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Archive for the ‘garden’ Category


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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Sunny Flâneur

The picture above was taken quite a long time ago, but I just haven’t gotten around to posting about a rather significant development in the garden. Sometime ago, the Flâneur Husband voiced a desire to pull down the roof over the covered terrace in front of the house. Basically it was poorly constructed and didn’t really handle heavy snow or rain very well; heavy snow would make it sag by an inch so the terrace door from the house would be blocked, and heavy rain would run back towards the house as the incline of the roof was too shallow.

Dismantling roof

So one weekend we got started on the project, with moral support from a friend, seen perched on a ladder in the picture above. Basically it was just a matter of pulling down the roof and the roof beams and leaving the posts and top board all around the terrace to create a pergola or arbour, though with no roof.

View from the roof

Having removed the roof means several things. First of all the house is no longer structurally compromised by a poor addition to it, and obviously that’s the main benefit. However, removing the translucent roof over the terrace also means we get more light into the house – and we get a view of the sky when sitting in the sofa, rather than having the top of the view cut off. And finally we now have a much sunnier terrace, the problem corner to the North-East of the terrace is not as soggy, and generally we have a nicer transition from house to garden.

roof-less

In pictures the difference is not that visible, really; there’s still the frame of the terrace to breack up the length of the façade and make the house appear somewhat larger, and there’s still the low wooden fence around the terrace that means you won’t accidentally push your chair back a bit too far and find yourself toppling backwards into the garden.

We already have several climbers around the terrace – 6 clematis, a rampant honeysuckle and some perennial sweet peas – but we plan to continue planting more so eventually the terrace will become more private. A partial and removable fabric awning of sorts is also being considered so it will be possible to create some shade – and shelter from the dew on summer nights.

This change is really for the better; I shall miss having a covered outdoor space, but we can always add that at another point – and probably in a different location where it won’t darken the house so much or create structural issues for the house.

Sunny Flâneur

So I repeat the first photo. See how lovely it is to have the sky up there?

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Due to some recent tree-felling activities we had quite a lot of pine needles lying about on the lawn, and after we’d distributed a fair amount in the woodland area and around various acid-loving shrubs there was still a ton of it left, so when I aired the option of creating a specific compost heap from it to rot down over the next 3-4 years and create some lovely acidic compost – as an environmentally sound alternative to peat moss spaghnum – the Flâneur Husband jumped on the idea and instantly started looking around for stuff that could be turned into a compost container.

His eyes landed on the small fire wood box that used to be on the covered terrace – a three-sided contraption that used to be up against the house and held kindling dry – and to add a fourth side he re-purposed the back of an old bench where the seat had all but rotted through.

Flâneur Husband with Hammer

The design of it all obviously was a bit “make-do” in style, but it looked decent enough to be placed in the furthest corner of the garden, especially once we started loading it up with pine needles.

Compost box

I think you’ll agree that once it was filled it actually looked like quite a respectable little compost:

Compost box

Pay special attention to the way the ornamental rose carving on the bench back was intentionally displayed, ensuring that – as far at compost containers go, this is quite a pretty little thing:

20130510-103904.jpg

However, within 5 minutes of admiring the finished result we ended up agreeing that it was too small, so it was ripped out and replaced with this much, MUCH larger container made of old fence sections:

Large compost container

Not as pretty, but VAST! It’ll be a mixed compost heap instead, probably shared with the neighbour – whose house can be seen in the picture above – and we will probably take years to fill it. Pretty? Not so much, but practical!

-So perhaps next time will remember to think about what we need before cobbling anything together? Then again, maybe not…

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I’ve been taking a walk around the garden this wet morning, and something struck me. Well, apart from the rain drops that insisted on falling on me, even though I was clearly not attired to be rained upon; I find that very inconsiderate of the weather! Or perhaps I should know better than to walk around in the garden in my bathrobe when there’s a drizzle?

Anyway. Something is missing in the garden.

Tulips in the rain

Look closely at the picture above. See how there is not a single slug in sight?

The dreaded Killer Slugs should be abroad by now, feasting on everything they can lay their what-ya-ma-call-its on.

Peony shoots

The peony shoots are also delightfully slug-free. (Though surrounded by weeds. Ah, well; you can’t have it all, can you?)

Sure, we had a cold and long winter and a late spring, but the Killer Slugs, a.k.a. the invasive Iberian slugs that have been wreaking havoc in Danish gardens over the past decade, are normally quite hardy and should be able to survive even a cold winter as they burrow 6 inches into the ground to hibernate.

Lawn

On a wet morning in May they ought to be out in droves, but they are nowhere to be seen. Not that I’m complaining, mind; I’m perfectly happy if they never return – and more than a little naïve if I think that’s likely…

We do have the native small garden slugs, but they are fewer and less aggressive than the Killer Slugs.

Snail

We also have lots of snails, but again they do much less damage than the Killer Slugs – and are easier to deal with as they are less yucky than 3-5-inch slugs!

Red tulip

Anyway, this means that I have not yet gotten my slug-killing spear out of the shed this year and instead of looking for slugs to kill I can just enjoy the flowers in the garden.

