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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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Why, pot up cuttings, of course!

A month or so ago I cut the flowering stems of some sedums and put them in water, hoping they would root. Well, four out of 8 did, which is less than my normal success rate with sedum cuttings, but never the less it’s something, especially since I also have three sedum cuttings potted up in one of the windows of our city apartment.

The ones in the city apartment were potted up in their entirety, including the flowers, but I decided to use a different tactic on these. The rooting stalks of sedums normally also produce new leaves, so I cut away everything but the roots and the new leaves.

Sedum cuttings

I potted them up individually in a rich potting soil (intended for growing tomatoes and other such hungry plants), so they should have enough nourishment until spring when I intend to plant them out.

Sedum cuttings

Each pot has a set of roots and a small set of new leaves, and I’ve put them all in a tub of water overnight so they will get a good soak. I will lift them out of the tub tomorrow morning and hopefully this will be enough water to last them a while, since I intend to leave them inside for at least a couple of weeks so they can continue rooting without worrying about frost.

(Mind you, the sedum cuttings I took last year survived being put out into the freezing cold winter, even though they did die back from their new growth and had to start over in spring. This meant they were significantly shorter than my other sedums this year, but that was actually a good thing, since they didn’t flop all over the place like the sedums I moved from the fern patch to The Puddles.

The Puddles in AutumnMost of the sedums in the photo above have flopped and then tried sending upright flower shoots, except for the cuttings from last year who just grew their flowers on short stalks. (And yes, I know I need to get the leaves out of The Puddles ASAP, but I will do that some other day,)

So for now, with my cuttings potted up, I will relax with a glass of red wine by the cosy fire and then head off to bed.

Roaring fire

-Is it wrong that I think this is a lovely way to spend a Friday evening? After all, I think I have outgrown the clubbing days of youth several years ago… (Okay, I might sound like I’m 74, even though I’m 34!)

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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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I spent months getting The Sunny Border carved out from the lawn, digging in compost etc. to make it ready for planting, of course while also doing the same for The Puddles. Lots of work, lots of sod to dig up, move around, lots of compost to incorporate in the soil, lots of planting and so on and so forth.

And then from Monday evening to Wednesday afternoon  I do this:

Unnamed bed

How the *BLEEEEP* did that happen? And with only a few blisters? No broken back, no need to lie down for a week or visits to chiropractors?

This new flower bed is noticeably larger than The Sunny Border, and the soil in that part of the garden is every bit as heavy and clay-y as in The Sunny Border, so I’m really surprised I’ve gotten all this done in so little time. Was I really that lazy last winter/spring, since it took me so long? Or am I just getting the hang of this whole digging-malarkey?

The flower bed has a slightly odd shape; rounded in one end and cut at an angle at the other end, but though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. You see, I have a dream about continuing this flowerbed further, and intersecting it with a path that cuts through at an angle so it appears more or less as a continuous flower bed. It may or may not happen, of course, but at least there’s the possibility.

Unnamed bed

So… In went a blackcurrant bush that has been sitting mirthlessly behind the annex ever since we bought the summer house, a gooseberry that comes from The Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden (and has been languishing in a far too small pot for a year and a half), those Rhapsody in Blue roses that I bought in spring but never got around to planting, the two asters I bought Monday morning and a poor hydrangea that had been sitting around in a dark, overgrown corner of the garden, just waiting to be rescued.

It turns out only 4 out of the 5 Rhapsody in Blue roses survived their miserable stay in the pot, but the 4 look healthy and strong, and the blackcurrant was rotting away at the root, so it came apart when I moved it, resulting in 3 separate plants that each have fresh root systems and look viable, so there is hope that my neglect won’t have any serious consequences.

Also, the fuchsia that I bought this spring to brighten up The Courtyard has proven to be two separate plants, so I divided them and planted them a few feet apart. They will probably need some protection over the winter to settle in, but if they make it, they make it and otherwise it was not a lot of money spent on something that flowered from I bought it ’till now!

