Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!

The Christmas spirit came late to our house this year, but now it finally has arrived! Here are a few scenes from my Christmas decoration. I wanted it to be plain and simple, a little bit like the Nordic Style.

I didn't buy anything new this year, but made use of what I already had, which I consider a good thing. The decorated silver plated plate will be our center piece for the Christmas dinner table tomorrow.

When I was decorating I realized that each of the items holds a story and wonderful memories for me. This little bell for example was used by my parents each Christmas when I was a child at the time when the unwrapping of the Christmas presents was due on Christmas Eve. They locked me out of the living room where the Christmas tree was already lit and my mom was secretly putting the presents for the whole family under the tree. Then she rang the bell (which I couldn't see, but only hear) and said that Santa Claus was here, brought presents for all of us, and rang the bell as he left. After that I was allowed to come into the living room and mom, dad and I all unwrapped our presents alternating. You can imagine the excitement that I felt each year when I heard the bell ring. Of course, this little bell is still very dear to me and my husband and I started our own new tradition and ring it before we begin our Christmas dinner.

Here is a detail shot of the metal cone. It is from Berlin, Germany where my husband and I lived a long time. You put a simple tea light under it and voila, Christmas atmosphere.

I love the white flowers made out of biscuit porcelain. They are so delicate. I got them from a wonderful florist shop, which was part of an exquisite nursery in the Bay Area, close by San Francisco, where we lived some years ago.

The candle holders are made for Christmas trees, but I decided to clip them to the plate. It works like a charm.

The photo above shows our fireplace mantle this year.

The Christmas angels are originally elves, but I think for Christmas I get away with re-purposing them as angels.

The other elf/angel can even fly, if you tie a ribbon to the little hook between her wings.

 This cast iron planter is a well loved flea market find from many years ago.

If you want to see more Christmas photos from the previous two years at our place please click here:

Christmas 2012
Christmas 2011

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays wherever you are and however you celebrate! I hope you spend some wonderful, joyous, quiet, and peaceful days surrounded by your loved ones!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mottisfont Abbey - a Rose Lover's Paradise - I

Christmas is already near and to honor this special time of the year I thought what I could post about, that would be truly outstanding. Then it became clear: A series of posts about the Rose Gardens of Mottisfont Abbey, located in Romsey, Hampshire, United Kingdom. I hope that all of my readers will enjoy this series, but I have to admit that it is particularly catering to the passionate rose lovers as I intend to not only show beautiful photos of roses, other plants, and garden scenes, but also want to present many varieties of the Old Garden Roses that this garden is known for. Mottisfont Abbey is holding the treasured Old Garden Roses collection that the famous rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas put together and tried to preserve for the future in this garden.

My husband and I had the great pleasure to visit this world famous garden for the second time in June this year. Last year we went there as well, but to my great disappointment due to an unusual cold spring most of the roses were not in bloom, yet. This time we got lucky and saw the gardens around the peak of the spring flush of the roses and to say it was breathtaking is an understatement. For me it is an outstanding rose garden of incomparable and indescribable beauty. Please join me for a tour and judge for yourself.

Let's start with the house. Even though we came to Mottisfont Abbey because of its Old Garden Roses collection, there is the historic abbey and an ancient park landscape with many majestic trees to explore as well. We didn't visit the abbey, since I was too eager to get to the roses and just had a brief peak into the park, which I think is very worth seeing, too.

This was a humongous and very ancient platane, which was located close by the house (on the right side of it) and the outside area where tea was served. Even though my photo doesn't show it well, it is so tall you can't miss it.

We visited the garden on our last day before we had to fly home. Therefore we first had to pack everything that morning, store the luggage in the car, and then drive two hours to Mottisfont Abbey. You can imagine we were a little bit exhausted from that when we arrived there, so we thought to have tea and cake first and recuperate before we went to look at the rose gardens. We were lucky to get the best outdoor table (the empty one to the right, that you can see on the photo), which I snatched up immediately after I took the shot. That was a promising start!

