Oslo Garden

A blog about gardening in Oslo, Norway


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Springing into action

The air is alive with the sounds and smells of late spring- early summer. Birds chatter, insects buzz. Bright days follow rain showers that leave everything looking lush and intensify the intoxicating scent of Syringa, apple blossom and Spiraea, to name but a few. Days are longer with nights that never quite get dark and a dawn chorus that starts from about 2am!

It’s hard to keep up with what’s happening in the garden.

So far it’s a good year for the strawberries in the trough. Compared to this time last year the strawberries seem much healthier and are producing lots of flowers that promise lots of juicy fruits later this summer. As soon as they begin to send out runners I’ll cut them back so the plants can focus on fruit production.   20160526_091339

Apparently strawberries can be good companion plants to bush beans, lettuce, onion, spinach and thyme. So since I’ve got a few odd lettuce seedlings left to transplant, I’ve filled a couple of gaps in the container to see how they get on.

One of the earliest plants to flower is the Lamprocapnos spectabilis. Now in its second year with me, it is looking much happier than it did last year and it has produced some lovely delicate pink flowers. It’s in a pot on its own so I can keep it especially moist in dryer spells. It sits alongside the Geranium whose own pink flower buds are waiting in the wings.

Two other plants that definitely look better second year in are the Comfrey and Aquilegia. The Comfrey has just started to open its purple bell-like flowers. The Aquilegia next to it that I bought as a unidentifiable small clump at an end of season sale suffered from powdery mildew last year but this year has emerged from winter much more invigorated. Buds have formed so I can’t wait to see what the flowers are like. The long winters here do seem to be helpful when rejuvenating plants that may ordinarily be plagued with diseases over a longer period.

The salads I’ve been growing have been enjoying the temperatures (12-19 degrees C) and rain we’ve been having lately. The Red Giant leaf, true to its name with its incredible foliage, looks fantastic. Its leaves also prove to be tasty, with a wonderful spicy mustard flavour. These are the very same ones that emerged as tiny plants from the winter so I’m very happy with how things have turned out. I expect it won’t be long now before they go to seed as temperatures rise, so I’m making the most of them while I can.  

Lettuce and watercress that I sowed in mid April are coming along well. It’s time to feed the watercress some liquid feed, so I use some of the home-made nettle feed that I made last year that has been maturing in a sealed bucket ever since.

Some of the kale and cabbage are now ready to plant out at the school garden this week. The chard, in contrast, has suffered a bit from damping off this year. So this week I’ll go through the seedlings and rescue the strongest ones to pot on and probably end up sowing some chard seeds directly into the raised beds as well.  The Helianthus seedlings (shown here in front of a pot with carrot and radish seeds I’ve just sown) have just been potted on and will be transplanted into the school garden in a week or two.

The Lathyrus odoratus and Cosmos bipinnatus seedlings are really overdue for planting out. Both need supports: for the Sweet peas something to climb on and for the Cosmos to keep the stems upright, essential if I want to use it as a cutting flower.

At the beginning of May I sowed another batch of broad beans and peas in root trainers outside (keeping the lid on to maintain high humidity until they germinated, and thereafter initially just at night times). They’ll be ready to transplant into my tubs once they’re a bit more bushy, which shouldn’t be too long if they keep growing at this rate.

The squash could do with being re-potted or transplanted but are being stretched out as they are in the cold frame for a little while longer. Last year the squash weren’t a success at the school garden which may have been, in part, because they were planted out too young and subsequently weren’t able to deal with the weather that turned windy and rainy. Though I’m not sure whether larger plants would have particularly relished that forecast either to be honest.

The fennel is outgrowing its pot and should be planted out this week which, along with the mysterious fruit bush, needs a deep container- still looking! In the meantime, the fruit bush is flowering.

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I’m still none the wiser as to the species but I guess time will tell.

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A new growing season

From here on in, the days get longer and the weather becomes milder. 20160318_090959In the month since my last post, there’s been another dump (or two) of snow in the city, rendering it all white and wintry. But this week, temperatures have risen and the sun’s been strong. The remaining snow on the ground has started to melt. There is a definite sense that spring is in the air!

