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Archive for the ‘dahlias’ Category


I love October. I really do. It might be partly because I was born in October. Yes, I do believe our birth month influences our favourite season, but not because of our birth as such. Rather, I think we grow up looking forward to our birthday as kids, and as a consequence our birth month is subliminally programmed into our minds as a season to look forward to.

Mind you, October has its objective charms:

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My dahlias are still going strong; I expected them to keep going until the first frost but never the less I’m still a little bit impressed that this flower bed is just becoming better and better. Sure, some of the flowers, like the ones below, are less than spectacular in their own right – I really dislike the rather faded salmon colour of these flowers, but they have a pretty shape and as the picture shows they are great for bees and other insects at a time when loads of other flowers have gone.

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I’m feeling rather down these days, though, in spite of my love of autumn. It’s hard, being unemployed and sending out application after application and getting – as a best result – rejections. It seems a lot of companies no longer send out rejections unless they have an automated system to do it for them, and this is quite understandable, considering that some of the jobs I’ve applied for have had 5-600 applicants for a single job.

Of course it doesn’t help that The Flâneur Husband is off on a 2-week business trip. I miss him, of course, but just as importantly he gives me a weekly rhythm which is just going haywire when he’s away and I don’t have a job. What’s week, what’s weekend? It all blurs and becomes a gray sort of non-time.

I’d probably be quite content to be a stay-at-home husband if the circumstances were right for it, but they aren’t. First of all we can’t afford it – and money is obviously a major determining factor in deciding your life style – and secondly I’m just not sure I would have enough to DO to occupy me, were I to be a full-time stay-at-home spouse. We live in an apartment, and the garden is by our holiday home, so there’s no way it could provide me with full-time entertainment.

Still, it can give me highlights like this one:

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So… I still need a job. Not just for the money, but for something to do with my time.

I’ve been rather down-hearted lately, though not in a “depressed” sense – I’ve previously been diagnosed with depression and I have the deepest respect for that term, and this is NOT depression. It’s just a rough patch. I want to stress that difference because the term “depression” is so often abused to describe “feeling down” or “the blues”.

It does mean I’ve been unable to do some of the things I wanted to do. I didn’t get the big foodie-post written up for Claire‘s guest-blogging post, and there have been many other things I haven’t gotten around to doing, even though I had promised myself to do it.

People do understand, though, that this is a rough time to go through, and my biggest problem is to tell people what is happening, including my husband. Somehow it’s easier to share this with a somehow anonymous public, rather than telling it to friends and family.

At the same time, remember – as I do – how privileged I am. There are so many other people out there where unemployment means the risk of not being able to feed their children, getting proper medical care or other serious implications. If this entry makes you feel compassionate and makes you want to help others, find a charity that helps people in developing countries. I can help myself, but others don’t have that luxury.

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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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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost 1920)

Come, join me on a flâneur commute to the garden:

Today I decided that rather than take the train and bus up to the Summer House I’d bring my bike on the train and then cycle the 18km (11 miles) from the station to the house in Kulhuse.

Okay, so it ended up being a lot longer and taking more time than originally planned, because the weather was lovely, and when travelling by bicycle you have the option of taking detours and doing sightseeing, which is not really possible on a bus.

For the first 8 kilometres, though, I followed the main road up to Jægerspris village. First of all it is a pretty stretch of road and second of all it has a great bicycle track along the road.

The FjordWhether by bus or by bike, when I cross the bridge over Roskilde Fjord I always feel a sense of calm; I’m leaving the World behind on the other side of the Fjord and retreating to a simpler place.

Bicycle TrackThis is the bicycle track along the road, so you can both see the beauty of the road and the practicality of having the bicycle track (centre) apart from the road (in the left of the photo).

Bike

In Jægerspris village I turned off the main road into the grounds of Jægerspris Castle. After this point there is no bicycle track along the road, and the road becomes very straight, so cars tend to go very fast on the narrow road and it’s just not a nice place for a cyclist if you can avoid it.

Instead I opted for the forest lanes and tracks, which are perhaps a bit rougher but also immensely more pleasant.

Monument to Gerluf Trolle and Birgitte Gøie

The castle grounds are scattered with monuments to the Great and Good men (and VERY few women) of Denmark. This particular monument is actually for a married couple from the 1500’s, Herluf Trolle and Birgitte Gøye, and in many ways she was probably more important than him.

Forest Puddle

The forest North of Jægerspris is wonderful. It’s a mixed forest of beech, oak, birch, fir and pine – and the odd other tree in-between. Parts of it is still run as a commercial logging forest, but most of it retains the air of the old royal hunting grounds with dense undergrowth in places, open clearings in others and small puddles and ponds scattered throughout.

FieldsIn places the track suddenly opens up and you cross a short stretch of fields before returning to the forest. I love the contrast of coming from the enclosed, shaded forest track out into the open where the sky is high and the barley moves in the wind.

Forest Pond

This pond was absolutely gorgeous. You could only just glimpse it from the track, so I got off my bike and stumbled through the bracken and honeysuckle until I got to the edge of it. On the far side of the pond you can just about make out a few white dots of the flowering wild water lilies.

Snoegen - The Twisted Oak

This is Snoegen, the twisted oak, one of the three famous oak trees in our local forest. I’ve never gotten around to seeing more than one of them, so I took a few detours to include them all in my trip. The last living branch fell off the tree in 1991, so now the only leaves on the tree are ferns and a small sapling oak that has sown itself in a gap and is now growing in the decomposing tree.

