, remind you to visit her blog when the date arrives…)

Also, I thought it would be fun to write something to be read by people who don’t normally see my entries. After all, if you like writing you most likely enjoy reaching a variety of readers, so having the chance to present my words to her readers really seems like a privilege.

Anyway, her blog is worth a visit with or without my guest entry, so go no. Did I mention it was promenadeplantings.com?

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I spent months getting The Sunny Border carved out from the lawn, digging in compost etc. to make it ready for planting, of course while also doing the same for The Puddles. Lots of work, lots of sod to dig up, move around, lots of compost to incorporate in the soil, lots of planting and so on and so forth.

And then from Monday evening to Wednesday afternoon  I do this:

Unnamed bed

How the *BLEEEEP* did that happen? And with only a few blisters? No broken back, no need to lie down for a week or visits to chiropractors?

This new flower bed is noticeably larger than The Sunny Border, and the soil in that part of the garden is every bit as heavy and clay-y as in The Sunny Border, so I’m really surprised I’ve gotten all this done in so little time. Was I really that lazy last winter/spring, since it took me so long? Or am I just getting the hang of this whole digging-malarkey?

The flower bed has a slightly odd shape; rounded in one end and cut at an angle at the other end, but though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. You see, I have a dream about continuing this flowerbed further, and intersecting it with a path that cuts through at an angle so it appears more or less as a continuous flower bed. It may or may not happen, of course, but at least there’s the possibility.

Unnamed bed

So… In went a blackcurrant bush that has been sitting mirthlessly behind the annex ever since we bought the summer house, a gooseberry that comes from The Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden (and has been languishing in a far too small pot for a year and a half), those Rhapsody in Blue roses that I bought in spring but never got around to planting, the two asters I bought Monday morning and a poor hydrangea that had been sitting around in a dark, overgrown corner of the garden, just waiting to be rescued.

It turns out only 4 out of the 5 Rhapsody in Blue roses survived their miserable stay in the pot, but the 4 look healthy and strong, and the blackcurrant was rotting away at the root, so it came apart when I moved it, resulting in 3 separate plants that each have fresh root systems and look viable, so there is hope that my neglect won’t have any serious consequences.

Also, the fuchsia that I bought this spring to brighten up The Courtyard has proven to be two separate plants, so I divided them and planted them a few feet apart. They will probably need some protection over the winter to settle in, but if they make it, they make it and otherwise it was not a lot of money spent on something that flowered from I bought it ’till now!

Unnamed bed

And the two aster plants I bought in the supermarket on Monday morning? Well, I divided them into the separate plants, and each pot yielded 6 plants.They look rather puny at present, but I have confidence that next autumn these will look great.
Apart from the joy of having a new flower bed, these two days have also – finally – seen the end of the Flâneur Husband’s birthday present from his mother (a cubic meter of compost). It is great stuff, really, but I think it might have been the wrong time to get it delivered in spring. After all, than meant that I could only really use it in new beds and borders, so a lot of it has just been sitting out by the road for the entire summer, looking rather messy in a huge white fibre bag.

(Mind you, since my own composting efforts yield FAR too little organic matter to count when laying out a new flower bed, let alone three in a year, it was great to have that “bag of plenty” sitting in the drive.)
Anyway, there you are. A new flowerbed in less than 48 hours from the first digging to the final planting. (Okay, okay… The final planting is going to be whenever I can fill the gaps, and probably it will be a spring.sowing of annuals next year…) I feel terribly accomplished and efficient!

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Yes, I did. And I’m not ashamed of it.

Slug eggsThis is what the ground looked like under the capillary box that I grew tomatoes in last year (and weeds this year, since I didn’t actually plant anything in it this year…). Or rather, this is what it looked like under the capillary box after I had poured two litres of boiling water over the ground, so these will be dead slug eggs.

Now, there are slugs I HATE (killer slugs) and there are slugs I tolerate. These eggs, by all probability, are from a type of slug that I tolerate, the leopard slug.

