Preparing garden for winter

We had lovely & warm summer this year. Lot of sun with blue skies. Nice temperatures and perfect weather for beach life and (of course) gardening. Then came autumn which has been long, warm and... well, a bit rainy lately. All together a nice combination I would say. And now, before autumn darkness turns into winter coldness and white "snowness", it is time to prepare garden of Villa Hattarala for this new fourth season. I hope I can guarantee a good and relaxing winter rest for all my green friends and also those small folks underneath.

Garden gloves ready for work
So, garden gloves on and let's start to work!

Most of those seasonal flowers can go already. Remains of these beauties can be put to compost bin and soil can well be recycled on flowerbeds. Empty pots will get a quick wash after which they can go for a rest in the shed. Or if you want why not plant some "winter plants" in them, such as Calluna vulgaris

Garden furniture has to be cleaned and then taken in the shed to prevent any big damages during the winter. If you have any summer decorations in your garden remember to take them in as well. Unless your deco can survive cold and snowy winter. My collage of mixed treasures had to go. Let's see how it will turn out next year.

Collage of mixed treasures
Clean all the flowerbeds by cutting withered plants and remove weeds. It's not necessary to cut all withered plants as they do decompose during the winter and fertilize the beds. They also work as insulators during the coldest season. I cut only the biggest ones and those which looked really dry and dull. The surface of beds can be lightly raked to make it loose and allow it to breath. If needed, use also some special autumn fertilizer and/or garden lime to ensure healthy winter rest for your plants.

The lawn should also be cut although the growth is not so strong any more. If you leave the lawn too long for winter it might get some damages and then you have problems in the spring. At the same time fallen leaves will be ground and will gradually decompose and improve the soil (natural fertilizing). If you grind the leaves you don't need to rake them off but if you don't just rake your garden and add leaves to your compost or put them under the bushes. After cutting your lawn it could be a really good idea to spread garden lime on your lawn also. There are also these special autumn fertilizers you can use. If you live in a house with a fireplace you could even think about using ash to replace these ready-made products (bare in mind what you've been burning in your fireplace as there might be some toxic substances mixed to the ash).

Lawn needs to be cut

The compost bins have for sure been filled many times during the summer and also during this cleaning process in the garden. Now it might be a good idea to go and mix them a bit. Just take a pitchfork and turn the content of your compost inside out and upside down to make sure all is well mixed. You could even cover your compost for winter. Try not to but twigs and other similar hard parts of plants to your compost unless you can cut them into smaller pieces with a shredder. These hard parts don't decompose as quickly and make your compost a mess. I don't have a shredder so I need to take my twigs to a local landfill. Today I loaded them on a trailer which I borrowed from my neighbor and will empty the load tomorrow morning.

Usually all cuttings of trees and bushes should be done early spring. So in the autumn you don't really need to think about this. But there are some plants you could cut now - in the end of growing season. Cherry and plum trees for example. If you cut them too late in the spring some sap might run out of them and they can get dry. I did cut my cherry and plum but just a bit. Took out mainly the dead, try twigs and some root spouts but didn't really reshape them. Sleep well my darlings and prepare yourselves for next summer!

When your work is finished there is one more thing to be done. Clean your tools and arrange them to the shed. It is so much nicer to start working in your garden next spring when your tools are clean and you can find them easily.

Next step is to enjoy autumn and start planning the next season of gardening. Go inside, light some candles and have a glass of wine. You've deserved it!

- Mika -

The last harvest

Today I made the last harvest in our garden.
It was time to taste our pears.
We had three.
Just as we had last autumn.
And these three were...

Pyrus communis

Pyrus communis

- Mika -


A day at Botanic Garden of Helsinki

The location
Today I visited the Botanic Garden of Helsinki. It is located in the heart of Helsinki, just next to railway station. The weather was perfect for my visit. Sun was shining and the air was crisp & fresh - just like it should be in the autumn. At this time of the year the garden is also very peaceful. I met there more birds and squirrels than other human beings. All this was perfect for me as my idea was to walk around with my plant list and my camera making notes and taking photos. And without any extra interruptions. We will have an exam in less than two weeks time at the college and I really needed some exercise.