Unnamed bed

And the two aster plants I bought in the supermarket on Monday morning? Well, I divided them into the separate plants, and each pot yielded 6 plants.They look rather puny at present, but I have confidence that next autumn these will look great.
Apart from the joy of having a new flower bed, these two days have also – finally – seen the end of the Flâneur Husband’s birthday present from his mother (a cubic meter of compost). It is great stuff, really, but I think it might have been the wrong time to get it delivered in spring. After all, than meant that I could only really use it in new beds and borders, so a lot of it has just been sitting out by the road for the entire summer, looking rather messy in a huge white fibre bag.

(Mind you, since my own composting efforts yield FAR too little organic matter to count when laying out a new flower bed, let alone three in a year, it was great to have that “bag of plenty” sitting in the drive.)
Anyway, there you are. A new flowerbed in less than 48 hours from the first digging to the final planting. (Okay, okay… The final planting is going to be whenever I can fill the gaps, and probably it will be a spring.sowing of annuals next year…) I feel terribly accomplished and efficient!

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Yes, I did. And I’m not ashamed of it.

Slug eggsThis is what the ground looked like under the capillary box that I grew tomatoes in last year (and weeds this year, since I didn’t actually plant anything in it this year…). Or rather, this is what it looked like under the capillary box after I had poured two litres of boiling water over the ground, so these will be dead slug eggs.

Now, there are slugs I HATE (killer slugs) and there are slugs I tolerate. These eggs, by all probability, are from a type of slug that I tolerate, the leopard slug.

Leopard slug

That would be the mother/father of the eggs I killed off. I do kill all kinds of slug eggs, but I don’t mind having a small population of leopard slugs in my garden. For one things they are significantly more stylish than the killer slugs, and secondly they also have a knack for hunting down other slugs and kill them. (And they don’t breed in the same ridiculously prolific fashion as the killer slugs…)

It IS a pest in some ways, but all things considered it’s good to have them in the garden since they are preferable to other slugs and will keep them at bay, at least to some extent.

NOTE: This is only true in areas where the Iberian slug, i.e. the KILLER slug, has invaded, so Northern mainland Europe. Had I gardened on the British Isles, for example, I’d have killed it on sight!

(Also, according to wikipedia, they are rather clever little fellows: “Limax maximus is capable of associative learning, specifically classical conditioning, because it is capable of aversion learning and other types of learning.”)

And now enough of this; I finished digging out the unnamed flower bed in the lawn last night, so now it’s time to find some compost and dig in so I can get some stuff planted in there!

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The weather forecast for the Flâneur Garden today reports intermittent gardening, mixed with longer spells of coffee breaks and some risk of digging.

(In other words, today’s weather is unreliable as you like, with on/off rain and consequently a rather uneven work effort in the garden.)

Mind you, in those brief intervals of dry weather I do seem to get something done. The lawn bed is being dug out, and it’s actually making a decent progress. Yesterday afternoon before I started digging I was playing around with a long extension cord to determine the contours of the bed, and that was clearly a mistake; I should have used a rope or the garden hose – or indeed anything that I could leave out overnight.

New bed

I took that shot yesterday afternoon, but by now the hole in the lawn is a lot larger. Unfortunately, since I had to take the extension cord in for the night, I now have no lines to follow, so there is a very real risk that I might end up with a somewhat wonky edge. -I can tidy that up later if it’s a problem, right?

There is a distinct lack of plants to fill this new bed, though. I do have a blackcurrant languishing behind the annex and a gooseberry merely surviving in a pot in the courtyard, so these can go in (since it will be a fairly sunny location when there are no clouds), and I still haven’t gotten around to planting the Rhapsody in Blue roses I bought in spring and heeled in in a pot in the courtyard, so they can go in as well. That’s already a solid backbone for the bed, I think.