Leopard slug

That would be the mother/father of the eggs I killed off. I do kill all kinds of slug eggs, but I don’t mind having a small population of leopard slugs in my garden. For one things they are significantly more stylish than the killer slugs, and secondly they also have a knack for hunting down other slugs and kill them. (And they don’t breed in the same ridiculously prolific fashion as the killer slugs…)

It IS a pest in some ways, but all things considered it’s good to have them in the garden since they are preferable to other slugs and will keep them at bay, at least to some extent.

NOTE: This is only true in areas where the Iberian slug, i.e. the KILLER slug, has invaded, so Northern mainland Europe. Had I gardened on the British Isles, for example, I’d have killed it on sight!

(Also, according to wikipedia, they are rather clever little fellows: “Limax maximus is capable of associative learning, specifically classical conditioning, because it is capable of aversion learning and other types of learning.”)

And now enough of this; I finished digging out the unnamed flower bed in the lawn last night, so now it’s time to find some compost and dig in so I can get some stuff planted in there!

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The weather forecast for the Flâneur Garden today reports intermittent gardening, mixed with longer spells of coffee breaks and some risk of digging.

(In other words, today’s weather is unreliable as you like, with on/off rain and consequently a rather uneven work effort in the garden.)

Mind you, in those brief intervals of dry weather I do seem to get something done. The lawn bed is being dug out, and it’s actually making a decent progress. Yesterday afternoon before I started digging I was playing around with a long extension cord to determine the contours of the bed, and that was clearly a mistake; I should have used a rope or the garden hose – or indeed anything that I could leave out overnight.

New bed

I took that shot yesterday afternoon, but by now the hole in the lawn is a lot larger. Unfortunately, since I had to take the extension cord in for the night, I now have no lines to follow, so there is a very real risk that I might end up with a somewhat wonky edge. -I can tidy that up later if it’s a problem, right?

There is a distinct lack of plants to fill this new bed, though. I do have a blackcurrant languishing behind the annex and a gooseberry merely surviving in a pot in the courtyard, so these can go in (since it will be a fairly sunny location when there are no clouds), and I still haven’t gotten around to planting the Rhapsody in Blue roses I bought in spring and heeled in in a pot in the courtyard, so they can go in as well. That’s already a solid backbone for the bed, I think.

Also, yesterday morning before heading up to the garden I went to the local supermarket to buy some essential gardening supplies – coffee and milk! – and came home with these two beauties:

Aster novi-belgii

They are hybrid asters of the Victoria series (though otherwise unnamed), and though they are only about a foot tall – and about the same in diameter – I suspect they can probably double that height next year if I don’t give them the nursery chop they’ve been given earlier in the season to make them into these compact pot-perfect plants.

These, together with the Rhapsody in Blue roses, will give the bed a purple tone throughout summer. I’m not sure why I end up with so much purple in my garden; it’s not like I’m really keen on purple as a colour, but somehow I have ended up with a lot of purples. From iris to sweet peas, from asters to hostas. Still, I don’t mind; I buy and sow the plants I love the most, and I can deal with the fact that this gives me more purple than I would perhaps have planned from the out-set.

I’m also propagating some sedums that can go in the lawn bed next year. I got a bouquet of flowers from work over a month ago, and it contained 5 stems of sedum Herbstfreude/Autumn Joy, 3 of which have rooted in the vase and are still standing in the apartment window. On top of that I have taken cuttings from the sedum in the garden to make even more new plants so there will be enough to make them look quite established even from next year. (I do like these plants… They are so lush and full-bodied, and utterly dependable and hardy!)

I will need some yellows, pinks and whites in this bed, of course, but that can be annuals in the first year. At least I can get it started with shrubs and perennials from the word “GO”, and that’s always a nice thing.