Main Garden behind a bush
Autumn is here as I have told you earlier. This means the nature is no longer in full bloom but preparing itself for long and cold winter. Flowers have mainly withered and trees have dropped a lot of their leaves. But there is this phenomenal symphony going on with autumn colors (ruska). This symphony filled the air today. Or what do you think?

Cotoneaster lucidus
Sorbus alnifolia
Aronia x prunifolia
Ribes aureum
Sambucus nigra
Sambucus nigra
Juglans mandchurica
Acer ginnala
Ulmus laevis
Viburnum lantana

For the exam I should learn to identify 125 plants (trees, bushes and climbers) and name them both with Finnish and scientific names. Today I learned a lot, but I still need to do another visit next week. My camera battery ran out today after heavy 3 hours use and after that it was no use staying any longer. There is about one  quarter of the garden still left to be examined. I do hope I'll have time next Friday to visit the place again.

In the end of my viisit I had a great pleasure meeting with this gentleman. A total stranger to me. His story was touching and his words full of wisdom. Hope life can teach me the same way.

The gentleman

He is 85. He used to be an engineer. Retired nowadays. Recently he got interested in trees. Spends time walking slowly around the garden and picking up some tree seeds. But he is slow with learning new things. On the other hand he has all the time in the world. He in not in a hurry, not anymore. He asked my help to identify one tree he had seen earlier. With tremulous hands he took his digital camera and started to look after the photo he had taken. It was 'Juglans mandshurica'. Great, old individual - just like that gentleman. With those tremulous hands he took a piece of paper and a pen out from his pocket and wrote down the name. He was hoping he would be able to read his own writing later. At home he would then check it from his 90 years old encyclopedia. Gentleman wanted to learn something new. He still has time. So do I. So do we all. Let's not waste it.

Such a great day with such a great ending!


- Mika -


Mystical Magical Morning

I was driving today my usual route from Porvoo towards Saari manor in Mäntsälä in the morning. While sitting there behind the wheel I couldn't help but wonder the beauty of that early morning moment in autumn. It was about 07:10am and the sight was breathtaking. I just had to stop, open the window and breath that clean and crispy air for a moment.

There is something mystical with autumn haze as it hangs there above the fields - surrounding those islands of trees and bushes and floating slowly without any defined destination. The ground, the pale haze, the dark forest and the sky colored by rising sun and morning clouds create phenomenal layers to the landscape. This landscape is an embodiment of pure beauty of nature.

And as if this wasn't enough to make one feel amazed there are also these autumn colors. First it only looks like a mixture of yellow and brown in different shades but as the sun rises higher the truth is gradually revealed. Tree tops blaze like fire with all those tones of red and orange. The forest which at first seems just dark in color is actually full of greens, blues, browns and yellows. The shoulders of the road landing from the forest towards the ditch are like patch works of lichens, mosses and twigs. Silvery grey, velvety green and spicy brown - sophisticated yet wild. If looked carefully one can even spot some brightly colored mushroom caps here and there. One of them red with white dots. The fields are striped after harvest and morning sun makes them shine like gold and silver as the beans touch the dew which have landed on them during the very early hours of dawn. White sheep stand quietly on a meadow and black crows sit on electric lines above them observing every move.

The air is bright and getting brighter every second. This is a short moment and then it is gone. Morning has broken and it is time for the first steps of a new day. There is taste of autumn on my lips and scent of purity around in the air. And my journey continues.

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day
(lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon)

- Mika -


A view

Today I give you
A view
Should I say
The view
Through an arch
From a side terrace
To the garden
There at Saari manor

- Mika -



And today
Ladies and gentlemen
I give you
The beautiful
The hypnotic
Our white beauty
The ultimate flower
(Flora Ultimatum / my own definition)

- Mika -


Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Ladies and gentlemen
Just because it is Monday
And I feel good
I give you
The marvelous
The magical
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
In burning red bloom

She spent the summer
In our garden
And now she came back in
To entertain us

- Mika -



Here is the list of those annual plants I need to learn at college for the first exam. In the test we are shown 30 plants - either a live plant or a picture. One should be able to identify them by Finnish names and to pass the test one should get 75% correct.

