Saturday morning garden snapshot

Good morning to you all.  Here in the Moosbach Garden the sun is shining and my heart is filled with hope.  No sign of rain on the horizon so we are keeping a close eye on all of the pots, next week the forecast is for windy weather and this can dry pots and soil out as quickly as sunny weather.

Here are some photographs that I took this morning after breakfast.

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Gala Apple Blossom.

We applied a good measure of well rotted chicken manure to all of our fruit trees last Winter and the trees have thanked us with a wonderful display of blossom and hopefully in the autumn, plentiful fruit.

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Quince Blossom is exquisitely delicate and beautiful

Quince come in a variety of forms, here in The Moosbach Garden we have 2 types, an apple quince and a pear quince.  The can take quite a few years to get going but once they are fruiting well you can make jam or chutney from them.  The chutney is especially good with game.

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Apple blossom

With young trees like this it is best to thin out the fruits once they have set as the thin stems on young trees will not support the weight of too much fruit and may snap.  It is best to give fruit trees a good soak once a week, this is preferable to daily watering and better for the trees.

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Cardoons are great for adding structure to a garden

Cardoons are a really good addition to a garden or flower bed, they add a ‘wow’ factor with their spiky leaves and grey/silver foliage.

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Viburnham Aurora Carlesii

I can’t think of a more perfect shrub at this time of year, each floret is a flawless work of art and it is worth shopping around and getting one with heady perfume.

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Tree Peony Buds

Peonies come in 3 types, perennial, trees and intersectional.  Most people know the perennial varieties that disappear beneath the ground every Winter and then magically pop their dark red buds through the soil in Spring. Less known are the other 2 varieties, namely tree peonies and Intersectional.  Tree Peonies can grown up to 2 meters tall and wide and are a real show piece in a garden.  They have large exotic flowers that grow on the previous seasons growth, don’t be tempted to cut them back or you’ll get no flowers the following year.  Finally there are intersectional peonies that are a cross between the 2 other types, they also have hard wood that stays above ground all year and these come in a stunning array of colours.  For best results fertilize with fish, blood and bone in the winter.

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Climbing roses are best trained in a fan shape

Climbing roses should be trained with their stems replicating a fan pattern, think of a male peacocks feather display and you are about right.  The most productive zone, referred to as the goldilocks zone, is from horizontal to about 45 degrees.  When you train the stems in this way they produce lots of lateral shoots (as shown above) and each of these will produce a cluster of roses and create a stunning display.

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Olivia Rose Austin

Roses (depending upon where you live in the world) should be putting on vigorous new growth and producing the rose buds for that first flush of flowers.  My tips for success with roses are to feed when the first leaves appear and then again after the first flush of flowers has finished, obviously well-rooted manure in Winter is the perfect solution.  My second tip is to water the roses well from the base of the plant from the moment the first buds appear until Autumn (October time here).  Roses don’t like to sit in water but neither do they like to dry out.  Remember water and nutrients are the building blocks of life, deprive them of either and they will not perform as well.

I wish you all a very pleasant weekend and don’t forget that when the restrictions are over we will be open for dinner, bed and breakfast.  Fantastic food, organically grown in The Moosbach Garden, local wines and fresh laid eggs from The Moosbach Garden Chickens. You can wander around the garden of relax on a bench with a good book.  Overnight stays include pre-dinner drinks, a 4-course menu and breakfast with homemade bread and jams.  To book visit The Moosbach Garden

Also check our website for dates when the garden is open to the public.

Strange Days Indeed, He Mused….

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Olivia Rose Austin

If it feels like absolutely ages since I last posted then you are quite right.  I have to confess at not being a particularly disciplined person, I have to be in the moment, in the mood to create.  When my headspace is not in a creative mood I just don’t seem to be able give myself a good talking to and get on with it.  So I guess that you will have to be patient and like me, wait for my brain to be in a compliant mode.  I’ve been at home for 4 weeks now due to a combination of factors not any of them Corona Virus related.  That in itself is strange in these surreal times.  There have been some major changes here in the Moosbach Garden, some personal and many with the garden, especially how we manage and develop it.

It has been 6 full years since we arrived and in gardening terms they have been very challenging, harsh winters and then very hot, dry summers.  As you would expect, these years have been dotted with successes and failures but that as they say, is the gardeners lot.  This is the first year that we have really noticed how much some shrubs and trees have grown, perhaps we have just been too busy to notice until now or is it because we are getting better at knowing our garden and it’s limitations?

So what has changed I hear you ask?  Well out of necessity there have been some role reversals, I have had to go and get a proper job, yes I know gardening is a proper and noble occupation but sometimes you have to be sensible.  For those of you who know me, sensible is not something that I have EVER embraced.  I still believe that running through a populated area with your arms outstretched like the wings of an aeroplane is liberating (very much frowned upon in Germany).  I am 52 this year and I intend to keep doing it until I die.  Embrace my uniqueness or move on, that what I say. Who wants normal, really?

