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When I visited my grandmother on Sunday, I took the chance to walk around her garden a few times. Sadly she doesn’t walk very well any more so she couldn’t join me, but I wanted to see what I wanted to “poach” from her garden in early spring.

(And walking gardens in November is when it comes in handy to have grown up with a mother and a grandmother who are both avid gardeners, because I can still see what’s what more or less, even when there are just a few withered leaves on the perennials.)

She is very happy to pass plants on to me, of course, because she can hardly walk and hardly see any more, and also she has this autumn become so frail that she doesn’t really go out unto her terraces without company. And she knows how much I enjoyed having some literal heirloom plants in the old garden and how plants from her garden are more important to me than the fanciest stuff I could buy in a plant store.

Some areas of her garden would be more sensitive to poaching than others. Because she doesn’t walk much these days, she will probably never make it into the lower part of her garden again, so that’s where I can really do my poaching without her or – more importantly, given her poor eye sight – her guests ever noticing. I want the upper garden around the house to still look nice and lush and presentable.

Still, some plants from the upper garden won’t show if I poach a huge quantity of them, especially her geraniums and her wild strawberries. They have such rampant growth that I can take as many as I want and it will still look lush a few weeks later, even to a 20/20 vision guest!

Storkenæb

In the lower garden there are some asters and daisies I could use, and of course lots and lots of biannuals like evening primrose.

Daisies

When I do poach/collect these plants, an interesting thing is that because my grandparents created this garden more or less from scratch, the original plans exist and were routinely updated until my grandfather died, so I can get actual species names for almost every single plant by consulting those plans. That is, I believe, a rarity when getting plants from established gardens.

My grandmother is, I hope, not much longer in this world. She is a kind and generous and loving person, and I hope that one morning she just won’t wake up. She is still mentally present to a great extent (okay, she repeats herself, but what she says is sensible and interesting) but her body is failing. And she is quite open about looking forward to dying.

Apart from getting some great plants for free, what I’ll also get is my own history imprinted on my little plot of land. A sense of belonging by virtue of sharing the garden with plants from my grandmother’s garden. I believe we’ll all be very happy in the rich soil of the island of Lolland!

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I may have…


I may have ordered a few spring-flowering bulbs…

The present forecast makes it seem unlikely that we’ll see hard frost for the next month, so I should be able to get the bulbs in the ground in early December after I get the keys to the house and garden.

Oh, and when I say “a few” I obviously mean 798 bulbs.

(WHAT??? They were on sale!!!)

250 are tall dark-red tulips for the front garden. (Tulip Seadov)

Seadov

Against the white walls and dark-red windows of the house I think they will look rather spectacular, both when viewed from the road and when viewed from the entrance to the house.

I also bought – perhaps against my better judgement – 250 bulbs of Tulip Turkestanica…

Tulipa turkestanica

Those I don’t know where to put, though, but I’m sure I’ll find some spot for them in the back garden. They’d disappear behind the low wall in the front garden, so nobody would enjoy them there!

So that’s 500 tulips. That’s got to be enough, right? Except…

Queen

My mother had ‘Queen of the night’ by one corner of the house I grew up in, and I can’t help loving that dark, rich colour in a tulip. Or, in fact, in any flower! I got 50 bulbs, just so I would have some to plant somewhere…

fritillaire-persica-adyaman-54596-2

Okay, so I only got 8 of these bulbs, but I really love the look of this fritillaria persica adiyaman. They look like they will be spectacular, but like the ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips, these won’t go in the front garden; they are bought to be a bit special, so I need to find a special place for them where I can enjoy them the most.

These, though, will go in the front garden as they should bloom after the red tulips:

Alium

Alium Christophii – 40 of those – because the flowers are fireworks and can be dried and still be absolutely amazing. Since the inflorescence is around 6″ – 15cm – in diameter, even 40 of these should make quite a statement.

Oh, and there’s also something for the lawn.

Crocus

Crocus Ruby giant tommasianus – 200 of them – will be planted in clusters in the lawn. I love the look of crocus brightening up a winter lawn, and while I shan’t plant a complete blanket I can at least have a few dots here and there. QUITE a few dots…

But that was all I bought! Honestly! (And yes, I did cut back again and again to get the number of bulbs this low.