I have highlighted plants with pink color if I have had the plant in my own garden here at Villa Hattarala and green if I want to try growing one. I also added a link to each plant - just click the running number in front of the name to check the link. In some cases the link shows a nearby species or cultivated variety of the plant.

Composing this list was a good exercise for Tuesday's test. Wish me luck, please.

- Mika -


1 Tarhasinisarja (Agapanthus praecox)
2 Sinitähtönen (Ageratum houstonianum)
3 Tarhasalkoruusu (Alcea rosea)
4 Punarevonhäntä (Amaranthus caudatus)
5 Ryhmäleijonankita (Antirrhinum majus Nanum -ryhmä)
6 Marketta, pensaspäivänkakkara (Argyranthenum frutescens)
7 Kesäsypressi (Bassia scoparia (Kochia scoparia))
8 Pauliinabegonia (Begonia Elatior-ryhmä)
9 Mukulabegonia (Begonia Tuberhybrida -ryhmä)
10 Neitobegonia (karjalanneito) (Begonia Tuberhybrida -Pendula-ryhmä)
11 Kesäbegonia (Begonia Semperflorens -ryhmä)
12 Pitsikaulus (Brachycome multifida)
13 Koristekaali (Brassica oleracea Sabellica-ryhmä)
14 Kanna (Canna x generalis)
15 Pikkupetunia (Calibrachoa)
16 Kiinanasteri (Callistephus chinensis)
17 Kukontöyhtö (Celosia argentea Plumosa-ryhmä)
18 Hämähäkkikukka (Cleome hassleriana)
19 Punakosmos(kukka) (Cosmos bipinnatus)
20 Tarhadaalia (Dahlia x hortensis)
21 Kesäneilikka, kiinanneilikka (Dianthus chinensis)
22 Hopeavitja, hopeaputous (Dichondra argentea)
23 (Pallero)verenpisara (Fuchsia Hybrida-ryhmä)
24 Kyynelverenpisara (Fuchsia Triphylla-ryhmä)
25 Kirjomaahumala (Glechoma hederacea 'Variegata')
26 Muratti (Hedera helix)
27 Heliotrooppi (Heliotropium arborescens)
28 Hopeakäpälä (Helichrysum petiolare)
29 Peikonkakkara (Mauranthemum paludosum)
30 Sateenkaaribalsami, uudenguineanliisa (Impatiens hawkeri (ja New Guinea-hybr.))
31 Ahkeraliisa (Impatiens walleriana)
32 Kirjotulikruunu (Lantana camara)
33 Sinilobelia (Lobelia erinus Compacta-ryhmä)
34 Riippalobelia (Lobelia erinus Pendula-ryhmä)
35 Koristetupakka (Nicotiana Sanderae-ryhmä)
36 Narsissitupakka (Nicotiana sylvestris)
37 Riippapelargoni (Pelargonium peltatum)
38 (Koti)pelargoni (Pelargonium Zonale-ryhmä)
39 Tarhapetunia (Petunia x hybrida)
40 Riippapetunia (Petunia pendula-ryhmä esim. Surfinia-lajikkeet)
41 Kesäleimu (Phlox drummondii)
42 Risiini (Ricinus communis)
43 Kesäpäivänhattu (Rudbeckia hirta var.pulcherrima)
44 Härmesalvia (Salvia farinacea)
45 Tulisalvia (Salvia splendens)
46 Nyhähopeayrtti (Santolina chamaecyparissus)
47 Siniviuhka (Scaevola aemula)
48 Hopeavillakko (Senecio cineraria, 'Silberzweig'-liuskalehtinen, 'New Look'-ehytlehtinen)
49 Isokirjopeippi (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
50 Lumihiutale (Sutera cordata 'Coba')
51 Isosamettikukka (Tagetes erecta)
52 Ryhmäsamettikukka (Tagetes patula)
53 Kääpiösamettikukka (Tagetes tenuifolia)
54 Torenia (Torenia fournieri)
55 Pensaskrassi (Tropaeolum majus nanum)
56 Tarhaverbena (Verbena x hybrida)
57 Tarhaorvokki (Viola wittrockiana -hybr)
58 Oppineittenkukka, Tsinnia (Zinnia)