When I lived in England my occupation was Information Technology and I did this for 35 years, I never went to college but learned on the job and got by through acquiring the necessary technical skills and by being able to talk to people.  When I came to live in Germany with my Partner, I gave up the corporate life as we had a guest house and restaurant.  We have lots of land so there were no limitations on garden size and most of the locals got used to my uniqueness, there were a few raised eyebrows and muttering about he’s from England but no drama.  For the first 5 years I fitted gardening around waiting on tables and we got a reputation for having a beautiful ‘English’ garden albeit a work in progress (what garden isn’t a work in progress I ask?)  I had always gardened as a hobby in England but now I had the space and the time to really give it a go and I did.  Monty Don and all of the experts say that gardening is extremely good for life balance and it is certainly my ‘Happy Place’ and always will be.

Last year, we had to make some changes and it was decided that I should go and get myself a job.  I had always worried about getting a job in Germany as my spoken German is not good although it has improved a lot.  I once asked a male customer if he wanted a kiss when I meant to ask if he wanted a cushion for his chair, he wanted neither!

I never imagined when I left England that I would end up working in Information Technology again and initially I got a job working for a supermarket dealing with the plants and cut flowers but in the long-term it wasn’t the mental challenge that I needed.  I went to an employment agency in Offenburg (never again, please) and registered for work and in the same day was asked by a customer if I would be interested as working as an IT Manager.  It seemed too good to be true, I dropped off my Curriculum Vitae (that’s Latin you know) and thought nothing would come of it.  A week later I was asked to attend an interview with said Company and then a second interview and then got offered the job.  I started in November and admit to being rather apprehensive not having worked in Information Technology for over 6 years. One of the requirements of the job however, was to study and acquire a Microsoft qualification, an MCSA.

I realised that working full-time and studying would mean that I had no time for gardening as my employers wanted me to get the qualification as quickly as possible.  At home discussions were had, things were said and it was agreed I would have to give up my gardening duties, along with my chicken and geese duties.  My Partner was not a gardener when we met but he is a quick learner and he has had 5 years as the under gardener at the Moosbach Garden.  He has now assumed the position of head gardener, Under gardener and general dogs body.  It has to be said that he was always very good at structural things, you know cutting down trees, building walls etc but now he has good plant knowledge so he is a more rounded gardener than me.

Over the last 6 years we have become fanatical environmentalists and we don’t use any chemicals in the garden,  we apply well-rotted horse manure to everything in the Winter, mulch in Spring with bark and water with a drip-feed watering system from March to October.  We are lucky to have the space and over the last 6 years have increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that we grow here.  It has stood us in good stead for the current and horrendous corona virus pandemic and we are growing even more this year as we suspect that everything will be harder to source and therefore more expensive.

I think everybody is considering trying to grow something for the table this year and it also highlights how dependent we have become upon Supermarkets.  Maybe one of the after effects of this period of tragedy and hardship is that we will stop importing as much food and instead grow and source seasonable produce.  I think when you grow your own fruit and vegetables it can rekindle the love affair with really good food, did you know that fruit and vegetables lose 80% of their taste and goodness in the first hour after they have been harvested?  What better than to pick salad leaves, vegetables and fruit just before you are going to eat them?

We have sown seeds for all the salad, fruit and vegetables that we will be serving fresh from the garden to our overnight guests once the restrictions are lifted.  Sometimes I think that we live in a paradise with a beautiful garden, fresh organic produce from the garden and organic eggs from our happy chickens.  One of the upsides to the restrictions is that we have had much more time to get on with garden projects and I don’t think it will be long before we see the first rose, lilac and peony flowers.  Currently flowering in the garden are the viburnum Carlesii Aurora which are filling the garden with the most glorious scent which I wish I could share with you all.  For me one of the joys of gardening is the ability to share it with friends but that time will come again soon I am sure.

Today is gloriously warm and sunny and what I really want to do is go outside and get on with some gardening but I am afraid that I must study for my next exam.  I hope to see some of my local readers when we are allowed to open the garden again but in the meantime I wish you all good health and happiness.

 

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Viburnum Carlesii Aurora 

 

 

The Throw Away Culture Needs To Be Thrown Away

 

I’m a child of the late 1960’s, now aged 51 and whilst I may be creaking a little, I still have my uses and don’t need to be replaced by a new shinier version of me. When I was young, (yes, my memory goes back that far) people made do, people saved up and bought things that were previously owned, second hand -it was the norm.

Somewhere along the line we were convinced that buying everything new and on credit was the way to go.  I’m not sure exactly when it happened but it did. Anyone who has tried to sell something that they don’t need anymore will vouch for how difficult it is to sell something that isn’t brand new and shiny.

