A good gardening year

img_0789

It’s going to be a great gardening year, don’t ask me how I know, I just know, I feel it in my bones.  Some things are just instinctive. The picture above is of a wild part of the Moosbach Garden and these Blue/Purple lupins (depending upon your viewpoint) have gone native and colonised a huge area of a hill beneath Magnolia trees.  They were originally part of a wild flower seed mix that we bought from a local garden centre but they’ve out competed the other flowers.  For us it’s not a problem, there’s no weeding, they come up in the spring, they flower, they set seed and in the autumn die  back, perfect in our opinion.  It also creates an undisturbed haven for pollinating insects and wildlife, it couldn’t have worked out better if we’d tried.

It brings to the forefront of our minds concerns about the future of the Moosbach Garden.  I’m turning 50 this year and have arthritis, my partner is a little younger (not much younger) and I think that we are both concious of the toll that gardening takes on our bodies.  Don’t misundertand me, I am a gardener and if you cut me in half  like a stick of rock it would say gardener in the middle.  I’ll only stop gardening when they cart me off in a box or to the old peoples home, Arthritis won’t stop me from gardening, I’ll take my pain killers and get on with it.

It does, however, make us think about how we manage the more challenging areas of the garden. I’ll give you an example, we have an orchard which is quite steep that the chickens call home.  There are not as many chickens as there use to be, we’ve reduced them down from 100 to 30 and that’s enough and it’s better for the land.  Too many chickens per acre can result in the soil becoming toxic to plants.  Mowing the grass in the orchard is hard work though and very physically demanding, you can’t use a lawn mower and the best you can do is to strim it.

“Livestock” I hear you say, well you can’t use sheep, goats, alpacas or small cattle as they will eat the bark off the fruit trees and they will be dead in a few years (the trees) what you need is a living lawnmower that won’t eat the leaves of the trees, the bark of the trees or the fruit.  The answer my fellow gardeners is geese! They only eat the grass and are very efficient lawnmowers, we have 39 eggs in the incubator and the estimated hatch date is Friday 18th May. Let me state categorically, that not all of the eggs will hatch and we really only need 4 or 5 to do the job. My sister will be horrified as she has an ingrained (and irrational) fear of geese. Of all of the geese breeds available we like Toulouse geese, they are very regal and calm. We’ll let you know how many hatch and I’m sure that we’ll have some goslings for sale next week.

We’ve done a lot of structural work in the garden in the last 2 years, including a new rose garden and a new scented rose walk but now our focus will be on improving the difficult and Labour intensive areas of the garden. In a way we are planning for the future and our decreasing physical abilities (we’re not there yet!). Currently mowing the grass takes 4 hours so we are planning more shrub planting on steep hilly areas and the use of geese as lawn mowers. In the interim normal gardening activities resume, in the next couple of weeks the rose garden will come into its own. I would recommend planning a visit in early June to see the peonies and roses, I would advise ringing first to check on the status of the roses (Tel: 0049 783895520) . We still have a few David Austin roses for sale but 75% have already been sold. Those that we have will be starting to flower soon and we also have salvia, lavender and phlox for sale.

Here at the Moosbach Garden we wish you a happy and enjoyable garden year.

Advertisements

Spring flowers in the Moosbach Garden

Here are so photographs that we took this Spring here in the Moosbach Garden, the flowers were most welcome after what seemed like a very long and a very snowy winter.

This pink tree peony is just absolutely stunning, it’s still a small tree but rewarded us with 5 beautiful blooms.  Remember, you should never cut tree peonies back and must be treated very differently to perennial peonies which you can cut back in Autumn.  You can grow your own peonies from seed, both the perennial and tree varieties but remember that you must  expose the seeds to 3 months cold weather by leaving them planted outside overwinter or by placing in the fridge.  I’ve found that they are very much like magnolia seeds in the fact that one year is good and the next year not so good with germination rates.  Also keep in mind that if you have different varieties of peonies that they will cross pollinate and may not come true to the parent plant.

Apple blossom, this year has been good for fruit blossom and we have a bumper crop of apples, pears, cherries and peaches but anything can happen as it is a long way to harvest time.

We picked up this ornamental blossom shrub at a small garden centre in Lago Maggiore in Italy.

This, in our opinion, is a ‘must have’ plant for any garden, this is viburnum carlesii aurora and it has been covered in fragrant blooms and the scent seems to  drift to every corner of the garden. There are, of course, a whole range of fragrant viburnums that you can choose and it’s all a matter of personal taste.

We simply love filled, scented lilacs here in the Moosbach Garden and this year we’ve bought 8 new varieties from Flieder Traum, click here to see their website.  If you like white lilac we would recommend Souvenir d’ Alice Harding.

