2019, Gardens of the World, Uncategorized

Armchair Travelers’ Gardens: Visby, Sweden

 

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 Off  the southern coast of Sweden is the island of Gotland, an idyllic place full of farms and villages, and even the summer house of the King and Queen of Sweden. It is also where the town of Visby is located, a terra cotta-roofed, church spire-studded little town, much of which is located within the medieval city walls. The town boasts a spectacular Botanical Garden, but even before you get there, you feel as though you are in a garden, as roses and other flowers burst from every opening; some growing where they were planted, others “volunteering” wherever there is enough soil for them to thrive.  You get the feeling that if you stand still for too long, someone will plant a rose at your feet. If you walk down the rather incongruously named Fish Alley and you will see white and yellow houses covered with red and pink roses, with Lavender and Daylillies, Cornflowers and Campanulas growing lusciously in front. Everywhere there is an opportunity for plants to grow, they will be growing, even if they are just poppies eeking out an existence in a crack at the foundation of a house. And the residents of Visby seem happy to let them grow, and leave them to strut their stuff.

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   The Botanical Gardens, although fairly small in size, make up for it in content. There are shady gardens with lichen encrusted urns, the mossy ruin of a building (I never did find out what it had been) and a bridge over a small stream. When I was there, someone was playing a flute, just out of sight, and the notes hung over the garden and mixed with the bird song. It was an idyllic place, but the jewel in the crown was the Rose Garden. There, a pergola with a white climbing rose (Rosa x helenae ‘Hybrida’) foaming over the top provided the background to what must have been close to a hundred different species of roses, with perennials such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’, Salvia, and Dianthus planted in the front. The scent was heavenly. Each arch of the pergola created a separate “painting”, and it was like being in a living art gallery. I passed the gardener who was busy deadheading the roses, and had almost filled up a wheelbarrow with the most beautiful collage of different colored rose petals. It was a feast for the soul.

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    If you ever find yourself in Sweden, a trip to Gotland is well worth the effort. Once you find yourself in Gotland, a visit to Visby is a must. Just don’t stand still too long! 

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2018, November 2018, What to do in the garden

Take care of tender perennials

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It’s starting to get colder, and soon the snow will start to fall. This is great for the plants, as snow is an excellent insulator. But what if it doesn’t snow? What if it’s just really cold for awhile, first? Straight – up cold can be devastating for perennials, especially tender ones that are at the limit of their cold hardiness, or new ones that got planted late.

What to do? Well, it’s better to hedge your bets and give your most precious plants some protection than just hope that there will be snow. This doesn’t mean anything too complicated – just cover the crowns of the plants with salt-marsh hay, or evergreen tree boughs. (You can supplement these later with boughs cut off your Christmas tree, if you have one.)

Roses can also benefit from a little cover. Plastic fencing or chicken-wire, wrapped around them, and stuffed with leaves works well. You can also buy things made especially for roses, but then you have to figure out where to store them the rest of the year. But in the end, it’s up to you. Anything you can do to help the plants will be greatly appreciated by them, and they will reward you in kind in the summer.

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2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

Last time to fertilize roses

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As I wrote about in April (See blog post from April 12), roses really appreciate a monthly dose of fertilizer from April through September. Well, here we are, in September, and it’s time to give them their final feeding before allowing them to start getting ready for the winter. This means letting any new growth that was encouraged by this latest meal to grow and harden off before the cold weather comes. if you fertilize too late, then the new foliage will get killed by frost and you will have wasted all that effort.

I will re-attach the drawing of where to fertilize, so that you don’t have to look back for it. Hopefully it will have become old hat if you have been feeding your roses monthly, but if not, it’s not too late and they will appreciate their last supper for awhile. I hope that you have had an excellent rose season!

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2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

There are always flowers…

Henri Matisse said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” At this time of year, it’s easy to get so caught up in our lives that we forget to stop and look at the garden and what it has to offer, so this week I thought I’d post some flower pictures from around the virtual garden. I encourage you to stop and spend a few minutes enjoying your own garden, or that of a friend – the summer goes by so quickly…

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April 2018, What to do in the garden

Fertilizing Roses

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I have always had good luck with roses. Perhaps it’s because I’m half English, so it is ingrained in my particular genetic mixture. More likely though, it’s because I really like them, and because of that, I have made a point to learn what makes them happy. One thing that I do, no matter how busy I am, is to give them regular fertilizer once a month from April to September. I try to do it on the first of the month, in order to keep it consistent, and to help me remember to do it. I use Rose-tone, by Espoma, which has a nutritional breakdown of 4-3-2. (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium). I’m sure there are other good brands out there, but I like this one.

The application is simple: Just sprinkle it around the “drip line” of the plant, and either water it in, or let the rain do it. The “drip line” is the outermost circle of leaves of the plant. (See illustration.) By spreading the fertilizer that far out, as opposed to right at the base of the plant, you encourage healthy root growth and spread.

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And that’s it! Really, the hardest part is just remembering to do it.