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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category


I’m still here…

For various reasons the garden just isn’t happening this year, as in “I mow the lawn but that’s about it”. It’s fine; gardens are forgiving places, and while there might be a lot of weeds all over the place it’s nothing irreparable.

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But summer is truly here. There are days when I retreat to the shade because it gets too hot outside – I’ve clearly lost the heat-resistance I built up in Texas if a Danish June can make me feel like I’m melting.

The sun is making the smell of the elderflowers drift through the garden, and last week I went out and collected a small basket of flowers.

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I have never made elderflower cordial before, but the internet told me it was quite simple, so I got rid of as much of the stems as I could be bothered to, boiled up a thin syrup of sugar and water and poured it over the flowers – and then you just leave it in a covered container somewhere cool for 3-4 days.

The smell is amazing when you’re handling 50-something umbels of elderflowers – and when you pour hot liquid over them the smell just explodes! That alone would be a good enough reason to do it.

Last night I filtered the liquid through a cloth in a sieve, leaving the wet flowers to drain for a few hours, and then I poured it into small bottles and capped them. But I’d like to store it until winter, so just to make sure it has a “shelf-life” of up to a year I pasteurised the bottles before putting them away.

It’s the same process as when my family makes apple juice, only on a tiny scale – my pasteurising tub is not an old copper with a live fire underneath but a large builder’s bucket where I can use my sous-vide apparatus to give the bottles 20 minutes at 80C / 175F. That kills everything inside so the contents won’t spoil.

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There is something very satisfying about bottling up the smell and taste of summer, storing it up for a cold, dark winter when you need a bit of liquid sunshine. And it really does taste of summer mornings in the garden… The first batch was only a couple of litres, but I’ll definitely make a second, larger batch, and maybe reduce some of it to a thick syrup to use on ice cream, pancakes and whatever else needs a little boost!

I need to get some labels, though, so I can write what’s in each bottle – otherwise it could probably get quite confusing!

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Summer continues to live up to all our hopes and dreams here in Denmark. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far at 33,3 Celsius (91F), and unfortunately we are back at work and can’t even go up to the garden for the weekend as we have a wedding to go to. Not complaining, mind you, as weddings are always great fun. (We have another wedding next weekend…)

The only downside, really, is that I’m not relishing the thought of having to sustain 30+ temperatures in a suit and tie…

Anyway, if you’re stuck in the city during hot summer weather, Copenhagen is not a bad city to be stuck in. Last night we had dinner with my Mother-In-Law in the shadow of St. Nicolai Church and then went on to a pavement bar where we befriended the largest rabbit I’ve ever seen.

Flâneur Husband and RabbitOne of those absurd moments that are worth commemorating… I’m not sure why the owner brought his pet rabbit into town on a Friday night, but it was adorable in that slightly “MONSTER RABBIT” way.

But I meant to write about the garden, actually. I went up there after work an evening last week, and the bumble bees are busy doing their best to ensure a decent crop of blackberries:

Bumble bee and bramblesThere were literally dozens of them hard at work in the blackberry shrub, and there are hundreds of green blackberries waiting to be ripened and sweetened by the glorious summer weather. Methinks there WILL be blackberry jam this year!

But now I really must get off the internet and get that shirt ironed for the wedding today.

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Every gardener longs for Spring, and then for the glorious, florious summer. However, this particular gardener of the flâneur persuasion happens to be rather looking forward to autumn…

Not, mind you, that I’m not enjoying the first real summer in Denmark since 2010! I do not mean to sound like an ingrate; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the sun, the heat, the fact that shorts have – for the first time in my adult life – become part of my city attire. (Up to this year I’ve stubbornly refused to wear shorts within metropolitan areas, sweating away in jeans and chinos until I was well outside the city boundaries. I suspect it’s all about body issues; I never felt I had nice-looking – or even presentable – legs…)

So why do I long for autumn? Well, it’s quite simple, really… When it’s this hot and dry, all plans about moving plants or putting in new plants must be on hold, since a newly planted plant would die within days.

And my garden is full of plants that are NOT in the right place – and of places in need of new plants… Mostly I need to start planning for summer-long blooms, i.e. a succession of flowers from May through September. (So really it’s summer plus a month on either end…) This will be tricky as plants seem to bloom a fortnight or more later here in my garden than they do back in Copenhagen, only 50km / 30M further South; I suspect the damp clay soil has something to do with that, as it heats up less quickly than the mythological “fine tilth” of the Copenhagen parks…

Anyway, one of the places where the flowers bloom happily and at the right time is around The Puddles, but…

Hemerocallis 'Frans Hals'While I do rather love the ‘Frans Hals’ daylily, I do find that it sits uncomfortably with the pale mauve or lavender of the hosta flowers behind it, and I really need to change that. The trouble is, I suspect I will end up moving both plants, so I need to work out where each should go.

The hosta flowers fit in nicely with the other colours of The Puddles; mainly blues and purples of various shades with some yellow thrown in for contrast, but I’ve planted them between Puddles 2 and 3, and there’s just not enough room for them; they overhang the puddles as they were meant to, but perhaps rather too much… I think I need something slightly lower – or something slightly more upright – so The Puddles won’t be hidden away completely.

In other less-planned – and less planted – areas, the Lawn bed has shown me a surprising combination that I love to bits; a bunch of gladiloli that I bought as being “red” – hoping that would mean a true red – have turned our to be coral-red, and they are looking very nice with the orange of the nasturtiums sown around the feet of the ‘rhapsody in blue’ roses (that have not bloomed this year due to deer attacks and possibly also their move to the new bed – they will be fenced by next spring, I promise you!).

