Time to review the chicken situation

It’s time to face facts, we have too many chickens.  They are costly to keep, time-consuming and too many can turn the land sour. We love collecting fresh laid eggs from the nest boxes and seeing the hens running around the orchard but there are simply too many.  Hens can live to about 6 years old but they lay most of their eggs in the first 2 years, they still lay eggs from year 3 onwards but just not as many.  We need to be realistic, as much as we like the idea of a chicken retirement home, 30 older hens that aren’t earning their keep need to be re-homed.  We think they are ideal in smaller quantities for families who don’t want 30 eggs a day and they make good pets.

A gardening list that is far too long

During the last four years we have been working very hard creating different areas of the garden, including a magnolia walk, a rose walk and a rose garden.  These are now starting to mature and they now need constant work to keep them looking at their best.  Every week we write a gardening to-do list and although we get lots of jobs done each day the list just seems to get longer and longer.  So we have to work faster and harder and we have to prioritise what needs doing.

So we have made the decision to reduce the chickens down from 50 to 16, which is a much more manageable number and this will give us more time to concentrate on keeping the garden in tip-top shape.

The Moosbach Garden Plant Shop

Added to our already busy schedule is the Moosbach Garden plant shop, we sold a few plants last year but this year we thought we would expand upon this and we started stocking David Austin roses.  In the last 3 months we have sold 50% of the roses that we initially brought in and now another batch of roses have been ordered to supplement what we have to offer.  So we have 17 different varieties of roses for sale, as well as, delphiniums, Acanthus, Lupins, Lavender, Salvia, Phlox, Cosmos and Day Lilies.

In the next couple of weeks the 8 new varieties of roses will go on to the Moosbach Website, along with the 9 varieties already on there.  We will add other plants to the online shop when they are available to buy.  In May there will be some fantastic delphiniums available, as well as Lavender and Salvia.  These combine perfectly with roses in a mixed border.  There is however, limited availability on all of the David Austin roses and we are already down to the last 2 or roses on some varieties.  If you visit us in June you will be able to see all of the roses in our rose garden, along with some stunningly beautiful delphiniums, which we grow from seed here in the Moosbach garden.

If you would like to see the roses that we have available then please click here and if you are interested in buying some chickens please email us.

June, July and August are the best times to visit the garden here, however, May can be good too depending upon the weather.

Peonies and Tree Peonies

We have been extending our range of peonies in the garden and have both the perennial variety and the tree form.  There are many different varieties of both perennial and tree peonies but they must be treated very differently.

Both types can be grown from seed or purchased as mature plants,  Perennial peonies can be treated like all other perennials and can be cut back in the autumn after the first frosts,  Tree Peonies on the other hand should never be cut back, they do not respond well to being pruned and in some instances will even die.  Tree peonies can grow to a height of about 2 metres and produce stunningly beautiful flowers, just be conscious of where you plant them as they need a bit of space to grow into.  If you want to grow new plants from seed you will need to hand pollinate them and then protect the pollinated flower insects and bees.

Pictured about a Tree Peony flower (Left) and Perennial Peony flower (right).

With both sorts you need to wait until the seeds have ripened and the seed pods are splitting and the seeds exposed.  Dry the seeds and store over winter, they need exposure to 3 months of cold temperatures either outside or in the fridge before sowing.  With a little luck seedlings should emerge either in spring or in summer, you will have to wait about 3 years for the first flowers but I think that it is definitely worth the wait.  Seeds that have been pollinated by insects will not be true to the parent plant but what is life without a little mystery?

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New buds on one of our Tree Peonies, each bud will produce its own set of flowers and the plants are very hardy.

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Perennial Peony shoots just emerging from the ground, this plant was in the ground for 2 years before it produced its first set of flowers.  Please remember that peonies do not like have their roots disturbed so moving them is not recommended.

After what seems like a very long and very snowy winter lets hope for a glorious summer, we wish you a very Happy Easter.

 

It’s March 22nd and the ground is still frozen, so when is Spring coming?

I got up this morning with really good intentions, a speedy breakfast was had, a coat was put on, gardening gloves, secateurs and weeding implements in hand.  I think that you would all agree, so far so good. Wellington boots were placed on and out into the garden I marched. I weeded most of the flower beds earlier this month in a week when we had 3 glorious days of sunshine and all that is left are 2 smallish beds.  So off I marched implements in hand but the ground was frozen solid, so that was that.

I did manage to prune some roses and did an inspection of the garden, taking stock of which plants needed re-staking, which plants needed a prune and which perennials were putting up new shoots.

It is amazing how resilient nature is, most of the Phlox plants have good new shoots as do most of the delphiniums and hydrangeas.  There are even some magnolia trees with swelling buds, the fruits buds on the pear trees are swelling and greening up and the roses are now actively growing.  You know I think that is pretty amazing as most of this week we have had night temperatures of -7.  Every cloud has a silver lining as they say and reduced slug and snail populations may just be that silver lining.  One of my goals this year is to eradicate the use of slug pellets, we have an active frog population and the pond is currently full of frog spawn.  Frogs are really an asset in the garden with keeping plant predators in check but what we really want is a good hedgehog population.  As far as I am aware we don’t have any here at the moment but there is a hedgehog rescue centre about an hour from here.  I shall be contacting them this year and seeing if we can provide a safe, toxin free home to some.

