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Posts Tagged ‘digging’


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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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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So I spent the weekend digging – again… Seems like it’s becoming one of my regular activities in the garden, carving away at the lawn inch by inch to make room for more plants.

This weekend I was hoping to complete The Puddles – the new name for the miniature pond – and surroundings, but a sore back and too much sun – I got slightly red on Friday, so on Saturday and Sunday I tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible, digging in short intervals with long breaks in the shade, and of course covered in SPF 30.

Anyway, I didn’t finish it this weekend, but I did manage to clear a 3 x 4 meter stretch of lawn and dig out most of the puddle holes. It will just be a couple of 90-litre plastic tubs, so not the biggest holes in the world, but with heavy soil on top and pure clay further down it’s plenty big for one person to dig on his own and maintain momentum. I’ve sited them at the end of the Ambitious Border (or what will BE the end of it; right now there’s still a stretch of grass between the part that’s been completed and planted and the site of The Puddles, but over the summer it will be joined together, I promise.) so they will be visible from the covered terrace and from the hammock.

So I could show you pictures of bare soil with holes in it, but instead I thought I’d show you what I’ll stick around The Puddles:

Astrantia major

There’s an white astrantia major from the Flâneur Husband’s grandparents’ allotment sitting in the lawn in front of the large rhododendrons, and you sort of have to know it’s an inherited and treasured plant in order to notice it at all, so it will be relocated to the pond area to become more prominent. It’s one of those perennials that will stand up for almost anything, so apart from the nostalgic origins of the plant it’s also a favourite because it is so low-maintenance.

Hosta

And of course it doesn’t get much more low-maintenance than hostas. These are from my mother’s garden and have overwintered in a bucket in the courtyard (now that’s hardy!). This clump will be divided into three or four smaller sections so they can cover a larger area, and of course they’ll spread out and just do their thing. I think the lushness of the hosta leaves will fit in nicely with a spot of water, and they will also provide a nice cover for small wildlife – hopefully not just slugs!

Asters

The site of the sand box that was removed from the garden when we bought it has functioned as a “holding pen” ever since, and I must say it’s rather over-crowded – and also somewhat unmotivated, sitting in the middle of the lawn and looking a bit out-of place. It holds a clump of very pretty purple asters from my mother’s garden that can go at the back of the Puddles up against the hedge to the neighbour.

Iris

The “holding pen” also contains two types of iris. A large purple bearded iris (or rather lots of separate rhizomes) that was salvaged from the re-vamping of the area around my old block of apartments, and some slightly smaller iris that I haven’t seen in bloom yet as they were transplanted from the Flâneur Husband’s grandparents’ allotment last summer.

I also have some tiny iris sibirica that I have grown from seeds in small pots, and they really need to move out into the garden and get some more space very soon, having lived in 4″ pots since they were sown last spring.

I’ll dot the irises around The Puddles in clusters, and I think it’s possibly a safe bet to say that iris and water will look great together.

Unknown lawn weed

This is a plant that grows in a very clearly defined area of the lawn, leading me to suspect it might be the remnants of a flower bed that had been left to become infested with grass over many years. (Like so many other beds in the garden.) I love the foliage – which grows 1½ foot high – and later in summer it will have umbels of small white flowers up to 2-3 foot high.

Obviously I won’t mow the area where these are clustered, but I’ve also lifted some and stored in a bucket in the courtyard to be planted around The Puddles; I have no idea what this plant is, but it’s hardy and pretty, and that warrants a space in my garden any day!

Perennial Sweet Pea

The picture above are the perennial sweet peas at the back of The Sunny Border, but we also have them growing in various places at the edges of the lawn, so I will move at least one plant to the back of The Puddles. Just in front of the hedge is a small beech tree that is bare up to the top of the hedge (but has healthy foliage above that, perhaps because it gets more sun up there), and it will provide a good enough natural climbing post for the sweet peas to add some height and flowers to the area.

 

So there… I think I will be able to fill out the area nicely from the beginning, and if I do end up with a blank spot or two I have several other contenders that can be brought in, though I think the above is really about as many different types of plants as I need to make the area diverse and interesting, but not messy and confused-looking.

I’m going up to the garden again next weekend for a quick visit (before travelling on to Jutland to visit my parents) and I hope that will allow me to get The Puddles in place, and maybe at least some of the planting.

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Well, on a smaller – MUCH smaller – scale…

The Flâneur Husband asked me for a wish list for the garden when he was here last weekend, and of course the wish list included a new spade (the old one is coming apart at the rivets), a new hoe (I don’t know the English name for this type of hoe, but we only have on kind of hoe at present and that’s clearly not enough), a compost grinder (taking branches up to 40mm), some other tid-bits and this:

Why, yes! It’s a black plastic tub! It’s about a foot deep, 1½ft wide and 2½ft long! In other words it’s a miniature pond in the making… One end will need to be filled up with stones and tiles so animals that fall into it will have a place to crawl out out the water, of course, and I’m hoping that if I dig the hole deep enough I can have the soil sloping down to the tub’s edge, making it more easily disguise-able by plants.

I’m as thrilled as, well… As a gardener with a black plastic tub! Time will tell whether I manage to turn this into a miniature pond or whether it will turn into a slimy green bog of algae, but I feel confident that if I start with a visit to the local aquarium shop and get some oxygenating plants going from the start, the problems can be kept at a minimum.

