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crocus

Spring finally arrived in Denmark last weekend, and today I arrived in the Flâneur Garden to have a lovely and relaxing weekend here that may or may not include hard physical labour. We shall see about that, all depending on whether the chain saw will work or not. (The chain saw is, by the way, not for the crocuses – or should that be ‘crocii’? – but for the piles of fir logs cluttering the lawn after the Flâneur Husband and one of his friends took down three trees before Easter.)

Crocus

Oh, look, there’s another crocus! The top one was in The Evening Border on the North-West side of the covered terrace, but this one was growing under the hazel bushes. I have no idea how these bulbs came to either of these places, but I’m just glad to see some colour in the garden after all the snow and ice.

I also found a small host of pale mauve crocuses growing under the rather misplaced brambles by the entrance to the courtyard. They really ought to be moved this weekend while I still notice them so next year they can flower in a slightly more prominent position.

Tulips

One flower that isn’t blooming yet but hopefully will is the tulip. Or rather, the tulips. I didn’t get the bulbs in the ground in the autumn as you’re supposed to, so they spent the winter on a garden chair on the covered terrace – ensuring they definitely got more frost than if they’d been 4″ in the ground – but apparently the bulbs I bought were not aware that they should have spent the winter underground, as they seem perfectly happy to grow after I finally got them into the lawn bed 4 weeks ago. I guess some times plants don’t realise – or care – that the gardener is a bit negligent or caught out by early winter.

Puddles in need of clean-up

Things are also growing in The Puddles. It’s amazing how much algae will appear with only a week of spring weather! The tiny solar-powered pumps that normally provide some modicum of movement in the water were taken out before the onslaught of winter, but it seems it’s time to put them back in as soon as I’ve pulled out all the brown leaves and algae – after all, leaf mulch is excellent for beds, borders and whatnot, but not so great for puddles.

Please note, though, that there is also something green growing between The Puddles! The sedum ‘herbstfreude’ are looking very promising, and I almost feel guilty already that I’ll probably be giving them the Chelsea chop in about a month and a half… (Last year the mature plants grew too tall and flopped over into the adjacent puddles, which is clearly not a great look, whereas the new cuttings grew to only half the height and stayed out of the waters.)

In that area – and anywhere else in the garden that I have them – the irises and day lilies are also looking very good. Oh, ye trusty oldy cottage garden perennials; you never let me down! And in The Ambitious Border there are tiny red peony shoots, and the roses of course seem to just YEARN for warmer temperatures so their budding leaves can unfold.

Speaking of roses… I had a small “accident” on my way from the city to the summer house today. I had some waiting time between arriving in the town of Frederikssund by train and leaving by bus, so I did some rather flâneur’ish shopping in a supermarket – a bottle of wine and a box of candles is surely all the sustenance one needs, right? – and then before I knew it I had added a few plants to the basket. One was a “Sutter’s Gold” rose, but there was also a red currant and 10 plugs each of blue lobelias and purple petunias. All are destined for the lawn bed, except for the petunias which will most likely go in pots in The Courtyard. The red currant will fit in nicely with the black currant and the gooseberry that’s already in one end of the bed, and the “Sutter’s Gold” rose will be a nice complimentary contrast to the “Blue Rhapsody” roses in the other end. And the lobelias will help cover some ground so it won’t be too weedy, at least I hope so.

So there. Things have finally thawed in this neck of the woods and spring has fully arrived. Who’d have thunk it just two weeks ago, eh?`

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Well, Summer Time starts tomorrow at 2AM – or should I write 3AM?

Anyway, today was a mix of things. We got up and had to go up to Elsinore – Helsingør is the real name of the city, but I guess most of you will only have heard of it through Shakespeare – for a funeral. A man my Dad’s age who died of cancer last Saturday. It was a friend of my Mother-In-Law’s, so I didn’t know him very well. I liked what I knew of him, though; he was intelligent, well-read and enjoyed talking ancient Danish history and Medieval literature with me whenever we met at my Mother-In-Law’s.

