Great Dixter – A Garden of Wonderous Excess

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Where is Great Dixter?

Great Dixter is located  in Northiam near Rye, East Sussex, England.  It was the home of Christopher Lloyd the gardener and writer.  The garden is now under the care of the Great Dixter Charitable Trust and is open to the public.

First Impressions of the Great Dixter Garden?

I have to say that I was completely blown away by this garden, it has areas absolutely crammed so full of plants as to transport you away to a different world. The plants are big and with great height, I felt a little like the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings in a field of maize. If I had to describe Great Dixter in 3 words it would be ‘ just stunningly beautiful’.

You’d be crazy not to visit this garden

England is crammed full of fantastic gardens and Great Dixter has to be up there with the best of them.  It’s a mixed garden that has everything from a sunken garden to lushly planted herbaceous borders, wonderful vegetable gardens and wilder areas with tall grass.  My favourites were definitely the herbaceous borders but then I’m an old-fashioned gardener with a love for the classic.  The bottom line with this garden is that it has great charisma.

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The Great Dixter Sunken Garden

Pictured above is the sunken garden which is one of the first areas that you come to when viewing the garden and is right in front of the house.

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Sweet peas in the Great Dixter Cutting Garden

Sweet peas from the cutting garden.

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Area like this in a garden are extremely beautiful but they are also so essential for wildlife.  This bed alone offers a smorgersboard for bees and pollinating insects.  Flower beds like this are not, however, for those of a controlling nature, with this kind of planting scheme you have to accept that the wildness of form is part of what makes it work.  We all have different gardening styles, I’m a big fan of English Cottage Gardens, I love the unruly nature of them.  I once had a neighbour who had a fairly large garden that many people admired but it was very strictly controlled with plants exactly the same distance apart like little soldiers on parade.  It wasn’t my style of gardening at all but I could appreciate it for what it was.  For me, the secret of great gardening is creating a stunning garden that when it is finished looks like it happened by naturally.

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I adore gardens like this, the photograph above shows a yew hedge arch with a meandering path that leads to who knows where and makes the visitor wonder what treat is hidden around the next corner.  The idea of enticing the visitor onwards is what keeps this garden alive and also when the garden is full of people can maintain the illusion of solitude.

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The house is also open, you can choose between purchasing a ticket for the house and the garden or just the garden, I opted for just the garden and there was enough of interest to keep me occupied (and happy) for hours.

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The use of evergreens for hedging and for focal points is very well done at Great Dixter, the combination of neatly clipped box next to yew works very well and more so because of the different shapes.  It is possible to create a feeling of vastness is quite a small garden space and this is achieved here by the use of the much taller hedges in the distance.

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Gunnera planting creating a lush and jungle like feel around the pond.

The Great Dixter Plant Centre

Great Dixter also has a very well stocked plant centre and the staff are very knowledgable, plants are very clearly labelled and the price indicated.  The plant centre, for me, had the feeling of a head gardeners potting shed  from the Victorian period and was a real treat.  They do have a plant catalogue but I think that it is worth taking a notepad with you and making a note of all of the must have plants that you see before you forget what they are called.

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This Crocosmia is a fantastic lava red colour.  I was very tempted but sadly had to agree that the start of a 10 day holiday was not the time to be buying plants.

The Great Dixter Cafe

Great Dixter does have a cafe and although it is OK I felt that it let the garden down a little.  They do a nice selection of sandwiches, cakes, drinks and ice cream but the area that the cafe is in was messy with overflowing bins which had attracted wasps.  I think with a little TLC it could be great.  There is also a souvenir shop next to the cafe for those who like to take something home to remind them of their visit.

If you are a fan of visiting a couple of gardens in a day without too much travelling in between then you could visit Sissinghurst Castle (National Trust) and Great Dixter on the same day.  I came away from Great Dixter with my gardening Mojo fully revitalised as well as my soul.  I strongly recommend this garden that is crammed full of interesting garden rooms and ingenious ideas. For me 10 out of 10.  I visited lots of gardens in 10 days and this one was in the top three.

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Picking fresh fruit from your own garden makes all the hard work worth while

Today it’s fresh and juicy peaches and they will all be ripening in the next couple of weeks, we tried one yesterday and it was fantastic.

What’s ripening next?

Next will come the apples and then the pears. We will eat some of the apples fresh from the tree and the rest we turn into juice and most importantly cider!

You can’t beat a nice pear

Pears can take a while to ripen and you can tell when they are ready by pressing the skin near the stalk, if it is soft here then they are ripe.

