Green Thumbs

Passion for growing plants

   Sep 14

Crete and Life

The first week of the second school year has passed. I have been able to bike to school two days which has been lovely. The week went by in a snap, filled with nasty insects and plant diseases. Honestly, a bit doom and gloom with yesterday’s lecture about the elm disease and related ones. The current course is about all the unfortunate things plants can become afflicted with. Although at first glance uninteresting it has turned out to be the exactly opposite, I have high hopes for this course.

Before school started we went to Crete for a week and went on lots of crazy adventures, like the Samaria Gorge, visiting random Cretan villages, Heraklion and Knossos and the fabulous Botanical Park. The park was wonderful, an odd mix of temperate plants and nearly tropical ones. I never thought I’d see a Monstera deliciosa next to a fruiting apple tree. We were able to buy some organic fruit from the park and I had the most wonderful Asian pear, it had a grainy texture, a sweet taste with a prominent tone of marzipan.

I was amazed by the variety of plants. Especially the variegated citrus tree!
In Kastelli, a small village on the west coast I stumbled across the rare and endangered Sea Daffodil, Pancratium maritimum. It grows in sandy dunes and flowers in summer with white green tinged flowers which reminds me of the Caribbean spider lily. Because of exploitation on the beaches and beach goers it has been pushed back from its natural habitat. The dunes were actually fenced off from the beach with information about the species and the conservation status. In the village of Stavros I had the pleasure of rinsing off the salt from the sea in a freshwater shower while standing next to a clump of Sea Daffodils, an experience I’ll never forget.


   Nov 26

SLU Acceptance Letter!

This is just a quick update to let everyone know the blog is still in use although it has been hibernating. So much has passed since I last wrote. For starters I got accepted into my dream education at SLU Alnarp. This is a gardening program geared towards production and thus very broad. I’m looking into having dendrology and seed preservation as my pet subjects, I’d love to participate in seed preservation in a gene bank.

What about the program then? Well, it’s 180 hp, which means three lovely years in Malmö studying what I love the most!

   Aug 23

A Mint In The Concrete Jungle

I adore mint, it was one of the plants that was hauled from place to place when we lived in Stockholm and moved around a lot due to the difficulties of finding an apartment. It has lived in many a pot and even a sad looking window box once.
I love it because the pretty lavender coloured flowers are popular with the bees and I’m also very fond of bees, who isn’t? It has a lovely scent and can be used in so many dishes. Everything from a decadent chocolate cake with a taste of mint to tzatziki and teas. The possibilities are endless.
I kept a tiny plant in an equally tiny pot and brought it home from Stockholm this spring and wanted to plant it on my balcony. Of course mint is highly invasive so I couldn’t plant it together with something else, it had to have a pot on it’s own and at the same time I wanted it to be frost proof since mint doesn’t like to live indoors in winter. I found a pretty concrete planter and had mom help me drill a drainage hole in the bottom. Pretty!

The sunchokes are getting tall

The Gloriosa lily in flower, dangerous beauty since it’s very poisonous.

‘Manhattan’ got treated with keiki paste around Christmas, got two rootless keikis and now the keikis got flowers. I think ‘Manhattan’ is one of the prettiest orchids I have.

   Jul 02

Wonderful West Coast

Finally, we’re settled once again back home in Gothenburg. There are tons of work to do, cleaning out the cupboards, washing all the china again and generally lots of cleaning to do. Our renters weren’t very clean or hygienic. The shower looked like it hadn’t been washed at all in the three years we have been gone and there are small repairs to be done everywhere. At the same time we’re trying to be social and catch up with relatives and old friends. My parents have been super helpful with offering their time and car to go to IKEA and loaning us their drill and all the tiny things that makes the days easier.
The balcony was in a sorry state with lots of algae growing on the railing and the old paint on the floor is flaking so we had to get wooden flooring for it to look nice again. And of course a shelf for me to put some of the potted plants. Things are shaping up a bit now though, I have planted the sunchokes in a huge pot, the herb pot is in place and I have put up new hooks on the wall to replace the old rusty ones.
The two large windows in our living room are facing a wooded slope where I once put in some spring bulbs and a rhododendron. A maple sapling had done a good job at totally hiding the bush so it had to be cut out to see the rhododendron again and once the area was cleared I found a columbine I had planted way back in 2011. The Spanish bluebells have done a decent job at spreading and can be found here and there. I have to do some more clearing to plant more bulbs in fall but like everything else that is a work in progress.