I think, though, that it was the parallel to my Dad’s death that kind of shook me. It was really hard for me to sit at that funeral, harder than I thought it would be. There is still a lingering sadness, remnants of grief. Something – someone – that is not there any more. For all that we didn’t have in common, for all that we didn’t understand in each other, for all that was not right, he was still my father. Was, not is. The past tense can be cruelly acute in certain circumstances.

When we came back to Copenhagen I continued – alone, as I needed some solitary time – up to the summer house. The snow has nearly melted in the garden, though there are still patches of white here and there – and a layer of ice on my three miniature ponds – but spring is coming. Some day, and hopefully soon. I wanted to have a few days alone up here, so I will be here until Monday evening. The lawn is littered with branches and other bits of the trees Denis and one of his friends cut down last weekend when they were up here, but that can wait. After all, the lawn won’t need mowing for another month, given that the ground is still frozen in places and the grass hasn’t grown since November.

I do have some plants to plant, though, if the ground has thawed where they need to go. Astilbe, sedum, phlox, heuchera, eryngium and loads of other Latin names. And I can sow some hardy annuals so they are ready to germinate whenever the soil warms up to 5 degrees Celsius. All right, so it’s a miserable spring to be gardening in so far, but eventually REAL spring will arrive and there will be stuff growing and flowers blooming – and I will be able to get my dahlias in the ground and set the gladiolus and lily corms.

Perhaps later in spring – when we are done with the kitchen rebuild and there will be plenty of weekends in the garden – I might even consider digging out another flower bed in the lawn. The one I dug out in autumn will soon be filled to capacity, so I need more space to plant flowers in. One can attend too many funerals, but one can never have too many flowers.

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Well, first of all pardon the rather crude title of this entry, but it is addressed to the deer that seem so fond of nibbling on our roses and then do this:

deer droppings

I mean, I’m all for getting some free deer manure (well, “free” is an exaggeration; I pay it with perennials, rose buds and whatever else the pretty things like to munch on through the year), but couldn’t they at least be trained to leave their droppings where they have eaten?

If they’re going to stop and smell taste the roses, couldn’t they also leave their droppings there so they return the feeding favour to the plants? Rather than leaving the droppings on the lawn…

Speaking of the lawn… Now that all the snow has disappeared again I’m really happy I got around to giving it that last trim just before frost and snow set in; it somehow makes the garden look “tidy enough” with the cut lawn, even if there are twigs here and there and some leaves that have blown about. And yes, deer droppings.

Lawn in winter

The garden does look rather drab today, though, doesn’t it? Compared to the glory of what it looked like last week, it certainly is less bright and festive, but there are still a few highlights.

Goldenrod seed heads

I love how the goldenrods provide winter interest with their fluffy seed heads that seem to retain their fluffiness in spite of snow and rain; there’s a lightness to them that seem to contradict all the other down-heartened perennials that have given up the will to live – well, at least that’s how they look, though of course they will be back next year – and I love how they move in the wind and somehow look like a black and white version of their old, flowering self.

(Some might even say that their seed heads are more tasteful than the rather garish yellow bloom, but I love that, too.)

I’ll end this with a rather special treat: One of our fir trees is sporting the most stunningly beautiful cones at the moment!

Porcelain fir cones

Okay, the more botanically minded of you might remark that fir trees don’t normally suspend their cones from ribbons – and you’d be absolutely right, of course. Yesterday I did what one does when unemployed; I went for lunch in the Tivoli Gardens in central Copenhagen with my mother-in-law, and she stopped by one of the stalls and bought these two un-glazed porcelain cones that I think are absolutely gorgeous; I love un-glazed porcelain, though it can be quite a hassle to keep clean. However, for Christmas baubles I think it is okay as they are unlikely to get very dirty ever. (Well, unless you play around with them in the garden, of course, in which case you really have to be careful not to drop them.