It will go somewhere in the corner down by the hedgerow where it can be seen from the house but also gets some shade and provides easy escape routes for animals. After all, animals are the main reason I want a small miniature pond/puddle; I especially hope that over time it will increase the number of frogs and toads in our garden, but of course the birds will be welcome as well.

I’m terribly excited about this. project, but of course – inevitably – it involves more digging…  So I need to site the mini pond far enough from the trees that at least I won’t have to get tangled up in tree roots, and also it needs to somehow fit into the overall scheme for the Ambitious Border, since it will be at the very end of the stretch of the border that has not yet been created.

I also have 5 Blue Rhapsody roses that are in a “holding pen” in the courtyard and need to be moved out into the garden, so it’s a good thing I have a long weekend coming; Ascension Day (Thursday) is a day off here in Denmark, and financial institutions (such as the place I go to when I take time off gardening, i.e. my job) are also closed on Friday. Good thing the forecast looks promising! (Degrees in Celsius)

Weather forecast 16-21 May

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I might not get a LOT done this weekend, but what I do get done makes a visible difference!

Another stretch of the Ambitious Border has been weeded (shouldn’t it actually be “de-weeded”?), and now I only have one meter left before I reach the end of the bed. -Then, of course, I might extend it, because the ambition is to let it follow the entire length of the hedge, but I do have to pace myself.

Between the spots where I had annuals last year and the spots where the acanthus and the globe thistles have gone AWOL, I now have enough space for most of the perennials that are currently in temporary storage beds, so I can actually start thinking about where to put each group of plants.

Next weekend I’ll be up here with the Flâneur Husband, so we can plant the border together and get the vegetable beds sown up. And maybe extend the border a little to make room for sowing some annuals?

Friday’s weeding

Saturday’s weeding

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Yesterday I showed you my bag. Well, here’s what the contents look like unwrapped on the lawn:

The top three are the L.D Braithwaites from the nursery near my parents, and the two bunches below are New Dawn and Rhapsody in Blue from a more mainstream garden centre.

Now, the cheap roses DO look healthy and I’m sure they will be fine, but in the picture above you can see quite clearly on the right bunch that the roots have been cut, whereas the more expensive nursery roses have smaller roots, but they have not been cut.

Today I managed to plant the New Dawns and the L.D. Braithwaites. The New Dawns were a right pain to plant, since they will be growing up trees and obviosuly had to be planted at the foot of these two trees. Now, first of all I had to remove more of the lawn – which seems a recurring theme in my gardening career – and then I had to dig planting holes between the tangled roots of the trees… It was not simple!

For the L.D. Braithwaites the process was simpler, but perhaps no less arduous; they were destined for the Sunny Border, where I’d already stripped off the lawn, but clearly since these were expensive plants they deserved special attention, so I dug a 1½ft deep triangular hole, almost a square meter in area. Essentially this means I dug out the best part of a ton of dense soil and pure clay…

I then mixed the top soil with four barrows of compost, positioned the roses and finally filled the hole. My back was aching, my hands were chafed andI generally felt worn-out, but at least I had the lush, exuberant view of a rose patch to enjoy:

Oh, right; I have a couple of twigs sticking out of the bare soil… But there is promise in these little twigs, and I trust them to make my effort worth-while. Or at least not entirely in vain…

(Also, please note what an un-butch photographer I am… The shadow in the lower right-hand corner is of course me, my phone and a rather daintily curved pinky finger. But it’s dark outside now, so I can’t re-take the shot, and I definitely can’t be bothered to save this post and then publish it tomorrow when I have a non-pinky shot.)

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So this weekend the Sunny Border was completed!

Flâneur Gardener digging away merrily

The last fiddly bit towards the covered terrace was finally cleared of turf, and a few perennials were rescued from in-between the grass. This was mainly my project, while my husband busied himself around the garden, cutting back the poplars towards one neighbour and the hazels towards another and lopping off a branch of the red-leaved cherry plum tree.

Then we installed that nasty-looking plastic barrier towards the lawn, and it turned out as invisible as I’d hoped for, so that was good, and finally I could start loosening the soil so we could add some compost (the birthday present my husband got from his mother).

Flâneur Husband shovelling compost

We also did a bit of tidying up, moving piles of branches out back and generally trying to make the place a bit more presentable, though it’s still too early in the season to mow the lawn. (And it desperately needs a haircut!)

The result

It’s just a clean slate right now, or almost, but I think it will end up looking great. I put back some perennial sweet peas and a geranium that had been struggling in the tall grass up against the wall, and then there’s a line of stepping stones before the larger part of the border where the roses and larger perennials will go. I put in a few clumps of iris from my mother’s garden, because I think they will look great in front of the roses what will eventually go in beside them, and at the far end I moved some Japanese anemones (also from my mother’s garden).

I do need to be careful not to cram it full of everything that will fit in there, because I suspect some plants may want to grow a little over the summer, but so far it definitely has great potential.

My husband keeps saying he doesn’t want it to look too twee, so his knee-jerk reaction when I talk about planning the planting and coordinating colours is that he’d prefer something much more random, but obviously I’m not letting him have his way here. The colours will be mainly blues, purples and reds, ranging from light to dark hues, and with a bit of luck I’ll be able to have flowers in the border from May/June to the first frost.

I’m really rather excited about this!

Next weekend the plan will be to start tackling the vegetable beds. They’re terribly overgrown, and one of the beds has been used as a depository for dried perennial stalks that need to be cut up and go in the compost bin. And perhaps put in an effort to do some weeding in the Ambitious Border…

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