59 Isopantaheinä (Setaria macrostachys)
60 Hentohöyhenheinä (Stipa tenuissima)


61 Kelloköynnös (Cobaea scandens)
62 Koristekurpitsa (Cucurbita pepo)
63 Koruköynnös (Eccremocarpus scaber)
64 Japaninhumala (Humulus japonicus)
65 Päivänsini (Ipomoea tricolor)
66 Tuoksuherne (Lathyrus odoratus)
67 Ruusupapu (Phaseolus coccineus)
68 Keijunmekko (Rhodochiton atrosanguineus)
69 Mustasilmäsusanna (Thunbergia alata)
70 Köynnöskrassi (Tropaeolum majus)


71 Kehäkukka (Calendula officinalis)
72 Isosilkkikukka (Clarkia amoena)
73 Ruiskaunokki (Centaurea cyanus)
74 Kirjosuvikakkara (Glebionis carinatum)
75 Isoauringonkukka (Helianthus annuus)
76 Kaliforniantuliunikko (Escholzia californica)
77 Kesämalvikki (Lavatera trimestris)
78 Punapellava (Linum grandiflorum)
79 Kuitupellava (Linum usitatissimum)
80 Maloppi (Malope trifida)
81 Tarhaneito (Nigella damascena)
82 Unikko (Papaver)


83 Isoräpelö (Briza maxima)
84 Partaohra (Hordeum jubatum)
85 Jänönhäntä (Lagurus ovatus)

Saari Manor

Thursday September 1st was the day.  Instead of driving to Helsinki to start a normal workday as a window dresser I turned my face northwest from Porvoo and drove to Saari Manor in Mäntsälä. It was time to start my study leave - I will spend next two years of my life studying gardening. That Thursday I felt excited, confused and a bit scared. This was going to be the biggest change in my life ever. After all, the truth is that 25 years had past since I last was a student and couldn't really imagine how it will be nowadays. At the age of 45 this kind of changes are not so obvious any more. One has his "secure life" with a nice job and regular incomes. One has a family and home to take care of. One has house loan to be paid... But I wasn't so scared I would back off and miss this chance. It was now or never!

And today, after these couple of first weeks as a gardening student I need to say I made the right choice. I think I even used the word "jackpot" describing my feelings after the first day at Saari.

Saari Manor in Mäntsälä is part of Keuda Vocational College. Agriculture, Horticulture and Floristry units of the college are all located at Saari. The history of the Manor goes all the way to 16th century. The main building was built in 1930 and was drawn by architect Jarl Eklund. This white, classic style building with some Italian influences is one of the most remarkable manors of it's era. The formal garden surrounding the main building was designed by Paul Olsson and has typical formal garden elements such as fountain and symmetric layout. Not bad at all as a place to carry out studies!

Gardening training is part of college's natural resources and the environment program . The group in which I am studying is especially for adults who (for different reasons) want to learn a new profession or complete their earlier studies / skills. Studies in this adult group are based on multiform learning. This means the studies consist different periods; theory and practice studies with the group at the college (contact teaching), individual remote studies at home including theory and special assignments (distance learning) and finally work practice in a company representing gardening branch. All these three forms of studies prepare students for competence tests where each student is evaluated based on his/hers professional skills. All this will take 2 years after which we can call ourselves gardeners - well, only in theory as it will take several years to really learn the profession and gain enough experience to become an expert as a gardener.

There is 9 people in our group at Saari. Six women and three men. Our age varies between 25 to 50 and our backgrounds are rather different. It seems we are all really excited about the studies and this makes our team spirit very good. I like the whole college a lot and I am also extremely happy for my new "family" (if any of you is reading this: 'Thank you for being my fellow student').