Now, the reason they ended up in the garden was that while my mother-in-law was carrying quite a generously sized handbag at the time she asked me if I’d have room for the small package in my bag, so apparently they are a present. I think they will look lovely on our tree on Christmas Eve – when my mother-in-law will obviously also be there to enjoy them – and they somehow seem like a very beautiful modern take on the old-fashioned glass fir cones that we also have two of, inherited from my mother-in-law’s mother.

Christmas

I do like them a lot, though obviously new ornaments will never be as cherished as the heirlooms – but ornaments bought at special occasions (like the handpainted baubles the Flâneur Husband and I bought in Pitlochry last year, including the yellow one above that somewhat incongruously features a pineapple and grapes) or given as presents will still rank highly and will definitely find a spot on my tree.

So there, an entry encompassing crap, garden, baubles and family. I wonder what sort of Google search people have to make to end up on this page…

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First of all, let me show you what it looks like these days when I leave the city and go up to the summer house – and the garden…

Snow roadThis is what it looks like when I walk from the bus stop – end of the line – towards the summer house. The road has the forest to one side and some natural plots to the other, so it gives an all-together feeling of being away from the city. You do see houses on the left, but very few – and they are sheltered by trees and hedgerows.

Snowy Forest

To the right the forest spreads out; a mix of mainly oak and beech with pines and larks in-between. And lots of honey suckle, but you don’t really notice these in winter…

Deer Beds

In the garden, the first thing that you notice is that there are several spots where the snow has been melted away, even though it has been freezing consistently for weeks. This is where the deer have lain down to sleep, thus melting away the snow on the lawn. I find this very charming, and today two of these spots were clearly fresh – and there was a third one (top left of the picture) that was perhaps from last night or the night before.

Deer tracks

Actually, the snow makes it pretty easy to see how frequented our garden is by wildlife. Most of these tracks are by deer, but a few of them seem to come from smaller animals with paws rather than hoofs. Perhaps a fox? And of course lots of birds, ranging from the size that HAS to be crows to the smaller ones that might be tits or robins.

Robin / Erithacus rubecula

I have one robin that seems to like the covered terrace; while the great tits and the blue tits come in pairs – or flocks at times – there is only ever one robin at a time on the terrace, and I like to imagine it’s the same one. And now when there’s snow all around it seems – oddly enough – that the tits are less keen on the feeding balls, whereas the robin keeps coming. He/she doesn’t like the hanging balls, though, preferring instead to feed on the seeds that fall off when the tits are feeding, so I decided to leave a feed ball on the paving for him/her, and he/she really seems to enjoy this. (Please note how – apart from the tail and the beak – the bird seems to be as round as the feed ball…)

Snowy Puddles

Also, just because people seem to like this garden feature / folly, here is a view of The Puddles… You can just make out the outlines of the third one at the back, but really they are all frozen over and covered in snow. I hope this means my water lilies will be safe beneath the blanket of snow, but you never know… After all, they are rather shallow, so I might have to start over in spring.

Anyway, back to what this entry was supposed to be about – which was not wildlife, but snow lanterns!

Lanterns in the snow

Strictly speaking, these aren’t snow lanterns, but when the snow is deep enough, why not just immerse lanterns in the snow?

Lanterns in the snow

Now, those among you of a nautical persuasion might argue that I placed the lanterns in the wrong order (red = port and green = starboard), but these pictures where taken from the entrance to the terrace, so clearly they will then be in the right order when you approach the harbour / house. And after all, nautical markers are normally placed so they make sense when you approach port, rather than when you are leaving it…

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On Friday afternoon – November 30th – I was finishing off the last cut of the lawn when I was rudely interrupted by downpour of the non-liquid sort! It was snowing, and even though it was only a very light snow fall I figured one shouldn’t mow the lawn while it was snowing in any description.