We didn't see too much of the park, but besides wonderful specimen trees it contained some very ornate and beautiful statuary that you often find in the UK and that I love so much.

But after looking at the back of the house I was too antsy to do a leisure walk through the park. I wanted to see the roses. By the way, do you recognize the person in front of the house? It was a gardener, who was cutting the grass on the edge of a bed with a scissor that was mounted to a lopper-like tool. I only have seen such attention to detail in England. Just wonderful!

Detail on the lead glass windows of the house.

Going back to the front of the house we still had seen only the rose above, which I couldn't find a name tag off, so we were wondering where are the roses?

You needed to walk up to the rose gardens, which were located in a completely walled garden area a little bit further away from the abbey but then the roses came and didn't stop coming for hours. The photo above shows a well trained 'Kathleen Harrop', a light pink almost thornless Bourbon rose, which was planted close to the restrooms. It amazed and delighted me that they even "dressed up" the restrooms so nicely. 

The photo above shows the very beautiful, generously filled, cupped-shaped, blooms of 'Teasing Georgia', a shrub rose, bred by David Austin (United Kingdom, 1988).

Many of the roses were labeled and I took photos of the roses and the adjacent label whenever possible and for this post I tried my best to name the roses correctly, so that you can identify them and maybe get your favorites for your own garden, but, of course, mistakes are always possible.

Here is the rose in full size. Again, beautifully trained on the old brick wall. The rose garden was divided in three sections and in the very first, which you enter, you still find some modern roses, like this David Austin rose.

As I said already the rose garden is surrounded by brick walls and the three different sections are also divided by them and each wall is used to train climbing roses on it. The effect is just very romantic and charming as you can see in this shot of a section of a large rose bed.

The rose in the middle on the standard is 'Albertine', a Hybrid Wichura rose, which is usually seen as climber. Hard to believe that it is that small when grown as a standard.

And here is a close-up of the delicate shell pink blooms of 'Albertine'.

Another particularly beautiful scene from the long rose border. I believe the white rose in the middle is 'Alberic Barbier', bred by Barbier Feres & Compagnie (France, 1900), another Hybrid Wichura rose.

Same 'Alberic Barbier' rose, but photographed from the other side. I really appreciate that in Mottisfont Abbey the roses were combined with lots of lovely perennials and even annuals and bulbs. Some rose purists insist, that you need to grow roses by themselves, which I admittedly don't like so much, and I feel Mottisfont Abbey Rose Gardens proves them all wrong.

I was quite surprised when I first saw 'Mme. Lombard', a Tea rose bred by Francois Lacharme (France, 1878). I hadn't expect that they could grow Tea roses in the Mottisfont Abbey Rose Gardens, but apparently the walled garden provide quite some protection for the roses that even the very tender ones survive there.

Tea rose flowers always appear to be especially elegant, but I know some people don't appreciate the way the blooms look. The great thing with roses is that there are so many out there, that everyone can find a rose that he/she loves.

Besides the wonderful roses you could admire a seemingly endless array of perennials, annuls, and bulbs that were particularly suited to be rose companions. Here I especially love the white foxglove. I simply can't get enough of looking at the gorgeously planted borders. So much to be inspired by and plenty of ideas to take home for the own garden.

Unfortunately the perennials weren't labeled. That is probably asking for too much and also so many labels would distract from the beauty of the plants. After all this is not a botanical garden. Still I would love to know the name of this one. If any of you dear readers know, could you please leave a comment?

I couldn't figure out what the name is of that very dark red climbing rose, but the color certainly stops you in your tracks.

I also loved this white flowering plant, but don't know what it is. Any knowledgeable readers out there?

Another standard of 'Albertine'. This one seems to do much better than the one that I showed further above in this post.