My views on the environment are well known to all by now ( or at least I hope so).  I like sustainable methods for farming, for horticulture, for gardening, for living.  The Human Race is far too wasteful and is rapidly destroying the very ecosystems that sustain us and every other form of life on the planet.

Growing-Up in Rural Herefordshire in the 1980’s

My mother, my sister and I arrived in rural Herefordshire in 1980, we were homeless. We had been living in the New Forest in a house my older brother rented and when he left  to get married the landlord didn’t want a divorced mother with 2 young children as tenants.  This was not an unusual state of affairs in the late 1970’s and 80’s.

By chance, we attended a funeral in Herefordshire in the village of Vowchurch where my mothers ancestral family home was.  We were met with such kindness from the local community, not so much from the family who probably thought that we were after a handout, which we weren’t.

The community persuaded a local farmer with an empty farmhouse, somewhat delapidated, to let us live there and in exchange my mother would do some work on their fruit farm.  It was a frugal existence but we managed.  Local farmers would leave sacks of vegetables anonomously for us at night and when there was any farmwork availabe they always thought of us.  Families Price and Jones really kept us alive.

When something was needed or broken we asked around and bought stuff second hand, including a volkswagon beetle for 50 pounds.  When people no longer needed something they usually asked us first.  The rural farming communities of the Golden Valley in Herefordshire were the most kind-hearted people.  We were never made to feel like second-class citizens.

My point I guess is that people can live on a shoe-string, people can make do and not everything that you buy has to be brand new just brand new to you. When you look at in context with how we save the planet and ensure that the global resources that we have are there for our grandchildren we should make the things we have last for as long as possible and not resign them to the landfill.  I have ladders and tools that belonged to my father, which I look after and repair when needed, clothes we repair and repair until they can no longer be repaired and when we need things for the home or garden we look in the “for sale” sections on social media and the Internet.  For example, we have bought external doors for sheds from people who are renovating houses.

We all know that the environment on the planet surface is suffering but what about the planets resources that are below ground, they are finite as well.  We have to understand that at some point they will run out, surely it is better to take less now and ensure that what there is remains to sustain the generations ahead?  I don’t think that the Human Race will be in any position to launch an Avatar style space programs to harvest these resources from other planets any time soon, so we need to look after what we have got.

Of Course There Will Be Capatalist Arguments Against This Thinking

One of the problems that this thinking has is that big commerce will not allow governments to make these radical changes, it’s not in their interest to do so, these large corporations have incredible influence over government.  These changes would drastically affect economies but we need this drasticly differing approach if we are to save the planet and ourselves. This is why governments around the world haven’t acted to turn the frighteningly horrifying situation around.  I am afraid that it is down to the everyday Joe, us consumers to vote with our feet.  We have to change our purchasing patterns, our life choices.  If you don’t like what is happening to the planet (it’s not our planet we just live on it fleetingly) then take positive action to change things.  I don’t mean protesting, it’s been overdone and the powers that be don’t listen, what they do listen to is money.  When everyone stops buying produce wrapped in plastic they will stop making it, when you only buy local produce in season then they won’t import food from the other side of the world at a huge cost to the environment.

Next time you need to buy something for the home or garden ask yourself do I really need it to be brand new or do I need it to do a job.  Can I make do with something that is not shiny and fresh off a production line.

#PeoplePower #ConsumerPower

I’m off to make a list of things that I can do differently to help the planet and it’s not even lunchtime yet!

Will Warmer Climates Create Horticultural Innovation?

One of the factors of climate change is ever increasing Summer temperatures.  I’ve noticed here in The Moosbach Garden that everything just stops growing when the temperature is above 35 Celcius.  We can have an extended period here in June, July and August when it can reach up to 45 Celcius.  Now it has to be acknowledged that high temperatures do not affect all plants equally and that is something that we will need to factor into our garden planning.

Research and experimentation will lead to innovation or changing of plant choices

For gardeners this is really something to be worrying about.  If we are to maintain our current planting schemes then we need to think about how we keep our plants hydrated, how we reduce water evaporation and the cost of doing so.  With ever increasing world temparatures and human populations water is going to become a prime commodity.  The food industry will have to assess how it is going to produce enough food for growing populations with increasing temperatures and decreasing availability of water.  The United Kingdom post Brexit will also have to think about supplying home grown food to its population.  I think that the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher were disasterous for British Farming and the Manufacturing Industry and the United Kingdom became a supplier of mostly service industries.  All of this will have to change, currently over 60% of food consumed in the United Kingdom comes from abroad, primarily Europe.

So it is clear that not only the United Kingdom but all Countries will need to start growing enough food to feed their own populations and locally, climate change will necessitate this and it’s a good thing.  What food is grown will need to be researched and I guess that diets will have to change as increasing temperatures dictate what farmers can reliably grow, year in, year out.  There are certainly challenging times ahead of us.

