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Archive for the ‘City Life’ Category


Tomorrow morning The Flâneur Husband and I will be heading off to Vienna for an overnight get-away for absolutely no particular reason at all, other than that my Mother-in-law wanted to give us a treat to celebrate our second anniversary on September 4th. She’s footing the bill, and we just have to enjoy ourselves – and send her a post card… Gotta love that!

Vienna 1902

We have booked tables for lunch and dinner, as well as a hotel room for Saturday night, but other than that there are absolutely no plans. Neither of us has been to Vienna before, so I guess the best plan is just to say that we stroll around the city and take in the place slowly and leisurely.

Obviously we HAVE to stop by the Cathedral, Stephansdom, and I’d rather like at least a short stroll around the boulevards since I once wrote a university paper on Viennese town planning in the late 19th century, but it’s all subject to change.

The weather forecast looks nice, the hotel looks nice, the restaurants look nice and I need to get a haircut today so I, too, will look nice.

Vienna weather forecast 3-4 November 2012

Good times ahead…

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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.

 

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,

And weary and worn are our sad souls now;

Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,

With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

(W.B. Yeats)

All right, so it’s not autumn yet. Not ’till tomorrow… But there are goodbyes to be said, and this poem popped into my head as a suitable set of words to describe my current mood.

I got laid off yesterday, and am now on what some companies refer to as “garden leave“. I’ve loved working in my old company, but I’ve also for quite some time been looking for a new job, so it’s a melancholy feeling, mixed with a sense of relief. It’s definitely not all bad, though of course it’s certainly not all good, either.

In short, it is what it is.

It was all very civilised, as these things should be, so I guess it qualifies for the term “amicable divorce”; I shall be missed and I shall miss my old colleagues, but such is life.

So next week I will be gardening! On garden leave. Maybe this means that this year I can actually get the garden ready for winter? -Something I failed miserably at last year, partly due to business and partly due to wet weather in the few weekends I made it up to the garden, and which had knock-on effects that lasted well into spring.

The lawn needs mowing, the annex (with the storage room, the workshop/shed and the spare bedroom) needs painting and of course a good weeding is never amiss, so I can definitely keep myself busy while I begin to work out what I want to do besides gardening.

Autumn is the time when you look back and see what worked and what didn’t work; which plants were stars and which were failures; what do you want more of, what do you want less of (SLUGS!); what should be played a bit different, tweaked a little, next year. And so I will begin looking at the garden and my CV with the same set of analysing eyes, seeing what I enjoyed and what I didn’t and then taking it from there. After all, in a garden there is always that much-vaunted term “Next Year”, and the same goes for work. There will be another chance at creating something that will be even better, even more satisfying, even more life-enhancing.

(I hope.)

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A few weeks ago, as we were getting ready to leave the summer house and return to the City, I decided to cut some of the deep blue aquilegias that grow  between the paving stones in the courtyard. I know they’d bloom while I wasn’t there, so I figured the budding flowers would look nice in a vase in the apartment, and so they did.

The buds dutifully turned into flowers, and I was happy. It’s my favourite colour of aquilegia, but sadly we only have it in the courtyard where it is a weed, really, so I was so thrilled last week when I noticed seed heads starting to form; there must either have been some kind little fly that chose to pollinate these flowers, or else they were just shaken sufficiently when I have been airing out the apartment, because today they look like this:

The colour of the dried petals is a truer blue than the actual flower, which has a slightly purple tone

Of course there’s always a risk that the seeds won’t be true to type, but considering that I have no other colours of aquilegia in the apartment, I’m feeling confident that the seeds will produce the same lovely colour if I sow them out in the Ambitious Border.

So, this means that I have now used cut flowers and branches to propagate forsythia, dogwood and sedum so far, and with aquilegias in the making. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Free plants are the best!

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I went up to the garden after work yesterday, simply because the weather was so spectacular (and sadly looks set to grow colder, greyer and wetter over the weekend).

Anyway, the forget-me-nots are now in full bloom and an absolute delight where they’ve been allowed to spread because I’m not mowing the lawn as close to the “woodland” area towards the road as the previous owners did. They happily compete with the grass in this rather shady area, and they turn a dull, useless area into something very pretty:

-Right next to them is a bit of omphalodes verna, which in Danish is called kærminde; “treasured memory”. Now, not only are the names quite similar in many ways, but the flowers are also very similar, so they create a little blue corner.

The past weekend I planted 30 dahlias in the Sunny Border, and I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s too small, but maybe it’s just because I need to get cracking with the Ambitious Border right opposite it so the Sunny Border won’t be the sole focus.

Also, I need to visualise what it will look like when all the dahlias are 1 meter tall, the Chinese anemones begin to send their delicate flowers hovering over the coarse(-ish) foliage, the outlandish shapes of the blue iris flowers exploding over the grass-like spikes , and of course the red L.D. Braithwaite roses that my parents bought the Flâneur Husband for his birthday. We’re some time away from this scenario, but these are all plants I know, so I know what each will end up looking like, and together they will be spectacular.

-And of course the bed is backed by perennial sweet peas, honeysuckle and a purple clematis surrounded by blueish-purple geraniums at it’s feet.

Come summer, this will be stunning, for sure.

Another stunner – albeit more in personality than in looks – is this little guy:

It’s the starling who has taken a shine to one of our nesting boxes. Now, of course I love any bird that will nest in our garden, but I also love how this little guy goes about finding a mate. When you see ducks mating, more often that not it seems more like a rape than the basis of a family, but this little guy spends most of his time in the tree where the nesting box is located, flapping his wings, pushing out his chest and calling out to the entire neighbourhood “Here I am, where are you? I have a good home for us and our offspring!”

