A touch of spring in the Moosbach Garden

Better Weather

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

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

Jobs to do now

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

Here is my list of jobs to do now :-

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



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

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

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

And Finally ……

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

We have 9 different varieties of David Austin roses available to buy on our website 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!


Growing plants from seed


I thought we’d take a break from roses and talk about the joy of growing your own plants from seed.

Some people, myself included, are really happy and fulfilled by buying a plant that has been reared and cared for by somebody else but there is something to be said for growing your own plants from seed.  The benefits are multifold.  You have the joy of perusing a multitude of gardening catalogues, choosing plant varieties that look stunning, producing a wish list which is way too long and then reducing it down to a level that you can realistically cope with and then finally ordering the seeds. It’s the perfect pastime for those early months of the year when gardening outside is impractical because the ground is too hard, too wet or covered in snow.

I sow seeds throughout January and February in one of our spare rooms, using a couple of tables with overhead strip lights ( I don’t have a greenhouse).  I hear some of you saying “Isn’t that way too early?”, well my argument is that it gives the young plants time to germinate, produce good root systems and then when the spring comes and all chances of frost have passed they are ready to take off.

Sowing seeds is a risky business as there is no guarantee that the seeds will germinate.  In fairness though, if you buy the seed from a reputable company and don’t keep the seed too long then the chances of success are pretty good.  Just follow the guidelines on the packet, keep the soil moist but not wet, keep the temperature within the recommended range and then wait for the seeds to germinate.  It’s an exciting business waiting for the first signs of germination, you are helping to create a new life (albeit a plant).  When the first seeds germinate and you see the first pair of seed leaves you really feel like a proper gardener.

Apart from the sense of achievement of growing your own plants from seeds it also enables you to create a wonderful garden for a fraction of the cost of buying mature plants from a garden centre.  There are numerous health benefits, it is a well documented fact that gardening is good for your health. It’s not rocket science, gardening entails being out in the fresh air working and therefore getting exercise, all good for you.  However, the benefits to mental health are now being recognised worldwide.  Gardening involves buckets of nurturing, gardeners become the foster parents of all their plants, making sure that they are fed, watered and occasionally get a hair cut (otherwise known as dead heading).  Sounds a lot like being a parent to me.  Having someone or something else to care for helps with life balance, promotes self-esteem and counters depression.

So, you’ve bought your packets of seeds, you’ve germinated them, grown them on but what do you do with those 40 Cosmos plants that you have when you really only need 4?  Most gardeners, myself included, always sow too many seeds and end up with more plants than they want.  However, this doesn’t have to be  a problem or a waste, you could sell them(locally or online) and recoup the cost of the seeds and the compost, you could give them to friends or you could do something really exciting like organise a plant swap day.  From my experience gardeners are the most generous, well-balanced and giving people that you can meet.  Maybe it is something to do with being in sync with nature and the seasons, being outdoors with the birds, bees and butterflies – who knows?  Meeting like-minded gardeners gives you access to  a wealth of knowledge and experience, most gardeners will willingly give you advice of what works best and best of all you will make new friends.

Growing plants from seeds is also a very good activity to do with your children, they are learning, they’re not sat in front of the television or a computer game and most importantly it’s quality time shared.  The excitement and wonder on the faces of children when their first seeds germinate or when they pick the first tomato that they have grown is wonderful and teaches children where their food comes from.  Let’s face it the world needs more gardeners, it’s not an occupation that pays well unless you are a garden designer but it does help children to grow up knowing about nature and where food comes from and hopefully create a future generation with a better life balance.

Here at the Moosbach Garden we have Sweet Peas (pictured above), Cosmos Sensation, Delphiniums, Alyssum, Aubretia, Lavender and Salvia seedlings developing.


These are Delphinium seedlings (Darling Sue), you’ll notice that they have their first pair of leaves, these are referred to as seed leaves.  Seed leaves are the first to appear when the seed germinates and these allow the plant to photosynthesise, producing energy for root and plant development.  Shortly after this true leaves will appear that are characteristic of the plant.  I’ve started using these individual soil pods as there is less root disturbance when you pot them on, it’s more expensive than using a bag of compost but it works for me.


These Cosmos Sensation seedlings look a little scrawny but in a few weeks they will be healthy, vigorous plants.  These grow to about 5 feet tall and if planted in a group look absolutely stunning. Just remember to keep deadheading the spent flowers and you’ll have flowers until the first frost.


