The benefits of keeping chickens

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Here at the Moosbach Garden we are not only crazy about plants , we are also crazy about chickens. We keep 2 breeds of chicken here, namely Marans which originate from France and Polands which originate from Holland.

I remember as a young child of 10 years old collecting eggs from the barns of the Herdman’s farm in Herefordshire. They had bantam chickens that seemed to lay eggs everywhere, I was awestruck and hooked on keeping chickens from that moment onwards.

Fortunately for me I had an understanding mother and we lived on a farm.  At that point I didn’t really care what breed the chickens were, I just wanted chickens.  We acquired a hen with small chicks from a school friend of mine called “Girlie”, here real name was Maria but she was a bit of a tomboy.  I lost half of the chicks to the old farm cat who was called “Mr Snodgrass”, we then erected a much safer run for the mother hen and her remaining chicks, and all was well.

Herefordshire in the 1980’s was still a very rural community and the farms in the foothills of the Black Mountains even more so. You weren’t a local unless you had at least 3 generations you could trace back but Herefordians are good people and they make the best cider ever.  I eventually progressed from my crossbred bantam chickens to Marans, you see I had become obsessed with these chickens that reputedly laid chocolate brown eggs.

Maran chickens originate from the town of Marans near La Rochelle in France.  They come in an assortment of colours but the most popular seem to be the Cuckoo, the Copper Black and the Wheaten Marans.  Of these I believe that the Copper Black Marans lay the darkest eggs.  With Marans the colour of the egg shell is passed on by the Cockerell, so if a cockerell is hatched from a dark brown egg then this colour is passed onto the offspring.  So breeders always hatch chicks from the darkest brown eggs in the hope of continously improving the colour of the eggs.

There are many benefits of keeping your own chickens, the eggs from truly free range chickens cannot be beaten for flavour.  Let me clarify, the egg is made up of 2 parts, the white and the yolk, the Yolk is absorbed into the stomach of the chick when it hatches and is a protein rich food supply that lasts the chick for the first 24 hours after hatching.  It is incredibly delicous but the flavour is vastly improved when the chickens have access to fresh grass and herbs, it makes sense when you think about it. Chickens tend to hatch chicks in the spring and early summer when there is a surplus of fresh grass and herbs so that the chicks get the best possible start in life.  So even if you can’t keep your own chickens, it makes sense to only by eggs laid by hens that have access outside to grass and herbs.

It is also worth considering the differences between pure breed chickens and the egg machine sort.  Most pure breed chickens lay around 200 to 220 eggs per year and this is a natural process.  Egg machines are bred to lay around 350 eggs per year.  You might think that 350 is better than 220 but I disagree and this is why.  It takes quite a lot of energy, calcium and water to produce an egg, an egg is 60% water.  Most proprietary feeds should contain some calcium but if they don’t the calcium can be taken from the bones of the chickens which is not sustainable.  I belive that it is better to have 220 good quality eggs a year rather than 350 OK eggs.  They will probably cost you a bit more to buy but it is definately worth it. Our customers agree and we have no problem selling the eggs produced by the Moosbach hens.

Here are some chicken facts for you :-

  • Young hens are born with all of the immature eggs cells of all the eggs that they will lay as an adult
  • It takes roughly 26 weeks from hatching to laying the first egg
  • Chickens need a minimum of 14 hours daylight to stimulate egg production
  • Chickens lay most of their eggs in their first 2 years
  • Chickens  eggs remain fertile for 10 days after mating
  • Chickens can live up to 6 years
  • Chickens will lay eggs with or without a cockerell

There are various clubs for Marans and it is best to join one and then contact reputable breeders that you can buy your hens from.  I would not recommend buying hatching eggs online or buying chickens from a market, you have no idea what you are really buying.  It is always best to visit a breeder so that you can judge the quality of the Chickens and the conditions that they are kept in.  Also if you already have chickens and buy additional ones always keep them seperate for 3 weeks to ensure that they do not pass any diseases that they may have onto your flock.

There are many different breeds of chicken and it is worth researching online the different breeds of chicken to find the one that’s just right for you.

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Above Copper Black Maran eggs and one Green Aracauna egg for comparison.

On the left, the Now famous Herr Huber and on the right freshly hatched chicks in our incubator.

