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.

Time to review the chicken situation

It’s time to face facts, we have too many chickens.  They are costly to keep, time-consuming and too many can turn the land sour. We love collecting fresh laid eggs from the nest boxes and seeing the hens running around the orchard but there are simply too many.  Hens can live to about 6 years old but they lay most of their eggs in the first 2 years, they still lay eggs from year 3 onwards but just not as many.  We need to be realistic, as much as we like the idea of a chicken retirement home, 30 older hens that aren’t earning their keep need to be re-homed.  We think they are ideal in smaller quantities for families who don’t want 30 eggs a day and they make good pets.

A gardening list that is far too long

During the last four years we have been working very hard creating different areas of the garden, including a magnolia walk, a rose walk and a rose garden.  These are now starting to mature and they now need constant work to keep them looking at their best.  Every week we write a gardening to-do list and although we get lots of jobs done each day the list just seems to get longer and longer.  So we have to work faster and harder and we have to prioritise what needs doing.

So we have made the decision to reduce the chickens down from 50 to 16, which is a much more manageable number and this will give us more time to concentrate on keeping the garden in tip-top shape.

The Moosbach Garden Plant Shop

Added to our already busy schedule is the Moosbach Garden plant shop, we sold a few plants last year but this year we thought we would expand upon this and we started stocking David Austin roses.  In the last 3 months we have sold 50% of the roses that we initially brought in and now another batch of roses have been ordered to supplement what we have to offer.  So we have 17 different varieties of roses for sale, as well as, delphiniums, Acanthus, Lupins, Lavender, Salvia, Phlox, Cosmos and Day Lilies.

In the next couple of weeks the 8 new varieties of roses will go on to the Moosbach Website, along with the 9 varieties already on there.  We will add other plants to the online shop when they are available to buy.  In May there will be some fantastic delphiniums available, as well as Lavender and Salvia.  These combine perfectly with roses in a mixed border.  There is however, limited availability on all of the David Austin roses and we are already down to the last 2 or roses on some varieties.  If you visit us in June you will be able to see all of the roses in our rose garden, along with some stunningly beautiful delphiniums, which we grow from seed here in the Moosbach garden.

If you would like to see the roses that we have available then please click here and if you are interested in buying some chickens please email us.

June, July and August are the best times to visit the garden here, however, May can be good too depending upon the weather.

Peonies and Tree Peonies

We have been extending our range of peonies in the garden and have both the perennial variety and the tree form.  There are many different varieties of both perennial and tree peonies but they must be treated very differently.

Both types can be grown from seed or purchased as mature plants,  Perennial peonies can be treated like all other perennials and can be cut back in the autumn after the first frosts,  Tree Peonies on the other hand should never be cut back, they do not respond well to being pruned and in some instances will even die.  Tree peonies can grow to a height of about 2 metres and produce stunningly beautiful flowers, just be conscious of where you plant them as they need a bit of space to grow into.  If you want to grow new plants from seed you will need to hand pollinate them and then protect the pollinated flower insects and bees.

Pictured about a Tree Peony flower (Left) and Perennial Peony flower (right).

With both sorts you need to wait until the seeds have ripened and the seed pods are splitting and the seeds exposed.  Dry the seeds and store over winter, they need exposure to 3 months of cold temperatures either outside or in the fridge before sowing.  With a little luck seedlings should emerge either in spring or in summer, you will have to wait about 3 years for the first flowers but I think that it is definitely worth the wait.  Seeds that have been pollinated by insects will not be true to the parent plant but what is life without a little mystery?

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New buds on one of our Tree Peonies, each bud will produce its own set of flowers and the plants are very hardy.

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Perennial Peony shoots just emerging from the ground, this plant was in the ground for 2 years before it produced its first set of flowers.  Please remember that peonies do not like have their roots disturbed so moving them is not recommended.

After what seems like a very long and very snowy winter lets hope for a glorious summer, we wish you a very Happy Easter.

 

It’s March 22nd and the ground is still frozen, so when is Spring coming?

