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Friday, July 25, 2008

Germany, The beginning...

For those of you who are new here, my mom and I just returned from a wonderful two week tour of central and northern Germany (where we have many relatives).

Our first two days were spent in the charming town of Heidelberg. Our intention was to spend two days on our own as our bodies acclimated to the time, weather and food changes. It was a good idea and worked perfectly for us.

This first shot was taken from the castle, overlooking the town and the Neckar River. Our hotel was ideally placed at the left end of the historic pedestrian-only bridge in the center of the photo.
Although we knew there was a botanical garden in Heidelberg, we never made it over to that area but no worries, there was plenty of flowers for us to see. It seemed like everywhere we turned there were balconies just dripping with wonderful annuals.

In most cases the plants were ones that would not survive the summer heat and sporadic droughts here in New York so I imagine it would be the same for most of the USA. The ivy Geraniums in this photo were the number one, most popular plant we saw in all the German cities we visited.

It was hard to decide what to photograph. The storybook-like historic buildings built into the hillsides or the plant material that so gleefully took hold in every possible nook and cranny.

Corydalis lutea was like a weed, it filled the surface of so many stone facades and still had quite a bit of bloom in July.

Walking out of the tourist areas, where the locals lived, we came across balcony after balcony just loaded with blooms. Wisteria was fairly frequent, trained to grow up the sides of the buildings.

Also popular were these Hibiscus syriacus shrubs which were the most amazing shade of lavender blue. Unfortunately I took many shots but my camera just couldn't capture the true depth of color.

It's funny, I see these shrubs all over my neighborhood and yet I always had the feeling from gardeners that they were kind of "junky". Now of course I want one for my garden and I'll have to start shopping around for the right color.

The hotel we stayed at was a total surprise. As we rolled our heavy suitcases along the cobblestone streets, we were exhausted and our first impression when we saw the entrance was "uh oh". It turns out that our impression was totally wrong, the place was total perfection in our experience.

Inside the simple doorway was a cozy courtyard just filled with gemutlichkeit (German for comfort, warmth, ambiance and so on). The owners of this hotel bent over backwards to make sure we were comfortable, even lending us umbrella's as the skies darkened.

The tables in the hotel were all filled with simple arrangements of fruit. We learned quickly that the German people love their fruit and I must say that we ate an abundance of locally grown, organic, freshly picked fruit in every part of Germany that we visited.

Last stop in Heidelberg was the train station, this was just a corner of the bicycle parking lot. Watching all the pedestrians and cyclists, made me wish for a similar lifestyle here on Long Island.

Stay tuned, next stop on our tour is up north in the Hamburg vicinity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stockrosen - Hollyhocks

Stockrosen, Hollyhocks, or Alcea, whatever you call them, they are beautiful. Since I am now back in New York, I'll use the American name of Hollyhocks although I admit that I like the German name of stockrosen (translated as stick-roses).

One of the first individual flowers to catch my eye in Germany were these amazing clumps of Hollyhocks in front of many of the darling postcard cottages.

This top plant was photographed in a large botanical garden in Hanover, more about that garden will follow. Unfortunately, most of the times I saw these Hollyhocks were while we were in a moving car so I don't have photos of some of the most amazing clumps.

Luckily though, my aunt, Tante Inge has a fantastic garden in the tiny, rural village of Krukow (east of Hamburg). This was one of her Hollyhocks, growing against the back of the house.

A few feet further was this darker pink variety. Each plant in the garden was a slightly different shade but always in the pink family. I have to say, I've been totally sold on these beauties and can't wait to have some growing in my own garden!

Any tips from those of you who grow these from seed would be much appreciated.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hello from Germany

Hi all!

A quick hello from me, here in Hofheim, Germany (near Frankfurt).

Our flight home is tomorrow morning and as promised, I've got hundreds and hundreds of photos to share.

The number one favorite flower here of mine are "stockrosen" or Hollyhocks. They are eveywhere you look and just stunning. Hydrangeas are also everywhere in every shade of pink you can imagine.

The weather has been cool and wet but the people warm, wonderful and the food...delicious! I don't dare go on the scale for awhile after eating every possible type of wurst I can get my hands on.

Be back soon!