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  • Writer's pictureSofias Country Gardens

Gardening fast and slow

And poof - a month has gone by without me really noticing it. Does that ever happen to you, that time makes a quantum leap and just disappears into ether? It feels the same with summer. One moment it is spring, and I'm all set up to start the gardening season and the next thing I know autumn is here. Is it that as we get older we accumulate so many memories under the belt that time seems to move faster, or that with so much media on our hands the information flow is too much, too often and too fast? Perhaps it is just the quickening of the pace of life again, now that most of the corona restrictions have lifted in this part of the world. After 18 months of quiet solitude deep in the country, it feels strangely odd to get back into the groove of things. It got me thinking about my gardens, and how some projects are finished within a month and others take years to complete. Some garden projects are fast, and others slow. Making a border is mostly a one season project, beginning with deciding on wether to dig down deep into the soil or build upwards with different layers of organic material that slowly decompose and become soil. As a rule of thumb, I tend to work with the existing soil conditions instead forcefully of imposing my will on nature. If the ground is meagre and filled with stones and weeds, I will build upwards instead of even thinking of trying to dig down into it. If, on the other hand, I'm making a border in an existing lawn where years of lawn clippings have composted and the soil is a beautiful loam, I will dig downwards.

And so it was when I decided to add a small sculpture garden to the lawns at Stensund, the red house. In the beginning of the growing season I am like a famished wild boar, digging up perfectly good lawn and making new planting areas as much and often as I can. I have an insatiable appetite for more flowers, and dream of colour schemes and succession planting. Perhaps it is the light that comes back after a long dark winter, but my energy is at an all time high and my soul shouts with joy: "More is more!! Bring it on, dig in, let's have fun!!" My back, on the other hand, demands pace and consideration. Even though the lawn was dug up using my trusty little green tractor, there was still a lot of work to separate the topsoil from the grass roots to keep as much of the good quality loam in the new border as possible. Patience is a virtue I woefully lack, so I was happy to have the help of my friend Roger to do the heavy lifting! By the end of June the border was ready, free from grass and enclosed by a metal rim to facilitate cutting the lawn around it.

I had a crazy idea to make a sculpture garden here in the wilds of southwest Finland, and realised finding suitable pieces is much harder than I thought it would be. Here most sculptures are slightly banal, and made from white composite cement, so there was no popping off to the local garden center to shop myself happy. White cement doesn't age nicely. It doesn't get the soft faded hues I was looking for. The air is so clean that it doesn't go nicely grey either. A happy problem to have for sure, that the air is too clean to weather stone, but it meant I needed to import my statues. The internet is a wonderful invention, and as we all surely found during the corona years home shopping by mail order is no shame. So I found online auctions in Sweden and had the statues sent over, carefully packed in cardboard crates that I duly recycled. Still, it was a waiting game to receive the statues, and by the time the delivery came towards the end of July I had planted it with (mostly) late flowering perennials.

The slowness of the project actually worked in my favour, I would say. By the time I got around to planting the freshness of early summer had passed, and I had already begun to look at late summer perennials. It taught me a valuable lesson in patience, as I realised the mad energy of early summer means I have way too many early summer perennials and not enough for the time when summer mellows into autumn, and both bees and I are a bit more tiered. By now the peonies, aquilegias, foxgloves and wildflowers I so favour have gone dormant and a late season border is much needed. I decided on a limited colour scheme, with the structure provided by soft pink climbing rose New Dawn and Burbon shrub rose "Louise Odier", and three dark leaved Weigela florida "Victoria" shrubs that have deep pink flowers, surrounded by perennials. These too have soft pink shades beginning with a peony "Sarah Bernhard", going towards brighter pinks in Anemone h. "Praecox", Echinacea purpurea "Powwow Wild Berry" and Astrantia major "Rubra", finishing off with burgundy Sedum Purple Emperor. To add a softness contrasted with more colour there are the soft Achillea millefolium and blue Geranium Roxanne. Although I must say it irks me to have the ugly green net around my borders, I'm quite pleased with the end result. I guess nothing is ever perfect and with both chicken going free and deer visiting the garden a bit of ugly fencing is perhaps not a bad price to pay for having flowers in the middle of a wilderness.

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