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Archive for the ‘dahlias’ Category


20130704-184301.jpgLook carefully at the picture above. Notice something odd?

Well, of course you do. You instantly noticed how the dahlia in the picture seemed intact and uneaten by slugs, right? After all, a dahlia in a slug-infested garden should look more like this:

20130704-184308.jpgHowever, both pictures are from my garden, though I must admit that the first dahlia was only planted this evening, so the slugs probably don’t yet know it’s there. Clearly the second picture shows a dahlia that the slugs know far too well.

But… Some time ago, the Flâneur Husband read somewhere that dead moss could work as a physical slugs barrier. It won’t harm the slugs, but  supposedly they don’t like crawling over the dead moss. It makes sense, really, as they don’t like coarse sand, sawdust and other coarse surfaces, so it might work.

To give it a go I had to get up on a stepladder and use a lawn rake to try to get enough dead moss off the roof of the annex, and as you see in the first picture I’ve spread it thickly around the newly planted dahlia in a barrier 6″ wide. I’m curious to see if it will work, but my fingers remain crossed for now (making it rather difficult to blog…).

Anyway, this entry won’t be all about the slugs.

20130704-184325.jpgLook; the first daylilies are blooming! Yesterday there were no flowers, but today there are two – with many more to come. This is an unknown variety from the Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden (perhaps hemerocallis fulva?), and it happens to look just like the daylilies my own mother and grandmother had in their gardens; it’s been around in Danish gardens since around 1900 and it’s as reliable as it gets. It spreads a little – enough to ensure that people could give their neighbours surplus plants, probably accounting for it’s wide use – but it’s manageable and perfectly adaptable to any weather the Danish climate can throw at it. 35 Celsius summer day? Fine. -20 Celsius winter nights? Fine. Rain? Fine. Drought? Fine. It’s a tough plant, and I love it for it.

I’ve also purchased some other daylilies for the garden last year; ‘Frans Hals’ and ‘Double Firecracker’. They are doing well enough, I guess, but they are still disappointing compared to the “heirloom” daylily. They are more prone to slug attacks – which is a major concern in our garden – and they don’t seem to bloom quite as effusively. Still, maybe they just need to mature, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt…

20130704-184416.jpgA plant that doesn’t need “the benefit of the doubt” is the deadnettle in the Evening Border. This year I haven’t really gotten around to weeding it – does it show? – and that means that there are some rather attractive long grasses growing there and a vast number of deadnettles. I quite like it, though it wasn’t the look I originally aimed for with this narrow border up against the Uncovered Terrace.

20130704-184406.jpgStill, sometimes wild flowers should be allowed to do their thing if they actually look as good as anything you could create yourself, and in between them are numerous rudbeckias and 3 hostas (as well as four clematis to climb the posts of the terrace), so it has become a mix of wildflowers and cultivated plants. I’m not quite decided about it yet, but I quite like the wildness of it, and the cultivated plants in the border are fortunately tough cookies that won’t mind the competition. It takes a lot to knock out a rudbeckia or a hosta, right? And the clematis prefers some undergrowth anyway, so it seems a good idea to wait and see what happens, rather than attack the border with a belated weeding frenzy.

20130704-184343.jpgAnother “wilderness” in the garden is between The Puddles and The Hedgerow towards the road; there’s a spirea japonica growing amidst a tall weed with flowers that somehow echo the flowers of the spirea. I quite like the combination, and it makes me happier about the spirea that I didn’t really like at first. I’m not sure what the weed is – or whether it might actually NOT be a weed but something a previous owner planted on purpose – but it grows to 6-6′ and dies completely away in winter. It might be a perennial, it might be an annual, but either way it spreads like crazy, so even though I like the foliage and the flowers I regularly have to pull out volunteers in areas where they don’t belong – and where they will inevitably flop over before blooming.

They are spreading around The Puddles, which is all right since there they are supported by the iris, the lady’s mantle, the hostas, the astrantias and the daylilies, but in other parts of the garden there’s just not anything sturdy enough for them to stay upright, and that quickly gets to look messy.

20130704-184252.jpgA weed that doesn’t look messy is this yellow-flowered groundcover. I don’t know it’s name, but I love it. I pulled up loads of it when weeding The Courtyard last year, and the weeded plants were all repositioned in front of the first puddle. It seems to be battling it out with the wild strawberries for supremacy, but hardly any other plants get a foot to the ground so I am planning to use it as groundcover in other beds in the garden. (Let’s face it; it grows freely in the lawn, so it’s not afraid of anything!)

