Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Welcome snow!

The first real snow of the year is here and everything is covered with its white, forgiving blanket. The world looks clean and fresh and no one can see I forgot to take in my tools his fall either, not even me. In fact, I can’t even find them.

One of the disadvantages with being an optimistic gardener with a lot of ideas, ability for starting projects and a lack of ability to finish them is that you spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for your tools. They are where I got the last idea. Unfortunately, I can’t always remember where that was.

This is how it works. I come home from somewhere, see a flower that I haven’t seen before and of course I have to go looking at it. After having made the flowers acquaintance I see some weed that needs to be removed. The now gone weed reveals a need for mulch – of to the compost to get some nice material. On my way back I see a rambling rose that needs help with its trellis, so I mulch the flower and then head of to help the rose. Now I am somewhere in the near of the kitchen garden where I usually find some rape sugar peas (I could live on just sugar peas if I had to). Happily I go there, have some peas, talk to the vegetables, get a planting spade to remove a dandelion that threatens to suffocate the salad. Oh look! The irises are flowering. I bought them, as very small rhizomes and now, finally I will get to see the flowers. Of to them! Thus, I jump from plant to plant and from part to part in the garden. Four hours later I have weeded a little, eaten some more sugar pea pods, moved some plants to a better place, said some encouraging words to the bees and some less encouraging words to the Lily Beetles. What I haven’t done yet is reached the front door or changed my clothes. I tend to garden in skirt and high heels. My handbag is to be found somewhere along the trace as is every gardening tool we have. Luckily my husband eventually starts a rescue mission to find me and make sure I get something to eat, Otherwise I would probably be out there till midnight, falling asleep by the rhubarbs.

This works well during the growing season. When everything is growing and flowering it gives the garden a lush and generous feeling. It is November that is the problem. In November all the leaves have left the branches and cover the ground. The perennials have died back and the bushes stand there, all naked. As a gardener I am quite happy about it. The leaves help everything to survive the winter and give the worms something to do. The perennials (at least some of them) will look very nice in the winter, covered with frost or snow, so I don’t mind them either.
But as someone who welcomes non-gardening people to her house, well, I am not so happy about it. Then I suddenly see that everything is either grey or muddy brown. That the wheelbarrow still stands in the middle of the lawn (in the middle of a project of course, what else) and that the perennial stems make everything look untidy. Non-gardening people seem to believe that the garden of an enthusiast should look tidy, neat and at its best, at every moment of the year. Well, maybe it should, but it doesn’t.
Therefore it is always a relief when the snow arrives. In one moment the naked trees and bushes start looking pretty again. Event the perennials look good. No muddy brown, just a soft white, clean cover. The transformation is complete. Now I calmly await new visitors and when someone say ‘It looks just like a Christmas card’ I smile, happily aware of the fact that no one knows the large thing on the lawn is not a bush, it’s the wheel barrow and that the gardening tools are lost, once again.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Garden quote of today

A garden is never so good as it will be next year.
Thomas Cooper

Monday, November 21, 2005

Split personality

I think I am a split personality.

The ordered and wise Linn helps beginner gardeners by answering questions and telling people how to arrange their gardens to be easy to maintain (the most usual wish of them all), interesting all year round and in what order things ought to be done for best result.

The spontaneous, slightly chaotic Linn looks at her own garden and feels like screaming - HELP! Life continues to go on without giving me the extra hours needed to arrange the garden properly. To be honest, I doubt that I really would arrange the garden properly even if I got 30 hours a day instead of 24. I probably just would find a thousand more projects to dive into. Every new idea has to be tried on. A variety of new plats need to be tested and new holes have to be dug.

And I believe that it’s there somewhere the key to understanding lies. The people I help with gardening advise usually want a nice garden to surround the house they live in. When we bought our home I bought a garden and luckily there was a house in it too. Both ways of looking at the garden are perfectly all right. They just are very different.

I live with my garden, follow it and am constantly being fascinated by it. For me, gardening is a process. When I weed and find a plant I do not recognize I have to let it grow just to see what it is. The birds planted three sunflowers by my rhododendrons a few years ago. It looked kind of funny with the three tall flowers above the low rhododendrons, azaleas and lilies. But I just couldn’t take them away. They grew so fast and I was curious just to see how tall they would become. And I have a passionate relationship with my compost. The process never ceases to amaze me. Cut grass, scraps of food, twigs etc goes in and out comes the best, darkest and richest soil there is. It even smells good. Amazing!
Oh, and I speak to worms to. I apologize when I dig them up. It is probably a good thing that we live in the countryside with very few neighbors.