I got up this morning with really good intentions, a speedy breakfast was had, a coat was put on, gardening gloves, secateurs and weeding implements in hand.  I think that you would all agree, so far so good. Wellington boots were placed on and out into the garden I marched. I weeded most of the flower beds earlier this month in a week when we had 3 glorious days of sunshine and all that is left are 2 smallish beds.  So off I marched implements in hand but the ground was frozen solid, so that was that.

I did manage to prune some roses and did an inspection of the garden, taking stock of which plants needed re-staking, which plants needed a prune and which perennials were putting up new shoots.

It is amazing how resilient nature is, most of the Phlox plants have good new shoots as do most of the delphiniums and hydrangeas.  There are even some magnolia trees with swelling buds, the fruits buds on the pear trees are swelling and greening up and the roses are now actively growing.  You know I think that is pretty amazing as most of this week we have had night temperatures of -7.  Every cloud has a silver lining as they say and reduced slug and snail populations may just be that silver lining.  One of my goals this year is to eradicate the use of slug pellets, we have an active frog population and the pond is currently full of frog spawn.  Frogs are really an asset in the garden with keeping plant predators in check but what we really want is a good hedgehog population.  As far as I am aware we don’t have any here at the moment but there is a hedgehog rescue centre about an hour from here.  I shall be contacting them this year and seeing if we can provide a safe, toxin free home to some.

At the moment we are full of anticipation in the Moosbach Garden, this is the fourth year for the garden and last year we planted about 60 new David Austin roses, we have to admit that we’re feeling a little like children who can’t wait for Christmas. You see, we’ve read dozens of books on planting, pruning and caring for roses, we’ve followed their advice and now we can’t wait to see how it all turns out.  We have created a new rose garden in the top garden, we’ve planted a highly scented rose hedge as a link between the top and middle gardens, we’ve planted some rambling roses to grow into trees and we’ve even planted some Alba, Damask, Centifolia and Musk roses that only flower once per year.  We erected an electric fence around the garden to keep the deer out who have developed a taste for roses and so far it seems to be working.  If we are honest about it we didn’t really know that we had a problem with deer until we started planting more roses, we had a few roses that never seemed to come to much and now we know why.

It would be interesting to install some motion activated night cameras in the garden and see what is actually about and more importantly what they are doing in our garden.  I wonder how many of us are blissfully unaware of what animal traffic passes through our gardens at night. Most of us start out just trying to create a beautiful garden for our own pleasure but we also end up creating a paradise for nature and this is no bad thing (as long as they don’t eat your plants).

So our hopes for this year are for an even more beautiful garden, a good crop of fruit and an increase in the diversity of wild garden visitors.  For us one of the wonderful benefits is being able to grow a multitude of different fruits which have not been sprayed with chemicals.  When you get a good fruit year it’s wonderful, last year was catastrophic as a late frost destroyed 80% of the apples, pears, plums and cherries. However,  you know nature has a way of compensating and this year all of the fruit trees are crammed with fruit buds.  If the apple, pear, plums, damson, peach, nectarine, apricot, fig and quince trees produce a good crop this year we don’t mind losing a few to the birds.

So as soon as the weather improves and the soil is workable we shall get the last of the flower beds ready for the coming season and then the vegetable garden dug over and planted.  We absolutely love preparing a meal with produce grown in the garden here, knowing that’s it not been sprayed with chemicals, has a zero environmental footprint and the farthest that it’s travelled is from our garden to the kitchen.

Once the roses start flowering we will post some pictures, along with the delphiniums and other perennials.  We wish you all a fantastic Spring season and if you listen carefully you can hear the plants growing.

 

Happy Gardening ……

It’s always great to learn something new

We’ve had a couple of rainy days here in the Moosbach Garden and horticultural activities have been restricted to potting up Delphinium and Cosmos seedlings. I’ve also taken the opportunity to sit and read a few gardening books.

Turning into my mother!

