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Archive for November, 2012


I recently splurged on a new pair of wellies. My old ones were a) two years old, b) not a very good quality and c) leaky, so I think it was a justifiable expense. After much humming and hawing I ended up selecting a very fetching little number from Karrimor, and they are definitely leagues beyond my old one, though they didn’t cost more. Only goes to show, sometimes price and quality are in no way connected…

New Wellies

So to test them I went down to the fjord to see if they will hold the water out, and they DO! Now, this is perhaps not surprising, but having worn leaking wellies for a couple of months now this really is a wonderful feeling! I got them a size too large, so I need to wear two pair of thick woolly socks for them to fit, but this was on purpose since there really is no inbuilt warmth in wellies.

God, I love them!

They do look very much like a new pair of wellies still – not surprisingly – but I’ll soon have them muddied up so they fit in with the rest of my gardening attire. (Please note how both knees have gone on my gardening jeans…)

Anyway, since I was down there and had the phone out, here’s the view:

Swans on the fjord

The weather is being very “November”, but fortunately with very little rain, so it’s all right, even though I’d like to see the sun again some day. The white dots on the water are swans – hundreds of them! I guess they find it easy to fourage in the shallow waters of the fjord – my new wellies could probably take me 300 meters out in the fjord before the water becomes too deep…

There’s not too much going on in the garden right now; I’m prepping for winter, mulching over roses and other plants that could do with a duvet in case we have a cold but snow-free winter like the last one. The lawn has had it’s final cut, all plants are planted – or at least healed in in temporary positions – and my dahlia tubers are visiting my Mum and her frost-free shed over the winter. (She’s pampering them; she just changed their newspaper wrapping this week since it was a bit too damp… I hope she doesn’t spoil them too much so they end up not wanting to come back to my garden and my rather hap-hazard gardening style!)

Does anybody else send plants off to stay with relatives over the winter? Ah, so it’s just me, then… I suspected so.

Anyway, it’s early morning here, so I’d better crack on with the chores. There’s coffee to be drunk, hot buttered rolls to be eaten and – of course – a warm cosy fire to be cuddled up in front of. Gosh, so many things to do!

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Occasionally you find gardening sites that actually offer good, sensible advise. And then – if you’re me – you choose which advise to follow (and how you interpret the advise)…

As is the case with grassclippings.co.uk, more specifically their guide to “renovating a tired worn-out lawn“.

Here is a slightly truncated version of that guide:

To keep it simple, there are a few rules to follow – more of a flow chart of tasks. This process can be performed at any time during the lawn growing season but allow at least an additional 6 weeks to complete the growing process at the back end of the year before the autumn frosts and leaves fall from the trees as the frosts will slow the germination process and the leaves will smother the new grasses!

This process will work if the lawn is around 50% weeds/moss and grasses.

(Then there was some silly text indicating that you actually had to DO something, but I choose to discard that…)

Sit back in the garden chair, relax with a glass of Pimms and view your new lawn…..

Of course, November is the time for neither lawn re-vamping nor Pimm’s so I’ll just do my version of the process and substitute a glass of merlot for the Pimm’s.

Lawn

And for the record, the picture is NOT what the lawn looks like in November. Judging by the flowering rhododendron I’d guess the photo was taken in May, when the lawn hadn’t been mowed since October- or maybe September – the year before…

I’m not sure how effective my version of the lawn re-vamping will be, but at least I’ve mowed the lawn today, so that ought to earn me the right to a glass of vino, right?

Either way, my lawn sees so little wear that it’s all right if it is 20% daisies, 10% dandelions, 20% buttercups, 10% ajugas and 40% grass. (And because 100% is never enough I’m sure there are also loads of other weeds in there…)

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Seen from my garden, the Middle East must be somewhere behind the forsythia, beyond the compost heap, even. And I rarely venture beyond the forsythia, let alone beyond the compost heap, so it seem an awfully long way away.

Here it’s peaceful and it’s quiet; people live their quiet lives.
I have sowed some curly parsley and a little bit of chives,
Let the World attack each other and defy their scorn with spite;
I will get on with my neighbour and myself and be all right.

Her er fredeligt og stille, her er ingen larm og støj.
Jeg har sået kruspersille, og et brev med pure løg.
Lad alverden slå for panden og bekæmpe spe med spot,
jeg vil enes med hinanden og mig selv og ha det godt.

(Excerpt from Noget om Helte / Something about heroes by Halfdan Rasmussen, freely translated by yours truly – and yes, I AM aware that my translation has skipped the A-A-B-B rhymes before each caesura, but I can live with that if you can.)

Some times events in the world are such that it is hard to influence them from where you stand, so instead I shall plant daffodils and tulips and at least make the world a little prettier by doing so. After all, planting a daffodil won’t hurt anybody, unlike hurling missiles at each other.