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Gardening jobs to do now

There are some hard and fast rules with gardening that you have to embrace or forever feel like you have somehow failed.  I think that a lot of people beat themselves up about their gardening ability and status as a gardener.  I am as guilty as the next man or woman and refer to my self as a hobby gardener, I think that it lets you off the hook when things don’t go to plan or don’t really work.  However, here is an enlightening fact – gardening is a long game, it takes time to learn your craft, learn your garden (each one is different) and gardens need time to mature.  When I started gardening, 40 years ago (that’s a sobering, frightening and impossible number as I’m sure that I’m only 35) , I assumed that professional gardeners did everything perfectly and nothing ever failed or looked less than perfect.  This, of course, is simply not the case, every gardener has things that go wrong every year and they make a note, mental or otherwise, to do that differently the next year.  You see gardening is an ever evolving process, it’s not just your garden that grows, it is your knowledge, your judgement and your skills.  So I am going to stop calling myself a hobby gardener, from this moment onwards I am a gardener!

Don’t be overwhelmed

I think some people are overwhelmed by starting gardening as they are so afraid of getting things wrong and looking silly, that other gardeners will judge them and they’ll be found wanting in the garden department.  What I would say to these people is don’t worry about it, fellow gardeners are nurturers and unless they are unkind people they will want you to succeed.

Starting out

If you are new to gardening start on a small-scale, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to create a garden on the scale of Kew Gardens or Wisley – they have a huge teams of experienced gardeners making it look perfect.  Dip your toes in the gardening water by trying something that fits in with your current skill level and the time that you have available.  This helps build self-confidence, gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps with life balance.  It is amazing how the brain soaks up all of this new acquired knowledge and without realising it you’ve amassed a huge amount of gardening know how and in a few years people will be asking you for advice, not the other way around.

Free resources and money-saving ideas

For many people money is a restricting factor, however, there are some things that you can do which don’t cost much and give great results.  Here’s my list of things to do if you have a restricted budget :-

  1. Use your local library for excellent sources of information,  read books by Monty Don, Carol Klein and many others
  2. Research online (google is your best friend) there is a plethora of useful, free information out there and for extra confidence search videos on YouTube.
  3. Grow plants from seeds, it doesn’t cost much and you can always go halves on seed packets with friends.
  4. Check garden centres for the reduced priced plants, they can’t be bothered with caring for plants that are past their best or ones that they’ve forgotten to water.  I once got 6 hydrangea plants from a DIY shop in Germany for 1 Euro, that’s about 15 cents per plant. All they needed was watering, a feed and a bit of TLC, all 6 survived and are now large healthy plants.
  5. Check online marketplaces like Ebay for cheap small plants, I recommend researching how much they cost elsewhere before you buy so that you know that you are not getting ripped off
  6. Check your local newspaper if you have one, sometimes there are ads for cheap plants, manure and second-hand tools.
  7. See if there is a local gardening group that you can join and maybe acquire a few unwanted plants from other gardeners.
  8. Learn how to take cuttings and then ask friends if you could take some cuttings (always ask first).

Once you have perennial plants that are 2 or three years old, you can take your own cuttings, split some perennials and harvest the seeds.  You can then swap plants with other people or sell them and buy something that you haven’t got.

Our hopes for this gardening year

Last year we planted a select few David Austin roses, OK it was 60 but who’s counting? It will be interesting to see how they do this summer, I am presuming that the snow will eventually stop falling and melt of course.  We planted a long rose hedge using Rugosa hedging (Wild Edric, Mrs Anthony Waterer and Sarah Van Fleet) and I’m wondering how long it will take before it becomes a substantial hedge.  This hedge runs across the hill from the terrace to the middle garden and the intention is to create a rose walk with a mixture of shrubbery above and below.  We also created a Magnolia walk from below the terrace to the pond. As always, I do the planting and Thomas does the structural stuff.  He likes building walls, cutting down trees and making new benches and gates, this is fine by me as it doesn’t really float my boat and keeps him busy!