I’m turning 50 this year and I’ve been gardening for over 30 years now and I will admit that I have a fairly good knowledge of all things horticultural but there is always space for new gardening knowledge in my ageing brain.  Many years ago when my wonderful mother was struggling to retrieve a fact stored in her brain she would tell me “I’ll find the right file in a bit”.  She always said that the human brain was like the hard drive of a computer, the older the computer got the fuller the hard drive got and the longer it took to access the file that was needed.  As I get older I’m inclined to agree with her.  If you ask me “what’s that song on the radio?” as long as it’s from the 70’s onwards I can probably tell you, if you ask me a plant question I can probably lay my hands on the answer. HOWEVER, if you ask me what we had for lunch last Wednesday or tell me Mrs Smith is coming round tomorrow, she was here last week and sat on table 3, you remember don’t you?,  I will look at you blankly as if you are speaking Cantonese (I don’t speak cantonese).  So clearly I am turning into my mother but in my opinion that’s not so bad.

Acquiring new Knowledge

Whilst I was sitting out the rain and thinking to myself “goodness the weeds are going to grow quickly, I’ll have to get out there weeding as soon as I can”, I picked up a book that I bought several years ago but had never got around to reading.  The Book was “Roses – A Care Manual” by Amanda Beales.  For those of you in the know, there are 2 famous rosarians in the UK, David Austin is one and the second is the late Peter Beales. Amanda Beales is his daughter and an expert on all things Rose.  I confess myself a little bit of a David Austin cheerleader and felt somewhat disloyal picking up a book from the “other camp”.  I soon got over this though and absorbed myself in all that was on offer from Amanda Beales and when I had finished the book I found myself in possession of about 20 things that I didn’t know about rose care before.  I’m sure the same can be said for the plethora of specialist gardening books out there, my point is it’s really good to get stuck into a book by an author who knows their stuff.  I think that it’s how we grow both as individuals and as gardeners.

Don’t limit yourself to the latest trends in gardening books

The wonderful thing about any book is its ability to communicate the knowledge, the thoughts and the feelings of its author across the expanse of time.  It’s like being able to travel back in time and have a conversation over a cup of tea with a famous gardener like Gertrude Jekyll or Vita Sackville-West and when you stop and think about that isn’t it a wonderful thing?  I wish my mother had written more than her one novel, (“The Torn Tapestry” by Jane Froud), I wish I had the ability to delve into numerous volumes created by her wonderful intellect.  I am lucky enough to have many of her paintings and many fantastic memories of her to keep me company though.

Reading gardening books is like having struck up a friendship with the gardening greats regardless of their era and being able to sit down for an informal chat about what to do with that corner of the garden or how to create a new rose garden.  In my opinion, priceless access to the gardening greats for the price of a book and an  investment of time.

I finished the Amanda Beales book this morning and I can’t wait to get on with it, I’m determined to prune my roses more effectively, deal with any pests or problems and even cross-pollinate different varieties to create my own roses.  We shall see at the end of the year if I’ve actually achieved any of these or if I’m just all talk.

Good Reads…….

These books are all in English but they are fantastic books (in my opinion)

The Rose by David Austin

Roses – A Care Manual by Amanda Beales

The Victorian Kitchen Garden  by Jennifer Davies

The Garden of Gertrude Jekyll by Richard Bisgrove

Life In A Cottage Garden by Carol Klein

Gertude Jekyll at Munstead Wood by Judith Tankard & Martin Wood

Grow Your Own Garden by Carol Klein

Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden by Judith Tankard

The Walled Garden by Leslie Geddes-Brown

AND no list would be complete without any book by Monty Don and the Royal Horticultural Society

 

And don’t forget that we have a good selection of David Austin strongly fragranced roses available to buy on our website, to see them click here.

 

AND FINALLY…..

I’m off to England in July for my birthday treat and shall be immersing myself in wonderful gardens like Sissinghurst Castle and Munstead Wood and visiting as many National Trust gardens as I can fit in, I promise to take lots of photographs and write some reviews.

 

Happy gardening …….

I dedicate this article to my wonderful mother, the late Jane Antoinette Froud and my sister Sue Barratt who never stops inspiring me or loving me.

 

 

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.

 

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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 www.moosbach-schwarzwald.com 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!

 

The benefits of keeping chickens

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Here at the Moosbach Garden we are not only crazy about plants , we are also crazy about chickens. We keep 2 breeds of chicken here, namely Marans which originate from France and Polands which originate from Holland.

I remember as a young child of 10 years old collecting eggs from the barns of the Herdman’s farm in Herefordshire. They had bantam chickens that seemed to lay eggs everywhere, I was awestruck and hooked on keeping chickens from that moment onwards.

