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Archive for the ‘Ambitious Border’ Category


While I was weeding The Ambitious Border Friday and Saturday (Sunday I was simply too knackered in my back and shoulders after two days of forking and kneeling – and I’m only 33! I definitely need to shape up if I want to keep up with the garden…) I couldn’t help thinking some of the weeds were simply just too cute to throw away, like this little baby:

Okay, so that picture is a recycled one from my post on the lawn, but to be honest there were areas in The Ambitious Border that looked much the same. Before I started the weeding, my Mother-In-Law mentioned that she wouldn’t know what was weeds and what wasn’t, and to be quite honest the mess in the border didn’t give any indication of what was supposed to be there and what wasn’t, but by Saturday afternoon she could definitely see what was supposed to be there, because there was nothing else!

Anyway, back to the little blue beauty! It has a creeping, spreading habit, and then it sends up its little flower spikes “soaring” 5 inches above the ground, so I figured that a) the lawn would inevitably encroach on the clear area around the 5 New Dawn roses I planted by the two hammock trees (a blood plum and an oak) so I might as well try to control which weeds will grow there, and b) these plants have such small, shallow root systems that I can’t imagine they will compete too much with the roses for food, especially considering that they are right next to 20-foot trees.

Today I realised, much to my joy, that the little blue beauty has a name; Ajuga Reptans (“creeping lip-less” in Danish; not the most flattering name!), and it’s actually not just a weed but also a perfectly accepted ground-covering perennial that can be bought from nurseries and garden centres!

I do hope they will spread out nicely on the bare soil around the roses now that they have no competition from grass and other weeds.

So there, an upgrade from weed (although pretty) to a desirable perennial! Thank you, Google!

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I might not get a LOT done this weekend, but what I do get done makes a visible difference!

Another stretch of the Ambitious Border has been weeded (shouldn’t it actually be “de-weeded”?), and now I only have one meter left before I reach the end of the bed. -Then, of course, I might extend it, because the ambition is to let it follow the entire length of the hedge, but I do have to pace myself.

Between the spots where I had annuals last year and the spots where the acanthus and the globe thistles have gone AWOL, I now have enough space for most of the perennials that are currently in temporary storage beds, so I can actually start thinking about where to put each group of plants.

Next weekend I’ll be up here with the Flâneur Husband, so we can plant the border together and get the vegetable beds sown up. And maybe extend the border a little to make room for sowing some annuals?

Friday’s weeding

Saturday’s weeding

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Yesterday I started on the weeding of the Ambitious Border… Oh dear; more like “the area where perennials grow in the lawn”, actually, but at least I have now cleared a section of it – and managed not to damage the plants in the process!

I only did about a third of it, though, because  a) it’s backbreaking work and b) I’m up here with my mother-in-law this weekend, and it seems unsociable to have one’s head in a flower bed while having company, doesn’t it?

Mind you; I’ll do another section today, and then perhaps the final furlong on Sunday, so when the Flâneur Husband comes up here next weekend it might actually be possible to see what’s lawn and what’s flower bed!

The peonies, bleeding hearts, astilbes and a single hosta have been liberated so far, and next up are the day lilies and goldenrods. There should be an acanthus in there somewhere, but I can’t spot it at the moment, and I’m sure my mother also planted some globe thistles when my parents visited last spring… We’ll see if I find them in the mess!

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  • Pack up loads of plants from the windows of the apartment and bring them up to the garden.
  • Dig a hole for that poor blackcurrant that has been lingering on top of the ground – yet surviving – for nearly a year now…
  • Mow the lawn/jungle if and when the weather is suitably dry.
  • Plant up pots in the courtyard.
  • Weed the Ambitious Border and the Evening Border.
  • Sow the vegetable garden.
  • Build ad hoc cloches for the tomatoes and dahlias.
  • Divide and plant the hostas from my mother’s garden that have overwintered in a pot in the courtyard.
  • Wash all the bedlinen to get that musty winter smell out of them.
  • Take at least one outing on the fjord in my kayak.