In the top garden, which is rapidly becoming the Rose Garden we have a mixture of roses. Close to the house with have some climbing roses, supported by a network of poles supporting strong wire which should be hidden by the roses in a couple of seasons.  Here we have the following roses, Gertrude Jekyll,  Claire Austin and Mortimer Sackler.  Across the lawn from this is a fragrant shrub rose collection that we bought from David Austin which contains 4 different roses, 3 of each variety and these are, Harlow Carr (pink), Susan William-Ellis (white), Charles Darwin (yellow) and Thomas A Beckett (red), they are all strongly scented . This bed is edged by a low-level hedge of Munstead Lavender, there are some peonies mixed in with this and apart from the occasional Salvia that will be it.  We are aiming for a more classic look than a bed so crammed with plants that beautiful plants get lost in the excess.

Opposite this bed, on the far side of one of the few flat pieces of garden that we have where there is a row of climbing and rambling roses, these again will be supported by strong posts and wires.  There is an eclectic mix of roses here but that’s what I like, if it doesn’t all work beautifully I can move some of them next winter.  The roses include, Paul’s Himalayan Musk (White and pink Rambler), Filipe Kiftgate (white Rambler), Old Wollerton Hall (cream Climber) and Malvern Hills (Yellow Climber).

Although these roses will flower this year but they will not attain their full glory for a couple of years, they have to establish themselves with good root systems but here in the Moosbach Garden we are patient (well I am).  I imagine how it will all look in 5 years from now and I’m sure that it will be different to the picture in my head but I’m Ok with that.

There are many more roses that we have planted, some repeat flowering, as we have all become used to, and some older species roses that only flower once per year but that’s better shared next year or later in the summer when we have taken some photographs.

Some of you may think that this is a lot of change in a year but a garden never sits still, it is a snap shot in time of the gardener’s heart, aspirations and dreams. It is typical for a young garden like this.  Many people, Gertrude Jekyll included, recommended with older, established gardens that every few years you change something drastically in your garden, this helps to keep the garden a vibrant and interesting place.

I cannot ever imagine not gardening but eventually I will have to be brave and pass the Moosbach Garden trowel onto a new, younger and enthusiastic gardener.  Hopefully that day is 20 years off but you never know what life will throw your way.

Jobs to do in the next 6 weeks

With spring on the horizon there are jobs that need doing before all the garden comes to life.  Already I notice migratory birds arriving from their wintering grounds and collecting nesting materials, yesterday I saw 2 storks and I thought to myself that it’s time to dust off those gardening tools, sharpen those secateurs and get out there.  I like that period just before spring when you can really get things done.  Obviously there are the normal tasks like weeding beds, turning over the soil in the vegetable garden, cutting back last years growth from perennials and pruning fruit trees but it is also an excellent time to tackle architectural and structural jobs.  Once the spring arrives in earnest and everything starts growing with jubilant, gay abandon then there is little time for anything except weeding, deadheading and tying in new growth.  However, before all that starts you can build dry stone walls, create new paths and generally assess which areas need a little repair.

So here is my quick list of things to do now

  • Deadhead old wood from perennials like Phlox, Michaelmas Daisies and Peonies before the new shoots appear
  • Weed all the flower beds, carefully avoiding digging up any hidden perennials, (you should know where they are).  If you do dig any up it won’t do them much harm if you replant then straight away.
  • Split any Perennials that have become too big for their space.  See my post on splitting Phlox plants.
  • Top dress weeded beds with well-rotten compost or horse manure (2-year-old is best)
  • Prune roses when the weather is decent enough not to cause die-back.  There are some good instructional videos on www.davidaustinroses.com
  • Make bamboo supports for sweet peas,delphiniums, beans and peas
  • Sow seeds indoors of sweet peas, delphiniums, beans and peas.
  • This is your last chance to buy and plant bare root hedging plants like box and yew
  • Have a good cup of tea or coffee

Available to buy now

Don’t forget that we have 9 different sorts of highly scented David Austin roses for sale available for collection now :-

  1. Harlow Carr (pink)
  2. Gertrude Jekyll (pink)
  3. Thomas A Becket (red)
  4. Charles Darwin (yellow)
  5. Gentle Hermione (pink)
  6. Desdemona (cream)
  7. Roald Dahl (Apricot)
  8. Claire Austin (cream Climbing rose)
  9. The Generous Gardener (pink climbing rose)

We recommend using David Austin mycorrhizal fungi when planting roses as this extends the root system and helps the rose to establish itself more quickly and then feed between flowering with David Austin Rose Food.

So I wish you all happy and fulfilled gardening!

