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Posts Tagged ‘The puddles’


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Is it too late to start dreaming about new projects for the garden in 2013? Of course not; if anything it’s too early. After all, I tend to do my main projects in autumn when the garden slows down and – crucially – when there are fewer guests so it’s all right if I make a big mess of things. For me that’s the time to dig new beds, whereas spring should really be more about maintenance and filling out the beds I dug the previous autumn.

After all, when summer arrives I want the garden to look it’s best – whatever that is. This summer “best” will most likely include debris of pine trees scattered over the lawn as we’re cutting down 10 trees on the property line to the North-East; they are boring on our side, dead on our neighbour’s side and prevents our neighbours from getting any sun on their lawn throughout the afternoon, so they need to go. (And when they go, hopefully the hedge under them will fill out and give us a privacy screen at ground level, rather than from 4-15 meters up in the air!)

Last year I dug out The Puddles in spring, and that was probably a bad decision, because it meant I wore myself out digging there and had little energy for the rest of the garden – as witnessed by the non-existence of a vegetable patch last year – but then I dug out the new lawn bed in autumn and that seemed almost effortless by comparison and is quickly filling up with plants. So autumn is definitely the time to execute new ideas, and that means spring is the ideal time to dream them up!

But… What is to be my dream this year? Well, besides the tree-felling there are some “smallish” projects to tackle, like finishing The Ambitious Border so it runs uninterrupted along the length of the South-Western property line, incorporating The Puddles. That’s perhaps 5 square meters to dig out, which is easily done. (Quoth he, knowing full-well that statement would come back to bite him in the posterior!) I ought also to focus on creating more of a privacy screen towards the road, especially in the Woodland area where the Flâneur Husband had a stroke of genius and suggested planting rhododendrons in front of the Woodland; it would give them semi-shade, moderately acidic soil and all in all good conditions, and they will soon be able to cover that open view under the trees. (I have bought two new rhododendrons and suggested planting them in a position where they’d look good but serve absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever, whereas his suggestion combines aesthetics and our desire for privacy in the garden.)

Taking the rhododendrons out for a pint

Taking the new rhododendrons out for a pint

Anyway, I still haven’t decided what will be the “grand project” for this autumn. Perhaps the twin of the lawn bed should be merged with the rhododendrons to be planted in front of the Woodland? That would be quite a project – and it would begin to tie to two “sides” of the garden together. So far I’ve mainly been focused on the South-Western side of the garden because that’s where we tend to spend the most time due to the sun, but that means I’ve been more or less neglecting the North-Eastern side – except for the apple tree which gets plenty of attention, and NOBODY except me is allowed anywhere near it with pruning shears!!!

So what could happen in a large, prominent bed that continues the line of the lawn bed bud extends backwards to the Woodland? Well, the rhododendrons are decided upon, of course, and with the large over-hanging prunes at the back I think I’d want some tall shade-tolerant plants at the back in general. Preferably shrubs, so perhaps just more and more rhododendrons. (We have some that are still small enough to be moved if necessary, and more could be purchased as and when necessary.)  The first lawn bed has a predominance of shrubs – more by accident than intent – as I’ve used it to house roses, black currants, red currants and gooseberries, with an area in front for perennials which has turned out to be heuchera, Eryngium, phlox and other random plants. So the second lawn bed would need something different; perhaps a raised section for plants that like well-drained soil (something we do not have naturally, which is actually a blessing as it means even the hottest of summers will not leave our garden parched!) or perhaps an actual pond – as opposed to The Puddles.

“A pond“, you say? Well, The Puddles have really excited me, and I’d be thrilled to do something larger along the same lines; wildlife friendly, surrounded by dense planting and with a few aquatic plants in there. After all, I already have too many water lilies for my puddles, and the more natural sort would enjoy more depth and space. And of course the animals probably wouldn’t mind, either. Last year I spotted a newt in puddle 1, last weekend I spotted two newts in puddle 1 and today I’ve spotted 3 newts in puddle 1 and one newt in puddle 3…  That’s 4 newts!!! In The Puddles!!! “If you build it, they will come”, they say… Well, it has proven true so far! Today I also spotted some sort of insect larvae of a size where it can only be damselflies or dragonflies…

And all the initial fears about creating an incubator for the mosquito population have been allayed ages ago, since it seems one day The Puddles will be teeming with mosquito larvae and the next they will all have gone, no doubt thanks to the newts and toads. They are a complete success, so I’m at the same time compelled to and daunted by the idea of creating a larger-scale habitat. What if it isn’t such a rampant success? What if it fails miserably? And what if it turns out to be an absolutely marvellous thing?

Clearly I need to think about this a bit more, but the idea – the dream – has been planted in my brain, so we shall see what happens.