Yellow tulip

I must say, I could get used to this killer slug free style of gardening, but I guess I had better remain alert because sooner or later I’m sure they will appear and then the War On Slugs will be on again.

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Do we have a vampire in the garden?

battle wounds

Nay, it is merely one of the roses – Rhapsody in Blue – that fiercely attacks anybody coming anywhere near it! Including – as you might have guessed – this innocent gardener who merely wanted to weed the flower bed where these roses are located. *sigh*

However, that same flower bed has other, more docile yet still tenacious, inhabitants:

Tulips

Tulips

When they first emerged, the tulips quickly looked destined to serve only as a snack for the deer – which was expected, really – but after the deer ate them all down to 4 inches they seem to have had their fill of tulips, as they have since left them alone.

This means that at least the majority of the 100 tulip bulbs I planted this spring have decided to flower. Yes, I did write “this spring“… I bought the bulbs in autumn, thinking I ought to have time enough to plant them, but then one thing led to another and before I knew it the frost arrived early and the ground became like concrete, so my poor tulip bulbs were left in their sack on the terrace, fully exposed to the freezing temperatures.

Well, it seems these tulips are fully hardy, because without counting I’d estimate a success rate of around 95%. It was a mixed bag with yellow, orange and red tulips – according to the website I bought them from – but so far it seems they’re just yellow and red, giving a rather stark contrast, rather than the more mellow colour scheme I had hoped for. Still, tulips are wonderful in all colours and all combinations, and perhaps the orange variety is just a bit slower than the yellow and red ones. Who knows, who cares. It’s pretty!

Mirabelle

Speaking of pretty… The mirabelle plum tree is looking spectacular – as it does every spring. The picture doesn’t do it justice with its cloud of white flowers taking centre stage in the garden. The cherry plum next to it – and the cherry plum in the lawn – are both more modest in their pink bloom, though the one in the lawn would normally be a match for the white mirabelle blossoms except that we cut it back rather severely last year, so it only has a small number of new branches on which to sport flowers. Both bear fruits that are rather tasteless and dull, but they are pretty and hardy and I absolutely love them!

Dianthus

Now back to the lawn bed where I’ve also planted some red semi-double dianthus. I couldn’t quite get my camera to capture the dark, velvety crimson of the petals, but they are truly lovely. There’s no guarantee they will be able to survive a winter in our moist clay soil, but at least they will look pretty this year and might return next year. I think of them as an extravagance, really, having paid DKK 20 (roughly 2£ or 4$) for each little plant, but then I guess I AM a bit frugal and shouldn’t really knock myself about the head over spending 6£ on pretty flowers.

(Not, mind you, that I don’t spend money on flowers without feeling guilty, but normally they are either larger or cheaper than these dianthus. Like the ‘Peace’ rose I picked up for 6£ yesterday, along with 3 fuchsias at 1£ each. They too will go into the lawn bed…)

Thyme Citrus 'Aureus'

Last week I also picked up this little sweetheart; Thymus Citrus ‘Aureus’; a lemon-scented thyme with variegated leaves. So many times when you buy a pot of thyme it turns out to be dozens of tiny plants in a pot that needs to be separated and planted separately in order to stand a chance of survival, but this is actually just one plant that just happens to be very bushy and pretty. I’m afraid, though, that I shall wear it out, because I keep running my fingers through it to enjoy that lovely lemony scent.

nesting box

The last picture in this entry will have to be a plain old nesting box. It was here when we bought the house 3 years ago, and the starlings seem to like it, because again this year we have starlings nesting. It’s in the large birch trees down by the road, so it’s in full view from the sofa and I’ve really enjoyed seeing the starlings flutter to and from the nesting box with all sorts of nesting materials in their beaks. Now, though, there’s less activity as it seems the nest has been built, the eggs have been laid and we are now just waiting for the hatching…

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panorama

Is it too late to start dreaming about new projects for the garden in 2013? Of course not; if anything it’s too early. After all, I tend to do my main projects in autumn when the garden slows down and – crucially – when there are fewer guests so it’s all right if I make a big mess of things. For me that’s the time to dig new beds, whereas spring should really be more about maintenance and filling out the beds I dug the previous autumn.

After all, when summer arrives I want the garden to look it’s best – whatever that is. This summer “best” will most likely include debris of pine trees scattered over the lawn as we’re cutting down 10 trees on the property line to the North-East; they are boring on our side, dead on our neighbour’s side and prevents our neighbours from getting any sun on their lawn throughout the afternoon, so they need to go. (And when they go, hopefully the hedge under them will fill out and give us a privacy screen at ground level, rather than from 4-15 meters up in the air!)

Last year I dug out The Puddles in spring, and that was probably a bad decision, because it meant I wore myself out digging there and had little energy for the rest of the garden – as witnessed by the non-existence of a vegetable patch last year – but then I dug out the new lawn bed in autumn and that seemed almost effortless by comparison and is quickly filling up with plants. So autumn is definitely the time to execute new ideas, and that means spring is the ideal time to dream them up!