New fruit varieties for small gardens

If you have a small garden space or even a sunny balcony don’t despair as there are lots of new dwarf varieties which you can grow.

I’d like to talk more about this topic but I have fresh peaches to eat.

You know you are a gardener when …..

I have a damaged rotator cuff on my left shoulder which is quite painful and will most likely require an operation. I was considering when would be the best time to get this done bearing in mind the recovery period.  Now is definitely the wrong time as there is extensive watering to do and all of the beds need weeding. September is not a good time either as I need to start tidying up the garden in preparation for winter.  October isn’t convenient as I have trailer loads of horse manure to collect and distribute in the garden. I also realised that I have to be sorted out by the end of March next year so that I’m fighting fit to cope with the barrow load of garden work that there is for next year.  No sooner had I come to the conclusion that November or December would be ideal than I remembered that I have a new path and steps to build to run alongside the new scented rosewalk and then there is the new pergola to build on one side of the rose garden. There’s nothing that can be done, I think I’ll just chop the arm off and fit a mechanical one so that I can get on with things.

Obviously, I’m joking about fitting a prosthetic arm, I’m very lucky to have two arms that function fairly normally.  It’s just that getting older is a nuisance, I feel a little like an old car that’s due for its 60,000 mile service.  Getting older is problematic for everyone, I’m sure, but when your profession is dependent upon being physically able it’s frustrating.

I know that as much as I would like to say “when can I realistically fit it in?”, the reality is this, I know that I can’t do what I could do a year ago with it, I know that it hurts and I know I’m making it worse by working with it.  Maybe it’s a getting older thing when your ‘to do list’ is growing longer instead of shorter and each week, month and year seems to go quicker.  When I was a child and adults used to say to me “enjoy your childhood, when you get older time goes by quicker and quicker” I remember thinking that this was a very illogical statement and some kind of ridiculous adult trick.  After all how can time go by faster, time is constant right?  Do you remember, as a child when a day seemed like an eternity and you never wanted to go to bed for fear of missing some important thing that was about to happen.  Now the thought of going to bed early sounds like bliss, I’d even happily sit on the naughty step if only somebody would let me.

Finding peace in the simple things

When I visit a garden and I find a quiet beautiful corner with nothing going on but the humming of bees and the chattering of birds I’m not bored, I relish the calm and the quiet and secretly wish it could last forever. The truth is you know that it can’t, life’s not like that but you can pretend that it will, just for bit.  I was talking with my adorable sister recently and we were discussing the pure joy of having alone time.  I think as you get older you enjoy your own company more and it is perfectly ok to have a conversation with yourself when you are alone, sometimes it’s the only way to get an intelligent conversation.  One word of warning though, talking to yourself when you are alone is OK but can raise concerns in company, unless of course you have the style to carry it off as marvelous eccentricity.

My plan is to grow old disgracefully and not worry about what people say or think about me.  I’ll sing Christmas carols in June but not in December (actually, I already do), I’ll wear T-shirts in Winter and jumpers in summer and I’ll keep working in the garden until they cart me off in a box.  I might even keep bees and do monkey impressions at inappropriate times.

The signs

I’ll be good though and schedule my operation and jobs in the garden will just have to get done when I have time and am physically able.  On the subject of ” You know you are a gardener when…” here are some of my favourite signs.

  • When you are looking at buying a new house, you check out the garden first and if that meets with your approval then you’ll take a look at the house
  • When you can’t go to a garden centre without bringing a plant home, even if you don’t have room for it
  • When you get itchy fingers at the end of February and want the weather to improve so that you can get out there doing jobs in the garden, even though you know in your heart that it’s too early in the year
  • When you start sowing vegetable seeds as soon as Christmas is over (willing Spring  to come soon in December doesn’t make it come any sooner)
  • When you keep buying more gardening books to go with the 30 that you already have
  • When you’d rather watch your favorite gardening program on the television than go out for a drink with friends
  • When you can only consider going on holiday in the winter when the garden is asleep
  • When you find it easier to remember plant names than people’s names

I’m going to stop now but you know that I could go on but I’d love to hear any additions to the list that you might have.

So now I must draw this to a close as it’s still daylight outside and I should be getting on with one of those jobs on my ever-growing ‘to do list’.

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!)

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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.

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

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.

 

The Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor Garden

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I’m a big fan of the Royal Horticultural Society, it does so much great work and is so proactive in engaging with people who are new to gardening.  I’ve been a member of the Society for quite a few years now and the benefits are multitudinous.