Sunchokes are thirsty!
All of the houseplants survived the move but some are looking a bit worse for wear, right now I’m trying to get them to perk up but they are many and mom and dad were here and dropped off even more plants that had been living at their place.
Apparently I was a hoarder when I moved out from my parents and said yes to literally everything offered to me so I have had to do a lot of clearing out, throwing away and giving to charity. I have even decided not to buy any more plants right now since I have way too many, the ones I have have to be spaced out and properly cared for in their new setting before I can add more the the collection.

Madagscar vine, Stephanotis floribunda. Before and after repotting.

   Jun 11

After Rain Comes Sunshine

Update: I wrote this post prior to the move but never got the chance to post it until now. I’ll have a new post up soon about my new life in Gothenburg!

We have had a cold and rainy spring here in Stockholm but it is finally warming up enough to wear a t-shirt for a short errand outdoors. The tulip season is the longest one I can ever remember and we have an odd mix of spring flowers and early summer ones.
But shortly we’re going to change Stockholm for Gothenburg and moving back home permanently. I passed my important math course and am hopefully done with studies at that level and can move on to University soon. Yay me! I had honestly not thought that I’d pass the exam and had planned to take up math once again back in Gothenburg. The “congratulations!” from my teacher was one of the best things I have heard in a long time, I almost cried with joy! And a special thanks to my teacher Anneli.
Now I have what feels like a void in my life, a happy void but still a void. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, apply for a job or take a summer course at Gothenburg University? Guess time will tell!

I also did my last day at work this Sunday, I felt sad to say goodbye to my wonderful colleagues at Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières. It has truly been a great experience and if I ever get the opportunity to work with the organization again I will.
Now all that remains is to hand in the paperwork for changing address to Skatteverket and do my best to pack up my plants and clean out the apartment. Mom and dad gets here Friday by car and Johan will take the train down to the west coast when he has handed over the keys to our landlord.
In terms of plants there’s not much happening, I haven’t planted much really because of the move. We had a farewell party for our closest friends Saturday and I saved the tiny pot of chives from when I made a potato salad. Yesterday I planted the leftovers down in the communal yard so it can live on and be useful for our neighbors.
Also as I have previously showed I had a pot of sunchokes that I planted way back when we hadn’t decided to move, I still have lots of tubers in the fridge so I decided to give away that single pot to a colleague with an allotment. I hope it thrives and that he gets lots and lots of wonderful sunchokes.

Disclaimer. I’m not in any way educated in medicine, I worked in the Stockholm headquarters during my time studying. But for anyone thinking of joining MSF I can wholeheartedly recommend it, they have a way of taking care of and appreciating every employee no matter what your position is. Not much beats the knowledge that your work saves lives.

   Apr 10

Sunny Sunchokes

I recently got some Jerusalem Artichokes, also called Sunchokes from my math teacher. She’s got tons of them at her allotments (yes, plural!) and gave away lots of them, after sorting and washing they went into a clean lunchbox with some damp paper towels to keep them from drying out. I plan on planting them in my raised bed when it’s ready later in spring. I have been a little worried they might not keep and go soft and mushy like some of the store bought ones did. These guys, or should I say gals since the variety is called ‘Bianca’ are already sprouting! The little “eyes” show some growth so I decided to put one of them in a pot on the balcony as a test. We have had temperatures up to thirteen degrees recently so I think it should be fine. I just have to remember to give it a sip of water since the balcony has a roof, and Stockholm has been dry recently anyway. I’m hoping to get some nice flowers come late summer and then the delicious tubers later on. Most Sunchoke varieties don’t flower up here in Sweden since our summers are a bit short, but this variety does.
The tubers are fantastic mixed with potatoes in a gratin or oven baked with other veggies. One just has to plan when to eat them, there’s a reason they are also jokingly called Fartichokes.
Kruka m. jordärtskocka

Mom and dad were here for short visit Monday to Wednesday, it was nice to see them again as we haven’t seen each other since Christmas. Monday evening they came over for pizza night and Tuesday we had lunch at my favorite restaurant Indian Garden.
I have been collecting those semi rare Daffodils for mom, I enjoy them on the kitchen table and them let them wither down when the flowers start to look ratty and separate the dried bulbs for her. I had some pure white Grape Hyacinths, pure white large Daffs and some very small dainty pale yellow ones. I don’t know how she manages to cram in all those bulbs in her and dad’s tiny yard but somehow I’m sure she’ll do it.
I had some NOID Hoya cutting that have been growing in a vase for months, she got two and I kept one. I don’t have room for yet another enormous vine.
Easter was nice and calm with not much happening, studying and just generally puttering around and spending time with Johan and looking after the indoor plants. Our work schedules don’t really allow for much time together during the weeks. He gets off from work around the same time mine starts and we are often both tired come evening.
Katie Heath