With this relationship to everything living I do not think it is possible to get a well-ordered garden that looks like cut from a gardening magazine. And if it is possible, please don’t tell me. Let me live with this assumption through the grey days of November. In January I’ll start to make new plans again. By then I am ready to listen to advise.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Garden quote of today

I once read about the dangers of gardening; so I quit reading for two weeks.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Garden quotes for Christmas?

It will hardly come as a surprise for you to hear that I like gardening quotes.
In fact, I like them so much I have created a small webshop. Let me show you some of my creations. There is more to come, I just have to find the time.

If you know a really great gardening quote I'd be very glad if you'd like to send it to me.
If it is a really good one I'll post it as "Quote of today".

Garden quote of today

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Strange new favourite

I have shocking news. The common Snowberry Symphoricarpos albus, is a beautiful bush. I know, I know. It grows like a weed. It is found in almost every public planting that have been planned by a technician rather than a garden architect. I know all that and I don’t deny it.

But - you knew a ‘but’ was coming and here it is - I forgive all that because of one thing, the pearl white berries on naked branches. A year ago I was on my way back to the car after having visited a nice restaurant. It was a dark November evening. All leaves had fallen and it was rather cold. As I turned from the street and into the car park I threw a glace sideways and there they were. Glowing in the streetlights, hanging like jewels. I had to stop and just look. I couldn’t really believe what I just experienced. It was a moment of beauty, right there, in the car park, in the darkest month of them all and the supplier of it was nothing less, and certainly nothing more, than the most common bush of them all - the snowberry.

Rather amazed I sat in the car and drew home.

For a year now I have tried hard to deny its beauty thinking it was just the late night, the lights and so on. I won’t blame it on drinking though as I hadn’t been drinking at all. But denial is no longer an option. The other morning as I drew to work I saw another bunch of snowberry bushes, this time in the morning light. Cold morning. Bleak November sun. Snowberry pearls on naked branches. Beautiful.

I don’t think I will start to grow snowbushes in my garden. I don’t like them most of the year and they are a bit too aggressive for me. I will continue to enjoy them in late fall and in the winter though, and this have made me curious. What other plants, trees, bushes are waiting to be discovered as things of real beauty? Things like roses, lilies and magnolias everybody knows are beautiful but what about the rest of the plant population? Are there plants that show their best side in January? October? March? I want to go out and discover! It is pitch black outside. Will the neighbors wonder if I start walking around with a flashlight? If I am not back within twenty-four hours, please tell the police I wasn’t planning on breaking and entering - I was merely gardening.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Garden quote of today

All gardeners know better than other gardeners.
- Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cold gardener - old friends

Your optimistic gardener has turned into a cold one. Nothing odd or very interesting about that, but it is inconvenient. At times like this I prefer to snuggle up in an armchair, with a plaid and a large (make that a huge one please waiter...) cup of coffee. And a bunch of old gardening magazines. Yes, old ones. The new magazines should be read when the mind is crystal clear. Listening to every nuance, every shift in tone. Trigging the 'must have' feeling with lush images of fantastic plantings. Starting new chains of thought by featured gardens. All this is very well, when you are well.

When you got a cold or otherwise feel a bit run over by a steamroller, new magazines don't do the trick. What you need then are old friends. Even if you haven't read this very issue for several years the feeling when you take out a bunch of old magazines is a feeling of comfort. You are amongst friends. You can breeze swiftly through articles of no interest for you without having the feeling you need to read it (you already have read it, when the magazine was new), look at the pictures, indulge yourself to articles regarding topics you know you'll never ever transform into reality - like growing vegetables if you are a convinced carnivore or bog gardening if you live in the middle of the desert. Reading old gardening magazines is free from any pressure.

Well, in the perfect world there is where I should be. In an old and comfortable armchair, reading old magazines. But, as you all know, we have to stick to the world we've got and I had to get up, get dressed and get to the office. There is work to be done, cold or not. So half my brain is trying to think intelligent thoughts while the other half is whispering things like 'go home, go to bed, read old gardening magazines'. Got a nasty feeling that sense of duty will win this battle too, as it always does.