With the membership you get the magazine for free (worth the membership fee on its own) but you can also ask their gardening experts for assistance with all things plant related. The RHS has some choice gardens that you can visit and one of these is RHS Rosemoor in Devon.  I would describe RHS Rosemoor as a garden park rather than a garden as it is very large.

I didn’t have any expectations from RHS Rosemoor, we’d had a manic few days, it was boiling hot and we had spent the morning walking coastal paths.  We had decided that it was too hot to walk any more coastal paths and to be honest we were both feeling tired. Thomas suggested a trip to Rosemoor.  So, we made the hour-long trip from our holiday cottage near Bude to RHS Rosemoor.  I was really not feeling in the mood for another 3 hours walking around a garden in the heat and all I really wanted to be was sit in the shade with nothing but a nicely chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for company.  I think that sometimes life is like that, the parties that you really don’t want to go to turn out to be the best.  This turned out to be the case with RHS Rosemoor, what a fantastic place.

Now, for starters, RHS Rosemoor is a garden on a very large-scale and it is crammed full of interesting garden rooms, amazing vista’s and fantastic ideas.

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The Queen Mother’s rose garden has been in existence for 16 years and was looking stunning, as you may be aware I am a new convert to the joy of growing roses so I was particularly interested in this garden.  There wasn’t a huge variety of roses on display but they have created a wonderous display by planting enmasse.  I think that the rose garden looks beautiful especially bearing in mind the hot summer and lack of rainfall, I have to water our garden for 6 hours a day so I appreciate the mammoth task that they have at RHS Rosemoor.

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I think what makes RHS Rosemoor so great is that it has something to suit everybody’s taste and because of the scale of the garden you never feel that a gardening style has been crammed into a corner jus for the sake of it.  There are some classically designed garden styles on display in the garden like the long avenues planted with Yew hedging with a statue or tree in the distance making the garden feel like it goes on forever.

As you would expect from an organisation that advocates growing your own fruit and vegetables the orchards and vegetable gardens were fantastic and much tidier and weed free than mine.

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Although there were lots of cars and coaches in the car park RHS Rosemoor never felt crowded, partly due to the large size of the garden and this was really nice.  I am a firm believer in being able to mooch around a garden in solitude, undisturbed by masses of noisy visitors (I’m getting older and I’m entitled to be grumpy).  At no point during our visit did I feel anything but calm serenity and that makes RHS Rosemoor the perfect place to revitalise your spirit or be inspired to try new things in your garden at home.

One of the many things that inspired us on the day were the creative use of materials for creating steps, pergola’s, benches and walls.

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A great day out for all of the family, there is even a play area for children. The Cafe is nice and secluded and they don’t make a bad cup of tea!

If you would like more information on RHS Rosemoor click here.

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A day at David Austin Roses

As we sell David Austin Roses we couldn’t really visit England without spending a day there, especially when they are only a 20 min drive from my sister’s house.  The plan was to spend a few hours mooching around their gardens and then sit down for their famous Afternoon Tea.

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My main contact at David Austin roses is Becky and I had previously spoken to her on the phone explaining that I was coming over from Germany.  I was keen to meet her as we had spoken so many times and I wanted to put a face to the voice.  Unfortunately, Becky explained that the day that we would be visiting would be her first day back at work after a 2 week holiday and that she would not have much time.  On the basis of this is was expecting a 5 min meet and greet, however, Becky was very generous with her time and spent more than an hour showing us the garden and discussing the different types of roses.

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The rose garden were not in full bloom and this is to be expected at this time of year but there were enough choice specimens in bloom to make the visit a memorable one.  It was very interesting to hear about the breeding programme and how long it takes to bring a new rose to the market place and the costs involved.  I was somewhat shocked to discover that it costs about 1 million pounds to develop a new rose and that thousands of seedlings are grown and only a choice few make the cut, the rest being discarded.  I will never complain about the cost of roses ever again!

David Austin Snr is clearly a man of great vision and perseverance, having started selling roses from his kitchen table, the first rose that he created being Constance Spry, a beautiful rose that we have here in the Moosbach Garden.

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I would recommend a visit to David Austin roses if you find yourself in England and anywhere near to Shropshire.  It is fantastic to be able to see so many different roses in different planting schemes and you will come away with your head full of thoughts on how to plant roses in your own garden.

