Last year, Mike and I planted cilantro, basil, and two types of mint. This year we are expanding our herb garden or kruidentuin. We also picked up peppers and tomatoes. Of course, I picked the rainiest day of the weekend to go to the garden center on the other side of town.
Mike started tomatoes inside in a small container. We didn’t realize how many plants we had until they were transplanted into larger pots. Currently the tomatoes, mint, and bell peppers are flourishing. The hot peppers never sprouted. Oh well.
A week or so ago Mike and I went out to pick up Christmas decorations. Mike is a HUGE Christmas fan so this was an important errand. Last year at this time we had just moved in and had no furniture or decorations. Now that we were all moved in (obviously) and had the space, we could get a full-size tree with all the trimmings. In town Christmas trees, or Kerstbomen, only come with their roots so Mike decided to get a fake tree instead. (Not to mention you can’t buy real ones until after Sinterklaas Dag.)
We picked up colored lights for the tree but they weren’t bright enough for Mike. So I went back to the store for white lights which are currently on the tree. (Still not completely sure what to do with the multicolored ones…)
All our Christmas ornaments are in storage in the States so we had to buy new ones. (We didn’t think the ornaments would make it to the Netherlands in one piece.) We kept it simple and went with red and gold balls. The crown and thistle ornaments are from our travels to the UK. Mike was indifferent to garland but I really wanted garland on the tree. I’d seen a tree wrapped in ribbons somewhere and thought it was a nice garland idea so I bought some ribbon. Below is the end result.
In addition to the tree, we have other holiday decorations scattered around the house: a poinsettia at the market, a silver sleigh to hold cards, a cheery bird garland to decorate the bare wall in the living room, and a Lego Advent Calendar.
One of things I love about Dutch town markets is the availability of fresh flowers. You can find fresh flowers all year round and for cheap. Roses, tulips, orchids, and heather can always be found at the Hilversum market. The supermarkets and even the Albert Heijn to go at the train station always sell flowers. On any given day (but especially market days) you will pass dozens of people carrying flowers. My friends will tell you that I am not really a flower person (unless we are talking dead flowers). I think that is changing after a year of watching people pass by with armloads or bike baskets full of flowers.
If I am honest the flower bug first hit me back in March. I bought a bunch of tulips and a vase. On the way home from the shop I walked slowly, afraid of squishing the buds or breaking the vase. That afternoon I spent time carefully trimming and arranging the tulips. I debated putting them in the front window or on the dining table. The latter won. The bright colors popped against the dark finish of the dining room table. I was pleased with the effect and enjoyed the flowers while they lasted. But as flowers do, they died and I tucked the empty vase into the back of my cupboard.
During the rest of the spring and summer I enjoyed walking past neighbors’ gardens and the wildflowers in the city. Eventually they became background and I noticed them less and less. Fast forward to early October. One afternoon my doorbell rang. It was my neighbor with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. After she left I realized just how big the bouquet was and that all the flowers would not fit in my vase. I set the flowers on the counter and ran to the store to buy a second vase.
The flowers lasted an amazingly long time, especially given my track record with killing plants. I had them at least a week possibly two. When they died, I was prepared to pack away my vases again. That is until I saw a perfect fall bouquet in the market that I had to buy. Then friends brought me more flowers. In short, for the last two months my table has been constantly decked out in flowers. And whenever my current bouquet dies, I have my eye on some poinsettias…
Fall or herfst in the Netherlands is full of gold leaves, pumpkins, and (like the rest of the year) rain. Now that I have experienced all four seasons in the Netherlands, I can safely say fall is my favorite. The market and stores are full of small pumpkins (only a few pounds). After seeing them everywhere (and finding some recipes I wanted to try), I bought a pumpkin. One night I made a nice pumpkin risotto and a pumpkin curry another. Savory pumpkin is definitely the way to go. I wish I had tried them sooner.
Believe it or not this is the first year I have cooked or carved a pumpkin. Over Halloween I carved my first jack o’lantern. Mine is the one in the middle. It wasn’t as difficult to carve a pumpkin as I had imagined but it wasn’t exactly easy to guide the knife either.
While I have been enjoying the pumpkins, I do miss being able to get fresh apple cider and donuts.
When Mike and I moved in to our house it had been empty for three-quarters of a year and the garden had gone to seed a bit. I could tell the garden had potential but it needed a little work to make it lovely.
I mentioned to my friend, Belen, that I wanted to do something with my garden and was a bit at a loss for exactly how to get it to look like the garden in my head. She generously offered to help me out. We went over the plan for the garden and she suggested plants to help me get the right look. After a few texts back and forth, we settled on a day to make the plans a reality.
Before the big day, I had picked up a few tools, some weedkiller, and found some empty planters in the shed. The day of the garden overhaul Belen arrived with trimmers (in every size imaginable), extra potting soil, brushes, miscellaneous tools, and flowers. So between the two of us we had everything we needed.
First we got rid of the weeds in the flower beds and between the tiles. While I finished weeding, Belen also re-potted the flowers she brought with her and a bunch that were being squished by some bushes.
After the weeds were gone, we trimmed the trees and bushes. We decided to dig out the big bush in the back corner to make room for the Hortensia. After a trip to the tuincentrum (to pick up more soil, citroenmelisse, and a Clematis), we planted the Hortensia and the Clematis. Belen made sure that the Clematis would grow in all directions to cover the lattice.
Here is the final result:
Thank you so much, Belen, for your generosity and hard work.
So I have been very remiss in working on my garden for a variety of reasons. However, now I am starting to work on it so the past doesn’t matter. Except that it does matter because that means I have more weeds to remove. This week I picked up weedkiller, a couple garden tools, and some potting soil. Tucked away in the shed I found a large watering can, some empty planters, a hoe, and a rake.
If you want a reminder of the garden before here it is:
Below are my current improvements to some eyesores before I get into the weeds.
Unfortunately, the table isn’t mine (part of the house we are renting) so I can’t refinish it. My solution: buy a bright table cloth to put over top.
The garden was lacking seating so I grabbed two plastic chairs from inside. A friend very kindly dropped off a lounge chair she is no longer using. Boom! Now Mike and I can eat or read in the garden.
I tossed broken pots and dead plants. The empty pots are now home to my herbs (so far I only have mint and coriander since I use those the most).
For most of my adult life I have lived in an apartment and someone else took care of the landscaping and the garden. When I moved to the Netherlands that all changed. Now we have a house with a little garden that needs a lot of help: trimming, weeding, planting and general cleaning. Over the winter it was too cold to do anything in the garden but now that it is spring, Mike and I can begin to fix it up.
The stone tiles need to be cleaned.
I also discovered that the lanterns are all rusted so just removing the wax and replacing the candles won’t work. We also need some chairs.
Mike wants to put in a chiminea and plant some mint maybe a couple other herbs.
Our front yard is a little overgrown even after trimming the bushes. However, the front yard requires less work than the garden.
Here is my ideal renovation for the garden:
Wish me luck, I’ll keep you updated on what we do with the garden.
Even though it is winter, plants and flowers are available everywhere. I recently began my own small garden of herbs I use regularly: parsley, cilantro, and mint.
Mike will tell you that I am really bad about caring for plants. I once let a cactus die from under watering. So I am pretty sure he thinks I will kill my garden or he will be left to care for it. So far I have been good about watering my plants. I am really going to do my best to let my little garden flourish.