 

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Meanwhile, yesterday I visited my grandmother. Lovely woman, growing old and weary of life as an infirm, hence the need to visit her while she’s still there to be visited.

Her old garden at the farm was amazing, but now that my aunt and uncle live there with two full-time jobs AND a hobby farm, the garden gets less attention than it used to. And her new garden by her medium-sized one-floor house is still good, but perhaps less inspiring.

Still, it has its moments in term of the sheer multitude of plants that were put in that medium-sized garden when she and my grandfather moved there! Some have died away as the tending of the garden became more and more sporadic and eventually was left to some hired guy who does his best, but there are still so many basic plants I want to poach when I visit her the next time. That is, if there will ever be a next time. I love her, and for her sake I wish she could soon have a morning when she wouldn’t have to wake up to this world again.

Anyway! Her garden, due to its relatively low level of maintenance these days, has a lot of spreading ground-covers. Strawberries of various kinds in particular. Clearly I need to get my hands on some shoots of those! But she also has hellebores to spare, and violas and rudbeckias and roses.

But… What I meant to say was that I poached a few seeds yesterday… I took more than a handful of seeds from her bladdernut (Staphylea pinnata – European bladdernut):

Staphylea pinnata

-Only after doing that did I read that some sources recommend 180 days of warm stratification, followed by 90 days of cold stratification… THAT’S not happening!!! I’ll plunk the seeds in pots in the greenhouse of the new garden and then see what happens.

It’s a lovely shrub, though, so I’d rather like one of the seeds to grow, but otherwise I should be able to get cuttings or sucklings from my grandmother’s bladdernut.

Anyway, I guess this is all for now… 14 days from now I’ll have a house and a garden!!!

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Over-active Imagination…


I’m spending the day imagining things…

It’s been so long since I saw the garden – and I only saw it twice, so I have a very vague concept of what the layout really is and what it looks like, apart from an old aerial from when global online mapping began.

Brydebjergvejmap

Still, it gives me a map of where the buildings and the main trees/shrubs are. Judging by the shadows, this picture was taken around 5pm, and the vegetable garden is clearly where it ought to be but some larger shrubs will have to come down to open up the garden. Also, the Eastern side of the garden is very open, which means I could plant fruit trees there to benefit from the shelter of the high trees on the Western side without their shade.

The prevalent wind in Denmark is from the west, so the trees on the Western edge will be staying – at worst I’ll top-cut some of them, though really they seem to be in proportion to the garden so for now they can remain as they are. In this surrounding of fields it’s quite nice to have some tall trees – and of course the big tree by the drive is an absolute treasure.

Brydebjergvej1

I want to go completely mad with the front garden. (It’s already a little bit mad with that low wall and the ornamental concrete balls… The balls might have to go, or perhaps I’ll embrace them in time.) I want to get rid of the shrubs, and then I’m considering filling the space with either roses, peonies or daylilies. A big, brash, show of flowers, and considering its south-south-eastern exposure I suspect it to be quite a prime plot in the garden, even if I’ll rarely enjoy it myself. When looking out of the front room windows, the eye is drawn not to the front garden, but to the rolling fields on the other side of the road and the church tower in the distance…

Inside the garden proper, though, the white square nearest the house on the aerial photo is a caravan and its awning. That needs to go. Further down the garden (i.e. further North, so “up” in the picture) is a large shed built of cinder blocks and with a roof partially in rusty metal and partially in white polycarbonate. To the south of it is a lean-to in white polycarbonate that currently houses the wood store, but there would be room for this inside the shed so I could get rid of this and use the south-facing wall for anything that might need that little bit of extra warmth.

(Or, y’know, if I’m dreaming… Building a small lean-to greenhouse…)

The main shrub/tree that will need to go is the one just to the north of one corner of the house. Partly because it makes the garden seem smaller when viewed from the house and partly because it blocks a lot of light into the “garden room” – an indoor-outdoor room built on to the house with access through the small sitting room that will eventually be part of the kitchen.

