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Archive for the ‘Ambitious Border’ Category


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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We had our annual Summer Party in the garden yesterday. An al fresco lunch for as many friends as want to come, followed by an afternoon and evening of frolicking, croquet, kubb (an old Viking game that has become popular again as a garden game over the past 5-10 years after a thousand years of obscurity) and far too much alcohol.

It’s always lovely, but there IS a certain joy to saying goodbye to the last guests on Sunday around noon once the dishes have been done and the garden restored to some sort of normalcy (i.e. the bottles and cans have been picked up, the games have been packed away and the furniture is no longer clumped in the middle of the lawn around the fire pit.

Now it’s just me and the birds in the garden again; I even sent the Flâneur Husband back to the city to nurse his hangover with pizza, sofa and telly while I nurse mine with left-overs from yesterday and a few perennials that need planting and moving.

Tomorrow is the end of my summer holiday (one week in early July and then last week), and I think I need to see if I can take another week off some time in late August. The garden is mainly in decent shape, though some corners – like the vegetable garden – have been completely neglected all year. We haven’t even moved the lawn around the vegetable beds, which kind of shows how little that area has been used…

Anyway, who wants to read words, right? Everybody loves a photo, so:

Puddles in the rain

Yeah… It rained pretty heavily this afternoon. And those white streaks ARE ropes of rain… (And yes, this photo was taken almost blindly, since I had to cover my phone with the brim of my cap… focusing on a screen one inch from your eyes is just not feasible!)

Note how only one Puddle is actually visible this year… (The other two to the right of the stormy one are mainly hidden by the planting, however tumble-down the plants might be.) To the left of the “visible” left Puddle I have planted some iris germanica that I grew from seed two years ago and left in tiny pots for years; they should be happy enough here, and they should soon shield the last puddle from view. After all, The Puddles are only intended to be seen in glimpses, so that’s why I’ve surrounded them with fairly tall perennials with somewhat over-hanging habits – from right to left it’s iris siberica, hosta (unknovn variety from my childhood garden but with plain green foliage and mauve flowers), sedum (another unknown variety from my childhood garden) and finally the iris germanica.

To allow for glimpses of the water, though, I’ve planted low ground covers at the front; from right to left it’s alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), wild strawberries and some unknown groundcovering plant that I weeded from the Courtyard; it has pretty enough foliage and when established it will have yellow flowers throughout summer. To hold the – preliminary – corner of the area by The Puddles I’ve transplanted a white-flowering plant that grows like a weed here – though it’s certainly a garden plant of sorts.

-Okay, so that plant just went out during a break in my writing; instead this corner is now the site of the newly purchased day lily hemerocallis Frans Hals. It does mean I’ll have an awful lot of spiky leaves around The Puddles (three different types of iris AND the day lilies), but the rest of the planting should soften that impression, and either way day lilies will add some blooms at a season when the rest of the flowers are either budding (the sedums and asters) or spent (the irises, astrantia and lady’s mantle).

The Sunny Border - in the rain

I’ve also made a change to The Sunny Border since this photo was taken. The Japanese anemones seem to dislike the conditions here – though I’ve seen them do well in full sun in the gardens of the Royal Library in Copenhagen – so I moved some of them from the far end of this border to make room for some other newly purchased day lilies hemerocallis Double Firecracker.

The Flâneur Husband has complained about his birthday present, the three roses my parents gave him. I picked out the variety and ordered them, knowing he loves red roses, but the L.D.Braithwaite roses very quickly turns decidedly hot pink rather than red once they are blooming. I guess that’s what red roses do when they get full sun; my other red rose – torn from the ground with my bare hands as I rescued plants from the destruction – is turning that same colour even though it used to bloom truly dark red in its old location is half-shade.

Have I mentioned I love my garden?

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The Flâneur Husband and I are spending our summer holiday in that most exotic of places, the garden. We took a week a few weeks back, and now we have another week off in the run-up to our annual summer party – this year we will be 16 people for lunch and frolicking in the garden.