It’s a tall order, but if I get just half of it (okay, two thirds!) done I’ll be happy enough.

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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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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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Today I received a call that my husband’s compost – his birthday present from his mother – was delivered this morning, and of course this means I have a full weekend planned.

I have only gotten as far as outlining the Sunny Border – a project I’ve imagined ever since we took over custodianship of this garden – so I need to dig away the turf and fluff up the soil beneath, mixing in a good measure of compost.

The other day I bought something I don’t particularly like; a long piece of 8″ deep corrugated plastic to serve as a boundary between the Sunny Border and the lawn, simply so the grass won’t invade the new border the same way it has invaded the Ambitious Border. I might invest in more of this once I’ve weeded out all the grass in the Ambitious Border.

It’s not pretty, for sure, but since it will be fully buried in the ground I guess I can live with it. I would have preferred a more natural material, but buying the wood to make something similar would a) be too expensive and b) probably be worse for the environment in general, since that wood would have to be cut, transported etc. to get to the garden.

 

In other news the dogwood and forsythia branches that I forced in the apartment now have green leaves. The forsythia might have lost its yellow splendour, but the dogwood is getting ready to show off a few bunches of tiny white flowers. And both the dogwood and the forsythia are beginning to show signs of roots!!! NEW PLANTS!!!

If they survive long enough they will end up in the Hedgerow toward the road, screening our haven a bit more from the outside world. More blossoms in spring, more variegated leaves in summer, more red dogwood stems in winter.

 

I picked some sedum stems last autumn as part of a bouquet of flowers for the apartment, and as the rest of the flowers faded the sedums started creating roots in the vase. I threw the rest of the flowers away, cut down the sedums to a few inches, and all through the winter they’ve stayed alive in a glass of water on the kitchen table. Yesterday morning I decided that spring had arrived and that perhaps in a month there might be room in the garden for the remainder of a bunch of flowers, picked for their beauty and retained so that beauty might regenerate. So I potted up the small stems with their fragile roots and tiny leaves.

It was propagation by accident, but I kept them alive. I watered them, nursed them and loved them – willed them – alive. It’s the greatest feat of magic imaginable, isn’t it?

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Because I took a day and a half off at the end of last week to visit my parents I had to do some (LOADS) work on Sunday, and I decided to just do it from home, rather than go into the office. And this is what my work space looked like; forsythia in bloom and dogwood just on the cusp of showing its leaves…

There is a bunch of forsythia and dogwood in each of the windows in the sitting and dining room, and though some fortsythia branches are blooming more than others (I really need to get those pruning secateurs out this year!) they make a wonderful display of spring. Even if the branches on the dining table might be slightly over-sized… It looks like I’ve stuck a small tree in the middle of the table!

My mother wants to buy my husband a rose for his birthday (and he knows this), and I’m considering L.D. Braithwaite. Does anybody have any experience with this Austin rose? It looks stunning, and it seems easy to take care of, but of course sellers might be deceptive…

Also, my Mum and I have hatched a plan to attempt growing dahlias from seed. I will order the seeds, split up the packages and send her half – along with copies of the seed packets – and then we shall see what happens. We both want bold, exuberant flowers for little money, so we will be ordering some seed mixes for large dahlias. I do realise this will mean I have to have a windowsill or two of compost in the apartment, but if that’s what it takes…

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I’ve got lists and lists of stuff that needs doing at work, in the apartment and in the summerhouse, but here I will just give you the list that’s relevant for the garden:

  • Finish removing the lawn for the semi-circular flower bed at the South-West end of the house. This will contain clematis and perennial sweet-peas against the patio and tulips and annuals in front, perhaps with a few structural perennials added here and there to give some interest once the annuals die away.
  • Mow the lawn for the last time this year. This should have been done the last time I was up there, but I just didn’t get around to it. (The lawn is rather an unwanted step-child in our garden, at least as far as I’m concerned, hence the desire to carve out flower beds here and there and as much as possible!)
  • Plant the perennials from my parents’ old garden – this might initially be in a temporary location in the semi-circular bed, just because that’s where I have room for them right now. I can work on creating a more permanent bed for them over the winter and then move them in spring.
  • Lift lily and gladiolus corms and dahlia tubers and pack them up in newspapers for the winter. I’m not sure where to store them, but I think they might come back to the city with me and be stored in our attic box room; it’s neither heated nor insulated, but I would think the heat of the five stories beneath should keep it frost-free.
  • Cut down the bean stalks and pea plants in the vegetable garden mix them with compost before spreading it in the vegetable beds. Also, some compost will be worked into the semi-circular bed, so combined with a digging loosening up the soil, this should make for a nice “fluffy” soil to plant in.
  • Weed the Ambitious Border and mulch it for the winter.
  • Sweep up leaves etc. to mix with compost to CREATE mulch for the Ambitious Border…
  • Collect fir cones, random twigs of interesting shapes, seed stands etc. that might be used for Christmas decorations. Let’s face it, I’ve got a large apartment to decorate this year, and my husband has requested that I go all in with the Christmas this year since my mother-in-law will be spending Christmas with us (as will her brother and his girlfriend), and perhaps also my parents if my dad’s fit to travel.

Now, don’t worry; I’m not intending to get through the list this weekend! I just want to make a dent in it, and especially concerning the things that needs urgent attention. Getting the semi-circular bed dug out and dug through so the perennials from my parent’s garden can get into the ground, rather than living in plastic bags in a suitcase in the attic room is definitely the main issue.

I promise, after next weekend I will try to make a post with some pictures – perhaps even of what I’ve gotten done so I can use that as a motivational prospective Saturday and Sunday.

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Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

(From W.B. Yeats: The falling of the leaves)

– At least, this is what the weather feels like this July. Cold, windy and wet, these days would fit right in during November, and they’re certainly a far cry from hazy, warm summer days.

I’m getting in an autumnal mood, beginning to think about what there is to do in the garden this autumn. Digging, moving, planting. Great stuff, really!

(Of course there’s still a hope that we might actually get some summery weather in August, and maybe a touch of Indian Summer in September, but who knows.)

I could moan about the absence of sunshine and hot days, but instead I revel in planning activities for when autumn arrives properly (so not only the weather, but also the calendar says “autumn”).

  • I want to move the roses. There are currently two roses (one red, one white) standing rather close to the house, and they look like they’d appreciate getting a bit more space, so I will carve out some more space for them from the lawn and move them perhaps ½ to 1 meter out. This should give them space to become slightly more bushy in appearance, and it will also give more space to add other plants around them.
  • The rudbeckia are not happy where they are, getting only a touch of evening sun. I kind of knew that when I put them in the Evening Border, but I’m thinking that once I create the Sunny Border, that’ll be just the spot for them.
  • The small hosta in the Ambitious Border looks somewhat sullen, so it can be moved to the Evening Border where it will only get a few hours of sunshine every day.
  • The cotoneaster from my mother’s garden doesn’t have an actual home yet, being just sat with it’s root clump atop a piece of lawn, so I need to work out where to stick it. Perhaps in a large pot in the courtyard?
  • In the Ambitious Border there’s a perennial that I don’t know the name of that is being strangled by the shrubs in the hedge towards our South-Western neighbour, and I think it would be happier either further away from the hedge or even in the Sunny Border.
  • The Chinese anemones are very shade tolerant, but I think they might need to be transferred to a place with at least some sunshine, as they are currently not doing a great deal where they are.
  • The perennials (mainly different types of iris and one aster) on the site of the previous sand box need to be moved into the Ambitious Border.
  • Parts of the kitchen garden might be moved to the North-Eastern part of the garden, between the pear and the apple trees. This is still up for debate internally in my mind, so the idea might be scrapped later on.

Later this week I’ll go up there with my husband, and I can’t wait to walk around the garden with him. I do hope the weather will be at least a touch less autumnal, just for those few days… Fingers crossed!

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