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Archive for the ‘winter’ Category


Tonight the Flâneur Husband will be having his card club over for a Christmas party. Just the four of them (they play whist), and I will soon be leaving for the holiday house – and the garden.

I’m not involved in the card club since it was created before I ever entered the picture, but for tonight I will definitely claim the role as “facilitator”, since I have done some of the preparations. (Well, I’m sure my husband will accept it if I say “most”…)

They will be having a simple dinner before the card games, so yesterday I bought some ripened pickled herring for the starter, and I’ve also made som duck confit that just needs to be heated up and served with potatoes as the mains. The dessert will be more or less traditional marzipan chocolates. Some with an orange liqueur, some with a nougatine filling.

And, well… The garden will be present!

Christmas

I cut these twigs from the garden on Wednesday and brought them back so there would be some sort of Christmas feel to the dining room. Tax, pine, dogwood, berberis and a few twigs of dog rose. You might have spotted that the baubles are not naturally occurring on these plants, and that is very true; I added these because the red hips and berries are difficult to see by candle light, so something slightly more sparkly was required.

There will be one of these bouquets in each of the two windows in the dining room windows, but to add a bit of sparkle to the table itself I took our remaining baubles and piled them up randomly in two dishes.

Christmas

Some are old, some are new. The oldest are probably more than 60 years old, the newest are from this year. Very few were bought, very few were presents and by far the most are heirlooms. And somehow they all go together because they are all so different. Some are family, some are gifts from friends and some were just bought to embellish the Christmases I will be spending with the  Flâneur Husband.

I hope they will have a lovely evening. If they don’t, well… It will be their own fault, because the food will be good and the room will look pretty – and they will be in great company with each other.

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Yesterday as I was returning to our city apartment from a week in the holiday home – and the garden – I got off the bus early to walk home through Assistens Cemetery which our apartment overlooks.

20121206-125336.jpg

It’s a stunning urban space of trees, lawns and – of course – tombs. Part of it is still a functioning community cemetery, but large sections have been reassigned as a recreational green space, though obviously within the cemetery context. So no ball-play allowed, but picnics and topless sun bathing is acceptable – though you don’t find many sun bathers in the snow.

Assistens Cemetery

The cemetery has some amazing mature trees, and the space is just so peaceful. Even in summer when there are picnics and sunbathers around, people somehow seem to remain respectful of the space and be more calm than in other parks; it invites a more tranquil state than some of the more classic parks around the city, and I think it is so beneficial to have an urban green space that is calm and reflective in its nature.

Assistens Cemetery

The best part about the cemetery, though, is that it is just across the street from our apartment. We can watch the sunset across the tree tops from our living rooms, and it’s an amazing privilege to live in the city – 15 minutes on foot from the very centre of Copenhagen – and have such a view as well as such a relaxing place to go for walks just outside your apartment.

Assistens Cemetery

It looks great in the snow, but to be honest it looks great at all times of the year, and there is not a single day when I don’t look out the windows and feel grateful for being able to live with a view like this. Imagine this view in spring, or summer, or autumn… You come home through the city, make your way up the stairs to the fourth floor and then when you enter the sitting room you see this sort of view, consisting only of trees and shrubs and lawns… -And even perennials on some of the graves.

The part of the cemetery in front of our windows is the historical cemetery, also referred to as the “museum cemetery”. This means it has not been a functioning cemetery in 50 years or so, and some of “the Great and the Good” of Denmark have been buried there, including the world’s first existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen is further to the left, and the Nobel prize winning physicist Niels Bohr is also out there, as well as loads of artists, musicians, writers and so on. They are a pleasant and calm lot to live across the street from.

Also, I love this view. I really do. I love the garden, but there is no way I could ever produce anything like this cemetery. It’s amazingly beautiful, and the maintenance is wonderfully done; decay is obvious on many of the old tombs, but that is part of the place’s identity. Some headstones have tumbled over and been left like that, and perennials and wild flowers are used to accent certain graves so it’s not just a lawn studded with beautiful trees.

And now, in December with snow all over the place, this is the main Christmas ornament of our home. No amount of baubles could compete with that view.

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Winter sunrise


Evening sky

This morning the sky was amazing to the North-West! It was one of those crisp. cool winter mornings where the sunrise actually looked better when you were looking to the other side of the horizon… I can’t quite understand how the sky can turn pink towards the horizon opposite the sunrise, but there you go…

This evening, though, there’s a distinct feel of thaw in the air, and my snow lanterns have even started to collapse. More frost is forecast, though, so the snow that melts now will soon turn into ice… It will be a nightmare to walk on the roads – and even now it’s pretty slippery.

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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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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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They survived the whims of a hap-hazard gardener, they survived a two-hour ride on public transport, they even survived a sustained slug attack for months (okay, the entire summer), but will our heroes be able to survive THIS?

Frosty dahlias

I had hoped our area would stay just clear of the predicted frost so I could see the very promising purple dahlia buds turn into flowers, but I guess that’s unlikely to happen, considering that it will be even colder tonight. Still, they put on a great show, all together, and I think that growing these from seed is probably the most satisfying garden activity of the year.

For now, though, there is nothing to do. I’m off to the city for the weekend, so I can’t cut them down and lift the tubers until next week. The frost is only on the surface, though, so it will just kill the flowers and leave the tubers unscathed – and the freezing has been so light that there is actually a small – very small – chance that the flowers will have survived well enough to be left standing for another week, considering that temperatures aren’t likely to dip below freezing again during the week from Sunday onwards, but you just never know.

