Looking ahead to the next gardening year

Once the garden has been put to bed and the weather makes it difficult to work the soil is a perfect time to reflect on the year that was . I think that every gardener from the novice to the professional has successes and failures and this is the challenge and the joy of gardening.  The measure of a good gardener is the ability to provide colour and interest in the garden for as long as possible and this can take many years, if not a lifetime, to get right.  Gertrude Jekyll took photographs of her garden at various stages in the year so that she could review what worked well and what needed changing, the key is being able to step back and view your work with a critical eye.  Here in the Moosbach garden we’ve had quite a good garden year with colour and interest from May through to early November, however, there are things that we’ve not got right. The garden at Moosbach is really only 2 years old, the soil is heavy clay and we have a huge problem with ground elder.

My biggest failing as a gardener (I have many) is that when I create a new flower bed I want to cram it full of plants so that it looks glorious in the summer, this is fine in the first year but as a dear friend of mine Wolfgang always tells me, “a garden takes time” and of course he is right.  The top garden which was in its second year this summer did look beautiful with swathes of tall delphiniums, lupins, oriental poppies, Verbena bonariesis, Celphalaria Gigantica, lavender and phlox.  The only problem for me was that some of the flowers, although stunning in their own right, were lost in the crowd, sometimes less is more. So, I have to accept that something must be done, positive action must be taken. For me it’s not a failure but rather a natural organic development of the garden.  We have areas of the garden that we want to be wild with large patches of Delphiniums and phlox which sway in the summer breeze but there are areas of the garden that we want to be classic and beautiful.  The top garden for me should be classic, the lower bed which is about 3 feet below the lawn already has an edging of lavender and across the flat long lawn is a row of strongly scented David Austin climbing roses creating a long fairly narrow walkway to the stone bench that Thomas made.  Roses and lavender are a classic combination but the roses that I plant with these should not be too large, shrub roses from the David Austin Fragrant Rose Collection will be perfect companions for the lavender and provide a contrast in height and form to the climbing roses on the other side of the path.  There are some peonies in this bed but these can stay as they are good plants to combine with roses.

We have started selling David Austin roses and this bed will hopefully be a show piece to enable visitors see how wonderful David Austin roses are (I’m already convinced).  We have them available on our main website www.moosbach-schwarzwald.com to reserve for collection or delivery at the end of February.  For me, roses, like a garden, need a little time to settle in and find their feet.  We have a Gertrude Jekyll rose which is strongly perfumed but it’s taken 2 years to settle, in the first year the perfume wasn’t anything special but in the second year it was amazing. I think in the first year they are producing new roots and their energy seems to go into this, once they are done with this its time to produce beautiful knock your socks off blooms that will amaze you with their beauty and perfume.  I think it’s worth the wait.

So you can see that there is plenty of work to do here moving perennials that have outgrown their space in the top garden, splitting some to produce new vigorous plants and planting roses so that they have settled in nicely for the spring. Time and thought, however, must also be given to plants that must be grown from seed for next year and I like to get an early start with seed sowing so that plants are really ready to take off once they are transplanted outside in May.  I tend to start some seeds off at the beginning of January, especially Delphiniums and sweet peas.

If you want to grow your own delphiniums from seed I will be producing a guide with photographs on growing delphiniums and it really is worth the effort but it can be a tricky business.  I buy my seeds from a specialist Delphinium grower and I would recommend this if you want really stunning plants and named varieties.  Take a look at www.larkspur-nursery.co.uk, you’ll find great photographs of all the different varieties and the seeds are not expensive.

For me, this process of reviewing what worked well, what needs changing and planning new features helps to keep me engaged with the garden and this is something that I simply don’t have the time for in the Summer when there is too much physical work to be done.  There was snow here this morning but I still have plenty of work to do outside, primarily planting new roses and magnolia trees, raking up leaves to make leaf mould compost and applying a good covering of well-rotted horse manure to the garden to improve the soil composition. Happy Gardening!




The Wonder of Roses

For those of you who thought that a rose was just a rose, (as I pretty much did) then welcome to a whole new world that you can explore.  In David Austin’s book “The Rose” you can kind find a plethora of concise and expertly crafted information on the different types of roses and how long they have been around.  To the uninitiated there are tea roses, floribunda roses, climbing roses and rambling roses and I suspect that everyone is aware of those.  What I found most interesting and inspirational is the concept of using the older roses that only flower once per year in your garden.  This was the norm until the introduction of the Chinese repeat flowering roses.  David Austin comments in his book that we have become so used to having repeat flowering roses in our gardens that the concept of a rose that only flowers once is almost alien to us.  However, if you have a larger garden with enough space why not plant an Alba, Gallica or a Damask rose? Because these only flower once per year they are absolutely stunning as all of their energy and love goes into producing one glorious display of flowers.  I for one have purchased and planted 8 of these roses and a good point is made by David Austin that we expect no more from other shrubs like rhododendrons for example.  I have planted mine alongside paths where they can be admired as you stroll along the many paths in our garden. Admittedly we are lucky enough to have 16 acres at our disposal but even in a smaller space I think that they can be a show piece.  I have chosen (as a starting point) Celsiana, Quatre Saisons, York and Lancaster and the Alba rose alba semi plena.  You can google these to get images or alternatively you could visit the David Austin website.

Now is the perfect time to plant bare root roses, the roots get a chance to spread and establish whilst the rose is not putting its energy into leaf and flower production.

I always plant mine with compost mixed with well-rotted horse manure and I don’t think that you can give them a better start than by sprinkling symbiotic fungi granules over the roots and into the planting hole.

I shall be posting photographs of these lovely roses next year when they are flowering but for now all I can do is look at their leafless branches and imagine the glory to come.  Happy gardening!!



Creating garden rooms with roses

This week I have been planting roses.  The garden here is very steep but is in need of breaking up into intimate garden spaces.  Creating intimate garden spaces on a mountain can be problematic  because whatever is planted as a hedge or boundary  on the lower side has to be substantially taller than what is planted on the upper side.

The project for this winter is really quite simple, break the garden into small intimate spaces with meandering paths so that you can’t always see what awaits you around the corner or in the next garden space.

Some of this I am creating with hedging like yew and beech but some I’ve decided to create with rose hedging.  I have to admit that I am a big David Austin fan and putting a Davis Austin catalogue in front of me is fatal, mainly for my bank balance but hey a garden is for life – right?

Below our sun terrace there is currently a steep but straight wide path leading down the garden to the orchard and the second chicken house where we are creating a wild flower meadow. A path leads off this to the right to the pond, this path has a mixture of shrubs and magnolia trees on either side – really a very long term project.

To the left of this path I have created a Rugosa rose hedge with three different varieties:-

Sarah Van Fleet – a beautiful rose Pink of yellow stamens and a wonderful scent which grows upto 2m high

Mrs Anthony Waterer – Red blooms, good scent and grows to about 1.5m high

Wild Edric – gorgeous pink flowers from May to October and grows  to 1.25 m high

We shall see how they all fare next year, the weather at the moment is ideal as its pouring with rain which will really help to settle the roots.  I also have some older varieties of roses to plant (once the rain stops) and these are a mixture of Alba and Damask roses.  I have the perfect place for these statuesque plants and I have no objection to roses that only flower once a year, I reliably informed that they are more magnificent that the repeat flowering varieties as all of there energy goes into one show.  I’ve never grown them before so let’s see, most roses take a couple of years to settle in I find but I’m a patient man.  So that’s all for today, happy gardening!




To the left of this path I have created a Rugosa rose hedge