Horticultural innovation may find sollutions to these worrying issues, let’s remember that the Human race has adapted and evolved.  The speed of change since the 1950’s has been incredible but so has it’s impact on the planet. Will the future resemble our science fiction films, will we create domed environments with controlled temperatures optimal for growing food or will we revert back to a more balanced, planet friendly model? Your guess is as good as mine.

So now that I’ve cheered you all up I am going to sign off and go and talk to the chickens who don’t worry about such things.

 

The Benefits Of Mulching Your Garden

The environment and climate change are on most peoples minds these days and rightly so as we seem to be hastening towards the destruction of the planet and ourselves along with it.  With changing weather patterns comes ever increasing temperatures and concerns about water.  For me, the answer has to come in a localised and environmentally friendly form.  Quick fixes should become a thing of the past and must be replaced by sustainable solutions.  I’m afraid I have become a little like a reformed smoker and am annoyingly self-righteous about all things environment (I’m very sorry).

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Liatris Spicata in the foreground with assorted Phlox.

The biggest problems that we face in The Moosbach Garden are keeping the plants from drying out and keeping on top of the weeds. We have always been reluctant to mulch the garden over fears of the soil becoming too acidic for many of the plants but then we saw a video on YouTube that got us thinking.  Last year we were watering the garden every other day for 6 hours solid and although the garden was coming along nicely we felt it could be doing so much better.

The video in question was rather long at 3 hours but it inspired us to trial the approach in The Moosbach Garden.  The video was by a man who had purchased a ranch near Boston in the USA.  The ground was mostly rock and not much was growing, so he covered the whole property in bark mulch.  He now has a ranch that produces a plethora of different produce and is growing it all together regardless of the stated soil requiremments.

Watering plants that are in soil Vs Watering plants that have a topdressing of mulch

Firstly, you need to weed the area that you are going to apply the mulch to.  Mulch will suppress newly germinated weeds but established ones with extensive root systems will need to be removed by hand. The mulch needs to be of a sufficient depth to effectively suppress the weeds by excluding light and to minimize water loss by evaporation, we apply 4-6 inches.  Applying the mulch too sparingly is a false economy as it will quickly become part of the soil and the weeds will return quickly.  We have installed a drip watering system and this slowly moistens the soil and we find that this is more effective than watering with a hose where the majority of the water runs off. You can even water at night using a timer, allowing you the time for more important things, like drinking wine.

Due to the size of the garden we have areas that have been mulched and other areas where there is just soil. We were expecting it to take some time before we started seeing results but within a week we have much healthier plants with substantial new growth in the areas that have been mulched.  This has affirmed our belief that water was the biggest issue for us here.  We have Magnolia trees that have grown up to half a meter in a month and the roses have also responded very well. We have to admit to being a little cautious when it came to the roses but there have been no detrimental effects whatsoever.  You will still get some weeds coming through but this tends to be at a mangable level.

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Loose bark mulch that we buy by the trailer load

Sourcing Bark Mulch

Depending upon the size of your garden you can either buy your Bark Mulch from your local garden centre or you can source a company that produces the Bark Mulch rather than just re-selling it.  We buy ours from a company that processes wood for heating and we find that to be much more cost effective.  Bark Mulch also comes in different grades so it is worth shopping around.  Once you start using Bark Mulch you will be surprised at how much you get through and how little comes in a bag.  Our preference would be loose.

How Often To Apply Mulch

The Bark Mulch will slowly be incorporated into the soil, thereby improving the composition of your soil.  We would recommend applying Bark Mulch once a year to your garden either in Spring or in Autumn, our preference is in Spring but either is acceptable.  Applying the Mulch in Spring really sets you up for the Summer ahead and another added bonus is that slugs and snails do not like Bark Mulch and this is so much more environmentally friendly than using chemical controls.

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Here we use Bark Mulch as the flooring material in our nursery as it reduces weeds and helps to protect young plants from snail predation.

We have our own water supply here at The Moosbach Garden but if you pay for your water and have a meter then applying a mulch and installing a drip feed water system will save you money and result in a more beautiful garden.

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Echinacea
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This Magnolia tree has been mulched and has grown 4 inches in a month

Bark Mulch is also great for newly planted areas as it reduces the risk of roots drying out and reduces competition from weeds.

Our Top Tip

If you have lots of potted plants you can top dress them with mulch and this will help retain water and reduce the risk of plants wilting in extremely hot weather.

 

Why I wouldn’t swap my garden for anything

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Paul’s Himalayan Musk is my favourite rambling rose, beautiful clusters of white and pink roses with a heady scent.

