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Archive for the ‘dahlias’ Category


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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  • 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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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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Today started out with a nice, mild, sunny morning with barely a wind, but then this afternoon the wind picked up and it started to snow. *sigh*

-And then as I was leaving the office the snow turned to rain… *sigh*

But: My dahlia seed order arrived today! That makes up for the weather, at least in part. *YAY*

(I also received a text from my optician that my new prescription sunglasses are ready to be picked up, but given that the weather forecast hasn’t a sun in sight before possibly Saturday, I decided that it’s not urgent to pick those up.)

I may try to limit myself (only four different packets of dahlia seed, and each packet will be split evenly between my mother and me), but at heart I think I might be a seed hoarder; I feel like buying all the seeds I can get my hands on – flowers, vegetables, perennials, annuals – even though I know there’s no way I will have the time – or space – to prepare enough beds for them. So I’m trying to make a list of what I need, and I guess I only really NEED to buy beans, and maybe some peas in case the seed I collected last year isn’t viable.

Last year I had three kinds of beans – or rather, I had two and the slugs had the low yellow beans before they had even reached 5 inches – and this year I think I will restrain myself to two kinds. I need to have normal French climber beans, and then perhaps runner beans, broad beans or some other slightly more rustic bean type. (The slugs stayed away from the climbing beans last year, perhaps because I sowed a row of marigolds between the two rows of beans; I shall repeat that this year and hope that it was the scent of marigolds that kept the slugs away. I collected plenty of seeds last year, so there should be enough to sow a row in each of the vegetable patches.)

I’ve already bought brassica seeds (radishes, kohlrabi and kale), so basically that will be my vegetable garden this year. I will need to watch the slugs, though, which is very difficult when I can only get up to the garden every one or two weekends… Slug pellets WILL be used, though of the sort that is approved for organic farming and is supposed not to harm any other animals than gastropods. They contain only wheat flour and iron phosphate, and I hope they are as harmless as they claim to be – except of course for the slugs.

(One summer evening shortly after we bought the summer house I collected – and killed – 179 Iberian slugs, a highly invasive species of slugs that seem to have a much greater appetite for plants – and procreation – than our native slug species… They are now endemic throughout Denmark and like cool, damp areas like, say, our garden! Wikipedia says: “The main reason behind problematic invasions of gardens by the Spanish slug is that it has adapted to a dry climate, where most eggs will dry out before hatching. The slug lays hundreds of eggs so that at least some may hatch. In the less dry regions of Northern Europe and Britain, the constraints of drought do not limit reproduction to the same degree.”)

(God, I have a lot of parentheses in this post!)

Anyway… Where’s my spring? And my weekend so I can get up to the garden and ger cracking with all the stuff that needs doing, including digging out a new bed from the lawn, extending the Ambitious Border and getting the raised vegetable beds into some sort of shape before the growing season starts!

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So what is this project that involves a transparent plastic box, you ask?

Well, it’s the dahlia flower bed, of course! I needed to find a solution for sowing them in the windows in the apartment and then being able to transport the seedlings up to the summer house and the garden – by public transport!

Miniature green houses cost a bundle, and as often as not they seem slightly flimsy and not really up for being transported by metro, train and bus, but these plastic storage boxes are cheap and sturdy, and they’re small (30 * 40 * 12 cm) enough that I can stack them in one of the large IKEA bags and schlep them up to the garden once the seedlings need to go into the ground. (And hopefully they’re JUST high enough that I can put the lids on when I need to transport them, even if I might have to gently bend the little plants if they grow too well…)

But of course growing the seedlings will have to wait for a while, since I can’t realistically plant them out for another 2-2½ months, so I will sow in April and then plant them out when it seems the weather has warmed up enough for the little darlings.

-And before I can plant them out, I also need to execute the other leg of this project; creating the bed they will end up in! It’s currently just a stretch of lawn, and though I’ve already started skimming off the sod the ground is also heavily compacted clay soil and will need to be worked quite a bit to become as I would like it.

-Which is where my husband’s birthday present from his mother comes in… His wish-lists tend to be somewhat unorthodox, and this year she had originally thought she’d buy him a load of firewood for the summer house, but when she called me and asked what I thought we had just ordered a load ourselves, so she jumped to another item on the wish list; soil…

Now, it’s great that she spoke to me about this before ordering anything, because we obviously don’t need soil as such; we’ve got plenty of that, but the issue is that it’s too clay-rich and heavy, so we just need to amend it. So on her behalf I ordered a ton (literally; 1000kg!!!) of fully mature coarse compost… My hope is that this will help make the ground more free-draining and generally lighter to work with and easier for plants to grow in. (And there should be plenty for the new bed as well as some for the Ambitious Border and the raised vegetable beds.)

I look forward to getting on with this project, but of course we will see how the weather behaves.

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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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