Germany 2013 - Part 3
The 2013 Meeting of the International Clematis Society in Germany
This is the third of my informal reports about the visit by the Society to Germany in June/July 2013. A comprehensive set of reports by attendees will be published in Clematis International 2014.
Our itinerary was based around three centres, Würzburg, Stuttgart and Ulm. This report includes the "House of Good Things", a garden of very good cakes (and the plants were pretty good as well), a nursery that was possibly crazier than the display garden of Klaus Körber, an unexpected visit to two private gardens and the tallest church in the world!
To read the first of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 1, for the second of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 2 and for the fourth of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 4.
Thursday 4th July
Perhaps it is something to do with Ludwigsburg but it was another wet morning as we put all our luggage on the coach and then ourselves, for the short journey to the outskirts of Stuttgart and the shopping emporium of Dieter Henzler, "The House of Good Things". You may think my description is a little grand, but so is the "shop". It contains a cornucopia of objects for the garden, the gardener, the house and most other places as well.
You enter via a courtyard lined with pots and plants. Off on one side is another area with garden statues and ornaments, on the other is an open barn with hanging baskets, bamboo poles and plant supports. Around another corner are more ornaments and some garden furniture. Everywhere there are objects arranged in small scenarios, dotted with plants both small and large. There are some very classic objects and some very modern, so I defy anyone not to find something they'd like to take home with them, if they could transport it.
Inside the main building is divided into a number of rooms, each with a different theme, from cloths, home furnishing, garden tools, books, house furniture, home decorating, even things to eat. There are many famous - and often quite expensive - brands, but there are also other very pricey objects. Unfortunately the weather discouraged much searching outside, though a few of us peeked out on to the roof terrace, with a selection of garden furniture. As well as this shop, Dieter Henzler runs the company Mack Bio Agrar, which specialises in biological treatments for plants. Due to the size of our group and the lack of space in "The House of Good Things", we reboarded our coach to drive to the Hohenheim University and Park where a couple of rooms had been allocated to us for a short presentation - Herr Henzler in German, Frau Haas in English - about the philosophy behind the Mack Bio Agrar products and the specific characteristics of a selection. The principle behind them all is to improve the balance between various characteristics of a plant and so improve its health, and all this starts with the root system. Fortunately it had just about stopped raining for us to walk the short distance to the Hohenheim Park and Arboretum and the sheds and barn where lunch was being prepared. Today it was a "bus driver lunch" and it was soon obvious why it was called this. Helped by Klaus Körber's partner, Ewa, our coach driver, Tomas, was simmering sausages in water to heat them up before putting them in a roll with tomato and mozzarella slices and mustard. With a sausage in a roll in one hand and a beer in the other, what more could you ask for. It may have been simple but it was very tasty, and empty plates testified to this being a fairly universal comment. Well done and thank you, Tomas and Ewa.
After lunch there was the opportunity to purchase a selection of the Mack Bio Agrar products. It will be interesting to get feedback from members as to how successful or otherwise they are. Interestingly, Klaus Kölle said that he uses some of their products in his Production Nurseries, though I don't know which.
We were finishing off lunch when I heard a few animated voices. Walking over to a rather striking red bush (I'm sure someone can identify it,, but not I!) I saw what the fuss was about. Macroglossum stellatarum, known as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, was hovering very close to the flowers to drink nectar. I've never seen this before and was quite amazed the way it hovered virtually motionless relative to the flower that it was drinking from, in spite of the breeze. Fortunately it had stopped raining as we set off in two groups for a conducted tour of the Park and Arboretum. It's quite large, over 30 hectares in total though that includes the Park, the Palace Gardens and the Arboretum and it's a bit difficult to know where one finishes and the other starts. Normally one should allow up to three hours to see it all, so our one hour could only take in a few key features. After an initial briefing we set off at a fairly fast pace, stopping every now and then to hear about some of the most significant trees in the arboretum, as well as other interesting (and possibly more photogenic) plants such as the group of palms and the gunnera shown below. C. potaninii var. fargesii
From the Botanic Garden we climbed the hill to the look-out point of the Monopteros, a single ring of columns supporting a circular roof. From here you get a good view across the Park and Palace Gardens, and just how big they are.
Given the limited time we had our guide was keen to show us the Botanic Garden area where they had some clematis. Not very many but at least they had some. They were primarily species and we were also able to point out a couple of wrongly named specimens.
But as I've already said, we had limited time and by now it was up, we needed to get back on the bus for the short drive to the private garden of Gisela and Walter Stäbler.