So there. A new bed in the making, even though The Ambitious Border is not finished yet. But…

What should I call it? Clearly “The Lawn Bed” is too boring a name for a flower bed… I had considered “The Marital Bed”, since it is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but only started on after The Flâneur Husband suggested it, but then what if things start dying in that bed? I clearly don’t want – even symbolically – to be known for my failure in the marital bed, so I need to think of another name. Suggestions are welcome…

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Recently the Flâneur Husband commented on how he was a bit sad that all flowers were concentrated mainly on the South-Western side of the garden. The Ambitious Border, The Puddles, The Sunny Border; everything seemed to happen to one side, and of course he’s completely right.

Mainly this is because I’ve been afraid to attack the main lawn. First of all, to make any sort of impact, a flower bed in the lawn would have to be of a certain size, and clearing lawn is always a big project. (And at times back-breaking.) Secondly, when we bought the summer house he was rather adamant that we should have a large lawn, so I’ve been chipping away at it at the sides where it wouldn’t make too much difference to the overall lawn space.

Mowed lawn

However, the last time we were in the garden together we were walking around and he mentioned that he’d like some more flowers to the North-East and North, and he would quite like a large flower bed in the lawn in front of the rhododendrons (by the garden bench to the right in the picture above). Hallelujah! I WANT THAT TOO!!!

Once the rhododendrons and the cherry plum has finished blooming there’s really nothing interesting happening on the right side of the house until the patch of goldenrods make their show in August/September, so we need something that will be glorious during the summer months.

Wait a minute… Is the Ambitious Border done yet? No, of course it isn’t; there is still a 3-meter gap between the border-proper and The Puddles, so obviously I need to clear that ground before I start digging in the lawn, but the other day my husband asked me if flaneurgardening.com was dying, and I think that’s just because I’m sort of loosing steam here. And what better way to find something new to write about than, well, PLANNING something new!

So what am I thinking about? Well, the lawn that will remain afterwards needs to have certain proportions. There needs to be room for a long table for an al-fresco lunch for 20 people, and alongside that room enough for a game of croquet, pétanque or Kubb, so basically this means an area around 8 x 12 meters should be kept as lawn. (And no, we’re not using competition standards when setting up lawn games…)

This will give space for a narrow path in front of the rhododendrons and a long flowerbed in front of that, perhaps a few meters wide and 7-8 meters long. To eliminate the need to mow a narrow path, this could probably be made of a weed-blocking material covered with wood chips made from our rather large stock-pile of twigs and small branches that are currently piled up behind the house.

So… Once the ground is cleared of grass, the path is made and everything is ready, what on earth should go into such a large flowerbed? Well, obviously I want everything in the garden to be fully hardy perennials, with few exceptions for special plants like the dahlias and some biannuals, but to begin with it would be easiest – and cheapest – to populate a large space like this with hardy annuals.

After all, I do have a seed stash…

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This morning I suddenly looked out the window and saw a squirrel playing around in the hammock! Unfortunately, by the time I made it out with my camera, the little fellow was about to leave the hammock for a less rocking location in a nearby tree.

Squirrel in Hammock

It is quite a windy day, so I don’t blame the fellow for seeking a less turbulent perch, but I thought it was too cute for words when it was sitting in the middle of the hammock, rocked by the wind and seemingly enjoying the ride.

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I guess it’s no surprise that the Roman snails that I moved to the garden are still lurking around, doing their bit to rid my garden of slug eggs. However, elegant creatures as they are, they really tend to call very little attention to themselves.

But… I also moved some 15-20 baby frogs to the garden – or so I thought! Upon further reflection it seems more likely to have been baby toads, and last night I got the proof:

Young toad

A tiny toad sitting by one of the ventilation holes in the foundations of the house. Isn’t it just adorable?

Young toad escaping - or not

It didn’t seem to enjoy the flash, though, so I left it to find some better place to spend the night. The little fellow was perhaps just over an inch long, which is still around 5 times as big as when I collected him and his siblings some months back while they were crossing a busy road, and he gives me hope that there might be others of his ilk that have also chosen to hang around the garden after I moved them here.

There is a very real risk that I might be as excited about the animals living in the garden as about the plants growing here; it’s just such a thrill to feel that we are the custodians of a plot of land where these protected species will actually want to live. They are proof that I’m certainly doing something right here.

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