It’s difficult to tell the actual age of these old oaks, but the twisted oak is estimated to be around 8-900 years old.

Kongeegen - The King's OakThe King’s Oak is the only one of the three large oaks that’s still alive, though it too is in a rather decrepit state. Its age is estimated to anything from 1400 to 2000 years, making it a likely candidate for the title as the oldest living organism in Northern Europe.

The oak used to have a 14-meter circumference, but one of the main branches has fallen down, taking a huge section of the trunk with it, so now the tree is only a small fragment of what it once was. The photo is taken from the “back side” of the tree.

It was never a very tall oak, though, and in fact all the old oaks are rather short and stubbly, indicating that the landscape around them when they formed their main shapes was probably open land, rather than forest as today. And the forest is part of the reason that the old oaks die; they have been smothered by taller trees around them, and the last one living may or may not be only one winter storm away from dying.

Storkeegen - The Stork Oak
Still, there is a certain grace to a slow decay. This is the Stork Oak, named after an 1843 painting entitled “Oak with stork nest in the North Forest by Jægerspris”. The last living branch fell in a winter storm in 1980, and the trunk is completely hollow. The shorter section to the left in the photo is actually taller than me, just to give some scale to it.

This is the youngest of the three oaks, estimated at around 700 years, and it was the only one I had seen previously. All the oaks are within walking distance of the summer house if you take a 2-3 hour walk in the woods, so it’s appalling that I haven’t seen them all before.

The meadows by the fjordAnd then the track reaches the meadows by the fjord where cattle graze the marsh. This is the sort of landscape that used to be where the summer house now lies; back in the 1950’s a lot of farmers made a lot of money by transforming poor agricultural land – including pastures – to plots for holiday homes in this area (and indeed in many other coastal areas of Denmark) as the post-WWII austerity quickly moved towards a time when the working class became middle class.

Our cul-de-sac of holiday home plots was created in 1952, and back then there wasn’t a single tree here and even the plots closest to the road had a view of the fjord. Now, though, it’s difficult to recognise the meadow when you look at all the mature trees. The only way you can tell the story of the landscape now is by digging into the soil where it is quite obvious that just under the fertile top soil there is clay sediments with various sea shells from when this was part of the fjord. (Or you could go down and look at the dike and the pumping station that does its best to prevent the area from flooding during heavy rain…)

Cactus Dahlia

My journey ended here, with another dahlia blooming in the garden. In fact there are quite a few now, though it’s still not quite the fireworks border that I hope it will be a bit later in summer. This one is another one grown from seed, and I quite like how it seems to be a semi-double cactus hybrid. One of the wonders of buying mixed seeds is that you don’t know what you’re getting, so you have the element of surprise!

 

I should have taken this trip a long time ago. Many times. In fact, if I omitted all the detours and just took the direct route – and went at a normal pace, rather than taking it as flânerie-au-vélo – it wouldn’t take much longer than going by bus, and of course it would remove the reliance on the rather erratic bus schedule. Sure, I might not do it in the pouring rain, but then I have the bus as a back-up.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed sightseeing with me!

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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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On Friday evening and Sunday morning we had some rather severe – though short – bursts of rain. An inch of rain within 15 minutes on both occasions, and obviously even our drained lawn couldn’t handle this much water in such a short time. It all drains away eventually, but it has left the garden looking somewhat sad.

The goatsbeard has flopped over, the climbing rosa multiflora has broken the temporary trellis I built for it after some heavy rain knocked it over a week ago, and of course there are The Puddles…

Flooded Puddles

-Or should I say “The Puddle” in singular? It seems the rain has turned the whole area into a unified stretch of water, which is clearly not the plan.

The trouble is all due to the fact that I haven’t finished the area around The Puddles; where the turf has been dug away the soil level is a good 2-3 inches lower than the surrounding lawn, so obviously it will be prone to flooding until I build up the soil level again. As in all my borders I want the soil level to be at least an inch above the lawn so all flooding will occur on the lawn and not in the flower beds.

Still, the water will drain away eventually, and at least nobody can say that the plants haven’t been well watered in after I planted them.

Anyway, although flooded at the moment, The Puddles are doing their job:

Dragonfly

Today I counted 6 blue dragonflies and one red one. Personally I think they are even prettier than butterflies, so I am thrilled to have them attending my tiny waterscape. I’ve seen them in the forest around here before, but never in our garden, so I count this as a success!

Sure, there are also slugs eating away at the iris, hostas and asters (I seem to have created a slug buffet by accident; the astrantia is the only plant they don’t molest), but they would be there with or without The Puddles. And I have water beetles, common pond skaters, hoverflies and loads of other great insects visiting already, so I’m really pleased with the biodiversity this element has added to the garden.

It has been a wet and cold spring and summer so far, but for some reason my dahlias have decided to start blooming. Nothing profuse, mind you, but still… Considering that they are really not meant to bloom around here before August, they are definitely early. So far I have one bloom – an Arabian Night tuber that I overwintered in our attic – but there are also blooms underway from some of the dahlias I grew from seed, so it all looks very promising.

Arabian Night

Even this one flower is, I think, worth the trouble of lifting the tubers, bringing them back to Copenhagen and overwintering them in the attic. When I leave tonight or tomorrow morning I will pick this flower and bring it back to the Flâneur Husband; one should never forget to bring flowers to one’s loved ones, even if it’s just a single flower from time to time.

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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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