   Oct 10

Darkness Crept back into the Forests of the World

To quote Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings movie, darkness is creeping upon us in this part of the world, the weather is chilly and the leaves have started to turn colour. It feels sad but at the same time I like this darkness. I’m feeling like the world is a darker place and more connected to all the evil spirits that populate the horror books and movies I so enjoy. The plants are shedding their leaves and everything goes back to the earth, slowly turning to humus. A sense of peace and quiet can be felt.

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Horse-chestnuts, aren’t they pretty?
The balcony has been emptied of tender plants except a passion-wine, a Bougainvillea and an olive tree. I have also made the unfortunate discovery that I don’t have endless space in my windowsills which has meant that some plants have been given away or sold. The windows in the stairways have been conquered by plants and I can only keep my fingers crossed that the neighbors won’t complain, I hope that’s hard to do with a tropical hibiscus blooming its socks off in two different colours.
Inside the apartment the Desert Rose has been given a new pot I bought the last weekend of summer and the Sarracenia has been moved indoors. Both seem to do well and the Desert Rose looks handsome in the new pot. The same day I got my very first Tillandsia, it does look a bit like an alien, doesn’t it?

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Tillandsia in the upper left corner of the second picture.
I do worry about the huge olive tree I have though, will I keep it indoors and hope for the best or find a corner in the staircase for it? I don’t really know yet but will keep it outdoors for as long as possible, which to be honest isn’t very long.
On the bright side my yellow Cattleya that hasn’t been re-potted for ages got a new clay pot today and I removed some of the leafless back pseudobulbs, hoping for the best but it seems like it should work. It has some really nice new shoots and needed a new heavier pot because it kept falling over all the time. The roots were a tangled mess when I cut away the pot and all the bark mix seemed to have been eaten by the roots.
This time of the year is bittersweet for me, I have to clean, weed my plants and check for pests, there is a lot to do and I can clearly say that I prefer to be bringing plants outside rather than inside. But when I can’t do anything more in the evening because of the darkness I can always watch garden series and dream of spring and one day moving to a more gardening friendly climate. I’d love to live in a Mediterranean climate some day. For now I have to be satisfied with watching my old favorites, like Monty Don and his Italian and French Gardens! Doesn’t Mr Don seem like the sweetest and most knowledgeable person one could listen to a gloomy autumn evening? Scroll down for more pictures.



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Summer tries to stay while being pushed back by autumn.


   Jul 10

From Manhattan to the Swamp

Phew! We’re having a heat wave right now, the weather is unusually warm and we’ve had several days with temperatures reaching 28 degrees! We poor Swedes aren’t used to having it quite this hot. The plants need lots and lots of water and I, their faithful servant need ice water.

In late May I bought a Canna lily with spent flowers, because of the lack of flowers it was marked down to 25 SEK, that’s quite a bargain! I recently had it repotted into a large bucket with drainage holes and the other day I saw a new bud forming! Right now it’s blooming its socks off. It feels good to get a great deal on a plant and then having it grow and flower.
Back to the Phalaenopsis orchids. I bought a new plant quite some time ago (also marked down from 199 SEK to 19,90 SEK) which I bet is ‘Wild Peach’ Since flowering is over I bought a simple but beautiful glass pot and put it in. Also the orchid where our former landlord broke the spike when she dropped a lamp on it was repotted. I figured it was for the best to give both of them some new space and growing medium. I have wanted to try a new thing with the orchids for awhile now. Planting in sphagnum moss and wine corks looks so pretty I had to give it a go. Friends have given me really weird looks when I have asked if it’s alright to keep the wine cork when at a party! I have to since the boyfriend doesn’t drink at all and looks at alcohol with disgust. Anyway, the project has been a success. The plants look very nice in their glass pots with the moss and wine corks.

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Last week when doing grocery shopping I was stopped dead in my tracks by a real beauty, it called to me in its speckled purple glory and as by magic suddenly I had a new Phalaenopsis in the shopping basket. Of course I never meant to buy yet another shopping mall NOID but I simply had to. Turns out it isn’t as NOID as I though, beneath all the plastic and paper stuff they put on the plants I got down to the original transparent pot which had a neatly printed text that said ‘Manhattan’ week 34. It made me super happy to get a confirmation of my suspicions on the cultivar name.