And that will be all for this jumble of an entry tonight. If any of you have a name for the yellow-flowered weed – or the tall white-flowered weed – let me know. Eternal gratitude (or at least as long as I remember it, which might not be very long) will be your reward!

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My Mum came over last week for my Mother-in-Law’s 55th (okay, 65th – but don’t tell anybody!) birthday, and she brought quite a haul with her. She brought a large trailer full of goodies for me, including of course my dahlias that have overwintered in her frost-free shed and were potted up in early May.

The haul also included:

  • 9 large pots for the terrace, the Courtyard and wherever else we might want to stick them. Most of them a 15″ or more in diameter, so they can hold their own even if I use some in the garden to add some height or focal points to the beds and borders.
  • 1 bicycle – because the two bicycles that came with the house when we bought it were both rather shabby and needed replacement, and my Dad’s bike was just sitting in her shed, taking up precious space.
  • 1 sun bed (or whatever you call it) so my Mother-in-Law has somewhere to recline gracefully in the garden when she visits. We used to have two, but they were both nasty plastic things and fortunately both have collapsed under visitors in the past year so we could throw them out. My mother’s sun bed is made of aluminium and a nylon mesh, so it’s much more solid – and doesn’t need to be stored inside during winter!
  • 1 plum tree ‘Anita’ that she originally bought for her own garden but then decided against. It’s 2.5 meters tall and will have red plums as far as I can see, and as Anita is the name of my Mother-in-Law my Mum felt that it belonged in our garden.
  • 1 large toolbox – without tools – so we can get our tools in the apartment organised, rather than having a screwdriver here and a hammer there and not knowing which is where.
  • 1 small wardrobe that used to belong to my great-great aunt or something like that. It’s dark oak with a weathered mirror front and it will help us keep the house tidier by simply giving us more space to stick things out of sight.
  • 1 bag of stones with holes in them – don’t ask me why she brought those, but I’m sure I’ll find something to do with them.
  • 1 crate of home-made apple juice.
  • 2 pots of cuttings; lavender and something else I can’t quite remember what is. These come from my Grandmother’s garden, so of course I really hope they with root and be happy.

She also brought her new dog; it was the first time I saw her since I went to check her out before my Mum decided to buy her:

Flâneur Puppy

She’s grown so much, though admittedly she’s still a tiny dog and probably won’t be very big when fully grown, but she’s adorable and rather well-behaved for a puppy. She seemed to enjoy sitting on the steps of the terrace and supervise the garden while my Mum and I sat on the terrace.

The plum tree was planted immediately, whereas the rest of the plants and pots have just been dumped in a corner to be placed in permanent locations next weekend when the Flâneur Husband and I shall be spending the weekend in the garden. The tree has been aligned with the small apple tree and one of the axes of the terrace, so in time it should look like a logical placement without being too stringent.

Plum tree 'Anita'

The white tub at the back holds the dahlias that needed a thorough watering, so they got an overnight soak, whereas the tree that has lived for nearly a year in a tiny plastic pot has been nursed a lot more so it was ready for planting. I’ll have to re-fill the planting hole, I’m sure, as the soil is certain to settle quite a lot. I loosened it so much that when I’d planted the tree and watered it, I tried firming up the soil but ended up ankle-deep in mud…

I do like fruit trees… So pretty in spring, and yet not purely ornamental. This plum tree fits in with my original idea of letting the less-used North-East side if the garden become an orchard of sorts, and with an apple tree, a pear tree and a plum tree it seems like we’re well under way. I suspect, though, that we will need another pear tree in the garden somewhere, since the pollination of our current pear tree is at best rather haphazard and it has never yielded more than two pears in one year.

Anyway… Lots of presents from Mum – again – and lots and lots of hopes for how they will enhance the garden. And planting a tree is always so satisfying. As the Danish poet Piet Hein wrote:

You have shares in a future;
For that you must plant a tree.

Perennials are for ourselves, whereas trees will only look good when they are old – and I shall probably be in my grave, or close to it. The trees are planted for a future we might not see ourselves, but if you look at our new plum tree and squeeze your eyes nearly shut I swear you can almost see what it could look like 60 years from now.

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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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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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So the freezing nights over the weekend did their thing, and the dahlias responded as predicted:

Dead dahlias

No more dahlia flowers for me this year, but considering that they bloomed consistently from the end of June on to now, I think they’ve proven themselves worthy.