So come Saturday December 1st – the first day of winter according to the Danish calendar – I woke up to this:

Snowy lawn

Yes, that is my lawn. All my mowing work hidden beneath a blanket of white which – although pretty – rather destroyed my attempts to make the lawn look good for winter. Not that a snow-clad lawn doesn’t look good, of course, but it would have looked equally good if I hadn’t mowed it… Dammit!

snowy  garden

It does give a certain romantic Christmas feel to the house and the garden, though, when the snow is covering everything. (And that picture was taken yesterday; today it looks even better!)

Snowy garden

This photo was taken this morning. More snow, and yes I know that a phone camera is hardly the right tool to capture the movement of snowflakes, but you will just have to accept the stripy nature of that picture…

Snowy dogwood

The red dogwood branches looked particularly striking with a covering of snow on them.

Oh, if you knew how Spring used to be good!
Snow-white branches, like stretched-out verses,

snow-white on blue.

By day and by night stood my mighty

heart of burning joy

with wide-open door towards each fracture of light

and towards each little sound.

(Morten Nielsen, 1922-1944)

Snowy goldenrods

The goldenrods look amazing in the snow; like white fireworks exploding in the borders! Of course, almost any plant looks amaxing with a dusting of snow; it somehow just seems to negate their brief glory and reassure them that there is another life, another way to be beautiful. Even withered and old, perennials can still be stunning.

(And I must confess, the fluffy spikes of the goldenrods looked pretty damned amazing even before the snow!)

Snowy Puddles

And in-between all this snow there is ice, too. The Puddles have iced over, though not solidly enough for the snow to settle on the ice , yet. Eventually, though, they will freeze quite deep, and I just hope they won’t freeze to the bottom so my water lilies might survive. In normal ponds and small lakes the water will rarely freeze beyond 6 inches, but since The Puddles consist of still-standing water in a very small quantity they might freeze deeper. (And they are only a foot deep…)

Snowy forest

The snow makes the forest near our holiday home look amazing, though; it’s like walking through a fairy tale! I love the forest in spring, but really it probably looks its best with a coat of snow… Everything is so quiet, so muted by the softness of the snow, and even the stark branches of oaks and beeches take on a poetic nature.

We are stuck right between the forest and the fjord, so here’s the other part of our winter:

Snowy fjord

The fjord looks beautiful in proper winter weather; the shore is snow-clad, and the rocks in the shallows show signs of icing-over on the wind-side. I must confess I really want to see this from my kayak, but by now the temperature in the fjord waters will be low enough to kill you quite easily, so I remain ashore.

Snow lantern

And if you have no way of going – safely – to sea, and your lawn is flat and white and dull, what better way to spice it up than by building a snow lantern or two? The Americans might have high-jacked the Jack-o-lantern, but here in Scandinavia we still have our snow lanterns. They are not tied to a specific festival of any kind; merely something you build in the midst of winter to bring some light into the darkness.

Snow lanterns

(The different hues are because I use glass tea-light holders to shelter the candles from the snow beneath, and one happened to be red and the other petroleum green. It looks a bit garish when there’s just the two of them, but if we were to have guests up here I might build enough to make it seem like every snow lantern was a different, glistening jewel.)

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Parsley, sage and brambles

There is a lovely weathered terracotta pot in the courtyard that is home to some parsley and sage, as well as whatever weeds have decided to set up camp there. This is all good. However, when the brambles or blackberries or whatever they are decide to mingle with the herbs I resolutely untangle them and pull them back up on the fence where they should be!

Except this time the bramble vine had not only entangled itself with the herbs; it had decided to root!

Bramble roots

Clearly this sort of unacceptable behaviour cannot be tolerated, so I swiftly yanked up the culprit and went to get my secateurs to put an end to this. I ended up with a rather nice cutting, and clearly anything that will root this easily is most likely a vigorous grower, so off it went to the hedgerow where it can tangle itself up with the barberries and honeysuckles to it’s heart’s content.

Bramble cutting

For the record, it does produce some rather tasty berries, so it’s violent disregard for what should grow where is overlooked for now. BUT DON’T DO IT AGAIN!!!

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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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