I am amazed by the array of wonderful plants at our disposal for creating our living masterpieces

I finally have a garden big enough to indulge whatever gardening whim blows my way and I really do appreciate how lucky I am.  Many gardeners have a limited space and whilst we all love looking at gardening programs, magazines, visiting wonderful gardens and garden centres many people have to think about where they can find the space to put this new ‘must-have’ plant.  I have a friend here in Germany who has a wonderful garden but of a limited size, when she discovers something she likes she just buys it and either digs up some more lawn to accommodate it or removes some other plant specimen. Some people might think that she is a bit crazy but it is her garden, her creation and the relationship that they share is unique, personal and nurturing.

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Gardening is a life lesson for the impatient

I’ve met a few very succesful people who have very impressive corporate careers and then decide to take up gardening.  Sometimes it is a painful experience both for them and for me.  For those people who have had ‘minions’ and expect immediate results in gardening like they have in their corporate lives it can be a reality that is hard to accept.

Gardens take time, there are always unexpected twists and turns and let’s face it sometimes nature can be unyielding, a little like my good self!  I often try to explain to people that gardening is a process, albeit an evolving one and that the process is just as important as the end result.

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I simply cannot move house again

I’m in my 50’s now and I’ve spent the last 5 years developing the Moosbach Garden and it feels like I’ve only just started.  Any logical person would sell the house and buy another with a good-sized garden that is flat but let’s face it I was probably at the back of the queue when they were handing out logic.  The Moosbach Garden is steep, there are very few even remotely flat spaces, the winter is long, cold and there is usually lots of snow. However, what is life without a few challenges?  I have worked many hours in my garden, I have planted uncountable numbers of plants and trees, this is a marriage that I simply cannot walk away from.  The thought of digging up thousands of euro’s worth of plants is not one I ever want to seriously contemplate.  My sister, who has lots of common sense (she got my share) tells me that I will never recoup the value of the plants when we move but I can’t think in those terms.  Every year those plants repay me for my financial investment by soothing my soul, bringing me untold amounts of happiness and providing a paradise both for me and wildlife, I reckon that is priceless.

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hazy summer days

 

I’m not a mover and shaker

I was never especially academic, I did OK but never excelled at anything, I had no idea of what career to follow and consequently was never going to set the world ablaze.  I have no children and am a little bit eccentric. What I can do is garden, I have been gardening for over 35 years but didn’t realise at an early age that I should make it my career.  Yes, you got it, I’m a slow learner! I have decided that I will be quite happy if during my time on this planet I can create a garden that is beautiful, that will endure and that people might visit it long after I have hung up my gardening gloves.  It is a tall order as there are so many beautiful gardens in the world and maybe I’m deluding myself but it’s my delusion so don’t deprive me of it.

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It’s great when things start coming together

When we moved here there wasn’t much of a garden at all and it has taken 5 years of hard graft, many gardening projects and lots of experimentation to get the soil and plant choices right.  The top garden is really starting to have the feel of what I wanted to create, the plants have found their feet and have lots of healthy top growth that is proportionate to the garden space.  We are just adding a pergola for the Paul’s Himalayan Musk and a row of poles and wires to support the climbing roses and then structurally we are finished.  The rest of the work in the top garden isn’t really work at all, weeding, dead-heading and pruning are the fun bits. I have a love of English flowers and as well as roses we have peonies, delphiniums and phlox.  Peonies appear to be my latest garden obsession, we have a mixture of herbaceous, tree and Itoh peonies. The first tree peony that I planted here is now 1.5 metres tall and is covered with flower buds and buds of a size that I have not seen before. I’m told that the flowers can be as big as a dinner plate once the plant is mature enough and happy. so fingers crossed.

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We are striving towards a BIO garden

We love nature and the planet and we want to do everything that we can to encourage biodiversity, so no weed killers, no slug pellets, no quick fixes.  We have a nature pond and a resident population of frogs, we have small lizards and we want to encourage hedge hogs. We have left piles of branches to provide overwintering habitats for hedge hogs and insects, what we are going for is a sustainable eco system.  I am not a gardener without misdemeanors, I have used far too many slug pellets in previous years and have also used weed killers.  However, this is not something that I am prepared to do anymore, I’m learning to work with nature rather than against it.  This year my other big goal is improving the soil composition to help retain water and this is so important with global warming.  I’m trying out bark mulch this year to see if it makes a difference.  In theory it helps reduce water evaporation, improves soil competition and allows mycorrhizal fungi to establish and this should lead to healthier plants.

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Are you getting it yet?