And to imagine that all this came out of a few packets of seeds – that weren’t even all used! (Remember, I sent half to my Mum, and I actually didn’t even use my own half completely because I just didn’t have room in the windows in the apartment…)

I think I will leave them where they are today and just enjoy a lazy afternoon, having finished painting the rear of the annex today. I’ve had a nasty cough for the last few days, so I’m planning on spoiling myself with a woolly blanket over my feet, a novel in my hand and perhaps the odd swig of red wine in my mouth. (Ooh, perhaps I should mull some wine? I know it isn’t Christmas yet, but mulled wine is excellent for a sore throat…)

Allright, so here’s the recipe:

First you take 5 sticks of cinnamon, 20 cloves and – if you are so inclined – the rind of an orange. Stick it all in a jar, cover it with snaps, vodka or similarly strong spirits (Rhum would work very well, as would brandy or cognac.) and leave it for roughly 12-48 months.

Mulled wine extract

Okay, so that might be an exageration…What I mean to say is that each year at the end of December I prepare a jar like this and then I leave it until Christmas comes rolling round again.

Depending on how much mulled wine you make during the holiday season, normally a small jar will be plenty. I’ve used this 300cl jar for years and it has never come up empty… Perhaps because I don’t know many who like mulled wine, but never mind.

To make the perfect mulled wine you need a quarter of a jar of this extract, two bottles of wine, a cup of sugar and as much additional alcohol as you’d like. When I was an au pair in France I was taught in the Danish Church in Paris that you should add one bottle of snaps for every four bottles of wine – adding the snaps AFTER you’d taken the mulled wine off the heat, but this is not a recipe I can recommend. You’d get drunk just standing next to the punch bowl…

Mulled wine

A mug of wine, mulled and ready to drink. Except that in Denmark mulled wine is normally served with raisins and almond chips.

I love the taste of the warm wine with the spices; it’s perfect on cold evenings, especially when you have a cold or a sore throat. (I currently have both, so that’s my excuse…)

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They survived the whims of a hap-hazard gardener, they survived a two-hour ride on public transport, they even survived a sustained slug attack for months (okay, the entire summer), but will our heroes be able to survive THIS?

Frosty dahlias

I had hoped our area would stay just clear of the predicted frost so I could see the very promising purple dahlia buds turn into flowers, but I guess that’s unlikely to happen, considering that it will be even colder tonight. Still, they put on a great show, all together, and I think that growing these from seed is probably the most satisfying garden activity of the year.

For now, though, there is nothing to do. I’m off to the city for the weekend, so I can’t cut them down and lift the tubers until next week. The frost is only on the surface, though, so it will just kill the flowers and leave the tubers unscathed – and the freezing has been so light that there is actually a small – very small – chance that the flowers will have survived well enough to be left standing for another week, considering that temperatures aren’t likely to dip below freezing again during the week from Sunday onwards, but you just never know.

Also, a few words of wisdom… When you wake up in the morning and see frost on the lawn it is NOT recommended to rush out to take pictures of your dahlias in your bathrobe; put on some trousers, or it will not just be the dahlias that feel a touch of frost…

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There isn’t much bloom left in the garden these days. The sweet peas are clinging on to their last flowers, and the rudbeckias are doing their best in front of the covered terrace – but they will look much more impressive next year when they’ve settled in more!

And then there are the dahlias in The Sunny Border.  They just won’t quit!

Dahlias

The colour combinations are completely random, as these were grown from mixed-seed packets, but I might label some of them so I know where they will look their best next year. For instance, the coral on in front definitely looks out of place with all the whites and the pastels, so it should perhaps be given a spot in a different bed next year….

The prettiest part of the garden right now, though, is probably the lawn. A few areas are still green because there are no large trees or shrubs nearby, but large swathes are coloured brown with oak leaves, yellow with mirabelle leaves or purple with cherry plum leaves.

LeavesAnd in some places, like the photo above, a few cherry plum leaves dot the yellow surface of mirabelle leaves and create quite a beautiful spectacle in their own subtle way. I think it is quite the loveliest thing in my garden, even surpassing my much-beloved dahlias right now. -Though probably not so much when I start raking them up… That will be quite a job! And of course the dahlias need to be dug up, probably next week once the first frost has killed off the plants above ground level. And the lawn really needs a final (high) mowing. And spring bulbs need planting. And I’m sure there is much else to do, but right now I am sitting by a warm fire, enjoying the sound of the wind shaking the trees and the sight of my yellow lawn with purple dots.

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