On arrival there was little to denote what we were to find behind the house. Perhaps the low growing plants, above the doorway and extending to across the garage roof, were a bit of a clue, and the couple of clematis, a montana by the door and another climbing up an old tree stump, were also an indication of more to come. But nothing could have prepared us for what was waiting around the corner.
We walked around the corner of the house and there laid out was one of the most surprising and fantastic gardens. It's impossible to describe, or even summarise, in one sentence, so I will feature aspects of it that caught my eye as we spent a wonderful - and fortunately dry and sunny - afternoon. In fact it all started as we walked along the path in front of the building. In the thin strip between the path and the road was a beautiful Japanese-influenced pond, with lantern, moss covered stone an impressive clump of bamboo and very clever planting such that one was virtually unaware of the nearby traffic. It was very cool and calming and during the afternoon I wandered back to enjoy a few minutes of peace, quiet and solitude. One of the larger features in the rear garden was the pond, edged in stones, with various statues and other garden ornaments around as well as lots of plants, in and out of the water.
As you look around the garden one started to realise how Walter and Gisela used all manner of objects as plant supports, from growing shrubs and trees, the trunks of dead trees, pieces of tree trunk or driftwood pushed into the ground, in fact just about anything that would stand and provide something for clematis to hang on to.
Their garden is actually quite large for as well as the ground to the rear of the house, and narrow strips either side, and the very narrow strip along the front, they also have a large extra area adjoining the bottom right corner of the garden. In this area they raise plants for their garden design business, with polytunnels and raised beds as well as rows of plants in the ground and quite a few pots. However even here there are clematis running along the wire mesh fencing and up over tree stumps.
Although they have a large garden and an extra area for plant cultivation, this was obviously not sufficient for Gisela and Walter as they have also constructed a "green roof" on their garage, very eco-friendly. Accessed from their apartment, the roof is covered with low growing heathers, sedums and other similar plants. There is even a small pond up there.
Almost as soon as we arrived, "Kaffee und Kuchen" was served and immediately a queue built up as the word went around about the cakes on offer, and that unless you got in quick, you might miss out on the best. Nonsense of course as there were plenty for everyone and they were all absolutely exquisite. Made by Gisela and some of her friends, there was something to please everyone. I defy you to look on these pictures and not feel your mouth watering with anticipation!
Our visit was nearing its end as we had more than a one hour drive to our hotel near Ulm, but there was just time to use the opportunity of good weather and a handy balcony for a group photo.
Friday 5th July
It was a slightly overcast morning for the relatively short but interesting drive - at one point I thought we'd end up in a field - to the Gaissmayer Nursery. Noted especially for perennials, Gaissmayer also has a reputation for somewhat out of the ordinary displays and garden sculptures.
The nursery and display gardens are large and there is also a new Garden Museum. We split into two groups and took turns being guided around the museum. It contains a quite fascinating collection of all sorts of old gardening memorabilia - beautiful wooden seed displays and cabinets, some old packets of seeds, tools, equipment, posters and a few objects which we took turns in guessing their usage.
From what I remember, the "show-like" metal devices are for helping put long bean-poles into the ground. The pot holder is for use to pick up pots on the far side of a greenhouse shelf.
Although the museum is very new, in fact this year was the first year of opening, it is well worth a visit. If the collection expands over the next few years it will develop into a major historic gardening resource.
Given the size of our group, guided tours of the display garden would not have worked so we wandered off in various directions to see what we could find. Almost immediately we came across the first of many garden "sculptures", a lot of which were constructed from common household and garden items, though a few had been carved or made specifically. The use of watering cans was a particular favourite of mine, walking under the arch one just hoped they were empty. There were a few clematis around but the majority of the plants were perennials.
The display garden is large but divided up into areas of a more manageable size. Throughout the garden it was quite impressive how all the plants were labelled, no doubt to help customers select their future purchases.
The nursery complex divides into display garden, working nursery, sales areas and visitor centre/café/museum, with a few small gardens dotted around the perimeter, and we were free to go just about anywhere.
Next to the display garden is one of the sales areas, with available plants neatly laid out and very inviting. Whilst the first impression of the Gaissmayer Nursery is one of chaos, it is rapidly apparent that, to coin a phrase, "there is method in the madness". Everything is actually neatly organised and in its proper place. Peering into one of the polytunnels confirms this theory, also obvious as one scans the open beds.
But there is the element of fun everywhere, even in the little vehicles that carry plants from one part of the nursery to another. This one above was called "Cherry"!
I finish the Gaissmayer Nursery with a selection of other aspects. The picture here on the left looks like a typical corner where old equipment has been dumped, but no, this is the "iron corner". I wonder whether the old Mercedes still works? Nearby were some small gardens, possibly designed for past exhibitions. Once again, watering cans features prominently in one, in a line in one and hanging from some bamboo scaffolding in another.