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On Friday evening and Sunday morning we had some rather severe – though short – bursts of rain. An inch of rain within 15 minutes on both occasions, and obviously even our drained lawn couldn’t handle this much water in such a short time. It all drains away eventually, but it has left the garden looking somewhat sad.

The goatsbeard has flopped over, the climbing rosa multiflora has broken the temporary trellis I built for it after some heavy rain knocked it over a week ago, and of course there are The Puddles…

Flooded Puddles

-Or should I say “The Puddle” in singular? It seems the rain has turned the whole area into a unified stretch of water, which is clearly not the plan.

The trouble is all due to the fact that I haven’t finished the area around The Puddles; where the turf has been dug away the soil level is a good 2-3 inches lower than the surrounding lawn, so obviously it will be prone to flooding until I build up the soil level again. As in all my borders I want the soil level to be at least an inch above the lawn so all flooding will occur on the lawn and not in the flower beds.

Still, the water will drain away eventually, and at least nobody can say that the plants haven’t been well watered in after I planted them.

Anyway, although flooded at the moment, The Puddles are doing their job:

Dragonfly

Today I counted 6 blue dragonflies and one red one. Personally I think they are even prettier than butterflies, so I am thrilled to have them attending my tiny waterscape. I’ve seen them in the forest around here before, but never in our garden, so I count this as a success!

Sure, there are also slugs eating away at the iris, hostas and asters (I seem to have created a slug buffet by accident; the astrantia is the only plant they don’t molest), but they would be there with or without The Puddles. And I have water beetles, common pond skaters, hoverflies and loads of other great insects visiting already, so I’m really pleased with the biodiversity this element has added to the garden.

It has been a wet and cold spring and summer so far, but for some reason my dahlias have decided to start blooming. Nothing profuse, mind you, but still… Considering that they are really not meant to bloom around here before August, they are definitely early. So far I have one bloom – an Arabian Night tuber that I overwintered in our attic – but there are also blooms underway from some of the dahlias I grew from seed, so it all looks very promising.

Arabian Night

Even this one flower is, I think, worth the trouble of lifting the tubers, bringing them back to Copenhagen and overwintering them in the attic. When I leave tonight or tomorrow morning I will pick this flower and bring it back to the Flâneur Husband; one should never forget to bring flowers to one’s loved ones, even if it’s just a single flower from time to time.

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Okay, so water in the garden is great. Or will be, I’m sure. But small – 2½ft x 1½ft – tubs of water in direct sunshine is a potential for disaster, or so the internet tells me, so in order for The Puddles not to turn into the prime algae breeding ground of the local neighbourhood I took a drastic step and ordered some plants… I know; that’s SO unlike me, right?

Initially I wanted some yellow floating-heart (nymphoides peltata), since the leaves of this aquatic is supposedly the source of the 9 hearts in the national Danish coat of arms. However, the nursery I really wanted to buy from – great reputation for quality AND service – was out of this plant so instead I went for this:

Frogbit – hydrocharis morsus ranea

In many ways I think this is a better choice. It does have a rather vigorous growth habit, but in the small puddles it will be easy to manage. Like the yellow floating-heart it’s a floating plant, fully hardy and native to Denmark, but I think it’s perhaps safer to go for a white flower than a yellow, since white goes with anything. And of course the floating foliage is just as pretty – VERY important!

Nymphaea ‘Perrys Baby Red’

I also ordered a nymphaea ‘Walter Pagels’ (a dwarf variety), mainly because of it’s hardiness credentials but also because water lilies are just gorgeous. The ‘Walter Pagels’ is a lovely pale cream – bordering on white – but for this reason I guess I’m happy that the nursery e-mailed me yesterday to say that it had gone out of stock and they would not be able to deliver it for at least 3 weeks. However, when I wrote them to ask them to either come up with suggestions for substitutes of similar growth habits or to just add one more frogbit they came back with several options.

I went for the ‘Perrys baby red’ water lily. In the dug-down tubs of The Puddles it should be fully hardy unless we have a really severe winter, and if I make a lid for its puddle for the coldest months I can be completely sure it can overwinter outside.

So there will be one puddle with a red water lily and two puddles with white frogbits. I’m thinking the red water lily needs to be the furthest from the ‘rhapsody in blue’ roses that will stand between The Puddles and the rest of The Ambitious Border so it can shine on its own, surrounded only by green foliage and subtle white flower umbels.

I want the puddles to be wildlife friendly, of course, and the aquatics are clearly bound to help. However, I also want them to be vignettes of the rivers and lakes I’ve passed through many holidays in kayak; there’s something very elegant about slicing through a patch of blooming water lilies in a racing kayak.

Nuphar lutea

Nuphar lutea

(Mind you, I haven’t bought that one, since it needs far deeper waters than The Puddles can provide…)

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