Also, a few words of wisdom… When you wake up in the morning and see frost on the lawn it is NOT recommended to rush out to take pictures of your dahlias in your bathrobe; put on some trousers, or it will not just be the dahlias that feel a touch of frost…

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Accepting Winter


All right. So my spring header was a tad premature… I’ve now replaced it with a suitably wintery image, which means I have a complete set of headers for the seasons:

Spring

summer

Autumn

Winter

Autumn and winter are views from the apartment, but then that’s quite fitting, considering that our garden is a summer garden. -And the winter picture was taken this morning, and the view really WAS that blue! It looked amazing, and I’m really annoyed that my phone couldn’t take a less grainy image of it. Still, there is charm in imperfection, as most gardeners have to claim, right?

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Sunday Morning Visitors


Not the greatest picture, I know, but it was the best I could do on Sunday morning when I suddenly saw two deer out in the garden.

I know they come to eat the bark of bushes and trees, and they’ve been quite rought with the little pear tree last winter and seem to continue this habit, but… I love them!

They stopped by briefly on Saturday afternoon and then again for a bit longer on Sunday morning, and it seems that they are particularly fond of the top of the fir tree that toppled over recently.

I know some gardeners go to great lengths to keep deer out of their gardens, but I welcome them; there’s something very pleasant about wildlife in the garden, and at least in Denmark it doesn’t get much bigger than deer. I get all excited when I spot them around the garden, and especially these youngsters with their thick winter fur and their furry new antlers.

On Thursday my husband will be going up to the summerhouse with his mother, and then I will replace her Friday after work. I do hope he gets to see our visitors…

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I’ve got lists and lists of stuff that needs doing at work, in the apartment and in the summerhouse, but here I will just give you the list that’s relevant for the garden:

  • Finish removing the lawn for the semi-circular flower bed at the South-West end of the house. This will contain clematis and perennial sweet-peas against the patio and tulips and annuals in front, perhaps with a few structural perennials added here and there to give some interest once the annuals die away.
  • Mow the lawn for the last time this year. This should have been done the last time I was up there, but I just didn’t get around to it. (The lawn is rather an unwanted step-child in our garden, at least as far as I’m concerned, hence the desire to carve out flower beds here and there and as much as possible!)
  • Plant the perennials from my parents’ old garden – this might initially be in a temporary location in the semi-circular bed, just because that’s where I have room for them right now. I can work on creating a more permanent bed for them over the winter and then move them in spring.
  • Lift lily and gladiolus corms and dahlia tubers and pack them up in newspapers for the winter. I’m not sure where to store them, but I think they might come back to the city with me and be stored in our attic box room; it’s neither heated nor insulated, but I would think the heat of the five stories beneath should keep it frost-free.
  • Cut down the bean stalks and pea plants in the vegetable garden mix them with compost before spreading it in the vegetable beds. Also, some compost will be worked into the semi-circular bed, so combined with a digging loosening up the soil, this should make for a nice “fluffy” soil to plant in.
  • Weed the Ambitious Border and mulch it for the winter.
  • Sweep up leaves etc. to mix with compost to CREATE mulch for the Ambitious Border…
  • Collect fir cones, random twigs of interesting shapes, seed stands etc. that might be used for Christmas decorations. Let’s face it, I’ve got a large apartment to decorate this year, and my husband has requested that I go all in with the Christmas this year since my mother-in-law will be spending Christmas with us (as will her brother and his girlfriend), and perhaps also my parents if my dad’s fit to travel.

Now, don’t worry; I’m not intending to get through the list this weekend! I just want to make a dent in it, and especially concerning the things that needs urgent attention. Getting the semi-circular bed dug out and dug through so the perennials from my parent’s garden can get into the ground, rather than living in plastic bags in a suitcase in the attic room is definitely the main issue.

I promise, after next weekend I will try to make a post with some pictures – perhaps even of what I’ve gotten done so I can use that as a motivational prospective Saturday and Sunday.

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>Yesterday I spent 9 hours working on an excel reporting tool for another department at work. 9 hours straight of looking at a screen filled with little cells with numbers, formulas and other mind-numbingly boring things. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy a spot of meditative spreadsheet work, but a full day is just too much for me, especially since I’m not terribly skilled at Excel and have to learn things as I go.

Terribly non-garden-related beginning to an entry, you might think? Not so! Today I will be going up to the garden after work to spend a sunny, frosty weekend there, and as I was shopping for provisions yesterday I also ended up with two pots of crocus (1 white, 1 stripey blue) and a pot of blue grape hyacinths (muscari armeniacum?) as a way of mentally escaping my day in Excel Hell. After all, what is less like a spreadsheet than a pot of spring flowers?

This means I will be schlepping a total of 8 6″ pots of winter/early spring flowers with me up to the garden, and I look forward to planning where they will go. As the majority of the borders haven’t been created yet, it seems likely that most of the plants will just be re-potted to give them larger living quarters, but I think I might add at least some of the bulbs to the small border in front of the house that will be filled with yellow rudbeckia come summer.

I look forward to a weekend of light gardening (finding places for the new plants), light handiwork (painting some garden furniture) and light reading (no high-brow literature, but a very enjoyable thriller). Yes… I know… I’m in my early thirties and I’m planning the least wild weekend ever. And I will enjoy it, as I always do. After all, next weekend my husband will be in town and we’ll be having a party for his birthday, so this weekend will be solitary relaxation and next weekend will be glorious socialising. Ain’t Life grand?

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