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Parsley, sage and brambles

There is a lovely weathered terracotta pot in the courtyard that is home to some parsley and sage, as well as whatever weeds have decided to set up camp there. This is all good. However, when the brambles or blackberries or whatever they are decide to mingle with the herbs I resolutely untangle them and pull them back up on the fence where they should be!

Except this time the bramble vine had not only entangled itself with the herbs; it had decided to root!

Bramble roots

Clearly this sort of unacceptable behaviour cannot be tolerated, so I swiftly yanked up the culprit and went to get my secateurs to put an end to this. I ended up with a rather nice cutting, and clearly anything that will root this easily is most likely a vigorous grower, so off it went to the hedgerow where it can tangle itself up with the barberries and honeysuckles to it’s heart’s content.

Bramble cutting

For the record, it does produce some rather tasty berries, so it’s violent disregard for what should grow where is overlooked for now. BUT DON’T DO IT AGAIN!!!

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Far down in the forest, where the warm sun and the fresh air made a sweet resting-place, grew a pretty little fir-tree; and yet it was not happy, it wished so much to be tall like its companions– the pines and firs which grew around it. The sun shone, and the soft air fluttered its leaves, and the little peasant children passed by, prattling merrily, but the fir-tree heeded them not. Sometimes the children would bring a large basket of raspberries or strawberries, wreathed on a straw, and seat themselves near the fir-tree, and say, “Is it not a pretty little tree?” which made it feel more unhappy than before.

(…)

The swallows knew nothing, but the stork, after a little reflection, nodded his head, and said, “Yes, I think I do. I met several new ships when I flew from Egypt, and they had fine masts that smelt like fir. I think these must have been the trees; I assure you they were stately, very stately.”
“Oh, how I wish I were tall enough to go on the sea,” said the fir-tree. “What is the sea, and what does it look like?”
“It would take too much time to explain,” said the stork, flying quickly away.
“Rejoice in thy youth,” said the sunbeam; “rejoice in thy fresh growth, and the young life that is in thee.”

(…)

“This evening,” they all exclaimed, “how bright it will be!” “Oh, that the evening were come,” thought the tree, “and the tapers lighted! then I shall know what else is going to happen. Will the trees of the forest come to see me? I wonder if the sparrows will peep in at the windows as they fly? shall I grow faster here, and keep on all these ornaments summer and winter?” But guessing was of very little use; it made his bark ache, and this pain is as bad for a slender fir-tree, as headache is for us. At last the tapers were lighted, and then what a glistening blaze of light the tree presented! It trembled so with joy in all its branches, that one of the candles fell among the green leaves and burnt some of them. “Help! help!” exclaimed the young ladies, but there was no danger, for they quickly extinguished the fire. After this, the tree tried not to tremble at all, though the fire frightened him; he was so anxious not to hurt any of the beautiful ornaments, even while their brilliancy dazzled him. And now the folding doors were thrown open, and a troop of children rushed in as if they intended to upset the tree; they were followed more silently by their elders. For a moment the little ones stood silent with astonishment, and then they shouted for joy, till the room rang, and they danced merrily round the tree, while one present after another was taken from it.

“It is winter now,” thought the tree, “the ground is hard and covered with snow, so that people cannot plant me. I shall be sheltered here, I dare say, until spring comes. How thoughtful and kind everybody is to me! Still I wish this place were not so dark, as well as lonely, with not even a little hare to look at. How pleasant it was out in the forest while the snow lay on the ground, when the hare would run by, yes, and jump over me too, although I did not like it then. Oh! it is terrible lonely here.”
“Squeak, squeak,” said a little mouse, creeping cautiously towards the tree; then came another; and they both sniffed at the fir-tree and crept between the branches.
“Oh, it is very cold,” said the little mouse, “or else we should be so comfortable here, shouldn’t we, you old fir-tree?”

(…)

“It was very pleasant when the merry little mice sat round me and listened while I talked. Now that is all passed too. However, I shall consider myself happy when some one comes to take me out of this place.” But would this ever happen? Yes; one morning people came to clear out the garret, the boxes were packed away, and the tree was pulled out of the corner, and thrown roughly on the garret floor; then the servant dragged it out upon the staircase where the daylight shone. “Now life is beginning again,” said the tree, rejoicing in the sunshine and fresh air. Then it was carried down stairs and taken into the courtyard so quickly, that it forgot to think of itself, and could only look about, there was so much to be seen. The court was close to a garden, where everything looked blooming. Fresh and fragrant roses hung over the little palings. The linden-trees were in blossom; while the swallows flew here and there, crying, “Twit, twit, twit, my mate is coming,”—but it was not the fir-tree they meant. “Now I shall live,” cried the tree, joyfully spreading out its branches; but alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in a corner amongst weeds and nettles.