Danish Summer

The weather last week was perfect summer weather – hot and sunny every single day – so it was great for our two mothers who arrived at the summer house on Wednesday. We, though, arrived Friday for the last sunny day, and since then it has been a very mixed sort of weather – blue skies alternating with dark clouds. A quintessentially Northern European summer, so much better than the summer so far!

My Mother-in-law left on Sunday, and my Mum left on Monday, so it’s not like we’re spending our entire holiday under adult supervision, but it was really nice to have them here – and they got loads done while they were here alone; they painted part of the fence around the courtyard and one of the facades, not to mention that my Mum weeded the Evening Border and most of The Ambitious Border. (The Sunny Border is still too new to need much weeding, whereas the other flowerbeds definitely benefited from it. I wouldn’t trust my Mother-in-law to know the difference between weeds and perennials, but my Mum knows, especially since we hardly have any perennials that she didn’t used to grow in my childhood garden.

Also, my Mum HATES slugs. I mean HATES! She’s the sort of person who brings a pair of scissors when she’s weeding, just in case she’ll unearth some slug burrowing in the flower bed – and then she’ll cut them in halves! On Friday evening I noticed that just 55 hours after my Mum arrived in the garden there were significantly fewer slugs than I’d normally see when I arrive for a weekend in the garden. And after a whole weekend with my Mum AND me in the garden, well… This morning I just killed 5 slugs, and not because I didn’t feel like killing more but because I didn’t SEE more. I’ll be lucky if I end up killing 20 slugs today, where I normally kill a hundred in a day.

The Long View

Anyway, I promised I’d stop just posting close-ups, so here’s a view of the side of the garden I’ve done the most to so far since we bought the summer house. To the right is The Sunny Border, which is at the same time a success and a failure this year – its first. It’s not as lush and full-bodied as I had planned/dreamt it, and I definitely don’t like how much bare soil is visible, but on the other hand… The dahlias have survived in spite of slugs – MANY slugs – and a severe flooding – it was under 4″ of water Friday before last, and that seems to have killed off a lot of growth and a couple of plants entirely – and the ones that flower are spectacular. Also, The iris germanica from my Mum’s old garden bloomed well in May/June, and the Austin roses L.D. Braithwaite that my parents gave The Flâneur Husband for his birthday are doing well. The Anemone hupehensis seem all but dead, though; I’ve seen them grow in full sun in other gardens, but clearly they don’t like it here in mine, so most of them have died. Never mind; I’ll relocate the remainder to a less sunny spot!

To the left in the photo above you can see The Ambitious Border. There are several issues with this border; for one it’s too narrow! It needs to be widened, and of course if you look at the picture you can see that it has a gap between the border at present and The Puddles further down along the same hedge. Eventually I want The Puddles to join up with The Ambitious Border, but this year I prioritised creating The Sunny Border. After all, the South-Western facing part in front of the house is probably one of the best planting areas in the garden!

Perry's Baby Red

The Puddles are doing well in their end of The Ambitious Border; the sedums I planted look somewhat tumble-down, but that’s to be expected since I moved them from a spot in tall grass and ferns to a spot where they have to hold themselves up. Likewise the slug damage to the hostas was to be expected, though it’s still appalling. And the Perry’s Baby Red water lily is getting ready to bloom, hopefully in time for the summer party!

Accidental shopping

Oh, and I didn’t mean to, but… Yeah, the internet is a dangerous place, full of temptations, so yesterday the mailman brought me a box full of these… Three double day lilies Firecracker, three day lilies Frans Hals, three hostas – one of each of Northern Exposure, Tardiana Halcyon and Regal Splendour – three alchemilla mollis/lady’s mantle, one astilbe Purple Rain, one purple astrantia major – Lars and one Echinacea Purpurea.