At the moment we are full of anticipation in the Moosbach Garden, this is the fourth year for the garden and last year we planted about 60 new David Austin roses, we have to admit that we’re feeling a little like children who can’t wait for Christmas. You see, we’ve read dozens of books on planting, pruning and caring for roses, we’ve followed their advice and now we can’t wait to see how it all turns out.  We have created a new rose garden in the top garden, we’ve planted a highly scented rose hedge as a link between the top and middle gardens, we’ve planted some rambling roses to grow into trees and we’ve even planted some Alba, Damask, Centifolia and Musk roses that only flower once per year.  We erected an electric fence around the garden to keep the deer out who have developed a taste for roses and so far it seems to be working.  If we are honest about it we didn’t really know that we had a problem with deer until we started planting more roses, we had a few roses that never seemed to come to much and now we know why.

It would be interesting to install some motion activated night cameras in the garden and see what is actually about and more importantly what they are doing in our garden.  I wonder how many of us are blissfully unaware of what animal traffic passes through our gardens at night. Most of us start out just trying to create a beautiful garden for our own pleasure but we also end up creating a paradise for nature and this is no bad thing (as long as they don’t eat your plants).

So our hopes for this year are for an even more beautiful garden, a good crop of fruit and an increase in the diversity of wild garden visitors.  For us one of the wonderful benefits is being able to grow a multitude of different fruits which have not been sprayed with chemicals.  When you get a good fruit year it’s wonderful, last year was catastrophic as a late frost destroyed 80% of the apples, pears, plums and cherries. However,  you know nature has a way of compensating and this year all of the fruit trees are crammed with fruit buds.  If the apple, pear, plums, damson, peach, nectarine, apricot, fig and quince trees produce a good crop this year we don’t mind losing a few to the birds.

So as soon as the weather improves and the soil is workable we shall get the last of the flower beds ready for the coming season and then the vegetable garden dug over and planted.  We absolutely love preparing a meal with produce grown in the garden here, knowing that’s it not been sprayed with chemicals, has a zero environmental footprint and the farthest that it’s travelled is from our garden to the kitchen.

Once the roses start flowering we will post some pictures, along with the delphiniums and other perennials.  We wish you all a fantastic Spring season and if you listen carefully you can hear the plants growing.

 

Happy Gardening ……

It’s always great to learn something new

We’ve had a couple of rainy days here in the Moosbach Garden and horticultural activities have been restricted to potting up Delphinium and Cosmos seedlings. I’ve also taken the opportunity to sit and read a few gardening books.

Turning into my mother!

I’m turning 50 this year and I’ve been gardening for over 30 years now and I will admit that I have a fairly good knowledge of all things horticultural but there is always space for new gardening knowledge in my ageing brain.  Many years ago when my wonderful mother was struggling to retrieve a fact stored in her brain she would tell me “I’ll find the right file in a bit”.  She always said that the human brain was like the hard drive of a computer, the older the computer got the fuller the hard drive got and the longer it took to access the file that was needed.  As I get older I’m inclined to agree with her.  If you ask me “what’s that song on the radio?” as long as it’s from the 70’s onwards I can probably tell you, if you ask me a plant question I can probably lay my hands on the answer. HOWEVER, if you ask me what we had for lunch last Wednesday or tell me Mrs Smith is coming round tomorrow, she was here last week and sat on table 3, you remember don’t you?,  I will look at you blankly as if you are speaking Cantonese (I don’t speak cantonese).  So clearly I am turning into my mother but in my opinion that’s not so bad.

Acquiring new Knowledge

Whilst I was sitting out the rain and thinking to myself “goodness the weeds are going to grow quickly, I’ll have to get out there weeding as soon as I can”, I picked up a book that I bought several years ago but had never got around to reading.  The Book was “Roses – A Care Manual” by Amanda Beales.  For those of you in the know, there are 2 famous rosarians in the UK, David Austin is one and the second is the late Peter Beales. Amanda Beales is his daughter and an expert on all things Rose.  I confess myself a little bit of a David Austin cheerleader and felt somewhat disloyal picking up a book from the “other camp”.  I soon got over this though and absorbed myself in all that was on offer from Amanda Beales and when I had finished the book I found myself in possession of about 20 things that I didn’t know about rose care before.  I’m sure the same can be said for the plethora of specialist gardening books out there, my point is it’s really good to get stuck into a book by an author who knows their stuff.  I think that it’s how we grow both as individuals and as gardeners.

Don’t limit yourself to the latest trends in gardening books

The wonderful thing about any book is its ability to communicate the knowledge, the thoughts and the feelings of its author across the expanse of time.  It’s like being able to travel back in time and have a conversation over a cup of tea with a famous gardener like Gertrude Jekyll or Vita Sackville-West and when you stop and think about that isn’t it a wonderful thing?  I wish my mother had written more than her one novel, (“The Torn Tapestry” by Jane Froud), I wish I had the ability to delve into numerous volumes created by her wonderful intellect.  I am lucky enough to have many of her paintings and many fantastic memories of her to keep me company though.

