Vibrant viburnum

December is often a dull dank month, usually enlivened in Denmark at least with lots of candles and hygge. The temptation to go into the garden is not very high mostly, but the view from the kitchen window is considerably cheered by this beautiful Viburnum x bodnantense.

I was really happy to discover we had one of these in the garden when we moved in -if we hadn’t, I would have planted one. They are rather shrubby, dense and nondescript in Ssmmer, though their densely packed branched do provide good cover for garden birds. However in winter, especially in mild spells like the one we have had recently, they are covered in these beautiful pale pink flowers.

I first came across the tree in the garden of our first house together, where my husband spent a good deal of time and sweat thoroughly renovating three viburnum trees. We didn’t really know what they were then but happily the good old RHS produced a very nice guide to the all different varieties at some point.

I was rather surprised to discover that this particular type is actually a rather recent introduction, bred by crossing two different species of viburnum. The name refers to the famous Bodnant gardens in Wales where it was produced.

The branches of flowers are a mainstay of our indoor cut flowers in Winter. They have a pleasing minimalist, Japanese style which I really like. They last about a week in a vase and this variety at least has little scent (though I recall our old ones having a very heavy scent like most winter flowering shrubs). I always think that the freshly cut wood smells of sesame oil.

I am trying to be a little more mindful these days, it has been a busy and difficult year for a number of reasons, and there is pretty god evidence that focusing on the here and now and taking pleasure in your surroundings is very good for both de-stressing and  for your mental health in general. I think writing this blog is a really great way to focus on doing exactly that so expect a few more of these small posts on the simple pleasures in life.

Quite apart from that we also pay a great deal of tax for the privilege of a garden in Copenhagen and it makes sense to enjoy it as much as possible, not just in summer! So this morning it is time for a good home made caffe latte and some time contemplating the shrubs before work…

I am ridiculously proud of being able to make a caffe latte with different strata…



Autumn’s last fruits

The best thing about getting a weekly delivery of fruit and vegetables is the feeling that someone has just brought you a present. I came out the house to be greeted with a stack of boxes up to waist height, delivered by Aarstiderne in the wee small hours. Every Tuesday come rain, snow or sun they deliver to us a box of veg, a box of mixed fruit and a box of bananas, to which I sometimes add extras like cheese, nuts, oranges and other specialities in season, today it was different squashes.

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Like a tower of gifts, I usually can’t wait to unpack them all…

We subscribe to the “dogme” vegetable box, 100% guaranteed Danish grown organic vegetables. This does mean that you have to be creative with cabbage, carrots and potatoes, especially in winter.

On the other hand, a vegetarian diet lends itself rather wonderfully to these ingredients and we’ve never been bored. Eating seasonally means you really appreciate the flavours and colours of vegetables, often just for a short time before something else comes along that is appealing. Today the box included this little box of beauties:

Cherry tomatoes, grown in Denmark – the last of the summer’s crop?

They are probably outrageously expensive to produce (hence the small amount), but they are also oh so tasty, a last lingering taste of summer, with not a hint of the waterbomb Dutch ones grown on Groningnen gas

I usually do one big cooking session a week and then it’s easy for whoever has brought home the children to just heat up and serve at dinnertime. So after working way too late tonight, I was happy to complement my Danish tomatoes with the last of the seasons mixed salad leaves and a feta cheese and leek tart I made yesterday for a quick supper.

Leek and Feta Cheese tart (a completely made up recipe) with salad. Perfect late night supper…

The fruits in the background (mostly not Danish, though the apples are Danish, and extremely tasty too) also arrived today. We seem to eat a vast quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables, all of this will be gone in a week, which is no bad thing. The peelings and apple cores will go to our compost heap there to help make new compost for our garden.

The primary reason I order from Aarstiderne is actually convenience. I am no unquestioning fan of organically produced food per se, I cannot believe we will feed the world organically, and some forms of organic production also have environmental downsides (watch this TED talk for example which explains the issues based on sound science).