I’ve removed the covers from my plants and the plants are still waking up. Lovely spring bulbs that I’d ordered in the autumn disappointingly have never arrived. So I’m short of spring colour this year. But it’s the perfect time to look ahead and start making a plan for the garden for the coming months.

This year at home, my aims are to:

  1. Harden off new seedlings in my cold frame which will hopefully make acclimatising plants a bit easier.
  2. Use the cold frame to start growing some cool-weather crops a bit earlier, and also to extend the season at the tail end.
  3. Focus on creating mixed pots with lovely combinations of vegetables and colourful annual flowers to attract pollinators.
  4. Make a bee hotel.
  5. Pot up my dahlias earlier so that they can start flowering earlier and make the most of the warm season.
  6. Make plant supports and set them in place when the plants are still young. Last year I left it too late and before I realised it my Dahlias, Cosmos and Antirrhinum all had curly stems and were useless for displaying in a vase!
  7. Run another trial to grow winter vegetables, but this time sowing them earlier in the summer so that they become more established before the winter arrives.

At the school, it’s Year Three of a 3- year rotation. I aim to:

  1. Be more organised and sow more crops in succession to extend the harvest season and avoid gluts of produce.
  2. Try growing a few new varieties this year, namely more mange tout peas, some Vicia faba and a vine winter squash.

More of that, and a growing plan, shortly.

Now, I must get on to ordering some seeds….


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Sweet Syringa

There’s one fragrance that captures Oslo on an early Summer’s day, it’s the Syringa vulgaris (or Lilac bush). Its heady sweet aroma fills air.

They seem to be ubiquitous to gardens here. You can find lots of dark pink or cream flowered varieties. They are just beginning to flower now and will have begun to fade by the time of the summer equinox, so now is a perfect time to enjoy their intense perfume against the backdrop of a wonderfully long summer’s evening in the city.


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My garden today

It does look in rather a sorry state doesn’t it?! Once the snow started to melt and the daytime temperatures rose to above freezing, I took off the fleece covers.

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But look a little closer and you will see that after winter dormancy the new shoots of spring are emerging! My Clematis, now in its 3rd year has buds peeking out. The Euphorbia (right) that I bought in the sale at the end of the summer will be one of the earliest to flower.

A Coreopsis on the left with tiny green shoots. A perennial Salvia in the pot with the hardy Geranium.

Due to it being a relatively warm and short winter this year (it didn’t reach lower than about -12C) the bulbs actually started to come out very early (before December) and I thought they may be killed off by the subsequent freeze! Somehow they have come out unscathed. Strawberries too, seem to have survived. It was a bit of an experiment to see  whether keeping them outdoors under fleece would be enough.

Lastly the sweet little Primula and new shoots of a mystery plant. I can’t remember what I planted there, so time will tell, and a lesson to always take notes, though it never seems as much fun to do at the time!

For the most part I was able to leave the covers off entirely even when the night-time temperatures dropped from time to time. I watched the night-time temperatures like a hawk though and only re-covered the more tender plants like the Tulips and my two Dianthus. Unfortunately my winter experiment this year didn’t unfortunately do so well for the Dianthus. In previous years I had kept them in my shed covered with a light fleece. But this year I decided to keep them outside under cover with all the other plants. They seemed to be coping well until ironically the weather warmed up. When I had to go away for Easter holidays, I opted to keep them covered as the night-time temperatures were still dipping down. However the sun during the day proved too intense and they’ve dried out. I don’t think i can save the Dianthus deltoides but my Dianthus barbatus (left) may be ok….

Two things I particularly want to try this year: one, grow more veg and two, grow some perennial flowers from seed, with the idea being of growing them together in pots. In the meantime over the coming week, my next step is to do a bit of a tidy up: sort out what’s in the pots, add some of the new plants I never managed to arrange, get rid of those that can’t be saved and add some fresh soil to all the pots.

Things are kicking off! Happy Spring!