Fortunately for me I had an understanding mother and we lived on a farm.  At that point I didn’t really care what breed the chickens were, I just wanted chickens.  We acquired a hen with small chicks from a school friend of mine called “Girlie”, here real name was Maria but she was a bit of a tomboy.  I lost half of the chicks to the old farm cat who was called “Mr Snodgrass”, we then erected a much safer run for the mother hen and her remaining chicks, and all was well.

Herefordshire in the 1980’s was still a very rural community and the farms in the foothills of the Black Mountains even more so. You weren’t a local unless you had at least 3 generations you could trace back but Herefordians are good people and they make the best cider ever.  I eventually progressed from my crossbred bantam chickens to Marans, you see I had become obsessed with these chickens that reputedly laid chocolate brown eggs.

Maran chickens originate from the town of Marans near La Rochelle in France.  They come in an assortment of colours but the most popular seem to be the Cuckoo, the Copper Black and the Wheaten Marans.  Of these I believe that the Copper Black Marans lay the darkest eggs.  With Marans the colour of the egg shell is passed on by the Cockerell, so if a cockerell is hatched from a dark brown egg then this colour is passed onto the offspring.  So breeders always hatch chicks from the darkest brown eggs in the hope of continously improving the colour of the eggs.

There are many benefits of keeping your own chickens, the eggs from truly free range chickens cannot be beaten for flavour.  Let me clarify, the egg is made up of 2 parts, the white and the yolk, the Yolk is absorbed into the stomach of the chick when it hatches and is a protein rich food supply that lasts the chick for the first 24 hours after hatching.  It is incredibly delicous but the flavour is vastly improved when the chickens have access to fresh grass and herbs, it makes sense when you think about it. Chickens tend to hatch chicks in the spring and early summer when there is a surplus of fresh grass and herbs so that the chicks get the best possible start in life.  So even if you can’t keep your own chickens, it makes sense to only by eggs laid by hens that have access outside to grass and herbs.

It is also worth considering the differences between pure breed chickens and the egg machine sort.  Most pure breed chickens lay around 200 to 220 eggs per year and this is a natural process.  Egg machines are bred to lay around 350 eggs per year.  You might think that 350 is better than 220 but I disagree and this is why.  It takes quite a lot of energy, calcium and water to produce an egg, an egg is 60% water.  Most proprietary feeds should contain some calcium but if they don’t the calcium can be taken from the bones of the chickens which is not sustainable.  I belive that it is better to have 220 good quality eggs a year rather than 350 OK eggs.  They will probably cost you a bit more to buy but it is definately worth it. Our customers agree and we have no problem selling the eggs produced by the Moosbach hens.

Here are some chicken facts for you :-

  • Young hens are born with all of the immature eggs cells of all the eggs that they will lay as an adult
  • It takes roughly 26 weeks from hatching to laying the first egg
  • Chickens need a minimum of 14 hours daylight to stimulate egg production
  • Chickens lay most of their eggs in their first 2 years
  • Chickens  eggs remain fertile for 10 days after mating
  • Chickens can live up to 6 years
  • Chickens will lay eggs with or without a cockerell

There are various clubs for Marans and it is best to join one and then contact reputable breeders that you can buy your hens from.  I would not recommend buying hatching eggs online or buying chickens from a market, you have no idea what you are really buying.  It is always best to visit a breeder so that you can judge the quality of the Chickens and the conditions that they are kept in.  Also if you already have chickens and buy additional ones always keep them seperate for 3 weeks to ensure that they do not pass any diseases that they may have onto your flock.

There are many different breeds of chicken and it is worth researching online the different breeds of chicken to find the one that’s just right for you.

chickeneggsboxed

Above Copper Black Maran eggs and one Green Aracauna egg for comparison.

On the left, the Now famous Herr Huber and on the right freshly hatched chicks in our incubator.

