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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

A guide to dividing Phlox plants

 

Phlox is one of my favourite perennial plants and comes in a variety of forms, I really like the tall sort that flower in July and August.  Phlox plants, given the ideal conditions, spread quite rapidly, however, they become non-productive from the middle as the wood gets older.  The solution to this problem is to split the plants once they are dormant, you can do this  from early winter all the way through until spring but always before they have produced the first shoots of the year.

Follow this simple and easy to use guide to create lots of new productive plants and the best thing is it’s free!

  1.  Carefully, using a garden fork, loosen the soil around the root ball of the plant.  I always cut off the dead stems from the previous seasons growth, I think that it makes the job easier as you can really see what you are doing.
  2.  Carefully lift the root ball, trying not to break any roots in the process.
  3. Split the plant using 2 back to back garden forks, depending upon the size of the root ball you can either using large digging forks or small hand-held forks.  I tend to leave my plants for 3 years before splitting them so I usually go for the larger option. Dont be afraid of being heavy-handed, plants are quite resilient, as long as each section that you divide has sufficient good quality roots then you will have a viable plant for the next growing season.
  4. You can usually divide a Phlox plant into 10-15 new plants every 3 years, even after discarding the dead non-productive wood from the centre of the plant.  Pot up or plant directly into their final location.  In spring you will see the shoots from each of these new, free plants.

Don’t be afraid to give it a go!

The first time I attempted splitting phlox using this method I was terrified that I would kill the plant. However, don’t worry plants are really very robust, especially whilst they are in their dormant phase (not actively growing). Just get out there and give it a go, as long as each section of split plant has a bit of good root it should produce a new and vigorous plant.

There is a garden in the Alsace that has huge areas dedicated to perennial plants with large drifts of Phlox, Delphinium and Lupins which they let grow in spring and strim down in the autumn.  The effect is fantastic, naturalistic and low maintenance, if you have the space why not give it a try.  If you are limited on garden space you can either give the new plants a way or sell them, all it’s cost you is a little time.

This is not the only way to grow new Phlox plants from your existing stock, you can also collect the seeds and grow them from seed or you can take basal root cuttings.  If you have any questions please feel free to drop me an email in English or in German and I will do my best to help.  You can email me at themoosbachgardener@gmail.com

 

Happy gardening!!

 

Looking ahead to the next gardening year

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

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

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

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

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

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