 

Time for environmental revolution

It is snowing again at the Moosbach Garden, it feels like it has been snowing for months and I have to admit that I’m feeling a little bit like a caged animal. Bramble, my 4 legged confidant and helper is feeling likewise.  You might suspect from his name that Bramble is a labrador or sheepdog but he is in fact a black cat.  I recollect that he acquired the name because deep down my life partner wanted a dog.

Bramble definitely has ideas far above his station, he is the son of a farm cat but I think in a previous life he was a lady of leisure.  He has literally fallen on his feet and he’s going to milk the situation for all he can get.   He likes a delicate head massage and is especially fond of lying on his back under a warm lamp, so far he hasn’t demanded additional Spa treatments but it’s coming – trust me.

I’ve been reflecting on nature and the environment these last few days and it strikes me that the more I garden the more I think about the impact we have on the planet.  When I first came to live in Germany I was stunned by the large numbers of bees, bumble bees and butterflies that there were.  When I lived in the UK I was used to the fact that declining insect populations were inevitable but it’s not the case.  Many people think that the individual cannot play their part in turning the tide of declining populations but it’s simply untrue.

I do believe that governments have a part to play in eradicating the use of harmful chemicals and plastics but it is also true that individual action has an equally important role to play.  When I grew up  I was used to the fact that if you had unwanted weeds in your garden then you popped down to your local garden centre and purchased weed killer.  I think it has become a culturally acceptable way of dealing with a problem, regardless of the environmental impact, it’s advertised as an easy solution. We live in a world where we are presented with so-called easy solutions but not what the long-term consequences are. There are always consequences.

Here in Germany it is not part of the culture to use harmful chemicals and quick-fix solutions to eradicate weeds and bugs or not to recycle as much as possible.  Most drinks that you buy in bottles here come with a deposit and it is a normal, everyday occurrence to see people returning empty crates to supermarkets or beverage shops.

We all complain about it but it’s time to start doing something other than moan.  Get rid of all of your weed killers and start digging weeds out by hand, plant more companion plants that deter unwanted insects and bugs and stop using cheap plastic pots in the garden.  You can still use plastic pots if you want  but instead of buying those cheap, thin plastic pots that break after a year or less buy something of a better quality that lasts for years, this is both cheaper in the long-term and more environmentally friendly.  I was looking at buying seed trays the other day and was horrified at the array of cheap thin Plastic seeds trays that won’t last 5 minutes and will be relegated to landfill.  I remember as a child a relative who was a gardener for a big country house who grew all of the plants for the large garden from seed in robust seed trays, raked up the leaves in the autumn and made leaf mold compost.  So I say let’s stop doing what is easy and start doing what is right.  Look at what is environmentally sustainable and play your part in making that happen.

It is amazing how quickly the changes that you make take effect, given a chance nature and wildlife will recover.  Remember, when you create a garden you are creating a living ecosystem. The more plants that a garden has the more insects it has and the more birds it has.  It’s all about the food chain and I believe you can suffer a few plant casualties in order to restore natures balance.  Since we have been developing the Moosbach Garden a nature revolution has been taking place. Admittedly there were already a good number of bees, bumble bees and butterflies here but now there are more, there are more insects in the garden and therefore more birds and in greater diversity.  We also have more geckos, more frogs and more hedgehogs, more of everything. We have been here 4 years, that is such a short space of time but the change in a large one.  Species of wildlife that weren’t here when we moved in have come back.  Apart from the obvious feel good factor of knowing that you have helped restore the natural balance of things, you get blown away by how amazing  and how beautiful that insect is. What a privilege it is to encounter that dragonfly or marvel at the industrious droning of bees happily collecting nectar whilst pollinating flowers.  That is something we should protect for future generations, for ourselves, for the planet.

Here’s my list of things to do from now and forever:-
  1. Stop using any weed killers, pesticides or poisonous chemicals in your garden
  2. Investigate alternative methods like companion planting and weeding by hand
  3. Stop using cheap plastic pots and trays, either use terracotta pots or invest in more expensive, more robust, reusable trays and pots that will last for decades
  4. Recycle more garden waste, make your own compost, make leaf mold compost
  5. Collect the seeds from your own garden, store them and use the them following year, swap seeds with neighbours and other gardeners
  6. Grow some fruit and Vegetables using nothing but soil, natural fertilizers and home-made compost. There are very productive fruit tree varieties available now for small spaces as well as for larger gardens.  If you have space look at growing older varieties so that they are not lost forever.