Above, Cosmos Sensation in the top garden, planted in a group.  The picture at the top of this page shows sweet pea seedlings, you’ll notice that they look quite leggy. Once 2 sets of true leaves have been produced you should nip out the tip of the seedlings and this will encourage the plant to produce more side shoots near the base of the plant.  This results in a bushier looking plant which is more visually pleasing and ultimately will produce more flowers.

You can easily grow stunningly beautiful delphiniums like this in colours and varieties that you won’t generally find at a garden centre and these will reward you year after year with their beautiful flowers.

If you want to buy fantastic Delphinium seeds you can order them here or we will have some plants available to buy at the Moosbach Garden in early summer.

For an excellent selection of flower and vegetable seeds click here.

Don’t forget you can also collect seeds from the plants in your garden, store them over winter and sow them next year.

Happy gardening!

Looking ahead to the next gardening year

Once the garden has been put to bed and the weather makes it difficult to work the soil is a perfect time to reflect on the year that was . I think that every gardener from the novice to the professional has successes and failures and this is the challenge and the joy of gardening.  The measure of a good gardener is the ability to provide colour and interest in the garden for as long as possible and this can take many years, if not a lifetime, to get right.  Gertrude Jekyll took photographs of her garden at various stages in the year so that she could review what worked well and what needed changing, the key is being able to step back and view your work with a critical eye.  Here in the Moosbach garden we’ve had quite a good garden year with colour and interest from May through to early November, however, there are things that we’ve not got right. The garden at Moosbach is really only 2 years old, the soil is heavy clay and we have a huge problem with ground elder.

My biggest failing as a gardener (I have many) is that when I create a new flower bed I want to cram it full of plants so that it looks glorious in the summer, this is fine in the first year but as a dear friend of mine Wolfgang always tells me, “a garden takes time” and of course he is right.  The top garden which was in its second year this summer did look beautiful with swathes of tall delphiniums, lupins, oriental poppies, Verbena bonariesis, Celphalaria Gigantica, lavender and phlox.  The only problem for me was that some of the flowers, although stunning in their own right, were lost in the crowd, sometimes less is more. So, I have to accept that something must be done, positive action must be taken. For me it’s not a failure but rather a natural organic development of the garden.  We have areas of the garden that we want to be wild with large patches of Delphiniums and phlox which sway in the summer breeze but there are areas of the garden that we want to be classic and beautiful.  The top garden for me should be classic, the lower bed which is about 3 feet below the lawn already has an edging of lavender and across the flat long lawn is a row of strongly scented David Austin climbing roses creating a long fairly narrow walkway to the stone bench that Thomas made.  Roses and lavender are a classic combination but the roses that I plant with these should not be too large, shrub roses from the David Austin Fragrant Rose Collection will be perfect companions for the lavender and provide a contrast in height and form to the climbing roses on the other side of the path.  There are some peonies in this bed but these can stay as they are good plants to combine with roses.

We have started selling David Austin roses and this bed will hopefully be a show piece to enable visitors see how wonderful David Austin roses are (I’m already convinced).  We have them available on our main website www.moosbach-schwarzwald.com to reserve for collection or delivery at the end of February.  For me, roses, like a garden, need a little time to settle in and find their feet.  We have a Gertrude Jekyll rose which is strongly perfumed but it’s taken 2 years to settle, in the first year the perfume wasn’t anything special but in the second year it was amazing. I think in the first year they are producing new roots and their energy seems to go into this, once they are done with this its time to produce beautiful knock your socks off blooms that will amaze you with their beauty and perfume.  I think it’s worth the wait.

So you can see that there is plenty of work to do here moving perennials that have outgrown their space in the top garden, splitting some to produce new vigorous plants and planting roses so that they have settled in nicely for the spring. Time and thought, however, must also be given to plants that must be grown from seed for next year and I like to get an early start with seed sowing so that plants are really ready to take off once they are transplanted outside in May.  I tend to start some seeds off at the beginning of January, especially Delphiniums and sweet peas.

If you want to grow your own delphiniums from seed I will be producing a guide with photographs on growing delphiniums and it really is worth the effort but it can be a tricky business.  I buy my seeds from a specialist Delphinium grower and I would recommend this if you want really stunning plants and named varieties.  Take a look at www.larkspur-nursery.co.uk, you’ll find great photographs of all the different varieties and the seeds are not expensive.

For me, this process of reviewing what worked well, what needs changing and planning new features helps to keep me engaged with the garden and this is something that I simply don’t have the time for in the Summer when there is too much physical work to be done.  There was snow here this morning but I still have plenty of work to do outside, primarily planting new roses and magnolia trees, raking up leaves to make leaf mould compost and applying a good covering of well-rotted horse manure to the garden to improve the soil composition. Happy Gardening!