Also, yesterday morning before heading up to the garden I went to the local supermarket to buy some essential gardening supplies – coffee and milk! – and came home with these two beauties:

Aster novi-belgii

They are hybrid asters of the Victoria series (though otherwise unnamed), and though they are only about a foot tall – and about the same in diameter – I suspect they can probably double that height next year if I don’t give them the nursery chop they’ve been given earlier in the season to make them into these compact pot-perfect plants.

These, together with the Rhapsody in Blue roses, will give the bed a purple tone throughout summer. I’m not sure why I end up with so much purple in my garden; it’s not like I’m really keen on purple as a colour, but somehow I have ended up with a lot of purples. From iris to sweet peas, from asters to hostas. Still, I don’t mind; I buy and sow the plants I love the most, and I can deal with the fact that this gives me more purple than I would perhaps have planned from the out-set.

I’m also propagating some sedums that can go in the lawn bed next year. I got a bouquet of flowers from work over a month ago, and it contained 5 stems of sedum Herbstfreude/Autumn Joy, 3 of which have rooted in the vase and are still standing in the apartment window. On top of that I have taken cuttings from the sedum in the garden to make even more new plants so there will be enough to make them look quite established even from next year. (I do like these plants… They are so lush and full-bodied, and utterly dependable and hardy!)

I will need some yellows, pinks and whites in this bed, of course, but that can be annuals in the first year. At least I can get it started with shrubs and perennials from the word “GO”, and that’s always a nice thing.

So there. A new bed in the making, even though The Ambitious Border is not finished yet. But…

What should I call it? Clearly “The Lawn Bed” is too boring a name for a flower bed… I had considered “The Marital Bed”, since it is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but only started on after The Flâneur Husband suggested it, but then what if things start dying in that bed? I clearly don’t want – even symbolically – to be known for my failure in the marital bed, so I need to think of another name. Suggestions are welcome…

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Recently the Flâneur Husband commented on how he was a bit sad that all flowers were concentrated mainly on the South-Western side of the garden. The Ambitious Border, The Puddles, The Sunny Border; everything seemed to happen to one side, and of course he’s completely right.

Mainly this is because I’ve been afraid to attack the main lawn. First of all, to make any sort of impact, a flower bed in the lawn would have to be of a certain size, and clearing lawn is always a big project. (And at times back-breaking.) Secondly, when we bought the summer house he was rather adamant that we should have a large lawn, so I’ve been chipping away at it at the sides where it wouldn’t make too much difference to the overall lawn space.

Mowed lawn

However, the last time we were in the garden together we were walking around and he mentioned that he’d like some more flowers to the North-East and North, and he would quite like a large flower bed in the lawn in front of the rhododendrons (by the garden bench to the right in the picture above). Hallelujah! I WANT THAT TOO!!!

Once the rhododendrons and the cherry plum has finished blooming there’s really nothing interesting happening on the right side of the house until the patch of goldenrods make their show in August/September, so we need something that will be glorious during the summer months.

Wait a minute… Is the Ambitious Border done yet? No, of course it isn’t; there is still a 3-meter gap between the border-proper and The Puddles, so obviously I need to clear that ground before I start digging in the lawn, but the other day my husband asked me if flaneurgardening.com was dying, and I think that’s just because I’m sort of loosing steam here. And what better way to find something new to write about than, well, PLANNING something new!

So what am I thinking about? Well, the lawn that will remain afterwards needs to have certain proportions. There needs to be room for a long table for an al-fresco lunch for 20 people, and alongside that room enough for a game of croquet, pétanque or Kubb, so basically this means an area around 8 x 12 meters should be kept as lawn. (And no, we’re not using competition standards when setting up lawn games…)

This will give space for a narrow path in front of the rhododendrons and a long flowerbed in front of that, perhaps a few meters wide and 7-8 meters long. To eliminate the need to mow a narrow path, this could probably be made of a weed-blocking material covered with wood chips made from our rather large stock-pile of twigs and small branches that are currently piled up behind the house.