There are many things that we can all do now, today, that have an immediate impact on our present and on our future.  As consumers we have the ultimate power to influence large corporations and government.  If we all went back to using a milkman who delivers milk in glass bottles and who collects the empties that are then reused, how long do you think it would be before the big supermarkets stopped stocking plastic bottles of milk?  For as long as we continue to buy produce contained in plastic they will keep producing it.  Next time you go shopping look at what you are buying.

Here’s my list of shopping do’s and don’ts :-
  1. Don’t buy anything in plastic that you could buy in glass or isn’t going to be recycled.
  2. Look at how much packaging there is on a product, what happens to that packaging after you’ve consumed what is in it, make an informed choice
  3. Buy produce that has been grown locally, reducing the environmental foot print, buy produce that’s in season locally and support local smaller producers
  4. Buy smaller quantities of food that you know you’ll use and that you won’t end up throwing away
  5. Take your own material bags for packing your shopping
  6. Cook more meals from raw ingredients, break the cycle of convenience food and live additive and preservative free, it doesn’t take as much time or effort as you think.

I think most of us agree that there is climate change and that something radicle needs to happen, it’s time to stop hoping that the governments of the world will make it happen.  Governments are influenced by large corporations and big business – it’s a fact. So be the change and be the change now.  We all need to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices and our wonderful planet.

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Gentle Hermione (Ausrumba). The David Austin Featured rose of the week. This is a beautifully formed rose for cutting

Rosa 'Generous Gardener'

This is a very beautiful small rose only growing to a height of 120cm, so it’s ideal for the front of the flower border or even for a decent sized pot.  It has the most beautiful light pink flowers, a wonderfully powerful perfume and the formation of the flower is one of the most beautiful of all of the roses.  It is also fairly disease resistant.

I think that if you want to create a really stunning display that I would plant 3 of these intermingled with Munstead Lavender and a good really dark blue Salvia but you could also mix in some Scabious plants at the front of the border.

If you would like to look at more wonderful David Austin roses then why not visit the Moosbach Garden and pick up a David Austin Rose Catalogue, they are written in German.  We currently have 9 different varieties of rose available at the Moosbach Garden but we would be happy to order a different variety for you.

You can buy this rose on our website by clicking here.

To see all of the rose varieties we currently have for sale click here.

 

Growing plants from seed

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I thought we’d take a break from roses and talk about the joy of growing your own plants from seed.

Some people, myself included, are really happy and fulfilled by buying a plant that has been reared and cared for by somebody else but there is something to be said for growing your own plants from seed.  The benefits are multifold.  You have the joy of perusing a multitude of gardening catalogues, choosing plant varieties that look stunning, producing a wish list which is way too long and then reducing it down to a level that you can realistically cope with and then finally ordering the seeds. It’s the perfect pastime for those early months of the year when gardening outside is impractical because the ground is too hard, too wet or covered in snow.

I sow seeds throughout January and February in one of our spare rooms, using a couple of tables with overhead strip lights ( I don’t have a greenhouse).  I hear some of you saying “Isn’t that way too early?”, well my argument is that it gives the young plants time to germinate, produce good root systems and then when the spring comes and all chances of frost have passed they are ready to take off.

Sowing seeds is a risky business as there is no guarantee that the seeds will germinate.  In fairness though, if you buy the seed from a reputable company and don’t keep the seed too long then the chances of success are pretty good.  Just follow the guidelines on the packet, keep the soil moist but not wet, keep the temperature within the recommended range and then wait for the seeds to germinate.  It’s an exciting business waiting for the first signs of germination, you are helping to create a new life (albeit a plant).  When the first seeds germinate and you see the first pair of seed leaves you really feel like a proper gardener.

Apart from the sense of achievement of growing your own plants from seeds it also enables you to create a wonderful garden for a fraction of the cost of buying mature plants from a garden centre.  There are numerous health benefits, it is a well documented fact that gardening is good for your health. It’s not rocket science, gardening entails being out in the fresh air working and therefore getting exercise, all good for you.  However, the benefits to mental health are now being recognised worldwide.  Gardening involves buckets of nurturing, gardeners become the foster parents of all their plants, making sure that they are fed, watered and occasionally get a hair cut (otherwise known as dead heading).  Sounds a lot like being a parent to me.  Having someone or something else to care for helps with life balance, promotes self-esteem and counters depression.