So the title of this piece is “Why I wouldn’t swap my garden for anything”  and I’m hoping that I have convinced some of you that a garden is a symbiotic relationship worth investing in, that it’s not just your garden that grows but yourself as well.   So you can keep your big cities, you can keep fortune and fame, I don’t need them.  What I do need is to be in a relationship that is honest, that has its ups and downs but where the needs of both parties are met and gardening fulfills these needs.  Don’t misinterpret me, I’m very happily married but I’m in 2 relationships, 1 with my husband and 1 with my garden, may they both be long and fruitful.  I partied endlessly in my youth but now that I’m in my 50’s I’d much rather be working in my own garden or walking around a National Trust garden than at a music festival.  Let my soundtrack now be the buzzing of bees, the trill of birdsong, the cockerel crowing from the orchard or a hen announcing proudly that she has just laid an egg.   Realising that not all rewards can be measured in financial terms, that the phrase ” return on investment” can be measured not only in an increase the value of your home but on how it’s improved your life-balance, your levels of happiness and helped nature and the planet. I’ going to sign off now as my husband has just finished baking a rhubarb cake from freshly harvested rhubarb from the vegetable garden and I think it would be rude to not try a piece!  I wish your all happy gardening, peace and joy.

 

The Moosbach Gardener.

 

 

 

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)!

Is gardening the epitomy of a symbiotic relationship?

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I’ve not been particularly well for the last month so I am a little behind in the garden.  It’s funny how much changes in the garden when you turn your back for 5 mins.  It struck me today that I have a really symbiotic relationship with the garden and although it’s hard work I can’t help feeling that I’m getting the better deal.

What’s all this nonsense about a symbiotic relationship?

I hear people saying out loud what is this bloke on about, symbiotic relationship? It’s just a garden.  Well, I beg to differ and I’ll tell you why.  I have a problem with my shoulder and can’t do too much physical work a the moment and whilst the exact problem was being diagnosed I’ve been reluctant to do much physical work for fear of making things worse.  I’ve been diagnosed now and have severe arthritis which has caused my shoulder bones to increase in size, resulting in a reduced space for muscle, ligament and nerve movement.  It hurts but it’s not going to get any worse by working in the garden (as long as I don’t over do it).  I’ve ventured out into the garden these last 2 days as the thought of the weeds overtaking the flower beds is too much for me.  What a difference there is in the garden in such a short space of time.  Yes, ok there are weeds galore (they are opportunists) but there a masses of roses in flower and the garden is full with ripe, delicious fruit. I harvested a bucket (literally a bucket) of peaches with blood-red juicy flesh and today I collected another bucket of pears, perfectly ripened, juicy and very tasty.  it got me to thinking about the relationship that I have with the garden and it is definitely symbiotic. Here is the dictionary definition:

  1.  Biology.  A close, prolonged association between 2 or more organisms of different species that may but not necessarily benefit each member.
  2. A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence

Well, the garden needs weeding, watering and feeding, so that’s my part covered and in return I get beautiful flowers all summer long, I get potatoes, beans, peas courgettes, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, beetroot, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums, apples, pears and peaches and let’s not forget the many herbs.  I reckon for the amount of effort I put in I am more than compensated.

Don’t undervalue the feeding of your soul

It is very easy to see all of the physical things that you get from your garden but what about the things that you can’t see or hold?  It has become an acknowledged medical fact that gardening is good for your mental health.  I felt it yesterday, having been cooped up inside the house for the last few weeks I was feeling a little down in the dumps.  As soon as I stepped into the garden I felt my spirits lifting.  It felt like the garden was saying “Hey, we missed you, welcome back.  Look what we have to show you”

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The peaches above are not very large but that’s to be expected after the hot and dry summer that we’ve had but they are so juicy and so very tasty.  We are currently living off of our garden.  For breakfast we are having pears, apples and peaches with a bit of musili. Our evening meal consists of vegetable fresh from the garden and wonderful free range eggs from our chickens.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I love reducing my environmental footprint.  All his food has only travelling from the garden to the kitchen and it’s not been sprayed with anything, except water. Ok our produce is not of a uniform shape, our pears have blemishes on their skin and our carrots are a funny shape but they taste fantastic.

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Thank you garden

So, yes gardening a symbiotic and wonderful relationship and I will be fulfilling my part of the relationship over the next few weeks by weeding, watering, repairing supports and pruning what needs pruning. I will be thankful that I am healthy enough to get out there and garden and I will be especially thankful when I bite into that next juicy pear.

 

 

 

 

 

The Turning Of The Seasons

I really like years when there are distinct seasons, there’s a certain rhythm to it that brings contentment.  I think it brings contentment because life is cyclical, everything that we do is based around repeating patterns. Each day repeats with its 24 hours, each week, each month, each year and each birthday.  Imagine if we didn’t have a concept of time, how would we measure our existence apart from the changing from day to night and the wrinkles on our faces.

Childhood Memories

I think like most people, when I look back at my childhood I remember long hot summers that never seemed to end and long cold, snowy winters.  Perhaps we romanticize our childhoods and it wasn’t always like that and our brains are just playing a trick on us. As I have got older it has seemed that the seasons have all blurred into each other, Winters seem mild and wet and Summers full of rain and inclement weather.