Christmas past

The star of gold paper still stuck in the top of the tree and glittered in the sunshine. In the same courtyard two of the merry children were playing who had danced round the tree at Christmas, and had been so happy. The youngest saw the gilded star, and ran and pulled it off the tree. “Look what is sticking to the ugly old fir-tree,” said the child, treading on the branches till they crackled under his boots. And the tree saw all the fresh bright flowers in the garden, and then looked at itself, and wished it had remained in the dark corner of the garret. It thought of its fresh youth in the forest, of the merry Christmas evening, and of the little mice who had listened to the story of “Humpty Dumpty.”

“Past! past!” said the old tree; “Oh, had I but enjoyed myself while I could have done so! but now it is too late.” Then a lad came and chopped the tree into small pieces, till a large bundle lay in a heap on the ground. The pieces were placed in a fire under the copper, and they quickly blazed up brightly, while the tree sighed so deeply that each sigh was like a pistol-shot. Then the children, who were at play, came and seated themselves in front of the fire, and looked at it and cried, “Pop, pop.” But at each “pop,” which was a deep sigh, the tree was thinking of a summer day in the forest; and of Christmas evening, and of “Humpty Dumpty,” the only story it had ever heard or knew how to relate, till at last it was consumed. The boys still played in the garden, and the youngest wore the golden star on his breast, with which the tree had been adorned during the happiest evening of its existence. Now all was past; the tree’s life was past, and the story also,—for all stories must come to an end at last.

For the full text of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of The Fir Tree, please visit andersenstories.com. Or better yet, buy his complete fairy tales as a real book somewhere in a real bookshop. -Then you might also find out what REALLY happened to The Little Mermaid… And how Disney got it all wrong! If you think the story of The Fir Tree is depressing, just wait until you read The Little Mermaid!

Starring in this re-enactment of The Fir Tree was my Christmas tree from 2010. -Which I only yesterday got around to chopping up after it has spent ages in our pile of twigs and branches at the back of the house. Now all is past; the tree’s life is past, and the blog entry also,—for all blog entries must come to an end at last.

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Who needs La Santa Sport?


-When you can get all the exercise you could ever need by crossing the country to help your Mum create a garden from scratch?

The garden at the “new” house (well, after a year I guess it’s no longer the “new house”, but simply “my Mum’s house”) was a flat, barren stretch of lawn. It did set off the simplicity of the house nicely – it was like a gem perched on a pedestal – but it hardly encouraged spending time outside. And my Mum likes to be outside, and she likes to have lots of plants and variety in her garden.

The latter especially frustrated the garden designer she had won in some magazine contest. (Well, she had won around $2000 worth of her services, anyway.) Three separate plans were created before my Mum was finally happy with it. And… The I arrived on Thursday and looked through the plans and the plants my Mum had purchased to turn it into reality, and I quickly saw quite a few discrepancies.

First of all my Mum hadn’t bought the required quantities of the plants in the plan, and secondly she had also bought quite a few plants that weren’t in the plan at all… So with respect for the lines of the plan it was taken back to the drawing board when I got there.

Planning Mum's garden

We didn’t have any tracing paper at hand, so baking paper was used instead. (Not a great substitute, but it worked.) I sketched up the outlines and then tried desperately to get my Mum to sit down with me to go through it end-to-end so she could get the garden she wanted with the plants she had.

She’s a bit of a scatter-brain, though, so she kept running off on tangents – or leaping from one section of the garden to the other – and it was really quite a chore. It took 4 hours on the Thursday afternoon, 3 hours on Friday morning and a total of three re-drawings of the plan before she finally said this was the plan. Then I drew up the final version with all of the plant names, the plant lists and so on and we went shopping for the few remaining plants that were “must-haves”.

Some of the plants won’t be available in nurseries ’till spring, but that’s all right. They will come in time. Others were more of a challenge as they are not readily available in nurseries at all, and one of our requests even prompted the reply “Oh, that’s gone out of style; it’s not used any more”… As if plants ever REALLY go out of style! (For the record it was a rather lovely white lonicera shrub, and it SHOULD be “in style”.)

Creating the new shrub hedges around the garden required some serious digging, but fortunately my younger brother is a contractor, so he came with a mini digger and a motorised wheel barrow.

Digger

Even so, some areas had to be dug by hand – and of course a lot of the planting holes had to be hand-dug as well, so there was plenty of work for the 10 adults – and four kids – working in the garden on the Saturday. Add to this that my Mother-in-law had come with me so she could be in charge of the in-doors; food, plenty of coffee, child minding and cleaning.

Borders outlined

The garden design is very square; lots of straight angles to oppose the angles of the house, and it will all – eventually – be a very “tidy” arrangement. We lined out all the beds and borders with plastic barriers so the grass roots won’t infest the beds too badly, and the beds in the lawn are completely square and aligned with the boundaries of the garden, creating lots of triangles with the house which is at an angle to the plot.