Gardening jobs to do now

There are some hard and fast rules with gardening that you have to embrace or forever feel like you have somehow failed.  I think that a lot of people beat themselves up about their gardening ability and status as a gardener.  I am as guilty as the next man or woman and refer to my self as a hobby gardener, I think that it lets you off the hook when things don’t go to plan or don’t really work.  However, here is an enlightening fact – gardening is a long game, it takes time to learn your craft, learn your garden (each one is different) and gardens need time to mature.  When I started gardening, 40 years ago (that’s a sobering, frightening and impossible number as I’m sure that I’m only 35) , I assumed that professional gardeners did everything perfectly and nothing ever failed or looked less than perfect.  This, of course, is simply not the case, every gardener has things that go wrong every year and they make a note, mental or otherwise, to do that differently the next year.  You see gardening is an ever evolving process, it’s not just your garden that grows, it is your knowledge, your judgement and your skills.  So I am going to stop calling myself a hobby gardener, from this moment onwards I am a gardener!

Don’t be overwhelmed

I think some people are overwhelmed by starting gardening as they are so afraid of getting things wrong and looking silly, that other gardeners will judge them and they’ll be found wanting in the garden department.  What I would say to these people is don’t worry about it, fellow gardeners are nurturers and unless they are unkind people they will want you to succeed.

Starting out

If you are new to gardening start on a small-scale, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to create a garden on the scale of Kew Gardens or Wisley – they have a huge teams of experienced gardeners making it look perfect.  Dip your toes in the gardening water by trying something that fits in with your current skill level and the time that you have available.  This helps build self-confidence, gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps with life balance.  It is amazing how the brain soaks up all of this new acquired knowledge and without realising it you’ve amassed a huge amount of gardening know how and in a few years people will be asking you for advice, not the other way around.

Free resources and money-saving ideas

For many people money is a restricting factor, however, there are some things that you can do which don’t cost much and give great results.  Here’s my list of things to do if you have a restricted budget :-

  1. Use your local library for excellent sources of information,  read books by Monty Don, Carol Klein and many others
  2. Research online (google is your best friend) there is a plethora of useful, free information out there and for extra confidence search videos on YouTube.
  3. Grow plants from seeds, it doesn’t cost much and you can always go halves on seed packets with friends.
  4. Check garden centres for the reduced priced plants, they can’t be bothered with caring for plants that are past their best or ones that they’ve forgotten to water.  I once got 6 hydrangea plants from a DIY shop in Germany for 1 Euro, that’s about 15 cents per plant. All they needed was watering, a feed and a bit of TLC, all 6 survived and are now large healthy plants.
  5. Check online marketplaces like Ebay for cheap small plants, I recommend researching how much they cost elsewhere before you buy so that you know that you are not getting ripped off
  6. Check your local newspaper if you have one, sometimes there are ads for cheap plants, manure and second-hand tools.
  7. See if there is a local gardening group that you can join and maybe acquire a few unwanted plants from other gardeners.
  8. Learn how to take cuttings and then ask friends if you could take some cuttings (always ask first).

Once you have perennial plants that are 2 or three years old, you can take your own cuttings, split some perennials and harvest the seeds.  You can then swap plants with other people or sell them and buy something that you haven’t got.

Our hopes for this gardening year

Last year we planted a select few David Austin roses, OK it was 60 but who’s counting? It will be interesting to see how they do this summer, I am presuming that the snow will eventually stop falling and melt of course.  We planted a long rose hedge using Rugosa hedging (Wild Edric, Mrs Anthony Waterer and Sarah Van Fleet) and I’m wondering how long it will take before it becomes a substantial hedge.  This hedge runs across the hill from the terrace to the middle garden and the intention is to create a rose walk with a mixture of shrubbery above and below.  We also created a Magnolia walk from below the terrace to the pond. As always, I do the planting and Thomas does the structural stuff.  He likes building walls, cutting down trees and making new benches and gates, this is fine by me as it doesn’t really float my boat and keeps him busy!

In the top garden, which is rapidly becoming the Rose Garden we have a mixture of roses. Close to the house with have some climbing roses, supported by a network of poles supporting strong wire which should be hidden by the roses in a couple of seasons.  Here we have the following roses, Gertrude Jekyll,  Claire Austin and Mortimer Sackler.  Across the lawn from this is a fragrant shrub rose collection that we bought from David Austin which contains 4 different roses, 3 of each variety and these are, Harlow Carr (pink), Susan William-Ellis (white), Charles Darwin (yellow) and Thomas A Beckett (red), they are all strongly scented . This bed is edged by a low-level hedge of Munstead Lavender, there are some peonies mixed in with this and apart from the occasional Salvia that will be it.  We are aiming for a more classic look than a bed so crammed with plants that beautiful plants get lost in the excess.