Reading gardening books is like having struck up a friendship with the gardening greats regardless of their era and being able to sit down for an informal chat about what to do with that corner of the garden or how to create a new rose garden.  In my opinion, priceless access to the gardening greats for the price of a book and an  investment of time.

I finished the Amanda Beales book this morning and I can’t wait to get on with it, I’m determined to prune my roses more effectively, deal with any pests or problems and even cross-pollinate different varieties to create my own roses.  We shall see at the end of the year if I’ve actually achieved any of these or if I’m just all talk.

Good Reads…….

These books are all in English but they are fantastic books (in my opinion)

The Rose by David Austin

Roses – A Care Manual by Amanda Beales

The Victorian Kitchen Garden  by Jennifer Davies

The Garden of Gertrude Jekyll by Richard Bisgrove

Life In A Cottage Garden by Carol Klein

Gertude Jekyll at Munstead Wood by Judith Tankard & Martin Wood

Grow Your Own Garden by Carol Klein

Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden by Judith Tankard

The Walled Garden by Leslie Geddes-Brown

AND no list would be complete without any book by Monty Don and the Royal Horticultural Society

 

And don’t forget that we have a good selection of David Austin strongly fragranced roses available to buy on our website, to see them click here.

 

AND FINALLY…..

I’m off to England in July for my birthday treat and shall be immersing myself in wonderful gardens like Sissinghurst Castle and Munstead Wood and visiting as many National Trust gardens as I can fit in, I promise to take lots of photographs and write some reviews.

 

Happy gardening …….

I dedicate this article to my wonderful mother, the late Jane Antoinette Froud and my sister Sue Barratt who never stops inspiring me or loving me.

 

 

A touch of spring in the Moosbach Garden

Better Weather

This week has brought better weather to the Moosbach Garden and a touch of spring, we’ve had a few really sunny days which has warmed the soil and this gardener’s heart.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were sunny and warm and I spent 6 hours each day working in the garden.  I noticed that the plants are waking up and many perennials are producing their first tentative shoots of the year.  Bramble feels it too and has been running around the garden, ears back and leaping on my back when he thinks that I’m not paying attention and then running away.

Jobs to do now

There are a myriad of jobs that need doing in the garden now that Spring is knocking on the door and it really does pay dividends to get those jobs done now before everything starts growing in earnest.

Here is my list of jobs to do now :-

  • Cut back all of the old stems from the perennials, it’s much easier to do now without damaging the new shoots.  Lift and split any large perennials that you haven’t split already – this is the last chance to do so.
  • Prune back any roses that need it, removing any crossing stems will prevent later damage and disease from rubbing stems.
  • Give all of the roses a good feed with David Austin Rose Feed and then only in-between flowering.
  • Weed all of the flower beds before weeds get a foot hold, not only does it reduce work later on but the beds will look much tidier and then apply a good layer of mulch to inhibit weed growth and to retain moisture.  You can buy proprietory mulch’s from garden centres or you can use well-rotted compost or horse manure.  Any manure that you use in the garden should be at least 2 years old and have a crumbly texture.
  • Prune and feed Hydrangea, this depends on the weather where you are.  Reducing the stems by a third will reduce the risk of branches being pulled to the ground by the weight of the blooms.  Use Rhododendron fertiliser on all hydrangeas and Magnolia’s.
  • Plant bare root or potted roses now to give them a good chance of getting established. Always use David Austin Mykorrhiza fungi when planting roses as this expands the root system and gives the roses the best possible start and then top dress with David Austin Rose Feed.
  • Sow seeds indoors, if you haven’t already done so.  Already we have Delphinium, lavender, Cosmos and Sweet Pea seedlings.  Don’t forget to harden off your seedlings once they are big enough to go out and when all chances of frost have passed.

 

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Above you can see that these Day Lily shoots are actively growing, they are almost impossible to kill and naturalize well in the garden without much care.  These are an old variety typical in this part of Germany and I will be potting some up for selling today.

This week we potted up 14 pots of Sweet Peas and these will be available for sale from May onwards.  Sweet Peas make the perfect plants for cut flowers and will flower prolifically all summer long but ensure you keep cutting the flowers as failure to do so will result in the plant going to seed.  Another good plant for cut flowers is Cosmos Sensation, we have about 60 plants available from May, I think that they also look fantastic planted in a group, especially along the edge of a path.

We also have Lupin plants in White, Yellow and Red for sale, these were grown last year and are now robust, established plants which will produce stunning displays this year.

And Finally ……

A few choice pictures of the young Copper Black Maran hens that we hatched in November last year to replenish our flock of older hens.

We have 9 different varieties of David Austin roses available to buy on our website www.moosbach-schwarzwald.com as well as David Austin Rose feed, mycorrhizal fungi and the fantastic David Austin rose book “Meine Rosen” (Only in German).

Please remember we are only too happy to answer any gardening questions that you might have, please feel free to drop us an email.

We wish you all a very joyous Spring and many hours of happy gardening!