But… What is to be my dream this year? Well, besides the tree-felling there are some “smallish” projects to tackle, like finishing The Ambitious Border so it runs uninterrupted along the length of the South-Western property line, incorporating The Puddles. That’s perhaps 5 square meters to dig out, which is easily done. (Quoth he, knowing full-well that statement would come back to bite him in the posterior!) I ought also to focus on creating more of a privacy screen towards the road, especially in the Woodland area where the Flâneur Husband had a stroke of genius and suggested planting rhododendrons in front of the Woodland; it would give them semi-shade, moderately acidic soil and all in all good conditions, and they will soon be able to cover that open view under the trees. (I have bought two new rhododendrons and suggested planting them in a position where they’d look good but serve absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever, whereas his suggestion combines aesthetics and our desire for privacy in the garden.)

Taking the rhododendrons out for a pint

Taking the new rhododendrons out for a pint

Anyway, I still haven’t decided what will be the “grand project” for this autumn. Perhaps the twin of the lawn bed should be merged with the rhododendrons to be planted in front of the Woodland? That would be quite a project – and it would begin to tie to two “sides” of the garden together. So far I’ve mainly been focused on the South-Western side of the garden because that’s where we tend to spend the most time due to the sun, but that means I’ve been more or less neglecting the North-Eastern side – except for the apple tree which gets plenty of attention, and NOBODY except me is allowed anywhere near it with pruning shears!!!

So what could happen in a large, prominent bed that continues the line of the lawn bed bud extends backwards to the Woodland? Well, the rhododendrons are decided upon, of course, and with the large over-hanging prunes at the back I think I’d want some tall shade-tolerant plants at the back in general. Preferably shrubs, so perhaps just more and more rhododendrons. (We have some that are still small enough to be moved if necessary, and more could be purchased as and when necessary.)  The first lawn bed has a predominance of shrubs – more by accident than intent – as I’ve used it to house roses, black currants, red currants and gooseberries, with an area in front for perennials which has turned out to be heuchera, Eryngium, phlox and other random plants. So the second lawn bed would need something different; perhaps a raised section for plants that like well-drained soil (something we do not have naturally, which is actually a blessing as it means even the hottest of summers will not leave our garden parched!) or perhaps an actual pond – as opposed to The Puddles.

“A pond“, you say? Well, The Puddles have really excited me, and I’d be thrilled to do something larger along the same lines; wildlife friendly, surrounded by dense planting and with a few aquatic plants in there. After all, I already have too many water lilies for my puddles, and the more natural sort would enjoy more depth and space. And of course the animals probably wouldn’t mind, either. Last year I spotted a newt in puddle 1, last weekend I spotted two newts in puddle 1 and today I’ve spotted 3 newts in puddle 1 and one newt in puddle 3…  That’s 4 newts!!! In The Puddles!!! “If you build it, they will come”, they say… Well, it has proven true so far! Today I also spotted some sort of insect larvae of a size where it can only be damselflies or dragonflies…

And all the initial fears about creating an incubator for the mosquito population have been allayed ages ago, since it seems one day The Puddles will be teeming with mosquito larvae and the next they will all have gone, no doubt thanks to the newts and toads. They are a complete success, so I’m at the same time compelled to and daunted by the idea of creating a larger-scale habitat. What if it isn’t such a rampant success? What if it fails miserably? And what if it turns out to be an absolutely marvellous thing?

Clearly I need to think about this a bit more, but the idea – the dream – has been planted in my brain, so we shall see what happens.

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The puddles have been iced over most of the winter, but they seem to have survived quite well; the water lilies are sporting new shoots that are ready to head for the surface soon, and now that I’ve cleared out the algae it’s also possible to see that some habitants are still living there – and some have returned from winter hibernation on land.

Always have a toad in the Puddle

I spotted one toad in The Puddles, but the one pictured above is actually one that was rescued from the drain well where it had fallen in, so I had to fish him out and relocate him to The Puddles where he has a chance to get out of the water if he wants to. Or she; what do I know.

Newt

We also have two newts in one of The Puddles; that’s one more than last year, and I continue to be thrilled by these creatures. When I was a child my Grandmother took us over to the bog to catch salamanders to release in their forest pond, so I’m ecstatic to have them join me in the Flâneur Garden quite of their own volition. I’m hoping desperately that they will decide to use The Puddles for procreational purposes, but I’ll leave that up to them…

Aquatic snail

Another set of volunteer immigrants are the aquatic snails. I really have no idea how they got here, but I guess they must have come as stowaways on some of the plants that I’ve set in The Puddles. Somehow I like these much better than land-based snails and slugs. (Well, except for the Roman snails which I also love.) The largest one has a shell that’s nearly an inch long, so they are not completely tiny.

Of course we also have water beetles, water bugs and lots of other insects – including a population of mosquito larvae that is quickly being decimated by the other inhabitants of The Puddles, much to my satisfaction.

The area around The Puddles looks quite bare still, but the perennials are beginning to shoot and soon it will once again be slightly overgrown and the black edges of the three tubs will be obscured by hostas, sedums, wild strawberries and so on, so I’m chuffed to bits and full of anticipation.

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