I, for one came away realising that I prune my roses back too hard and I really should let them do their ‘thing’ a bit more.  We already have planting schemes similar to the picture immediately above with low clipped box hedging containing glorious roses. However, we have planted a row of climbing and rambling roses along the edge of one of our very few flat spaces and need to erect some supports for them.  At the David Austin rose garden they have a good mixture of support structures, including pergolas, we took lots of photographs and his will be an autumn/winter job for us.  I think with the more vigorous ramblers, like Paul’s Himalayan Musk that you need either a tree for it to grow up or a sturdy pergola.  We have 4 Paul’s Himalayan Musk roses in the Moosbach Garden, with some growing up into trees whilst others will be trained over pergola’s with their clusters of sweetly scented blooms dangling down to assault the senses.

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There were also some fairly large roses growing in terracotta pots which looked absolutely magnificent and it did reaffirm my view on planting roses in pots.  Customers quite often ask me if they can grow a rose in a pot as they don’ have a garden but a terrace or balcony.  I guess this will become an increasingly asked question as property prices increase, more people live in apartments rather than houses and globally we have a larger pensioner population.  Well my view has always been that all plants do better planted in the ground where they can spread their roots and obtain water and nutrients from a wider area but you can grow plants successfully in pots but it is a little more work (but worth it).

If you want to grow roses in pots you need to make sure that it is a decent size pot with good depth, the roots need space to grow  downwards or the rose will quickly become pot bound.  I would recommend sprinkling mycorrhizal fungi on the damp roots when you plant the rose, this will extend the root system and reduce water stress in hot weather. You also need to accept that any plant that is in a pot has a limited area from which to obtain water and nutrients that it needs to grow and the only way it will get them is by you watering and feeding it. I water all of my potted roses every day and feed with David Austin rose feed more often than those planted in the ground and they perform exceptionally well.  On the subject of pots, if you can afford it can I implore you to use terracotta over plastic, plastic usage is the current ‘hot potato’ but we all have our part to play in saving the environment.  If you must use plastic then go for a good quality, robust pot that will last 10 years or more.

This year was our first year selling David Austin roses and it has been a resounding success, we stocked 15 varieties this year and from the 180 that we ordered we only have 19 left.  For next year we have ordered more, 450 to be precise and 30 varieties.

If you would like to be notified when the roses are in stock and to find out when the Moosbach Garden is open then sign up for email notifications on here, there is a link on the right hand side.

Roses to look out for next year – Tottering by gently and Vanessa Bell.

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Tottering By Gently is like an old fashioned wild rose, is stunningly beautiful and will attract bees to your garden.

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Vanessa Bell is a very beautiful new rose from David Austin and repeat flowers well.

Top performing roses from this year – Gertrude Jekyll, Boscobel, Brother Cadfael, Golden Celebration, Gentle Hermione, Roald Dahl, Jude the obscure, Scepter’d isle, Strawberry Hill, Olivia Rose Austin, the Generous Gardener and Wollerton Old Hall (climbing).

If you would like to reserve a rose please visit our website by clicking here.

 

 

 

Hidcote Manor – A National Trust dream garden

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Hidcote Manor is a famous English garden hidden down a narrow country lane near Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds.  It was created by the American, Lawrence Johnston.  The estate, comprising the house and 287 acres (116 hectares) of farmland was purchased for him by his mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop in 1907.  It took Lawrence Johnson some 20 years to create this garden and he collected plants from all over the world to do so. He was a keen gardener and it is evident to the visitor that this garden was created with great thought and love.  Of course, Lawrence Johnson had the benefit of a benefactor in his mother.  The garden was gifted to the National Trust in 1948 who have maintained it ever since and shared it with the world.

We visited the garden halfway through our 10 days in England and it was definitely one of the garden highlights, this is praise indeed in a Country where the plethora of stunning gardens is hard to believe.

Like many of the grand houses and gardens created in a bygone era, it is lovingly maintained by the National Trust. I cannot stress strongly enough what a fantastic organisation this is, if you are planning a garden tour in the United Kingdom I would strongly recommend taking out a membership, it will give you free access to so many wonderful properties.  For more details click here.

I would suggest arriving early in the day before the masses descend upon Hidcote Manor.  I would advocate travelling by car, (it is quite remote) with enough space for those choice plants that you cannot resist, the plant shop is very well stocked with good quality plants which can be seen in the garden and they are not too expensive.