So, you’ve bought your packets of seeds, you’ve germinated them, grown them on but what do you do with those 40 Cosmos plants that you have when you really only need 4?  Most gardeners, myself included, always sow too many seeds and end up with more plants than they want.  However, this doesn’t have to be  a problem or a waste, you could sell them(locally or online) and recoup the cost of the seeds and the compost, you could give them to friends or you could do something really exciting like organise a plant swap day.  From my experience gardeners are the most generous, well-balanced and giving people that you can meet.  Maybe it is something to do with being in sync with nature and the seasons, being outdoors with the birds, bees and butterflies – who knows?  Meeting like-minded gardeners gives you access to  a wealth of knowledge and experience, most gardeners will willingly give you advice of what works best and best of all you will make new friends.

Growing plants from seeds is also a very good activity to do with your children, they are learning, they’re not sat in front of the television or a computer game and most importantly it’s quality time shared.  The excitement and wonder on the faces of children when their first seeds germinate or when they pick the first tomato that they have grown is wonderful and teaches children where their food comes from.  Let’s face it the world needs more gardeners, it’s not an occupation that pays well unless you are a garden designer but it does help children to grow up knowing about nature and where food comes from and hopefully create a future generation with a better life balance.

Here at the Moosbach Garden we have Sweet Peas (pictured above), Cosmos Sensation, Delphiniums, Alyssum, Aubretia, Lavender and Salvia seedlings developing.

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These are Delphinium seedlings (Darling Sue), you’ll notice that they have their first pair of leaves, these are referred to as seed leaves.  Seed leaves are the first to appear when the seed germinates and these allow the plant to photosynthesise, producing energy for root and plant development.  Shortly after this true leaves will appear that are characteristic of the plant.  I’ve started using these individual soil pods as there is less root disturbance when you pot them on, it’s more expensive than using a bag of compost but it works for me.

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These Cosmos Sensation seedlings look a little scrawny but in a few weeks they will be healthy, vigorous plants.  These grow to about 5 feet tall and if planted in a group look absolutely stunning. Just remember to keep deadheading the spent flowers and you’ll have flowers until the first frost.

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Above, Cosmos Sensation in the top garden, planted in a group.  The picture at the top of this page shows sweet pea seedlings, you’ll notice that they look quite leggy. Once 2 sets of true leaves have been produced you should nip out the tip of the seedlings and this will encourage the plant to produce more side shoots near the base of the plant.  This results in a bushier looking plant which is more visually pleasing and ultimately will produce more flowers.

You can easily grow stunningly beautiful delphiniums like this in colours and varieties that you won’t generally find at a garden centre and these will reward you year after year with their beautiful flowers.

If you want to buy fantastic Delphinium seeds you can order them here or we will have some plants available to buy at the Moosbach Garden in early summer.

For an excellent selection of flower and vegetable seeds click here.

Don’t forget you can also collect seeds from the plants in your garden, store them over winter and sow them next year.

Happy gardening!

The Generous Gardener (Ausdrawn). David Austin featured climbing rose of the week. A fantastic English climbing rose, tall, strong and disease resistant.

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Image courtesy of David Austin Roses.

David Austin Senior comments in his book ” The Rose” that “The Generous Gardener” is his favourite climbing rose and I have to say that I am inclined to agree.  When I first bought one last year I was mesmerised by the beautiful blooms, the exquisite perfume and the quality and colour of the leaves.  The scent for this rose is a mixture of tea and Myrrh and it is a good repeat flowering shrub.  It grows to a height of around  350cm, so I think you need 2, 1 planted either side of a rose arch for the most stunning of displays.  It is available as a shrub rose as well but I’m reliably informed that it does better as a climber.

I’ve planted mine at the top of the big bed, next to the steps in the top garden so that it is the first thing that you see and smell as you enter the garden from the road.  I’m half inclined to plant a second on the opposite side of the path so that the assault on the senses is complete.  My plan is to fill this big bed with a classic colour combination of light pink roses paired with dark blue perennials like lavender, delphiniums and salvia, I’ve already sourced the seed for some fantastically dark blue salvias.  A rose arch of “The Generous Gardener” with its lovely light pink flowers would fit this scheme perfectly, acting as a gateway into a rose paradise, my only concern is planting it far enough  away from the road so that it is not eaten by the deer.