And then the sun began setting, I went to bed and this morning I left very early to get to work on time, but it was definitely worth it!

Mind you, Copenhagen is not a bad place on a sunny spring evening:

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No, this is not going to be another post about what it looks like when I work from home, surrounded by vases of blooming forsythias or whatever. This is about REAL work, the kind that will produce visible, tangible results in the garden.

There is a large table in the bathroom that would probably be ideal for changing nappies if you had a baby, but since we don’t I have put it to other use:

I use it as a work surface for sowing seeds and potting up cuttings, and then the results are transferred to the windows around the apartment, especially the bedroom window since this is the window that gets the most sun (from dawn to around 1pm). The sitting room windows get slightly less sun, so I use those mainly for cuttings and for growing on tubers and roots.

This is what I currently have growing in the apartment (with a few omissions because there were pots I forgot I had tucked away):

As you can see I’m cheating by starting off the dahlia tubers in the apartment. This is because the slugs love them, and I figure a larger plant will be more able to survive a slug attack than a completely new shoot. There are also dahlia seedlings, pots with dahlia seed that has yet to make an appearance and – because the tubers grow so happily – a small pot with three dahlia cuttings that so far look like they will survive.

There are also two pots with tomato seeds and of course a tray of sweet peas. (And a box of DEGT seed – Don’t Even Go There – i.e. Zantedeschi Aethiopica with a germination period up to 3 months…)

And in the back of the dining table you can see a vase of dogwood branches that have rooted in the water. The variegated foliage is still pretty and adds a touch of spring to the apartment, but more importantly the roots are well-developed and eventually I will cut the branches back to only a couple of leaves and then plant them out in the hedgerow. I’m sure they will be happy there, and with dogwood there’s never even question about whether it will survive.

I do wish I could go out into the garden every afternoon after work, but since that’s not an option I do enjoy being able to get things going in the apartment, even though it will be a nightmare to transport everything up to the garden by bus and metro and train and bus…

(Oh, and tomorrow I’m flying over to the Flâneur Husband in Aberdeen and will be returning on Sunday with a suitcase full of three small rhododendrons that I will then plant in the garden on Monday… It seems silly in a way to move plants that far, but on the other hand they’ve brought him so much joy during his expatriation that I think it’s perfectly sensible to bring them to Denmark so he can continue to enjoy them.)

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I’m packing to go up to the summerhouse and the garden for the weekend straight from work today, and I think this might be one of the more challenging aspects of growing seedlings in an apartment and then bringing them to the garden by public transport; I have a big sports bag that is now stuffed with seed trays and I desperately hope they will survive the journey intact…

Also, what to do when I get to work? Do I unpack my seed trays and place them in sunny windows around the office to the bemusement of my co-workers, or do I leave them in the bag and feel guilty for keeping them from sunshine for an entire day?
I do think it would be easier if the garden was just outside the sitting room windows, but a remote garden is better than no garden!

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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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A while ago, A Woman Keen On Sensible Footwear (a.k.a. Wellywoman) commented on one of my recent posts that she wasn’t aware that forsythias would root in water.

Well, the proof’s in the rooting, as they say:

Granted, it does take some time, which is why this lovely vase is grimed over with lime scale, but it’s a perfectly easy way to propagate this bush, either to create more of it or to create new undergrowth if it is beginning to get too top-heavy and tumble over.

I generally find that most branches will root in water, given enough time, and the trick with the forsythia is just to let it bloom away, drop its flowers and then wait for the leaves to appear. Once you have leaves on your branches, the roots will be there in very little time, with no need for rooting hormones, special treatment or anything.

In the vase above – as in all my vases of forsythia – I have mixed the forsythia branches with red dogwood. The red stems create a nice counterpoint to the brash yellow flowers, and once the flowers are gone the dogwood – in this case a rather pleasantly variegated cultivar (ooh, look at me throwing proper gardening words about; “variegated”, “cultivar”!!!) – will start showing leaves sooner than the forsythia. And of course the dogwood have as lovely flowers, even if less attention-seeking, as the forsythia. And the dogwood, too, roots before long.

Considering that I’m trying to replace an ugly wooden fence with a hedgerow of living plants, I think this sort of propagation is about as easy a solution as you can get! I could, of course, also just start pinning down overhanging branches, leaving them for a year and then cutting them loose and transplant them, but this is so much quicker and also adds to my connection to the garden. I have it right here with me in the apartment!

The pot at the back of the picture above is the sedum flowers I brought in as a bouquet last autumn and decided to keep, since they started rooting.

So far it seems that my success with cuttings is a one-all; I have had no success with rose cuttings, in spite of taking numerous the year before last, but I’ve had great success with flowers that were just picked to be pretty in the apartment and then decided they wanted to live!

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Squirrel


imageMy phone camera is more than capable of taking a decent shot of a cute little squirrel foraging by the side of a path in the cemetery opposite my apartment.

However, it struggles when the cute little squirrel is scared into a tree by a passing bicycle:image

Anyway, these pictures were taken this morning when the sun hadn’t risen sufficiently to reach more than the tree tops of the cemetery.

image

Now, though, the temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius (77F) and the sun is shining from a clear blue sky. And…The Danish Meteorological Institute defines a “summer day” as a day when the temperature passes 25 degrees, so apparently we have summer in October.

-That, I believe, is sufficient reason to go downstairs to the café on the ground floor and have a spot of lunch by a table on the pavement, no?

Tomorrow I will go up to the garden and see how it fares, and I’ve taken Monday off work so I will have time not only to look, but also to do some actual gardening! The bulbs will go into the ground, there might be some moving about of perennials and there will definitely be some weeding and tidying up.

But now it’s time for lunch.

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