Opposite this bed, on the far side of one of the few flat pieces of garden that we have where there is a row of climbing and rambling roses, these again will be supported by strong posts and wires.  There is an eclectic mix of roses here but that’s what I like, if it doesn’t all work beautifully I can move some of them next winter.  The roses include, Paul’s Himalayan Musk (White and pink Rambler), Filipe Kiftgate (white Rambler), Old Wollerton Hall (cream Climber) and Malvern Hills (Yellow Climber).

Although these roses will flower this year but they will not attain their full glory for a couple of years, they have to establish themselves with good root systems but here in the Moosbach Garden we are patient (well I am).  I imagine how it will all look in 5 years from now and I’m sure that it will be different to the picture in my head but I’m Ok with that.

There are many more roses that we have planted, some repeat flowering, as we have all become used to, and some older species roses that only flower once per year but that’s better shared next year or later in the summer when we have taken some photographs.

Some of you may think that this is a lot of change in a year but a garden never sits still, it is a snap shot in time of the gardener’s heart, aspirations and dreams. It is typical for a young garden like this.  Many people, Gertrude Jekyll included, recommended with older, established gardens that every few years you change something drastically in your garden, this helps to keep the garden a vibrant and interesting place.

I cannot ever imagine not gardening but eventually I will have to be brave and pass the Moosbach Garden trowel onto a new, younger and enthusiastic gardener.  Hopefully that day is 20 years off but you never know what life will throw your way.

Jobs to do in the next 6 weeks

With spring on the horizon there are jobs that need doing before all the garden comes to life.  Already I notice migratory birds arriving from their wintering grounds and collecting nesting materials, yesterday I saw 2 storks and I thought to myself that it’s time to dust off those gardening tools, sharpen those secateurs and get out there.  I like that period just before spring when you can really get things done.  Obviously there are the normal tasks like weeding beds, turning over the soil in the vegetable garden, cutting back last years growth from perennials and pruning fruit trees but it is also an excellent time to tackle architectural and structural jobs.  Once the spring arrives in earnest and everything starts growing with jubilant, gay abandon then there is little time for anything except weeding, deadheading and tying in new growth.  However, before all that starts you can build dry stone walls, create new paths and generally assess which areas need a little repair.

So here is my quick list of things to do now

  • Deadhead old wood from perennials like Phlox, Michaelmas Daisies and Peonies before the new shoots appear
  • Weed all the flower beds, carefully avoiding digging up any hidden perennials, (you should know where they are).  If you do dig any up it won’t do them much harm if you replant then straight away.
  • Split any Perennials that have become too big for their space.  See my post on splitting Phlox plants.
  • Top dress weeded beds with well-rotten compost or horse manure (2-year-old is best)
  • Prune roses when the weather is decent enough not to cause die-back.  There are some good instructional videos on www.davidaustinroses.com
  • Make bamboo supports for sweet peas,delphiniums, beans and peas
  • Sow seeds indoors of sweet peas, delphiniums, beans and peas.
  • This is your last chance to buy and plant bare root hedging plants like box and yew
  • Have a good cup of tea or coffee

Available to buy now

Don’t forget that we have 9 different sorts of highly scented David Austin roses for sale available for collection now :-

  1. Harlow Carr (pink)
  2. Gertrude Jekyll (pink)
  3. Thomas A Becket (red)
  4. Charles Darwin (yellow)
  5. Gentle Hermione (pink)
  6. Desdemona (cream)
  7. Roald Dahl (Apricot)
  8. Claire Austin (cream Climbing rose)
  9. The Generous Gardener (pink climbing rose)

We recommend using David Austin mycorrhizal fungi when planting roses as this extends the root system and helps the rose to establish itself more quickly and then feed between flowering with David Austin Rose Food.

So I wish you all happy and fulfilled gardening!