Directly above is Magnolia Joli PomPon, it had a little bit of frost damage but this is always the risk with magnolia trees.  We are hoping that our 140 magnolia trees are starting to find their feet or roots and start the reward us with more flowers next year.

This is the pink tree Peony which came from Italy.  Tree peonies do need a littel space, they can grow up to 2 Metres tall and wide but if you have the space they create a fantastic focal point in the garden for a few weeks before the roses start flowering.

img_0773

We bought this tree peony 4 years ago and this year it rewarded us with 10 blooms.

Update on the deer situation……

We are pleased to announce that the electric fence that we erected last year has successfully kept the deer out of the garden and all of the plants are growing strongly now that they are not being eaten by the deer.

Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore

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

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

IMG_3014

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

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

IMG_3015

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

IMG_3031

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

IMG_3069

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

IMG_3053

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

IMG_3056

IMG_3116

IMG_3113

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

IMG_3115

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

IMG_3108

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

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

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

www.villataranto.it/de

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

Garden treasure in the Alsace, France

It’s snowing here again in the Moosbach Garden and I’ve given up potting up roses in the very cold garage.  I thought instead that I would share my memories of a trip to a delightful garden in the Alsace.  Le Jardin de Berchigranges. I hope you enjoy!

IMG_2706

I first visited this stunningly beautiful and inspirational garden in 2015 and I’ve been in love with it ever since but don’t take my word for it, plan a visit and decide for yourself.

I think that gardens are like music or works of art, it’s all a matter of personal perspective and choice.  Let’s face it, if we all liked the same things then the world would be far less interesting and diverse.

This garden is in the middle of nowhere, at a high altitude for gardening (800m) but I like people who buck convention and attempt something that they know is going to be extremely challenging. If it’s too easy why bother eh?

The garden is completely bio, lots of people say that but have problem areas they’ve dealt with using chemicals, not this pair (Monique and Thierry Dronet).  There is absolutely nothing in this garden but soil, glorious plants, stunning use of water and a whole lot of love.

IMG_2623

The owners recommend that you walk around the garden barefoot as the garden is very tactile. It’s true, although I’m not sure I would recommend walking around all of the areas barefoot, maybe carry your shoes so you can decide.  The grass lawns are completely weed free and you would be hard pressed to find a better lawn in England.  This is achieved by hand using a small garden tool to root out any weed that encroaches, now that’s dedication.

IMG_2626

The garden is divided up into a multitude of garden rooms with inventive use of pathing, hedging and wall materials plus a brilliant use of plants.

Nearly all the plants in this garden are hardy, so there is no digging up of plants in the autumn and storing in greenhouses over the winter months. There are some unusual uses of hedging that on my first visit blew me away. They also have created some very interesting walls using wood, sometimes vertically and sometimes horizontally like a log pile seen from one end.  These are clever design aspects that keeps the visitor enthralled time and time again.

IMG_2637

IMG_2700

Some of my favourite areas of the garden are the wild perennial areas, one day I might even have a go at this myself. Sometimes, I think I’m too uptight as a gardener, worrying about weeds and everything not being at its very best.  What the creators here have done is bold but it works on many levels. They have a fairly wide grass path, meandering through what is affectively a large, gently sloping meadow filled with delphiniums, Phlox, Lupins and Hardy Geraniums. Yes, weeds grow in between but you don’t really notice as the overall effect is one of wild naturalistic beauty.  In the Autumn they simply strim it all down and it regrows again in the spring, no dead heading, weeding or worry. Brilliant. A paradise for bees and insects.

IMG_2666

There are some stunning and unusual perennials in this garden and Monique, who is simply lovely, can advise on the plant names, can tell you what conditions they like and can even tell you if they have any for sale.  There is a fairly small “plant for sale” area on your way out and if you are anything like me you will come away with an empty wallet and a car full of plants.  Just remember to take along a helper as the car park is a 5 min walk up the hill.

The only disadvantage that I can think of with this garden is that there is nowhere to get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, so you need to bring your own packed lunch.  There are some shady areas adjacent to the car park that are grassy, shady and suited to alfresco dining.

IMG_2635

The garden is open from April to October, when you decide to visit depends upon what it is you want to see.  I’m a perennial addict so June, July and August are my preferred months.

IMG_2656

Here is their website address

www.berchigranges.com

Tel:  +33 (0) 3 29 51 47 19

Berchigranges

88640 Granges-Sur-Vologne

IMG_2671IMG_2616

IMG_2631

IMG_2689

IMG_2624

Please ignore the garden blogger with the big ears spoiling this picture, I have to admit that I was very happy sitting amongst these flowers in peace.

And finally, if there is a garden that you would like to recommend, please send us an email or add a comment to the post.