The bizarre weather of 2018

This year has been a strange one, it was preceded by what seemed like a very long Winter, it wasn’t particularly cold here, we didn’t have a metre of snow but it was windy and everything dried out and we lost quite a few plants in their dormant phase.  Spring didn’t really appear, we went from Winter to Summer in the space of a couple of days. I still can’t get my head around a temperature change of 10 degrees celsius or more in a day, how does that work?

A long, hot and very dry summer

This summer has been gloriously hot but far too dry with next to no rainfall here for 3 months resulting in hours of watering and ultimately a dry well. Suddenly the weather changed from the upper 30’s to the lower 20’s. It’s like there’s a mad scientist or bond villain with the ability the change the weather in a heartbeat.  If that is you, stop it now, OK.

A return to bio rhythm please

What we all need is a return to natural patterns of weather.  Lets have a cool misty Autumn where the air is filled with the aroma of fermenting windfall apples and smoke from bonfires when gardeners are tidying up their gardens.  Let us have a cold winter where frozen leaves crunch under our feet and rose hips glisten with frost in the morning.  Let us have a slow and gentle awakening of nature in Spring, let crocuses and daffodils poke their heads above ground at the end of February and then flower for weeks in April. Let leaves on trees and hedges delight us with their slow awakening and please let that first green of Spring be a green that is unique to that moment, innocent, pure,full of hope and expectation.

But it’s not all bad

Ok so it’s been a crazy year for the planet, for people, for wildlife, for nature but for those with water it’s been a great year for fruit and a fantastic year for roses.  Everyone I talk to about gardening say, “hasn’t this been a good year for roses?” and in fairness it has, roses love lots of sun and that is just what they got.  I chose this year to create a new rose garden and it’s done really well, so maybe it’s me that has the crazy weather controlling technology (who would have though that behind my mild manner lurks an evil genius?)

My guide to success with roses

People often ask me what the secret to growing fantastic roses is and I’m happy to tell them, it’s not a trade secret after all. Here’s what I do, I feed them when the first leaves appear and then again when the first set of flowers are finished but most importantly I give them lots of water everyday.  Like most plants, what roses need is plenty of water and sunlight.  Roses need a minimum of 4 hours sunshine a day in the summer if they are going to thrive.  Then when Autumn comes roses need a break, they need to go to sleep and rest, kind of a cyclical pattern right?  Which brings us right back to where we started, bio rhythms and seasons.

Looking forward to Autumn days

So this week I will be getting my Wellington boots out of the cellar, dusting off my old clothes that can get muddy, torn and even singed by sparks from the many bonfires I intend starting.  I will leave some piles of wood, twigs and compost as a refuge for wildlife though.  If you have a vegetable patch or an allotment, enjoy the fruits of your labours and if you have some spare produce give something to somebody who hasn’t been bitten by the gardening bug. Let’s convert some new people to the wonderous world of gardening and nature. #make the world a better place.

 

Water or lack of water, muck, mulch and water storage

I think that this summer has been a major wakeup call for everyone, gardeners included.  The last real drought was in 1976 when I was a mere 7 years old.  There is a danger in the era of fake news, social media and the over dramatisation of everyone and everything that the real issues get burried in the tidal flow of information that bombards us on a daily basis.  However, this year (globally) the weather has been extreme with parks in the UK so dry that they are brown instead of green and some gardeners having to choose which plants they want to save by watering.  It has been a horrendous time for gardeners and farmers alike but it does bring the subject of climate change to the forefront and makes everyone re-evaluate how we use water.

I’m not a huge user of social media, yes I have a Facebook account and a tumblr account but I only use it for exchanging plant pictures and showing my appreciation for the work and results of fellow gardeners.  I am not really interested in what someone had for dinner, I’m certainly not interested in being ‘poked’ and I definitely do not want to be exposed to the negativity of somebody venting their spleen when they are upset.  It seems to me that society has lost its tact, kindness and suitability filter, please let’s have it back.

As a society I think we all have a part to play in reducing fake news, which in my opinion seriously endangers democracy and world peace.  Instead of ranting about something transient let’s all focus on what is important. Lets start with the planet, the environment and how we treat each other.  Maybe it’s too big an ask.  The current issue is that the planet is in danger and humans have to change their behaviour.  I prescribe to the philosophy that we are not owners of land or the planet but merely guardians or caretakers and we should be passing it on in a better state than it’s in for future generations, plants and wildlife.  My hope is that this year will help to refocus human beings worldwide away from celebrity and social media as our main sources of human interaction. Let’s interact face to face and more importantly, let’s make a lasting change.