Cutting down those shrubs and digging up the roots will also mean a large hole in the ground will have to be dug anyway, so… Pond? As the garden itself is fairly flat but slopes marginally away from the house, this would mean I would have a pond at the head of the stream, which is obviously not the standard way of doing a stream in a garden, but I think it could work. It would mean I could have all the “business” tucked away at the end of the stream (pump, filter and so on), rather than near the pond itself.

I loved my “Puddles” in the old garden, but they definitely gave me a taste for more. Not that the local area is lacking in water areas, as there are lots of small lakes and bogs only a few hundred meters to the north of the new garden, but of course that also means that if I create a pond and a stream through the garden, animals WILL come in absolutely no time. And this can just be on a completely different scale from The Puddles, which should make it easier to manage the ecosystem. (Also, if I’m a bit clever I can lead the rainwater from the shed roof into the lower pond so the system tops itself up automatically… It’s around 30 square metres/300sqf of roof, so that should give an ample water supply.)

The Puddles in the old garden were just plastic tubs sunk into the ground with tiny solar-powered pumps to provide a little water movement, but for an actual stream I obviously need something a bit more powerful, which is why it’s actually quite handy to have the lower pond at the back of the garden. Because no, I won’t be wasting fossil-fuel-based electricity on a water feature in my garden. It will once again be a solar-powered pump, but this time I will need a larger pump – and a larger panel. And who wants to look at solar panels? Sure, it means there will not always be a continuous flow in the stream, but as the garden is nearly flat it can be designed to look all right even when the water is not moving.

I had so much fun with The Puddles. Building them, planting around them, seeing how life took hold in them… It was so rewarding, and I want to do the same in the new garden. Only… This time the only limit is my physical ability to dig!

I may or may not have gone a bit silly and already ordered the pump system for this project. Mind you, my silliness does have its boundaries so I shan’t order the pond liner until the ponds and the stream have been dug out. There was just an offer I couldn’t refuse… (Because I am weak!)

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There is just over one month left before I get the keys to the house, and last night I dreamt of the house – and the cost and work it needs. So I’m going through my budget for it, making cost-estimates from scratch again and setting priorities for works needed and works desired.

A new roof is a must-have, as is a new electrical panel. The electrical panel is easy to cost – since I’ve had three of them replaced in three different properties previously and the price seems fairly steady – but the roof is the great unknown. I have set aside a sum almost equivalent to the purchase price, just to replace the roof.  Hopefully it will be significantly less, but the other potentially expensive projects such as the kitchen and bathroom will have to wait until the roof has been paid.

Brydebjergvejplan

The bedroom (soveværelse), scullery (bryggers), bathroom (bad), kitchen (køkken) and small sitting room (værelse) are all in okay shape and can just be given a thorough clean to start with and I can live in these rooms. The larger front room (stue), though, has a mangy carpet and somewhat dodgy wallpaper that is pealing off in places, so that’s where I will start.

Fortunately a sitting room is an easy room to renovate. I need to rip out the carpet, replace it with something nice-but-cheap, tear down the wall paper, re-plaster the walls or perhaps expose the structural walls if I dare… I ought perhaps to pull down the fake wood ceiling, but I’ve never done ceilings before so it will just get a lick of white paint and I’ll pretend that is a design choice and not a cop-out!

The projects I can’t budget for before I know the price of the new roof are:

The bathroom… It needs some attention, though not urgently. But it could be a very expensive room to renovate and to be honest I don’t really care about bathrooms…

The kitchen, on the other hand… Knocking through to the small sitting room would create a large kitchen with room for a farmhouse-style dining table as well as a good kitchen. And direct access to the small garden room (udestue) and a frigging wood burner! In the kitchen! How lovely does that sound on a scale from perfect to brilliant? It CAN be done on the cheap if I keep it completely old-school and only get built-in units for the fridge, cooker and sink, using the dining table as a work surface. After all, I will rarely have to entertain a full complement of guests – unless it’s outside. But kitchens are also expensive, as is knocking down walls, so that will have to wait until a new roof has been paid for.

The garage… Eventually it will become either a master bedroom or a studio with a sofa bed for guests. I hope I can afford to replace the old wooden garage door with glass doors, turning it from a dark and dingy room into a bright and beautiful space. I could use a large dining table in the kitchen for many of my craftsy hobbies, but some are just a bit more messy and would be better suited in a separate room.

