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.



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.



Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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

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

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

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

Garden treasure in the Alsace, France

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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



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


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

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


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


Here is their website address

Tel:  +33 (0) 3 29 51 47 19


88640 Granges-Sur-Vologne





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

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