A Golden September

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Desdemona

Some people adore the height of Summer in June and July when the garden is performing at its peak and it has to be said that it is glorious with the sumptuous excess of roses, delphiniums and phlox flowering in all of their glory but for me September can be even better.

Golden Septembers are not guaranteed

You don’t always get that golden Summer when it’s gloriously hot but when you do I think that it’s special.  What do I love so much about September? Well it is a time to be grateful for the gifts that natures bestows upon us.  It is a time of picking the last peaches and the first apples and pears, of harvesting the last of the summer crops from the vegetable garden, it is a time of plenty.  It’s also the time when the last few roses put on a dazzling display of beauty and I think that I enjoy them so much more because they stand out as beautiful highlights in the garden.

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Brother Cadfael

For me it is also the time to take a breath now that things have slowed down a little, I can step back from the manic duties of Summer and see how the garden has developed in those Summer months.

The big surprise of this Summer

The biggest surprise for me this Summer has been the roses, as many of you will know, we planted a new rose garden this year and it has done exceptionally well.  I have some varieties that have grown to a height of 6 feet or more, which really is incredible in their first year.  Olivia Rose Austin (1st picture above) is a perfect example, David Austin say that this rose generally grows to about 1.25 metres high and yet mine is standing at 6 feet tall, shows no signs of slowing down and is flowering for the 3rd time this year.  It has also been extremely healthy and has shown no signs of disease. he David Austin size guidelines are for the UK and in warmer climates they will grow taller and bigger.

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Olivia Rose Austin

Just look at this perfectly formed rose and also see how healthy the leaves are, it has not been sprayed at all.

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Harlow Carr

This rose, Harlow Carr, I planted in a group of 3, as recommended by David Austin, this is a rose that does so much better in the ground than in a pot, it creates a tall, bushy rose with lots of dainty pink roses that are highly perfumed.  In my opinion it would be a perfect variety for creating a scented rose hedge, I also like Rusosa “Wild Edric” for this purpose.

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Wollerton Old Hall

This is a climbing rose of great beauty, it is one the best scented climbing roses and repeat flowers all summer.

Living off the garden – is that not the dream?

 

At the moment we are able to get all that we need to eat from the garden.  It is so rewarding picking and eating fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden, I feel like we are living like kings!  The pears are absolutely fantastic, sweet and juicy, as are the peaches. We are still harvesting and eating fresh courgettes but we also have enough preserved in jars to last us the winter, along with peas, beans and herbs.  So I think that September is a time to be grateful, a time to be thankful that we live somewhere that we can grow fresh fruit and vegetables and grow beautiful flowers.  Is there a chance that we will end up taking it all for granted? Never.

When Winter comes

When Winter comes I promise not to moan about how cold it is or about how much snow there is, instead I will remember, as I open up a jar of some preserved goody, how wonderful the Summer was, how kind and how generous the garden and nature have been to us.  Does that alone not make this wonderful planet worth saving?

My next post will be showcasing the David Austin roses that will be available in March here at The Moosbach Garden.

We have a small selection of roses for sale at a reduced price (25 euros) a saving of 3,95 Euros.  They are all in flower and make an ideal gift for a friend (or yourself)!

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Preparing Your Autumn “To-Do”List

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Autumn is gently knocking at the door and whilst it’s not quite time to start putting the garden to bed, it soon will be.  I always find it useful to make a “To-Do” list otherwise I tend to forget those jobs that need doing that I made a mental note of in the height of Summer.

Things to do whilst you can still see what is what

Once Autumn/Winter is finally upon us and all the deciduous plants have dropped their leaves it is more difficult to see what plants are.  This is OK if you only have a small garden and you know exactly where every single plant is but here in the Moosbach Garden it’s impossible.  There are always going to be instances, frequently during the early years of a garden, when a plant is in the wrong place. I’ll give you an example, I’m turning the top bed in the rose garden which is currently a mixture of delphiniums, lupins, foxgloves and Phlox into a hot bed or Jewel Garden as Monty Don likes to call it. Now, there are some plants still in this bed that don’t match the colour scheme, for example some Phlox “Giant David” which is white. So, now is the time when I will walk around the garden with bundles of different colour strings that I tie around the stems of plants that need moving.  How you organise your colour coding is a personal choice.

Whatever works for you

There really are not many hard rules in gardening and everybody needs to find a rhythm that works for them.  The Famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll used to take photographs of all of the garden in the summer months, which she paired with copious notes for review in the relatively quiet period of Winter before making any changes.

The developement of a new garden should be part planned and part organic

What do I mean by this?  Well my view is this, if you are starting a new garden on a blank canvas where no garden has existed before you are very lucky indeed.  What a luxury not to have to work with and around somebody elses view of what the garden should be.  When it is virgin ground you have the benefit of being able to measure the garden and then sit down with a big sheet of graph paper and decide where your paths, hedging and flower beds will be.  Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West had exactly this luxury at Sissinghurst Castle, although it should be noted that it was Harold Nicholson who measured the gardens and laid out the paths and hedging and Vita then crammed the different areas of the garden with plants.  However, any plan for a garden will need tweaking, you can try to visualise how things will look in your head but it is only when they are in situ that you can see if it works but give it time. A garden needs time to find its feet so don’t keep changing things every week.

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One of the Herbaceous borders at Sissinghurst

Dead-heading and planning changes

I find that this time of year is perfect for a little relaxed dead-heading of flowers to help prolong the season.  One of the joys of gardening comes at the end of a long Summer of watering and weeding when you can relax a little, take your foot off the accelerator and enjoy your garden.  I think sometimes when you garden you can be so busy with the many essential garden jobs that need doing that you do not have the time to see how the garden has changed in just  few months.  When I am dead-heading rose blooms I really get the chance to smell the different roses and immerse myself in their beauty.  The roses in the Moosbach Garden are putting on their final “Big Show” of the year and they are stunning.  Sometimes I sit on a bench with a cup of tea or a glass of dry white wine and it is then that I can objectively see what is working well and what isn’t working so well.  I keep a notepad which contains my “To-Do” list about my person so that I can make a note of changes to be made when the garden is asleep.  It is the only way that it works for me, 9 times out 10 when I say to myself that I’ll make a note of that later  I don’t.

Dividing Perennials

Once plants go into their dormant phase you can divide them which can revitalise them, plus you get new plants for free.  There is an article on this blog with instructions for dividing Phlox plants which you can do at any time whilst they are dormant.

Something wonderful to look out for

In the next week I will be unveiling all of the fantastic David Austin roses that will be available to buy on our website.  Please note that we have a limited supply of each variety, so it’s best to order early.  Roses will be available for collection from March 2019.

If you are looking for a beautiful rose now we have a few potted roses for sale that are currently in flower.  Available varieties are

  • Harlow Carr (1 available)IMG_4271
  • Desdemona (2 available)5046ffe4-3ce9-4794-af9b-2df494b3fcf4
  • Brother Cadfael (1 available)da5b9ffb-184f-4d20-8584-a0aa86fbc74c
  • Thomas A Beckett (3 available)IMG_4283
  • Falstaff (1 available)3d09bb4c-8564-403d-b5f2-c5d3d6a4c15c-2
  • Boscobel (1 available)0e338944-f6fc-4b9c-be48-3e2e5f8abe2a-1
  • Wollerton Old Hall Climber (2 available)f46a6d20-8482-490b-855f-bc69d5293a79-1
  • Olivia Rose Austin (1 available)ff6f0b6c-0750-4ff6-b15c-1dc08230e937-1

If you are interested in buying one of the above roses please email us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 ……

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!