The large shed in the garden (cinder block walls and corrugated steel roof on wooden rafters) could have potential for providing space for a studio, though. It would be deadly cold in winter, but during summer one part of it could be a nice studio. (It has two rooms, and the old chicken coop could become the wood store and the other – larger – room could become a studio/workshop/whatever.)

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I really can’t wait to have my very own house! And of course I have ridiculous plans for the garden as well, but the garden will survive a bit of neglect over the winter, whereas the house wants attention ASAP…

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A Phone Call


I had the loveliest phone call this afternoon from the vendor’s daughter (his hearing isn’t very good, so he doesn’t do phones any more, she said).

She just called to tell me that her father was really pleased I’m the one to buy his house, since apparently he thinks I seem like a decent enough chap. I drove over to have a walk around the outside of the garden the day after I viewed the house, just to feel sure before going in with an offer, and I ran into Poul, the vendor, and we chatted for perhaps half an hour over the fence – about his family and their time in the house, about his childhood and youth in the area, about the German occupation 1940-45 and the resistance and the surprisingly polite German soldiers.

Tomorrow he’ll be viewing an apartment in the town where his daughter lives, but it seems good on paper and he’s beginning to be excited about living in an easier place and so on. That was also lovely to hear, because he really seems like a nice guy who deserves to be happy even though he has to move from a place he has so many memories in. (The daughter was born in the house, apparently.)

I’m so flattered, though, that he is pleased that I am the buyer of his house. Not that he had any other buyers to choose from, but still. The fact that he told his daughter to call me and tell me is rather touching.

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I Dream…


It’s one thing playing around with the floor plan of the house and imagining all sorts of things – but these things will cost money.

Playing around with plans and dreams for the garden, though, seems much more realistic – because most of it won’t cost me much more than a sore back and perhaps a few blisters!

I want water in the garden. Something akin to The Puddles in the old Flâneur Garden, but perhaps on a slightly larger scale, considering that I have so much space. Nothing too fancy or formal, but just a small nature habitat. Well, perhaps a more formal-looking small pond near the house and then a narrow stream/trickle down to something more casual further down the garden?

I also want an orchard. There are fruit trees in the garden already, but not enough! And not the specific sorts I want… I want a particular sort of sour cherries, two specific sorts of apples and two specific sorts of plums. And pears and nuts and soft fruits and all kinds of wonderful things. Basically I want to be able to fill my larder with juices and preserves and other lovely things…

The orchard will cost, though. Trees are not cheap, and since I have very specific requirements I can’t just go by what’s on sale… I sense some very specific Christmas and birthday wishes coming along!

The vegetable garden will be quite cheap. Seeds don’t cost much, and at least the first year I’ll just focus on simple and common varieties. Peas, beans, potatoes – probably some radishes and some spinach for an early crop and some kale for a late crop. And of course a row of marigolds, because my grandmother always had marigolds in her vegetable garden, and apart from attracting pollinators they really do taste rather nice in salads or teas. And look wonderful on any breakfast table!

As for the flower beds I think I need something to balance out the HUGE bed of fuchsias. Perhaps I need to ensure I always have yellow-to-orange dahlias to plant opposite them, or perhaps I should just be lazy and sow rudbeckias… I don’t like fuchsias, really, but A) they are part of the garden and B) any plant looks great when massed and C) they were planted by the current owner Poul’s late wife so they have a story attached to them. I might one day move them but I will never get rid of them!

So many plans and hopes and dreams… First, though, I’ll have to fix the house interior. I need a nice base to go into the garden from.

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Literally Crying


There were all these unexpected snags on the house deal, and it seemed like the water quality might terminate the whole deal, but…

IT DIDN’T!

In fact I now own a house from December 1st and there’s no way I can renege on it or pull out. I own it from December 1st.

Brydebjergvej

I. Own. A. House.

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I thought I would, but while the water situation was still uncertain I didn’t dare believe it. But now… There’s no turning back. I have bought a house! I have bought a HOUSE!!!

A HOUSE! Can you imagine that? Me with my very own house and the chance to play around with absolutely everything as I please?

If this place doesn’t end up being magical I shall have failed myself. It has so many opportunities, so many promises…

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