The problem with deer is really quite severe here in the Black Forest and we have resorted to erecting an electric fence 6 feet tall all the way around the garden.  I’m keeping a watchful eye on all of the roses for any sign of predation, I’ve also bought some very smelly black powder that you mix with water and then paint onto the leaves  but I’m reluctant to put something that smells unpleasant onto beautifully scented roses. We have had a snowy winter here (it’s not over yet) and it’s been shocking to see how many deer foot prints there are in the garden if the gate is left open over night.  Hopefully we will win the battle.

However, we are confident that the measures that we have put in place will be successful and all of the hard work will pay off in the summer.  We are currently building new paths in the garden to create some stunning rose walks (Rugosa Sarah Van Fleet, Wild Edric, Mrs Anthony Waterer) and then we will be building some rustic rose arches using natural materials found on our land. You’ll notice in the photograph above that the rose is growing up a wooden arch and I think that this is the perfect material, especially here in the Black Forest where there is so much wood readily available.  That being said I think it looks just as stunning climbing up a wall of the house, if you are thinking of planting a climbing rose like this up a wall remember that roses need at least 4 hours of sunshine a day.  Most roses thrive best in a south facing position, will tolerate an eastern or western position but perform very poorly against a north facing wall.  There are some specific roses that are more suited to shadier locations like Alba Semi-Plena and if you would like some suggestions of suitable rose varieties then please drop me an email.

We do have a limited supply of “The Generous Gardener” available to purchase here at the garden or via our website.

We also have available the fantastic book by David Austin “Meine Rosen”, available for collection or for delivery.  We will also be selling some limited stocks of phlox, delphiniums, acanthus, sweet peas, cosmos and lavender and these will be available from May onwards.

Please remember that although some disease resistant roses are available now, roses on the whole do suffer from fungus and black spot and the only way to keep your roses in optimum health is to spray them every 4 to 6 weeks with a proprietary spray and to give them a handful of David Austin Rose feed after each flowering has ended.  This ensures a continued high quality  roses throughout the summer.

So I wish you all much happiness and enjoyment gardening!

Charles Darwin (Auspeet) David Austin featured rose of the week

This strongly perfumed yellow rose has particularly large flowers and the perfume changes depending upon the weather conditions.  The perfume varies from  a soft floral tea rose to lemon.  The blooms are upward facing which is a real bonus as so many rose flowers droop towards the ground.
In habit, the rose is vigorous reaching a height of 120cm and a width of  110cm, this rose is also disease resistant which is fairly uncommon amongst roses.
We have three of these roses planted together at Moosbach in the top rose garden.
This rose can be described as eye-catching due to the large size of the individual flowers and their orientation, i.e. facng upwards.  I think that a round flower bed with three of these planted together in the centre of the bed would make a stunning show piece in any garden.  David Austin recommend planting three roses of the same variety together in a triangle, 1 meter apart.  In time this will look like 1 substantial plant, of course not everybody has either the space or the budget to buy 3 roses at a time but if you consider how many years of joy this will bring you and visitors to your garden then it really is value for money.
Good companion planting for yellow roses are dark blues and purples like lavender and Salvia, these have the advantage of not growing too tall and are therefore ideal for the edge of a round border.  I’m in favour of the use of perennial plants over annual plants as there is a better return on time invested but you could use annuals if you wish.
I would recommend using David Austin’s mycorrhizal Fungi when planting roses, one packet has enough for 3 roses and this helps the plant to get established and extends the root system giving the plant a larger area to extract water and nutrients from.  Rose fertilizer should be used directly after the plant has finished blooming as this encourages the next set of blooms and ensures that the quality of the initial blooms is maintained.  In winter, you can do nothing better for your roses that applying a generous mulch of well-rotted horse manure, in summer you will reap the benefits with better bigger blooms.  You must make sure that it is well rotted as fresh manure takes nitrogen out of the soil as part of the decomposition process and you want to add nitrogen, not take it away.
There is an instructional video on how to plant roses on the David Austin Website – how to plant a potted rose and how to prune a shrub rose.
We do have a limited supply of these roses available on our website and you can order one by clicking here.
On the subject of companion planting, white and blue flowers go exceptionally well with roses and one of my favourite colour combinations are blue and yellow but blues also work especially well with light pink roses like Harlow Carr, Gentle Hermione and Gertrude Jekyll.  Good choices of blue perennials are: delphiniums, Salvia, Lavender and Campanula.  Peonies are also a classic combination with roses and have the added bonus of a long season of interest with purple leaves when they first emerge, stunningly beautiful flowers and fiery autumnal leaves.  Here at the Moosbach Garden we have a combination of perennial and tree peonies but remember that tree peonies can grow as big as 2 metres so give careful consideration as to where you plant them.

Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore

At the end of March last year we took a weeks holiday on the Italian side of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.  For gardeners , garden lovers, sun worshipers and those who want to look fabulous rocking a pair of designer sunglasses this is the perfect destination. I’m a bit of a garden addict as you probably know by now and I’m not adversed to a bit of sunshine so I was distinctly happy.  Somedays I had to feign grumpiness just to maintain my reputation but it was a struggle.

There are so many glorious gardens and parks around the Italian lakes.  I would recommend gardens around Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. There is simply too much to cover in one article, so I will focus on just one garden, namely Villa Taranto.

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The picture above is of Lake Maggiore and the smaller hill on the left of the picture is where Villa Taranto is located, a large proportion of that hill is the garden and you really need to allow yourself plenty of time to soak up what the garden has to offer.  If you are driving there you can either drive around the lake or if you are on the other side and want to save yourself some time you can catch the ferry across. Once you have reached Villa Taranto you will find that there is a free car park opposite the entrance.

There is quite a large team of gardeners working on the garden at Villa Taranto and once you’ve walked the garden you will realise why, this is a garden on a huge scale.  There is a small but reasonably priced plant sale area on the right opposite the ticket shop, I was very well-behaved and didn’t buy anything (and people say that I have no self-restraint).

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Thankfully, this glorious Magnolia tree was still in flower but I think that if we had visited a week later we would have missed it.  I really like that they have given this Magnolia plenty of room, I think that they need space and the eyes need to be able to see it alone in its full glory.  There are, however, areas that are more densely planted, like the rhododendron and Camelia gardens but this is completely appropriate as they are woodland plants.  On the subject of Rhododendrons, I was ignorantly unaware that they could grow to the size of tall trees.  The Rhododendrons really blew me away with their scale and diversity and that was the memory that I took away with me.

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This is just one view across the garden but it gives you an idea of the size of the garden.

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When I visited there were vast areas of daffodils, all of the same variety and the effect was stunningly beautiful.

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There are quite a large number of Viburnum Carlesii and Viburnum Aurora blooming at the edges of paths where their heady scent draws you towards them and the garden understandably is a haven for bees and insects.  I have to admit that I’ve never seen this glossy black insect that looks like a bee, if anyone can enlighten me as to what it is I would be very happy.

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The Edwardian English garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, was very keen on this plant, Bergenia and advocated planting it in large patches rather than just one or two.  The effect is more stunning both from a distance and at close quarters.  This is true of all plants of course, however, the planting scheme should not be blocky and regimented like little soldiers, groups of plants should drift into each other and where possible be repeated for a more pleasing effect.

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This tree is called Cercis Siliquastrum (The Judas Tree) and produces these beautiful dark pink flowers early in the year before it produces leaves, very much like the Magnolia tree. It will tolerate some cold weather but is more suited to more temperate areas.

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Various points in the garden offer the visitor stunning and enticing views of Lake Maggiore.  What a stunning backdrop for this gloriously beautiful garden.

If you have a limited time in Lake Maggiore it is tempting to cram visiting as many gardens into your itinerary as possible and I can understand this, having done so myself, however, I think it is better to restrict yourself to one garden visit per day.  You can then sit in the evening watching the sun go down, with some good food, a glass of good Italian wine or two and reflect on the riches viewed during your garden visit of the day.  The risk when you visit more than one garden in a day is that, apart from having tired legs and feet, you tend to forget what you saw in each garden.  I think that gardens and the gardeners who tend to them deserve our utmost respect for theirs is a labour of love and a work that is never truly finished.

If you would like more information on Villa Taranto, their website is a good place to start.

www.villataranto.it/de

You might also like to consider booking your accommodation via airbnb – www.airbnb.de