But, even this grey November day has its sparks of light. My Impatiens hawkeri is flowering. It is a potted plant of course, has to be in my zone, and lives its life on the windowsill. I bought it years ago when I moved into my new office. It flowered and flowered for a very long time. When it stopped flowering most people I know would throw it away, but I couldn't do that. It was a healthy plant and I am a real wimp when it comes to killing something that is alive. So it went on living on the windowsill. I have thought it to be dead many times. Went on holiday and found it all dry and hay like when I returned. In a desperate attempt to see if it had any spark of life left I watered it - and wow, the stems rose and the plant just continued to live. Can you but love such a plant? We have a personal relation now, my Impatiens and me. Perhaps that is why today it flowers again. Six bright pink flowers brighten up the grey November morning and going to the office was all worth it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


How comes that I, who love gardening in every way, also love winter? Snow, ice and everything frozen. I have never really understood it completely.

Explanation anyone?

Garden quote of today

There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.


I love building things!

Today I built a box. (I said I love to build things, not that I was very good at it. )

In May we installed geothermal heating in the house - an attempt to lower the heating costs. Old houses cost a lot to heat. Anyway, the new heating system is installed and everything works fine. However, two pipes needed to be built in before winter. This afternoon I finally started. If 'learning by doing' ever have been suitable for describing a situation, this was it.

One of the advantages of living in an old house is that other people have been living there before and left usable things. Today the usable things were boards and insulating material. Thank you forerunners!

It took most of the afternoon and a professional carpenter would probably have a lot of things to say about it, but the pipes are now built in. The box is insulated and everything is protected from rain and snow. And I made it myself!

By the way, one of my favorite roses, the pink Isphahan, has sprung a flower. Normally it blooms once a year, in June. But today, in darkest November one single pink flower brightens the day. Life is good.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Garden quote of today

You know you are a real gardener when you think compost is a fascinating subject.


Pelargoniums can think! Honestly.

Want proof? OK. It's the only explanation I can find to what happens every fall.

In the summertime my pelargoniums spend their time in pots outside. As fall comes and the temperature gets colder they need to get inside. As I never have been bothered to follow every piece of wise advise the gardening magazines provide regarding how to let your pelargoniums spend their winter, I simply lift them inside and let them spend the winter by the window as any other kind of indoor plants.

And this is where it happens. The old plants, i.e. the ones that have lived through at least one winter, immediately start to spring new, light green leaves. A good strategy to handle the poor winter light. The rookies, however, don't. They keep their dark, green outside leaves and thus struggle. Normally the dark green leaves turn more and more yellow and somewhere in February they get the idea and start to spring light green 'low light leaves'. The next fall they have learnt to spring light green leaves the moment they are brought indoors.

Makes me wonder: How do they learn?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Why optimistic

Time for confession. I am a garden optimist - hence the title of the blog.

Living in Sweden (~USDA zone 5) I live through winters and summers. Spring comes with its hopes and the fall with its time for reflection. And let's face it - many things do not survive. Of course one can choose hardy plants. It is not the hardiness that's the problem - it's me. For some, not yet discovered reason, I always consider myself to be a very neet, organized and energetic gardener. A gardener that sows just the amount of seeds needed that season. A gardener that weeds properly. A gardener that digs deep enough holes and always prepares the place for planting before she buys any plants. A gardener who color coordinates her flowerbeds and keep them neat and tidy through the season.
That is exactly the kind of gardener I am - in the winter.

In the summer I somehow transform into something quite different. I hate replanting seedlings. It is just dead boring. According to the gardening magazines, a true gardener should love to sow and replant. She should arrange small but tasteful still lifes and be chic. This makes me wonder what kind of gardener I am - a fake one?
I love planting things. I love talking to everything. I love walking around my garden and feel alive. In the summer I turn into a lazy gardener.
But guess what. If I do not sow tricky seeds that need replanting but stick to cuttings and dividing large plants, if I use my beloved compost and if I cover the soil in the flowerbeds with cut grass for moist and nutrition - most things actually survive. I believe I have learnt that now. That is, until the winter is here again and the catalogs begin to come (you know which ones I mean). Then it is time for the neet, organized and energetic gardener to rise again.


Well, here we go. The very first post in my very first own blog.

It feels like there ought to be some sort of celebration. A grand premiere. *Ta ta tatatatrara* (Playing a fanfare). I hereby declare this blog inaugurated. So, welcome everybody to the world of the optimistic gardener.