Monday, August 18, 2008


I've been digging out dandelions for two days. Backbreaking. I use a huge fork and a little hand spear with a two-pronged end. I throw the tines into the turf, force them down with one foot then lift. A little hillock gets produced. Something, inevitably, snaps. I pull the dandelion out by its foliage. If I'm lucky the entire thing comes out, all the way down to the pointy end of the root, leaking milk from all the disturbed root hairs. Most of the time, however, that snap means the damned taproot broke, leaving a length in the ground that will regenerate next spring. That's when I start poking around with the hand spear, usually without effect. Sometimes I get lucky and pull up a plant that started from seed this spring, meaning it's got lots of strong leaves and a small white root that comes out without issue.

The lawn is bald in spots from my efforts. I aim to uproot 100 dandelions a day but have quit around the 40 or 45 mark. It's like spending a couple of hours on strength training, and since I'm so bloody short I expend so much more energy on each freaking plant than the smiling effortless Danes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

baby petunias and the ivy invasion

I plucked out three perfectly healthy petunia seedlings the other week because I didn't know what they were! I'd never grown petunias from scratch and they seemed to bear no resemblance to the varieties I had bought two years ago from Netto. Those were surfinias for the most part. These had fuzzy leaves and had a sort of cactusy look.

There are other seedlings in different locations around the garden, growing in pots that I knew I sprinkled with the very fine seed some six weeks ago. I gave them a chance, just in case, and didn't weed (well, I was too busy to weed anyway) and now they have sprouted buds and branched out in that characteristic petunia manner. So now I know I got lucky. Still, what amazes me about these plants is that seedlings growing under different light conditions and in different degrees of wetness actually look like they came from different species.

Maybe they do come from different varieties, at least. The pack, which I bought in Nijosa (guess where that is, hehe) early this year, contains a mixture of different color flowers. I wonder if the diversity is restricted to that.

I found a blog post from a woman in Michigan who brought her petunias in for the winter and kept them on a window sill. I don't think my puny little seedlings will grow big enough to make a worthwhile show this summer, and I'm debating whether to bring them in or let them die with the first frost.

At least I now know what the seedlings look like.

In between revising and editing, I cleaned out ivy that had overtaken one wall. Incredible how vigorously they can grow. They make terrific ground cover, too: I'm still digging out some stems that broke off and refuse to come out of the ground. I wonder how well they might compete with skvalderkål. Something tells me I do NOT want ivy between the stones of my raised garden terraces.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I dag

I dag læste jeg i Kongens Frille af Philippa Gregory, på engelsk selvfølgelig.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

accidental angler

Finished The Accidental Angler by Charles Rangeley-Wilson. Great fun. Wish I could write with such nonchalance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The tree growing on the corner of the property, with pinnate leaves and clusters of red berries in early fall, turns out to be a rowan. The bushes in the hedge that give me hell with the shears are young hawthorns. I have nettles and burdocks galore, which I dig out with various forks and spears.

My present reality is someone else's spec fic.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I was mad about gladioli for a couple of months in 2006 and couldn't wait for the spikes to bloom. I did get gorgeous flowers off one variety that was pictured a deep red on the pack, only their colors seemed faded when the blooms finally came, sort of melon red. Overall they proved to be a disappointment: high winds broke the foliage and the flower heads, unstaked (we were in South Africa then) tended to break and rot in the wet earth.

Still, we gather the corms at first frost and plant them back out in spring. This year I was surprised to find little gladioli shooting out of the earth where a lone corm had been planted the other spring. It was the cormels, forgotten in the ground. They had survived the winter, a testament to warming temperatures in this part of the world. Weeding, I put them back. What a waste otherwise.


Shortly after I set the overwintered pelargoniums into the ground late in June, I trimmed them. I took a two-year old equal-parts mix of sphagnum (here they call it spagnum and pronounce the g as a w) and sand, and filled an old strawberry punnet with it. Then I stuck the cuttings in. They were about four inches long and had all but the top leaves removed. I was trying to do everything by the book, that is, as per instructions I had found on various university horticulture websites.

In about a couple of weeks I checked them. Roots had formed on two, which I potted up in a couple of plastic buckets I had drilled drainholes in myself. I placed them where they'd get lots of morning sun.

I checked the transplanted cuttings every day, which is apparently why I couldn't perceive much progress. (I was also revising a manuscript so I suppose the inspection had been fond but cursory). Then, after a week of rain, I looked and noted that the leaves and branchlets had considerably increased on one. As for the other, the flower buds I had noticed earlier had turned a definite shade of red.
It looks like I managed to propagate yet another a sister to my favorite red geranium (pelargonium) plants.

Friday, August 08, 2008

new potatoes

Was weeding out the nettles and burdock from the potato patch this evening when my fork turned up, you guessed it, a brand new potato,large enough to fit in my palm (quite a bit of heft) and a bit misshapen from all the bits of gravel in the earth. About that patch - I planted the first potatoes in June 2006, and they gave a good yield later that summer, and the following year. Apparently a few tiny tubers always remain, overlooked, in the soil, because some new growth asserted itself last year. And this year as well. When I arrived in June, the little sprouts were only a couple of inches tall. Now, six weeks later, the first tuber.

too late in the year

I have some dianthus (nelliker?) germinating in pots. They'll bloom next year, assorted colors. It's too late in the year to see the results of the petunias I seeded late in June; I'm surprised they're growing so slowly. It certainly was worth the bother -- I wanted to see if the seeds in the pack from Nijosa (all text was in French) would germinate, or if it had been one of those condemned or dumped products that marvelously make their way to my birth country. Well, something came up, but I don't know what species they are. If I'd only arrived earlier this year, the garden would have been showing great results.

Various websites tell me I should be taking cuttings from the pelargoniums now or next month, but what new growth there is seems so insubstantial. Plenty of flowers, though. Of a color that seemed the trend in 2006, a kind of tropical coral pink. The rage this year seems to be the pallid pink of a variety called Dronning Ingrid. I bought several from Metro, though the same sort was being sold at a gift boutique in Goteborg, a couple of doors down from Ulla's apartment.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Cleaned out a meter-square area using the gardening fork. Put in some lupine seedlings that had been stunted in their styrofoam container. There's a weed that drives me insane. It's got heart-shaped leaves and a root system that's always disproportionately large compared to the rest of the plant. Like pulling up ginseng. It's not skvalderkål, either. Fortunately in this sandy-loam soil it's not hard to remove. Wonder what the local name is.

back after two years

The skvalderkål have taken over, despite all best efforts. First sunny day in a week. Took up spade and prised out a mass from behind the flagpole, that could've been some wild aster-like plant. The stuff in my wheelbarrow looks like something Philip Treacy might design. Windfalls from both trees everywhere, rotting in the turf.

Too early to prune the pelargoniums and root cuttings.