I don't know that exact name of the variety, but I am pretty sure that it is some type of low growing catmint. I think that catmint is a truly wonderful companion plant to roses and started to grow some in my own garden. It seems to do well in my garden in Southern California, too.

A beautiful soft yellow climber that I don't know the name of. Sorry!

The pink climber with the lavender tint took my breath away. Another one where sadly I couldn't find a label.

Here is a close-up of the blooms of the pink climbing rose from the previous photo. The flower shape of the roses just makes me swoon.

The last picture in this post features 'Moonlight', a cream Hybrid Musk Rose with delightful yellow stamens bred by Pemberton (United Kingdom, 1913). I don't know what the pink one is, though.

As initially said, I will follow-up with more posts about the Rose Gardens of Mottisfont Abbey. Maybe not all in a row, but interspersed with posts about other topics. So if you liked this one, please come back and visit again, soon.

Wishing all of you, who celebrate it, a wonderful third Advent weekend!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sometimes it is About the Little Things...

...in life and in the garden as well. Even though big tasks like pruning, fertilizing, and mulching all the roses and the unavoidable general autumn garden clean up are hovering over me, I decided to have some fun first and also get some instant gratification by doing some small things that do have a big visual impact.

This bed for example really could need a little something, don't you think? There is a lot of shade in the autumn and winter and it certainly looks gloomy at this time of the year. So I decided to plant a few small annuals to lighten up the space there. That is easier said then done in this area though, since it is packed with palm roots.

My gardener needed one and a half hour to dig six holes of a diameter one foot x one foot and one foot deep, and I assure you he wasn't killing time.

I was so happy when he was done and I finally could plant the six primula obconica 'Libre White' that I had bought recently just because I thought they were so pretty, but hadn't had a clue where to put them. They look so fresh and cheerful with their fresh green leaves.

I think the primulas are just perfect for this areas. Big difference before and after, don't you agree?

The bed to the left side of the front door also screamed bonjour tristesse and I wanted to do something about it. I thought that it needed a pop of color and how is that easier to achieve in autumn than by placing a container. 

I suddenly remembered that I had one more nicely shaped blue container in the garage and to my own surprise I found it immediately. But I hadn't had the right plant to go with it. So off I went to the nursery (not that I ever mind)...

...and found this beautiful cyclamen. Don't ask me about the name of the variety. It wasn't labeled. It really bugs me that not only big box stores don't label the plants properly, but nurseries do that as well nowadays.

Anyway, I popped it into my blue container and it turned out to be the perfect match.

I was even more pleased when I positioned the container in the bed. It has the right size, the right proportions, and it really added some needed interest to this bed. 

When I was at the nursery these two containers caught my attention. I loved the form...

... and they came with little cute feet. So I just couldn't say no to them. 

I had the two perfect plants just waiting in my pot ghetto for the new blue containers. A zonal geranium, sorry the plant wasn't labeled as well, and a bacopa 'Scopia Gulliver White'.

I plopped the newly bought and planted containers right by the walkway to the front door and really liked the result. The blue glaze of the containers is fitting perfectly with the two blue spheres that I have there for quite a while now.

Here is one close-up of the bacopa 'Scopia Gulliver White'. The blooms seem to be decidedly bigger compared to regular bacopas. I hope in time it will trail more over the edge of the container and have a bigger impact.

I promised to show you the containers that I planted a little while ago and positioned close to our front door in a previous post. Here they are! I really like the color that they add to this otherwise plain area. I had some doubts if the geranium would bloom through the autumn and winter here, but so far so good. It has made new flower stalks.

Lastly here is one more blue container with another zonal geranium that I placed on the pillar of our decorative wall. I think it makes this area so much more lively.

For me the little changes that I made are so worth it. It wasn't all that much work, but in my eyes they truly transformed certain areas in my garden.

What are little changes that you made, which led to big improvements in your garden? I am curious to know and maybe learn something new that I can make use of in my own small space.

Wishing all of you who celebrate it a happy Christmas season!

See you in the garden!