Once the ground work was done, though, I became frustrated with my Mum again. She kept wanting to make changes to the plan that I had spent a total of 7 hours drawing up with her – taking her step by step, plant by plant through every bed and border to ensure she felt she got exactly what she wanted and felt an ownership over the plan – and at times saying that we’d agreed on changes that we just hadn’t drawn on the plan. (Of course I drew every change she wanted in, since I thought we should end up with a plan precise enough for the garden to be done even if neither she nor I had been present during the work.)

It was very frustrating to have to work hard to dig out a bed on one side of the house and continuously having to run around the house to ensure that my Mum didn’t as people to plant stuff in one place when she had decided it should be in another. (This happened a LOT!) Some times it was due to a change of heart – which was allowed – and some times it was due to forgetfulness – which was not allowed. Being a bit of a catter-brain myself it was really hard having to make sure my Mum thought every change through so she wouldn’t forget it.

The one change I allowed her, though, was a reversal to something I had really liked…

Placing a stone

She rather quickly dropped the plan to have any field stones in the shrub borders, but then of course she forgot that and on Sunday morning she asked my brother to fetch them in the digger. *sigh* It had been a lot easier, had she decided this on Saturday morning, but the stones got in place, though the digger obviously destroyed all the digging which had been done in the border the day before.

This stone, though, is beautiful; it stands up like a triangular shape with lovely swerving horizontal bands, and I must say my younger brother has quite a skill with the mini digger! he moved the stone from the nearby field, got it in place and stood it up without a hitch. There will be large shrubs behind it and small groundcovers in front, and it will look like a modern-day rune stone. He also placed a slightly smaller stone (around 200 pounds) as a seating stone in the front of another section of the shrub border.

Rose beds, orchard and stone

The most significant aspect of the new garden is the three square rose beds of alternating sizes, each backed by a box hedge and with three fruit trees in the lawn behind them. On the other side there will be a herb patch as well, and there’s a small triangular patch at the back of the house.

It all looks rather empty right now, but even with 10 people working in the garden Saturday and 4 on Sunday we just didn’t have time to finish completely. All the large shrubs were planted, though, and the smaller shrubs were marked out, and most importantly it now looks like a garden in the making, rather than a piece of flat lawn.

Mind you, it will have to be a while before I see my Mum again. After my Dad died – and even some time before that – she has become very pessimistic, often focusing on “it’s a shame that…” rather than “how great that…”. I do love her, but that sort of negativity is very hard to deal with on a sustained level.

She knows, though, that her garden will be lovely. There will be not a single plant she did not pick herself, not a single area without some sort of interest throughout the year, not one moment when she can’t see beauty from the vast living room windows. She just needs to focus on this, rather than on the plants that are either impossible or excessively expensive to source.
But then… One day spring will come, and her garden will be full of narcissi, tulips, rhododendrons, roses, dahlias… And before all that, well… With any luck the witch hazel will bloom in its first year!

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The frost came and killed the dahlias, as was to be expected.

Dead dahlias

However, there is more to dahlias than meets the eye; once the plants had their first taste of frost it was time to lift the tubers. And… Time to prove my grandmother wrong!

My grandmother, much beloved and cherished, claimed in spring that growing dahlias from seed would not generate viable tubers in the Danish climate, but I dare say I have 90% proved her wrong. (The last 10% will come when they sprout in spring!) At least it seems very likely that my tubers will be viable, since the larger of them are 2″ in diameter.

Dahlia tubers

The tubers are fat and healthy-looking, and I’m quite sure that if I overwinter them properly they will grow lovely flowers next year again. Which brings me to the title of this entry… I didn’t really know where to store the tubers over the winter, since we don’t have a frost-free cold room to put them in. However, tomorrow I’m travelling across the country to visit my Mum, and she has kindly offered to store my tubers for me through the winter.

So… I’m packing up my dahlia tubers and bringing them with me to my Mum’s place! Since my grandmother will be hosting her 90th birthday in April it means that I will naturally see my Mum at that time, and so I can get my dahlia tubers in time for planting them out.

Yes, it does seem a bit silly to bring dahlia tubers across the country, but then I do seem to have a habit of travelling with plants, so why not tubers? I brought them inside last week so they have cured for 7 days in a low-humidity atmosphere, and I think they are ready for winter now. My Mum has a large frost-proof shed where my little box of tubers can spend a cosy winter and then by spring they will return to me and the garden.

Oh, and I’m going to my Mum’s place to help her plant her new garden. She has already discovered that she has bought two perennials too many; two Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ that she has decided to donate to me… So that fits in nicely with my packing; I’ll be bringing a box of dahlia tubers with me over there and bringing a couple of plants back with me on Sunday!

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