Late Winter in Southern Finland

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Hello friends!

It’s not springtime here yet – still a bit wintry and cold. Currently, the wind is steady and there are strong gusts which have caused some downed-tree havoc overnight throughout southeastern-western Finland. Last week we had a slight taste of springtime with warm daytime temperatures up to +7c. Snow was melting, patchy grass was visible, sun was shining brightly – fantastic. Then those days ended, and we returned to cold blasts of sub-zero temperatures and scattered snowfall. There have been snow squalls, and just the regular gentle flakes – all of which haven’t really amounted to much actual accumulation, yet it’s the reverse of last week’s mild temperatures and uplifting feelings of spring.

During the tail end of the nice weather Pekka decided it was time to start the process of cutting down a couple dying trees.  When we first arrived here, there were several more apple trees than we currently have, as well as a multitude of scraggly wild plum trees, which must have been seeded by the birds since they were growing willy-nilly everywhere. We removed the wild plums and thinned the apple trees- leaving the healthiest ones.  Unfortunately, the council side of the property border also has many large trees which have also grown several meters taller since we’ve been here. Several of them have become brutes which are now smothering our remaining apple trees, as well as many plants we’ve put in throughout our landscaped beds.

Last spring we had to take down one of the mature apple trees we’d kept. It had died altogether, likely from lack of sun exposure. This year there are two more which are failing. Of the remaining apple trees we have left, the largest and healthiest are now threatened by the rapid growth of the council trees blocking sun exposure.

The council trees are in an area of ‘green space’- unmanaged and left to fend for itself. The trees and plants growing within the ‘green space’ are unplanned ‘wild’ trees. I would label them as weed trees. Because of their unmanaged status these trees have been allowed to grow very large and have smothered out everything else. There is a man-made ravine and water course which is the remnant of farming in this space from decades ago. Most of the weed trees are growing along this water course, and the water course runs parallel to our side-and back border of the council property.

I’ve called the city of Lohja and spoken with the head gardener. She has agreed to come out for an inspection/visit on Tuesday to see the trees in question. Hopefully, the council will decide to mitigate the tree situation so that all parties benefit from having a wooded green space which won’t smother and kill our garden.  Sadly, for the two latest apple trees, it’s much too late to for them. Years of sun deprivation have taken its toll.

Some unfortunate news arrived from the UK. We were contacted by David Austin Rose grower of Shropshire UK who  regrettably notified us they would be unable to send our autumn order of roses and replacements this April – due to Brexit. As it turns out, I could have received my complete order if I’d just taken delivery of it last autumn, instead of arranging for it to be delivered (as we usually have done) in April of the following year – for springtime planting.  So no more David Austin roses! 

This news has really thrown me for a loop. The amount of revenue the UK is losing in sales to Europe is staggering. Everything from clothing, books, seeds and planting materials, for example. And our rose orders. What a colossal blunder!

So without David Austin I’ve had to look elsewhere for roses. Sure there are roses available in Finland, many varieties of which we’re already growing. Having a provider like David Austin had meant a source of great selection which was easy to obtain and priced well against the competition. Now I’ve been looking elsewhere to find the items from my original -now undeliverable- order. It’s been painstakingly difficult!!!

Don’t get me wrong. Shopping within the EU is usually quite easy -depending on what it is you’re actually shopping for! I discovered some EU countries sell plants/roses only within the border of that country! (Hungary get with it!) What a lost opportunity! I’m not a business major, but even I can spot an opportunity for growers/sellers within the EU to capitalize on the failure of the UK to deliver to the EU marketplace.  Sweden was a place I thought I’d really luck out and be able to find everything I needed & wanted. Too bad every rose grower I contacted in Sweden FAILED to even reply to requests about shipping to Finland! All of my searching for rose sources led me back to the next largest provider after the UK – Germany. Germany has a robust community of rose breeders and commercial sellers. With great selection and decades of successful enterprise.

I have ordered from Germany before. In 2019, I placed my first rose order with a German company called Rosenhof Schultheis. I wrote about them before and was really happy to find several varieties of rose which are impossible to locate in Finland. With one good experience under the belt, I ordered from them again in 2020. A bit of an issue when it came time to send the order as several of one type had been deleted from the order by Rosenhof since they’d determined the roses to be not of the highest quality for delivery.  Those undeliverable roses have given me the toughest time! I had to look everywhere to find them, but even David Austin (when they were still able to send to EU) didn’t have them in stock.