I was born in the 1960’s and I have grown up in a time where the availability of electricity, water and food were taken for granted and it was assumed that there would always be an unlimited supply.  This year has shown us this is simply not the case.  Now, we have to accept that global warming is a reality.  Humans are using up too much of the planet’s resources at an increasingly alarming rate and unless we do something it’s going to get worse.  This year could either be a blip or it could be the way the planet is heading.  I am hoping it’s a blip but my gut feeling is that it’s not.  I think that the Ocean Rescue campaign by Sky is fantastic but I also think that it’s easy to just become a passive observer.  I’ve always held the belief that real lasting change doesn’t come from governments and legislation, although it does have it’s part to play, if we really want to change the impact that we are having on the planet then we need to take action and when I say ‘We’ I mean everyone. We need to reduce our environmental footprint.  What does this entail?  Well if you have a garden, you could grow some fruit and vegetables, there’s nothing better than home-grown that hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals. Admittedly, we are in a modern world where many people in towns and cities live in flats and don’t have access to a gardening space but there are alternative ways in which you can do your bit. When you go to the supermarket, check where your produce comes from, make a conscious choice not to buy produce that comes from abroad.  Many food items have been picked before they are ripe, have travelled thousands of miles to reach the supermarket shelf and this has a huge environmental cost.  So I would advocate buying food that has been produced in your own country and where possible locally.  This not only helps the planet but also your local farmers.  Also consider the packaging, if you can buy it loose, do so, consider what happens to the packaging of what you buy after you have thrown it away.  It may sound dramatic but it is these choices that will really have an impact on the environment long-term. It’s a case of voting with your feet, not being complacent and waiting for your own government to create legislation.

Here in the Moosbach Garden we have produced a lot of our own produce this year.  We have grown and preserved beetroot, courgettes, beans, peas, black currants, red currants, gooseberries and peaches.  We have also grown cabbages, chard, lettuce, brussels sprouts, potatoes, apples, pears, plums and blue berries.  Yes, before you all shout at me, I know that we are lucky enough to have the space to grow such a wonderous selection but I would advocate utilizing the space that you have.

Gardening and growing your own produce is not without its trials but if you are successful then the rewards are worth it.  For us, not surprisingly, the biggest issue has been the hot weather and lack of water.  We have our own spring and this usually provides us with enough water for cooking, drinking, showering and extensively watering our 2 hectare garden.  This year in August our spring ran dry and there was no water coming through to our water tank (almost).  There was a little water trickling into the tank but not enough to supply the house and garden.  We had to make the hard choice to stop watering the garden, even though we knew that this would result in plants dying.  My daily routine of watering has been reduced to just watering the pots every other day, the rest of the garden is bone dry.  The more established shrubs are faring better than the newly planted ones but the trees are struggling and we have lost some.  You can see it here in the Back Forest everywhere you go, tree leaves have gone dry and dropped and branches are dead, I think next Spring will be a shock to many when it will become evident how many trees have been lost.

Here in the Moosbach Garden, where we have loamy soil with lots of stone the ground dries out very quickly.  Our plan for this Autumn and Winter is to install  a drip feed watering system in the garden which we can operate at night where less water will evaporate and to manure and mulch all of our flower beds, vegetable beds, shrubs and trees.  The best approach is to improve the composition of the soil and thereby its water retention properties and then apply a good layer of mulch, this should enable us to use less water but keep the plants moist enough to thrive.  We are lucky enough to have a neighbour with horses so our starting point is applying 2-year-old horse manure.  I’d like to make several points here, if you can’t get horse manure then cow manure will do but both need to be at leat 18 months to 2 years old, the manure should feel crumbly in your hand and you need to apply a good quantity and repeat every year.

Then in late Winter to early spring apply a good layer of Mulch or bark, this will help further with water retention and has the added bonus of suppressing weeds.  It is worth checking with your local authority or forestry commission where you might get bark at very reasonable rates.  It should be noted that this needs repeating every year, it takes at least 3 to 4 years to really improve the quality of your soil but the quality of soil is everything in gardening terms.  Also consider if you are making the best use of the rainwater that falls onto your property, water butts aren’t cheap but you can add one a year and sometimes local authorities run offers for reduced prices water butts.

I suspect that in the next couple of months the hot weather will be forgotten and we shall all be turning our attention to preparing our gardens for winter and this is the perfect time for planning how to improve your soil. Personally, I like nothing more than applying a good layer of manure to the garden in the cold of winter, it keeps me connected with the garden at a time when nothing is growing.

Here in the Moosbach Garden we are planning ahead and this winter will see us manuring and mulching beds along with building new walls and paths to compliment out new rose walk which connects 2 areas of the garden.

We wish you all a happy (and rainy) time.  Don’t forget that Autumn is the perfect time for planting new fruit trees whilst the soil is still warm.