So far we have had some basic education (math, Finnish...), park and green area maintenance practices, botany and growth factor education. Next Tuesday is our first botany exam. We've been learning to identify about 85 annual (seasonal) plants with their Finnish names and if one wants to take a step further also the scientific names. Officially these scientific names are tested next autumn. In botany we also started to learn how to identify woody plants (trees, bushes etc) and this I find more challenging as one should be able to name them with scientific names.

Should I put my nose on the botany book now and learn some annual plants? Maybe I should.

Until next time!

- Mika -


Autumn time

My life has been really busy lately and as you probably have noticed I haven't had time to share anything with you. And I'm sorry for this. But this is the only thing I'm sorry for. You know, I have had the best autumn ever! I feel happy, I feel strong, I have visions of a bright future and I have this strong feeling I'm on the right track.

So what has caused all these feelings and thoughts (no, I didn't take any happiness pills)?

First came the time for harvest. Our "famous" plum jam with ginger and lemon. Juices with berries and fruits from the garden of Villa Hattarala. Mushrooms from the green, relaxing forests of Porvoo region. Apple jam. Apple pie... The cellar is well equipped for the winter. And who knows, maybe there is also something to take as a present when visiting friends.

Red juice in old wine bottles
Did you go to forest this year? OMG! If you didn't, please, but on your boots and do it now! It's not too late to do so. I must have been a baby when my father took me with him for the very first time to pick up mushrooms. Since then - for the last 45 years - picking up mushrooms have been a tradition in my life during autumn season. And what a season it has been this year. The forest is full of them. These delicious wonders of nature. And you can even choose what to pick up. The whole range is there. Porcinis, black chanterelles, funnel chanterelles, northern milk-caps... You just name it and the forest will deliver it.

Black chantarelles
Do not pick up these - though they look lovely
I have mainly dried the ones I found and the milk-caps I salted. Antti already made a creamy porcini pasta one day last week and it was SO good. And I would like to make porcini soup soon by the recipe of my grandmother.
The strong aroma of dried porcinis remind me of my childhood and my father. I remember how he dried porcinis in our sauna and how the aroma filled our house. If I close my eyes I can still see how porcini slices were wired on a thread and hanged there in a dark sauna. I need to thank him for teaching me how to pick and prepare mushrooms. Thank you dad! And tomorrow, if there is not too much rain, I will take Miss E and Mr P with me and drive to a forest nearby to get some funnels - there should be loads of them.

Salted milk-caps and dried porcinis
But this is not all... After all this harvest came the school and studies to become a gardener. How has it been you might ask. I'll get back to it tomorrow. But I can give you a hint - fatally totally SUPER!

- Mika -



It's here! The time to harvest!

 These red delis, cherries, were rescued before birds ate them all. Had three jars of jam out of them. Yummy (hopefully)!

Gooseberry bush has loads of big berries this summer. I have one bush of these red ones and picked 5 liters today - think there is like 5 times more still left. Want to make some juice out of them this weekend.

But first some gooseberry jam for the winter. My favorite with vanilla ice cream or crepes.

- Mika -


Sweden in the garden

These lovelies were found blooming today. Colors just like our neighbor Sweden. Well, we are in Porvoo so this is no surprise.

- Mika -

Lilies of Villa Hattarala

Daylily, Crimson Pirate


Lily 'Solitaire' (my own definition)

Tigerlily 'Lilium lancifolium'

- Mika -

Compost bin

One of the last things I thought before moving to Villa Hattarala was a compost bin. And I don't mean the one you can use for your household waste. I mean the one for garden waste. When buying a house you think about electricity, water, taxes, renovation needs etc. But compost bin... don't even dream about it.

If you have never had your own garden before, it is really quite impossible to imagine or estimate how much organic garden waste your green paradise will produce. The very first time you start cleaning your trees, bushes and flower beds, you think you can easily take the waste to landfill and that's it. Soon you will notice this organic waste just doesn't end up appearing. It doesn't, although you hope it would. One more week and couple of more spots to be cleaned and let's drive to landfill again. Maybe once or twice you find these landfill trips worth while, but then you start feeling bored with the whole thing and want it all to change.