So… Once the ground is cleared of grass, the path is made and everything is ready, what on earth should go into such a large flowerbed? Well, obviously I want everything in the garden to be fully hardy perennials, with few exceptions for special plants like the dahlias and some biannuals, but to begin with it would be easiest – and cheapest – to populate a large space like this with hardy annuals.

After all, I do have a seed stash…

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Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,

And over the mice in the barley sheaves;

Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,

And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

 

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,

And weary and worn are our sad souls now;

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

With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

(W.B. Yeats)

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

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

In short, it is what it is.

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

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

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

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

(I hope.)

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I’m a terrible flâneur, it seems. I let my husband fly to London for the weekend on an impulse, and I didn’t go with him. That’s just awful and unforgivable, I’m sure. On the day of reckoning, this is one of the (many?) things I shall have to answer for.

Instead I went up to the garden on Friday after work, but absolutely failed as a gardener by choosing to go back to town already on the Saturday afternoon, since I really just wanted to lie back on the sofa and watch some crappy TV and play some PlayStation. “PlayStation over perennials”, resounds the chorus from the internet, “BUT THAT’S APPALLING!”

I know. But… Yeah, I just wanted to lie back and do nothing at all, so there we go.

The only thing I got done on Saturday was this:

Before

There’s a somewhat nondescript shrub growing at the corner of the covered terrace, and it’s really getting too large. Sure, the bees love its flowers in spring and it produces pretty red berries in late summer, but it was just too big.

After

So chop-chop I went with the hedge clippers, and it’s now at the same level as the fence around the terrace. It has opened up the terrace to the garden, and the “stubbles” will soon be covered by the perennial sweet peas that grow rampant through it, so there’s no great loss, except that the terrace feels less enclosed which can be seen as a good or a bad thing. I’m not sure which side I’m on, but the deed has been done.

(And come autumn I’ll probably chop it even lower so there’s room for next year’s growth without it becoming too big again. It’s rather too vigorous a shrub for that position, really!)

Anyway, I went home on Saturday, and I rode my bike down to the station (20km) and had a really lovely time of it.

Multiple suns

It seems my iPhone doesn’t think it was sunny enough, so the camera decided to add some more suns to the image. Not sure if this is really a good thing, but it certainly looks rather curious! (I never had that problem with my old phone, even when shooting pics directly into the sun…)

It is harvest time, so at times clouds of dust would blow over the road from one of the combine harvesters working the fields of the Jægerspris Castle estate, and somehow that smell just brought me back to my childhood when my Dad would go help my paternal grandparents with the harvest, or when my brothers and I were holidaying alone with my maternal grandparents in the last week of the summer hols (every year we did this; it gave my parents a nice break from having three sons around the house all summer!). People who’ve never ridden on – or driven – a combine harvester or tractor during the harvest probably don’t realise just how much dust is produced, and it gets absolutely everywhere. And the smell is just, well… I love it, but others might hate it, especially if they have a tendency to be allergic to stuff.

Harvest

And for good measure I also visited a stone age tomb I passed on the way; the mound has been “re-vamped” in the 18th century in terraces and geometric tree planting, so it’s difficult to know how much of the tomb chamber is really original. One thing is for certain; they moved the entrance, since the Danish stone age burial chambers where always at a straight angle to the entrance corridor, and this one is in continuation of it.

Tomb

Still, it’s rather impressive to think that this structure was built 5000 years ago. We currently only have about 500 of these burial chambers left – in carious states of repair or decay – but archeologists estimate that there might have been up to 40,000 of them. Sadly many were in the way of farming, and many stones were recycled as building material, but the remaining monuments are somehow magical; a travel in time.

 

Oh, it’s a gardening blog? Sure. Have a rose!

L.D. Braithwaite

This is the latest bloom on The Flâneur Husband’s birthday roses from my parents, and though the picture doesn’t show it, the flower is actually redder and less “H0TT PINK!!!1!” than the previous blooms. I suspect the amount of rain and sunshine has made a difference, and I also suspect that in a less sunny part of the garden, this rose would bloom a truer red. Still, it’s gorgeous, and it’s staying where it is!

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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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