I’ve wanted some Lady’s mantle for a while since that’s a perennial my Mum used to grow in my childhood garden, and the hostas are just because hostas are lovely and the Evening Border needs filling-out. I’m finding it hard to argue for the astilbe and the echinacea, except that they are pretty flowers, and of course the day lilies are vital, considering that I’ve discovered that we have far too few perennials that bloom in July. (If you look carefully at the picture above you can see that one of the Frans Hals day lilies was even delivered with a flowering stem that survived the postage!) The purple astrantia is also a must-have, and since the Flâneur Husband likes our “normal” pinkish-white astrantias I’m sure he will LOVE the purple one.

White dahlia

The star of the garden right now has to be the white dahlias; for some reason they seem to do better than the darker ones, both in terms of slug resistance and flood survival. They are blooming in profusion and quite saving the Sunny Border from being a mediocre place, simply by virtue of the size of their flowers and the generally stunning appearance.

Finally I’ll give you another cloudscape; I do not garden in a vacuum, and the fjord is very much part of the identity of this garden – and part of what gives this neck of the woods our very special micro-climate. We might have had a rather too wet summer, but generally speaking this is one of the sunnies places in the country since clouds have to first pass the sea, then land, then sea again before they hit us, almost regardless of where they come from.

Fjord view

-And if you look closely you can even find a fragment of a rainbow in the picture above…

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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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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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Forget water beetles, forget dragonflies, forget all that, and instead look closely at the photo below:

Toad in the hole

Do you see it? Just to the right of the two rocks…

Toad in the hole - closer look

We have a toad! All right, so he was here all along (The Flâneur Husband narrowly missed him while he was mowing the lawn the day before yesterday) but that same afternoon he went for a swim! In The Puddles!!! And he stayed there for hours on end, sitting on the sloping rock and seemingly enjoying himself!

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My sore back has delayed The Puddles quite a bit, but on Tuesday it was Constitution Day here in Denmark so I had a day off and went up to the Garden Monday evening.

My back was in too bad shape to do much, so the only thing I really did was level the bottom of the holes a bit, stick in the plastic tubs and drag out the garden hose to fill them. (I had originally intended to fill them with rain water or water from the stream, but carrying buckets of water was not an option.)

The Puddles

You might notice a difference between the colours of the three puddles. I wanted to test what to do with the bottom of the tubs, so in the first one I did nothing – and you can quite clearly see the plastic bottom of the tub. It really just looks like a black plastic tub with water in it, which is clearly not the point.

The middle puddle has a thin layer of clay at the bottom. I figured that would be a way to create more of a natural look, but in the end it seems the clay particles won’t settle so it’s just muddy and yucky-looking. Not really the point, either.

The last one, though, is so far a winner. I basically just gave it a handful of normal garden soil, and it has settled nicely, covering the bottom of the tub and creating a pleasant graduation from the clear water at the top to the mud at the bottom. (This is also the tub where I’ve released the tiny frogbit plants.)

Obviously I need to fill in the holes around the tubs, put in something in each tub so insects and other small animals can get out if they fall in by accident and – importantly – plant the area around The Puddles so it becomes less of an eye-sore and more of a pretty, if quaint, addition to the Ambitious Border. That will be for next weekend when I am joined in the garden by the Flâneur Husband – who has now returned permanently to Denmark!

Meanwhile, the large rhododendron that was in the garden from the beginning seems to have decided to put on more of a show this year than the two previous years. It’s absolutely stunning!

Rhododendron

And the kolkwitzia I got from my parents a year ago seems to be happy enough in its new home and is sending up shoots of new growth. It’s much needed, though, to prevent that people unwittingly step on my shrub…

Kolkwitzia

And yes, in the picture above you can see the state of the lawn. Or should I call it the meadow?

Lawn

-It’s growing rampant these days, but next weekend I will go up there with the Flâneur Husband and then there will be no excuse…

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