Collecting seeds from your garden

Now is the perfect time for collecting seeds from your garden.  It’s free, it doesn’t take much time and is rewarding.  At the moment I am collecting peony seeds which like a number of seeds need a period of 3 months in the cold before they can germinate.

Once you have collected your harvest of seeds (1 variety at a time) you need to clean and store the seeds for the winter.  Paper bags are the best in my opinion as they allow the seeds to dry out, plastic bags and containers are not ideal.  The reason plastic is not ideal is because if they seeds are not 100% dry then they will rot in plastic and secondly we don’t like plastic as we are aiming for a happier planet – right?

The size of the seeds determines the treatment.  With larger seeds that you can see with the naked eye you can and should separate the seed from the chaff, with smaller seeds I just remove the bulkier debris and then store in a paper bag which I hang up in the cellar.  Don’t forget to label your bags with a good marker that isn’t going to fade so that you can read it in the Spring when you come to sow them.

If you are unsure of the germination requirements of your different types of seeds then you can look it up on the Internet.  For example, some seeds can be sown straight away like Agapanthus and others like Magnolia’s and Peonies need to be exposed to 3 months of cold weather which causes a chemical reaction in the seed before it can germinate.  you can emulate this by either storing your seeds in the refrigerator for 3 months or outside if you have a sheltered place either in a packet or sown in a pot.

Sowing seeds is always going to be a ‘hit or miss’ process and that is why plants produce so many seeds, if every seed germinated plants would produce fewer, the best you can do is to try to mimic what happens in nature.  There are a number of good books available on this subject but I would recommend a book by Carol Klein (only in English) called ‘Grow Your Own Garden’  it has a plethora of useful information on collecting seeds, cleaning, storing and germinating plus easy to follow guides for taking plant cuttings.  ISBN number ISBN978-1-84607-847-7.

I very much like the idea of harvesting plant seed from your own garden and exchanging plant seeds with friends and neighbours, it’s how many old varieties of plants have survived.

On the subject of Peonies, you can collect the seeds when the seed pods start to split open, don’t be tempted to do so before as they will not be ripe and therefore not viable.  If you have multiple varieties of Peonies in your garden then you will get cross-pollination and seedlings may not be true to the parent, I don’t mind this as I like a surprise.  If you want an exact replica of the parent plant then you need to hand pollinate each flower and then exclude bees and pollinating insects from the flowers.

I find that the germination of Peony seeds is a bit of a lottery and some years it works really well and other years not, just keep at it and you will be rewarded with your own free plants.

Remember that once germinated Peonies do not like to have their roots disturbed so I would recommend sowing in trays with individual cells which you can then pot on when they are dormant.  The same is true for Magnolias and oriental poppies.

Expect to wait up to 3 years before you get your first flowers (It’s a good exercise in patience!)


Assuming all has gone to plan you will have your own free Peonies to fill your garden and the gardens of family and friends in no time at all.  There are 2 types of Peonies and I would just like talk about these briefly.  The 2 pictures below were taken in Spring here in the Moosbach Garden and show the 2 different types, namely tree Peonies and perennial Peonies.  Although they are both Peonies they must be treated very differently, tree Peonies produces their flowers on the shoots of the previous years growth, if you cut them back in Autumn you will not get any flowers the following year and you may very well kill the tree.  Perennial Peonies (which are more common in gardens) die back in Autumn and produces new flowering shoots from the crown the following Spring, you can cut off the dead leaves.

If you are temped to try growing some tree Peonies in your garden then remember to give them some space as they will eventually grow to about 2 metres in height and width. They are real star attractions in the garden when they are in bloom and well worth it.


Pictured above, a tree Peony from the Moosbach Garden with pale yellow flowers.