Separating twigs, leaves and soil add some more 'dislike' to this circus. Yes, they need to be separated because at the landfill each type of waste have its own unloading point. At the same time you are in continous need for some new soil here and there at your garden. You can buy soil packed in plastic bags everywhere, but in the end it is expensive and the quality of packed soil isn't always perfect. Solution for the situation is compost bin! Just start collecting all organic bits and pieces from your garden to a compost and produce your own soil (you can pack it to a plastic bag and name it, our's will be 'VH super soil').

Ok, now we had this great idea but still no compost bin. How did we solve the problem. First we bought metal net frames for this use, but they were soon too small and not strong enough to hold everything. Then finally this summer I decided to make compost bins myself. It is easy to find different ideas and instructions from internet. I used some triangle bars and straight boards which were originally used for packing and covering some heavy objects for transportation (got them from a friend). The quality of the wood is not first class but suits perfectly for compost bin with right kind of treatment. We used traditional tar-paint which should be perfect even for heavy weather conditions (and the scent of tar is fantastic). You can also paint or oil your compost as long as you choose nontoxic stuff. These treatments make your compost resistant to decay.

Above a picture of our compost bin just before painting. The front panel can be lifted up to make loading  and unloading more easy.

Here some ideas how to take care of your garden waste compost bin:
- only organic things from the garden
- do not use for food or other household waste, we don't like rats!
- don't put branches unless you can first cut them into small pieces
- let your compost breath
- don't let it dry
- good place for a compost is in the shadow and under some trees or bushes
- you can also cover your compost with a lid
- loosen the contents every now and then
- be patient and one day you will be rewarded with strong black soil

- Mika -


Project chairs

Here they are, two old chairs. Or to be more accurate, one whole chair as the other one is in 8 separate pieces. My plan for last year and a half has been to fix them. Now I finally got inspired. I originally bought them  from huuto.net (www.huuto.net) with good price as they were not in perfect condition and I knew they were both in need for some fixing.

They were both varnished dark brown and the surface was in bad shape already. Upholstery was neither our style nor properly done.  And paddings didn't practically excist so they both needed to be replaced with new materials.

The project started by removing upholstery and paddings. There was only a very thin layer of seaweed left as a padding and even without any lining. The upholstery fabric and the whole technique it was earlier fixed were not done correctly - even I understood this.

After this first step I gently opened all the loose joints of the other chair and started sanding the wooden pieces. Under the dark brown varnish I discovered this really nice light coloured wood which looks much better and more natural & original. I'm planning to use oil wax to keep this original colour. I'm no expert with old furniture but for sure the result should be better than before.

The other chair which at the moment is in 8 pieces is going to be more challenging for me. Luckily there is a carpenter (my sister) in my family. A phone call to her and the online helpdesk is open. She gave me good tips for choosing right glue for the joints and also ideas how to renew the paddings etc. I felt much more confident about the whole project.

Next thing is to get glue, oil wax, some tools (clamps) and all the necessary materials for paddings and upholstery. The style of fabric is still open. Maybe something with yellow and checked or striped. Something simple and for everyday use. We'll see what I'll end up with.

If these two chairs succeed the next step is to fix three more. They are more or less same style but without any paddings and upholstery. They are all painted several times and look untidy. My plan is to paint them all white unless I'll find nice colour of wood under all those paint layers.

Promise to post some photos as this project move on.

- Mika -

Butterfly recycled

While I was tidying up and fixing new supports for our red currant bushes earlier last spring I found some old metal supports. They were lying there under the bushes on the ground and were covered with rust. First I was about to throw them away but then decided to make this butterfly decoration instead. There was enough material for two and now these rusty butterflies live in one of the garden's flower beds.

- Mika -


Flowers blooming lately

Some flowers which are blooming right now in the garden of Villa Hattarala.

The last one is Hydrangea paniculata 'Mustila', one of my favourites. I planted it this summer and it already blooms - I'm so proud of it.

- Mika -


Paving slabs

Today I took the slabs out of the moulds. Both succeeded to be positive surprises. Especially the one with coins look super nice.

I also did two new ones. With these I decided not to use upside-down technique. I thought placing shells would be easier this way. For the other one I used some marbles.

- Mika -