Before I wrap up for this time I just wanted to tell that my Amaryllis ‘Cherry Nymph’ is flowering right now, with two stalks none the less. And the Penguicula that got a new home in a bonsai pot early this spring is also in flower, it’s so cute and also very reliable. It keeps the kitchen free of flies and ocassionally sends up some flowers. I even made a division that I brought as a house warming gift for some friends who have also recently moved to a new place. That’s all for now, I have to refill my ice water!

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The Canna leaves are very pretty with their dark colour. I also have some peppermint cuttings growing in an old strawberry container, they are made from the same material as jiffy pots.

   Jun 23

Relocating, Repotting and Changes

Hi there again! Long time no see. Spring decided to be a hectic time for us since our landlady decided to sell the apartment we were renting, and between trying to find a new place to live and school there wasn’t the time and energy for the blog.
But now it’s June and the summer has given me more time to spend gardening and blogging, at a new place, a new balcony with an amazing view of the lake Mälaren.
Now, after half a month of living at the new place I feel the balcony garden is shaping up, the herb garden is finished in the planters and some of the indoor plants are summering outdoors.


What I don’t like is that we now live at the top of a hill, at the third floor with no elevator. It is torture to load a bag of soil onto a shopping stroller and take it all the way to the top and then carry it three floors. Doesn’t really make me motivated to repot my darlings. I bought eighteen liters of soil yesterday but it’s almost gone! Now here’s hoping for the weather to turn nice again, the weekend of Midsummer passed with grey skies, chilly winds and constant rain showers. The only thing actively growing in this sorry excuse for summer is the peppermint.

My Amaryllis bulbs have been refreshed with new soil and more space. Now I have a pot with only white flowering bulbs and one with reds and pinks. ‘Cherry Nymph’ has two buds! Look how juicy and nice it looks. When I was done taking pictures I realized that my favorite, ‘Aphrodite’ also has a bud, they are indeed spoiling me with flowers.
I’ll finish up this post with some recap pictures of spring.

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My oldest Adenium is in bloom!


A Canna lily is relaxing in the reclining chair


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And now some pictures of the gorgeous spring we had

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   Apr 26

Easter Holidays

Our Easter holiday was bliss! It started out with chilly overcast weather accompanied by winds, but ended in sunshine, warmth and a taste of summer.
Dear boyfriend had the day off on Maundy Thursday so we decided to head off for Djurgården, a large island in the harbour connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was a long time since I had been there and I wanted to see the pretty springtime wildflowers.
After almost two years in the city I was confident I could find my way without the crutch of my smartphone, perhaps overly confident as I took the wrong bridge and we ended up at Skeppsholmen instead! Of course my boyfriend took the opportunity to tease me about my mistake.

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This is the place we were aiming for, right across the water.

Although not the place we had planned to visit, Skeppsholmen is a lovely place with old houses and laws strewn with flowers. In our search for a boat to take us to Djurgården we took a tiny bridge to Kastellholmen, yet another island, which is a bit rough and untended compared to Skeppsholmen. However, that didn’t bother me; I like gardens a bit on the wild side.

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Kastellholmen was for a long time a part of Stockholm’s defense and features a small castle which once had cannons pointed out to sea. On both of the islands there are many old and gnarly oaks growing in the rooks. I’m sure it will look lovely once they are green.
What I found most entertaining about Kastellholmen was the tiny castle, complete with towers, arched windows and blazon inlays. It is situated to the right of the bridge support at the island’s shore. It turned out to be an ice skating pavilion, built in the 1800s as a place where nobles could change and get a bit warm in the winters before venturing out on the ice again. Nowadays it’s used as a hotel and restaurant.
If one were to visit Stockholm I would really recommend taking the time to visit Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen. Even though they are close to the city there is a calm and quiet on the islands that is only occasionally broken by a car or a siren from the city.

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Friday and Sunday we went to enjoy the Sakura blossoms in Kungsträdgården, a park in the city centre, planted densely with cherry trees.
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Monday it was time to take the first run of the season in our woods. The weather had warmed up and we could run without wearing our jackets!
The Common Hepaticas are still going strong but have gotten competition from the Wood Anemones. The weather has been amazing and I hope we can get to keep the warmer weather; we could really use some greenery now!


I can never get enough of cherry blossoms!