A touch of spring in the Moosbach Garden

Better Weather

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

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

Jobs to do now

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

Here is my list of jobs to do now :-

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



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

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

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

And Finally ……

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

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

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

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


Charles Darwin (Auspeet) David Austin featured rose of the week

This strongly perfumed yellow rose has particularly large flowers and the perfume changes depending upon the weather conditions.  The perfume varies from  a soft floral tea rose to lemon.  The blooms are upward facing which is a real bonus as so many rose flowers droop towards the ground.
In habit, the rose is vigorous reaching a height of 120cm and a width of  110cm, this rose is also disease resistant which is fairly uncommon amongst roses.
We have three of these roses planted together at Moosbach in the top rose garden.
This rose can be described as eye-catching due to the large size of the individual flowers and their orientation, i.e. facng upwards.  I think that a round flower bed with three of these planted together in the centre of the bed would make a stunning show piece in any garden.  David Austin recommend planting three roses of the same variety together in a triangle, 1 meter apart.  In time this will look like 1 substantial plant, of course not everybody has either the space or the budget to buy 3 roses at a time but if you consider how many years of joy this will bring you and visitors to your garden then it really is value for money.
Good companion planting for yellow roses are dark blues and purples like lavender and Salvia, these have the advantage of not growing too tall and are therefore ideal for the edge of a round border.  I’m in favour of the use of perennial plants over annual plants as there is a better return on time invested but you could use annuals if you wish.
I would recommend using David Austin’s mycorrhizal Fungi when planting roses, one packet has enough for 3 roses and this helps the plant to get established and extends the root system giving the plant a larger area to extract water and nutrients from.  Rose fertilizer should be used directly after the plant has finished blooming as this encourages the next set of blooms and ensures that the quality of the initial blooms is maintained.  In winter, you can do nothing better for your roses that applying a generous mulch of well-rotted horse manure, in summer you will reap the benefits with better bigger blooms.  You must make sure that it is well rotted as fresh manure takes nitrogen out of the soil as part of the decomposition process and you want to add nitrogen, not take it away.
There is an instructional video on how to plant roses on the David Austin Website – how to plant a potted rose and how to prune a shrub rose.
We do have a limited supply of these roses available on our website and you can order one by clicking here.
On the subject of companion planting, white and blue flowers go exceptionally well with roses and one of my favourite colour combinations are blue and yellow but blues also work especially well with light pink roses like Harlow Carr, Gentle Hermione and Gertrude Jekyll.  Good choices of blue perennials are: delphiniums, Salvia, Lavender and Campanula.  Peonies are also a classic combination with roses and have the added bonus of a long season of interest with purple leaves when they first emerge, stunningly beautiful flowers and fiery autumnal leaves.  Here at the Moosbach Garden we have a combination of perennial and tree peonies but remember that tree peonies can grow as big as 2 metres so give careful consideration as to where you plant them.

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.


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).


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.


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


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


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.




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.


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.


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.

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

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!


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


Here is their website address

Tel:  +33 (0) 3 29 51 47 19


88640 Granges-Sur-Vologne





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.

The perfection of Magnolia blooms

When I was growing up in England I was aware of magnolias as most towns had gardens with towering trees filled in spring with glorious light pink Magnolia blooms. It wasn’t until this last year that I realized what a huge variety of Magnolia trees were available. I think that this is partly the fault of garden centres that generally only stock a couple of options, namely the soulangiana and the stellata. However, there are around 400 varieties of Magnolias from different parts of our wonderfully diverse planet.

There is a type of magnolia available for every size of garden but it is worth doing some online research before you buy, considerations are:

  • Hardiness
  • Eventual size of tree
  • Number of years before the tree will produce it’s first flowers
  • the colour of the flowers

There is a fantastic specialist nursery on the edge of Lake Maggiore in Switzerland .  If you can, visit them in March when the magnolias are flowering.

The images in this post were taken last year in the Eisenhut park.

Creating garden rooms with roses

This week I have been planting roses.  The garden here is very steep but is in need of breaking up into intimate garden spaces.  Creating intimate garden spaces on a mountain can be problematic  because whatever is planted as a hedge or boundary  on the lower side has to be substantially taller than what is planted on the upper side.

The project for this winter is really quite simple, break the garden into small intimate spaces with meandering paths so that you can’t always see what awaits you around the corner or in the next garden space.

Some of this I am creating with hedging like yew and beech but some I’ve decided to create with rose hedging.  I have to admit that I am a big David Austin fan and putting a Davis Austin catalogue in front of me is fatal, mainly for my bank balance but hey a garden is for life – right?

Below our sun terrace there is currently a steep but straight wide path leading down the garden to the orchard and the second chicken house where we are creating a wild flower meadow. A path leads off this to the right to the pond, this path has a mixture of shrubs and magnolia trees on either side – really a very long term project.

To the left of this path I have created a Rugosa rose hedge with three different varieties:-

Sarah Van Fleet – a beautiful rose Pink of yellow stamens and a wonderful scent which grows upto 2m high

Mrs Anthony Waterer – Red blooms, good scent and grows to about 1.5m high

Wild Edric – gorgeous pink flowers from May to October and grows  to 1.25 m high

We shall see how they all fare next year, the weather at the moment is ideal as its pouring with rain which will really help to settle the roots.  I also have some older varieties of roses to plant (once the rain stops) and these are a mixture of Alba and Damask roses.  I have the perfect place for these statuesque plants and I have no objection to roses that only flower once a year, I reliably informed that they are more magnificent that the repeat flowering varieties as all of there energy goes into one show.  I’ve never grown them before so let’s see, most roses take a couple of years to settle in I find but I’m a patient man.  So that’s all for today, happy gardening!




To the left of this path I have created a Rugosa rose hedge