However, I do like eating seasonally and locally and healthily. Both I and my husband have pretty intensive jobs, there is not much time for shopping and I prefer to spend my out of office time with my children rather than on chores. Having brilliant, fresh, good quality veg delivered to our door is a luxury I consider well worth paying for. As an additional advantage Aarstiderne have a rather good app too so in a quiet moment this afternoon I was able to order all the food for our Christmas dinner to be delivered the Monday before.

A Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

We’re having Nigel Slater’s rather wonderful mushroom Bourguignon with kale and creamy mashed potatoes, and of course sprouts. For dessert it will probably be home made Ris a la Mande – in my opinion the best part of the Danish Christmas Dinner, plus of course a proper British Christmas cake (my preferred recipe is a good old Delia Smith one), nicely maturing in the cupboard at the moment with the assistance of some Strathisla single malt whisky.

Christmas cake, this is the second one we’ve made this year,the first one was eaten within 2 days. I think it’s fair to say the family likes it!

The joy of veg

Christmas must be coming, we received our first Brussels sprouts in the veg box this morning…  

Perhaps surprisingly, this news was greeted with great joy by the two munchkins who, they tell me, “love Brussels sprouts, they’re yummy”…

We’ll see. 

It’s for sure though that husband doesn’t! 😃

Edging the pond

In a sense digging and lining the pond was the easy part, we did not give much though to the problem of edging. There has been a lot of discussion and sketches in our household this week about how to finish it off. Husband took a spade to one edge but was rather dissatisfied with the result. Finally however, with the help of our master textbook on gardening (thank you RHS):

I think we’ve decided on a solution we’re happy with.

It does mean some more digging and another visit to the garden centre for some gravel and pebbles, but hey, this is also an opportunity to buy more plants!

In the photo below you can see the shallow trench the liner is in, with the turtles sloping down to it. The intention is to fill it with larger stones, pebbles and gravel to give a kind of beach effect. We hope to fill this with edging bog plants ultimately too.

The nice thing about spending some time around the pond is the opportunity to it offers to check what wildlife is already inhabiting our wildlife pool. So far I’ve seen a few pond skaters but today I also saw a black diving beetle (probably this one, though I’m far from an expert!) swimming around very happily, which is reassuring. There were a few more pond skaters, which seemed to arrive pretty much with the water and the pond liner itself also had a smooth slimy feel so I expect the algae are starting to colonies as well. No sign of our water lilies yet at the surface though…


So, a new pond…

After a childhood spent staring in ditches at insects and fish my husband decided that he wants a new pond. I am happy to agree since it’s the single best thing you can do for wildlife in your garden. Having just bought a house with a decent-sized garden we have the space and after some discussion and web searching I came back from a work trip away to find a hole in the lawn…

Clearly the kids were pretty excited at the prospect too, so a further morning of work and we have a gaping hole, with multiple levels and a maximum depth of 75 cm (just deep enough for us to grow water lilies – my passion).

The turves removed from the lawn have all been stacked by the compost heaps, according to Bob Flowerdew, our guru of gardening, they make a fine potting compost when allowed to break down for 6 months or so. This is a step beyond my normal chuck it in and see what happens approach to composting, so let’s see if it works

Anyway, hole dug, it was time to add the liner. Possibly we’ll regret it later but being a bit lazy, and discovering our ground is mostly clay anyway apparently, we just put in a pvc liner with no sand or geotextile under it. It took a little bit of discussion and finessing but eventually we got it where we wanted.

And now for the water…

We are fortunate enough to have a rainwater reservoir installed, so all the rainfall from the roof was stored, perfect for our pond purposes as it should be clean but low in nutrients. On went the pump and a couple of hours later, there is our pond:
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At this point I feel I should admit that we have “introduced” some wildlife, two pond skaters and a few bits of duck weed were safely captured and carried home in a plastic jar to our pond from the nearby Søndermarken park. We’ve also planted a few water lilies on the bottom.
Now, let’s see what else can come visiting….