It is entirely up to you how much time you spend in the garden but in my opinion, a garden such as this should not be rushed, allow your soul to soak up the many wonders that Hidcote Manor has to offer. I think that a minimum of half a day is required, you can break your visit by having a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe.

For me Hidcote Manor is a mixture of classic garden design and quirky intimate garden rooms.  The National Trust have been very respectful of the gardens original design and much of the original paving still exists (watch your footing in these areas) along with many of the original plantings.  I’m a lover of classic, timeless garden design and Hidcote Manor has this by the sack load. There are so many beautifully designed garden rooms with  long narrow beds, back edged with superb Yew hedging leading the eye forward to a  sneak preview of another garden or a panoramic view of the cotswolds.

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Hidcote Manor is not all formal design with straight lines and neatly clipped hedges, there are wonderful herbaceous borders and intimate meandering paths, the romance of which can steal your heart.

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One of the many herbaceous borders at Hidcote, it has a good depth with interest at ground and at eye level.

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Pictured above, original paving laid down by Lawrence Johnston.

There are some grand statements in this garden, like the pond for example.  The pond is classically beautiful with an understated water feature in the middle. So often an ornamental pond like this is overwhelmed by the sheer size of the fountain but not here and Lawrence Johnston has added an enticing view across this pond to the next garden.  This is a tantilising garden window, framed by two hedges, drawing the visitor forwards to the next delight that Lawrence Johnston has in store for us.  To be honest it is these small subtle touches that really inspired me at Hidcote Manor.

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These glorious delphiniums were over 6 feet tall and the most fantastic shade of blue.  If you want to grow delphiniums like this you can buy seed from Larkspur Nursery

Delphinium seedlings are prone to damping off, so remember to cover the seed trays with vermiculite or fine grit after you have sown the seeds and do not over water them.  Once the seedlings are big enough a weekly dose of liquidised tomato feed in the water will help them to establish more leaves and a healthier crown

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The steps at the end of this herbaceous border help to define the natural end of the border and act as a focal point for the entrance to the next garden room.IMG_4367

For me this is evocative of romantic summer days, where you can sit and read undisturbed by either people or the hot summer sun.  It was pertinent when it was created and even more so today in our world of stress and over crowded spaces.  What a wonderful thought, being able to sit here alone immersed in ones thoughts or a good book.

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A perfect place for a glass of wine (white, dry and definitely not Chardonnay).  I imagine 2 ladies sat here in years gone by discussing Mr Rochester or Mr Darcy.

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I like this idea,which extends the classic design of the garden by framing the doorway with hedges, many people consider the garden an extension of the house but this flips it around and make the house an extension of he garden.  I’m not sure that entirely works but it’s a very interesting idea.

 

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For me a quintessentially English scene with statuesque trees and horses.  The clever design trick here is that the end of the garden (in the foreground) melts effortlessly in the countryside. There is, however, a wall that prevents the sheep and horses from entering the garden. You can only see the wall when you are standing on top of it, I think that this is just brilliantly clever.

As ever, we came away inspired and determined to tweak some of the features of Hidcote Manor to fit our own garden.  I use the term tweak because every garden is and should be different, just imagine if every garden looked he same, wouldn’t that make for a boring world. I also realised how blessed we were to have been able to see this garden and I thought how lucky we were that people like Lawrence Johnston, Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and many others had the resolve and natural ability to create such wonderful gardens.  I really value my memberships of the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society without whose work these wonderful places would fall into disarray and be lost forever. Now that’s a very sad thought indeed.

We are back home now in the Black Forest and my normal routine of weeding, watering and dead heading has resumed.  I say ‘normal routine’ but this is simply not true as no 2 days are ever the same when you are a gardener, however, I feel blessed that I am able to envelope myself in something as wonderful and rewarding as gardening.

My final thought is this. Gardening for me is about 2 things, committment and acceptance.  Firstly, committment because you have to commit yourself to a garden and it is an open-ended committement.  A flower bed doesn’t stay weed free and those roses will not stay looking as beautiful as the day that you bought them unless you put the time in.  Secondly, acceptance, you have to accept that things will go wrong and you just have to dust off the dirt and start again.  Once you have mastered these two concepts then you will be rewarded by thankful plants, a beautiful place to live, an abundance of wildlife and a very grateful planet.

We’ve just made our selection of David Austin roses for next year and they will be available to view on our website shortly.  Why not join our mailing list and be notified of what is happening in the Moosbach Garden.

The Moosbach Garden team wish you many happy hours gardening.

 

A good gardening year

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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.

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.

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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.