This year the search continued for those roses and any others we could find which are hardy to our zone. I found another German grower, Schmid-Gartenpflanzen. It seemed my dreams of finding hard to get roses had come true. My order placed and expectations of their arrival at planting time gave me great satisfaction and sense of well-being. All the hours of searching had paid off! I felt pretty darned good to have solved that most difficult sourcing problem. But, as you’ve likely surmised and expected, there was a problem. Yep, a big one. Language. Translation/communication breakdown. SNAFU. Call it what you will. An order of roses that were requested to be sent in mid-April arrived on 2 March- a full 30 days before even THEY said they would be sending the roses. Yep, you guessed it. The ground is covered in 2 feet of snow and there’s no possibility of planting ANYTHING.

Just what is a person to do with 30 bare-root and container grown roses which cannot be planted! I was scrambling in urgency to figure out what to do. I knew the bare-roots would need to be placed in buckets of water to re-hydrate them from the effects of shipping/delivery. This is routine for every bare-root rose delivered to us. But usually after 24 hours the plants are planted in the ground! Now I had to come up with something else. We went out looking for bagged soil, and luckily found some, despite it being out of season. The shops here don’t usually put planting materials out UNTIL it’s planting time! I emptied out a couple of the 45l black plastic tubs we use in the greenhouse and then got busy ‘planting’ the roses in a temporary home until it’s possible to plant them permanently in the ground. Luckily the shed had enough room to house these 30 roses until a more opportune time arrives.  Whether they’ll survive this rather crazy scheme, I don’t know! UGH, I’m lamenting the loss of David Austin every time I think of roses. Brexit be damned!

Stressful times seem behind me now, there’s nothing I can do which hasn’t been done to keep those roses alive. It will be months before we know whether they’ve made it or not. While the immediate urgency to do something about them has now passed, there’s a small lurking dread in the ‘not-knowing.’  With the extension of wintry weather at hand, it prolongs the inability to plant them out and the delay of relief.

In sum, I am really frustrated and discouraged by having to go to such great lengths to source plants and materials. And worse, to have upended our usual planting season by this incredibly stressful turn of events. Schmid, for their part have not responded to numerous emails. A phone call was answered promptly by a man who replied, ‘he did not speak English,’ in perfect understandable English BTW, and then promptly hung up the phone! UGH

In case anyone was wondering what all the fuss had been about. These are the sought for roses and several others which are hardy for our gardening zone. Have a look!

Agathe Incarnata

Alan Titchmarsh

Climbing Souvenir de Malmaison

Compassion

Duchesse de Montebello

Gentle Hermoine

Frau Karl Druschki

Paul Neyron

Schneewittchen

William and Catherine

Winchester Cathedral

Jasmina

Long John Silver

Eglantyne

Boule de Neige

Blachefleur

Belle Amour

Albertine

Our design hats have been on for the past week as we try to come up with brilliant ideas on how to transform the final section of our sunny lawn into garden beds.

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A small water butt or feature seems to be taking hold, along with several arbors for many of those climbing rose varieties. As this section of lawn is the last grand expanse of sunshine, the items placed there will surely benefit from almost continuous daytime sun exposure. On the plant list are several of the newly arrived roses, as well as some roses from other areas which haven’t received enough sun where they’ve previously been planted. Transplanting isn’t hard, and in early spring before they’ve started pushing new growth is the ideal time. Shifting a couple of roses and adding perennials and small conifers is our intended project plan. We cannot plant anything which will gather too much height, as we don’t want to create shade pockets in this final sunny space.

Besides planting and garden bed design, there is the remainder of the shed remodel to complete, the usual yard tidy up after winter to look forward to doing, and the possible chance we will tackle the house by repainting the exterior siding and trim! Sitting around for months playing computer games and playing Fortnite gets pretty boring when you cannot get outside to do any gardening or construction. 🙂

When the season starts, we are more than ready to get going!  Hopefully things at your house & garden are not causing you too much stress, and you’ll be able to get cracking soon. Some of our gardening friends in the UK are already mowing the grass and enjoying several varieties of blooming plants in their gardens! NOT quite there yet! Maybe in another couple months!

Take care friends. Until next time ❤

Vanha Talo Suomi