I absolutely loved this dolphin sculpture, so simple, so graceful and yet so clever in bright stainless steel and leaping through a rusted steel hoop.
A nice facility was this old pigeon house, converted into a free gardening library and very well stocked with books on a wide variety of horticultural subjects. It's such a good idea, letting people read up about plants they may be wondering whether to purchase.
And finally, what would you do with an old gas cylinder? Dieter Gaissmayer cuts a hole in the side (very artistically, with cut-out flames), adds small feet and makes an outdoor heater. To me there was something rather ironic in turning a gas cylinder, once used for running an outdoor heater, into THE heater itself.
Dieter Gaissmayer certainly has an eye for planting and a "mischievous" temperament for fun in the garden, but also runs a very neat and tidy nursery that invites one to come away with more plants than perhaps one intended. We thank him for a very good visit.
Friday afternoon and we had two private gardens to visit in the village of Apfeldorf, virtually opposite each other. Neither garden was very large so we split into two groups. I will start with the garden of Herr and Frau Hefele. A plaque on the wall said that originally the parents of Frau Hefele had built a wooden house here in 1934, where Herr Schopp also had a workshop for his watchmaking business.
They actually have two gardens, one around their house, the other across the road where, so I believe, there used to be a garage. The ground in the garage garden contains a lot of gravel and apparently clematis don't do very well here.
The Hefele gardens are not show gardens but they are where Frau and Herr Hefele spend much time and give a lot of "tender loving care" to their plants. And they had some very nice plants, including quite a number of clematis and a lot of vegetables and fruit in the garden that surrounds their house.
In both gardens you need to stand and just look around to start to see exactly what is growing, as initially many plants are obscured by others. But gradually the picture emerges and you realise there is a lot more to both these two gardens than you first thought.
I'm sure this contented cat is thinking exactly the same!
The other garden belonged to the Family Schmid. It's a larger property with a garden to match. Our eyes were first caught by this magnificent tangutica, C. 'Lambton Park', trained on the side of the house. It not only likes this position, it must be a very strong grower as when you looked around the paving, there were lots of seedlings growing merrily. I suspect the Schmids are not quite so amused by this hardiness. However they obviously like their tanguticas because just round the corner was another, this one C. 'Aureolin'. Yet again a very strong grower but here it has the space to thrive. As you can see there is not much difference, if any, between the two flowers which led to a discussion as to whether these were actually the same plant. Their garden consists of a number of beds made in a lawn together with flowerbeds around the garden edge. It's almost as though they keep running out of somewhere to put more plants so they make another bed. All very attractively done and beautifully maintained, with a mix of flowers, shrubs, vegetables and fruit.
They also had quite a number of clematis (as well as the tanguticas that greet you), including a very striking C. 'Maria Louise Jensen' (below left) and C. 'Pafar' PATRICIA ANN FRETWELL (below right).
The original draft itinerary had included these two gardens, but they had then been removed due to the long travel time, much to the disappointment of both families. However, due to flooding, the garden that had replaced them could not now be visited, so they were reinstated.
Klaus Körber said that when he contacted them to see if a visit as such short notice (two weeks!) would be possible they were delighted. So we were very pleased to thank them both with a little memento of our visit.
We still had one more visit before returning to our hotel for dinner. We were very close to the city of Ulm, which is noted for its Lutheran church, the Ulmer Münster, the tallest church in the world. The steeple stand 161.5 metres high and 768 steps take you to the highest viewing point within it. Being so close, it was silly not to make a short stop to take a quick look. A few of us also took the opportunity for an ice-cream, very welcome on what had turned out a hot and sunny afternoon. Our driver for the whole of the week, Tomas, had to leave us this evening. He had great driver, manoeuvring our large coach down narrow lanes without any hesitation, as well as joining in with the group, and even cooking us lunch. He well deserved the round of applause he received from the group.
Throughout today we had been joined by Wim Snoeijer of the Netherlands. Wim had driven down from the van Zoest clematis nursery where he works as their Clematis Breeder with a vanload of clematis cut flowers for the flower arrangers at Unterliezheim, so was able to be with us during the day and gave a very interesting talk after dinner, though not before we'd gone outside to the hotel patio to enjoy the setting sun.
Next month will be the fourth and last of my reports on Germany 2013, covering the Unterliezheim Rose and Clematis Show with flower arranging the like of which I doubt you've seen before, the gala dinner and a few other things from throughout the meeting. I'm sure you will enjoy it.
To read my first report covering the our initial time in Erlabrunn please visit Germany 2013 - Part 1. For the second of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 2 and for my fourth and last report, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 4.
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