20130729-205642.jpgAll right, so there are some pink lavatera behind that really shouldn’t be there – and some bright blue lobelias that I won’t repeat next year as they just didn’t WANT to act as a ground cover), but if you look away from all that I rather like the hot colours and could imagine a blue/purple rose or four would look smashing alongside it all.

There are also some dark-leaved heuchera ‘Purple Palace’ that stand out, and I think they could happily be replaced with a red or orange crocosmia. They have the sort of upright and showy habit that means that you can dispense with glads and still have the same effect, only with an earlier and longer-lasting bloom. (And without having to lift the corms in winter…)

Apart from the “aesthetic moves”, there are obviously also some plants that need to be moved for their own benefit, rather than mine; The roses the Flâmeur Husband got for his birthday last year are looking rather sad, so they will go into the lawn bed somewhere – or maybe in the extension of the lawn bed, rather? – and the blue iris germanica needs to be lifted and divided, which will give me some much.needed extra plants for all my beds. Same goes for the sedum ‘herbstfreude’ between puddles 1 and 2, the hemerocallis ‘fulva’ and perhaps also the perennial sweet peas. (Though to be honest, one of the reason for dividing the sweet peas is just to get extra plants to give away to a friend who wants more flowers in her allotment garden.)

I’ll leave you with one example of a plant that I moved – and who has literally flourished in its new spot: The white rose that was standing against the kitchen wall and who is now the star of the lawn bed.

20130729-205702.jpgI have no idea what rose this is, but it’s tall and lanky – which is ideal for a mixed bed where I hope to have perennials growing under the roses eventually. (Also, the height puts her out of the deer’s way, as well as it puts her right into my line of vision when I’m having my morning coffee on the sofa while the garden is still in a grey twilight.)

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Our holiday officially began Friday last week, but unofficially it started the weekend before when the Copenhagen Jazz Festival kicked off. A full week of live jazz – from traditional New Orleans to world fusion to experimental modern – all over the city. Some concerts were held in dedicated music venues, but the best ones – in my perception – are the free open-air concerts in little squares all over the city.

Copenhagen Jazz FestivalThis really is Copenhagen at its best; sunny and warm, with live music playing all over and people having a pint or a glass of wine while relaxing and enjoying Life.

Copenhagen Jazz FestivalAnd let’s face it: Going to this sort of festival is somewhat more civilised that going to the big rock festivals like Roskilde, where 70.000 people cam out in a field and get drunk around the clock… Now, I quite like camping, but I prefer doing so far away from everybody else, and definitely not somewhere where drunken people will fall over your tent at 4 in the morning.

The jazz festival ended this last weekend, so we had our final outing into the world of jazz on Friday evening – which knocked us out the entire Saturday. We’re not as young as we used to be, but we somehow often seem to forget this… Anyway, that meant that we were fit for fight on Sunday, the last day of the festival but more importantly also July 14th, Bastille Day.

Bastille DayFor many years, one of the French restaurants in town (L’Éducation Nationale) has held a Bastille Day celebration where the entire street is closed off. There was a petanque court, live French music and little stalls that sold French delicacies, and of course the restaurant and the other bars in the street had set up lots of tables outside. It was a wonderful day, and for a couple of francophiles like the Flâneur Husband and myself it was definitely not to be missed. (The Flâneur Husband lived in France until he was 3, though his parents are Danish, and I have just been in love with France since I lived in Paris for a year after high school.)

So there; we’ve been enjoying the best that Copenhagen has to offer, and I think it’s actually been quite nice to play tourist in Copenhagen in the sense that even though we didn’t do any sight-seeing we’ve spent a lot more time about town that we’d normally do.

Today we leave the city and head for the garden for a while. I have to go in to work on Thursday for one day only but apart from that we’ll stay in the Summer House for as long as we feel like it. On Saturday we’ll be having our annual Summer Party in the garden; around 20 people for an al fresco lunch, followed by frolicking in the garden with drinks and garden games until the late hours. Some people will go back to Copenhagen in the evening, but most will stay over, either in the house or in tents in the garden. It’s always a great party, and somehow we are lucky enough to have the sort of guests who voluntarily go around the garden the next morning, picking up bits of trash and discarded beer cans so it looks pristine when they all leave.

And now I must go wake up the Flâneur Husband… Time for breakfast, and then we’ll be off as soon as we’ve packed our bags!

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20130703-195615.jpgWhat IS he doing now, you might wonder? Rustic jewelry? A fearsome weapon to bludgeon the slugs into submission? Or has he, indeed, finally lost his marbles and replaced them with stones?20130703-195624.jpgNo, it is none of the above. Rather, I am trying to make use of one of the presents my Mum left me when she visited this spring: a bag full of stones with natural holes in them. I am using them as a flexible means of reigning in the sweet peas that would rather flop over than climb the twigs and sticks that I provide for them. 20130703-195636.jpgThe stones at either end of the string are lopped around the posts of the Uncovered Terrace, and ind a week the sweet peas will have grown enough to hide the string completely.

I always use sisal string to tie up plants; it looks very bright at first, but weathers to a silvery grey with time. Strong enough to last 4-5 years in the garden, the fact that it’s a natural fibre means that it can also go straight on the compost heap when used to tie up herbaceous plants like my sweet peas.

There. Enough about stones on a string. Have a rose:20130703-211950.jpgLast spring I planted ‘New Dawn‘ roses around the two trees that hold up alternately the laundry line and the hammock, and the are growing well and doing exactly what I hoped they would.
At one end the glossy green foliage and the pale pink flowers form a textural contrast to the rough bark of an oak, and at the other they form a colour contrast to the blackish-red leaves of a cherry plum.20130703-213019.jpgBy now, most of the plants have at least one branch that had grown tall enough for the deer to leave them alone; this might be the key to growing roses in a deer-visited garden – fence them in until they are tall enough no longer to count as an easy snack!

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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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