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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Germany, Part Three, The Bountiful Garden

To begin my third post on German gardens, I chose this wonderful shot taken while standing in my cousin Ingrid's garden. Ingrid is a popular name in my family and I have an aunt and two cousins with this name. This photo was taking in Ingrid and Egberts garden in Krukow, just down the road from my Tante Inge & Onkel Heinz's charming farmhouse.

Imagine having a view like this every day, pure heaven.

Ingrid and Egbert have a wonderful collection of plant material. A huge assortment of beneficial herbs, a top notch collection of tropical plants that they overwinter in a lovely garden room attached to their house and most importantly, a dazzling array of food plants.

My brother Michael and I were just astounded with the wealth of food that we found in each garden. Michael lives on the West coast in California and I'm on the East coast here in New York but we both had the same impression of this garden. We were just so impressed with the practicality of growing trees, shrubs and plants that look great in the landscape and at the same time offer a bounty of food.

Here you can see one of my favorite snack foods, red currents.

Just in case you don't believe how much I love these little gems, here's another photo :-) It seems I took quite a few photos of red currents, they looked so lovely hanging on the many bushes. The funny thing is I knew for sure I've never seen these in my local gardens. When I came home I did some research and found out that many states have laws against growing, buying or selling the various current bushes.

Thankfully, New York does not have that law and I'd really like to add some to my garden here.

Another favorite were these black currents that are extremely high in Vitamin C. Yesterday I found Black Current juice at a local health food store and I bought a bottle home to try. I'd much rather get my hands on some bushes and plant them in the garden too.

Apple trees were everywhere. Not one kind of apple, many different kinds. If I remember correctly, Ingrid had 5 different varieties in her garden and she told me that it was her favorite snack while she was working outside.

It seems I also took quite a few photos of apples in Germany, none of them show insect damage on the apples and I forgot to ask if they are sprayed at any time during the season.

This year's apple crop was so huge that a whole limb came off a tree while we were at the farm. It was just too heavily loaded with apples for the tree to hold upright.

Today is a "two for one" day with a second garden included. This is my cousin Mirko's garden. Mirko has a "many-hundred" year old farm house along the Elbe river with the most amazing views. I don't know why I don't have a photo of those views, you'll have to take my word for it.

We spend a delightful Sunday afternoon sitting in the rare sunshine having cake and coffee. It doesn't get any better than this. When we arrived we found this charming scene waiting for us, tables loaded with flowers, fresh juice, coffee, and lots and lots of cakes :-)

There are 4 or 5 different buildings on this large expanse of property. Mirko has been restoring the historic buildings and now has several appartments in one of them. There were lots of nooks and crannies in the garden so that different groups of people could enjoy the outdoors and yet have total privacy. They are thinking of eventually opening a Bed and Breakfast on the property for the many cyclists that tour along the river.

I fell in love with this rough and tumble country garden with the distinctive beach chair. While walking around you could see why some areas were left to grow wild. Parts of the ground were quite marshy and wet due to the nearby river.

Right before I took this closing photo a pair of Storks flew over head. Neither Micheal nor I were ready with our camera (phooey).

Here's my mom, my brother Michael (smiling at the camera), Paulo (Mirko's 15 year old son) and just the back of Mirko's head (sorry!). Mmmm, what I wouldn't give for another piece of that delicious cake...

More to come soon, sorry for the long delays between posts. We have been going through some health concerns here and the typical summer crazies.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Germany, Part Two, up North

The third day of our trip to Germany, mom and I spent the day traveling with the ICE Bahn (Germany's fast trains) north to Hamburg. As soon as we arrived at the main station in Hamburg we immediately bought ourselves a bratwurst (one of my all time favorite foods). We continued east on local trains, splitting up so that my mom stayed with her sister Eli in Rhinebeck and I stayed with my cousin Edith in Geestacht.

This opening photo was taken on the balcony at Edith's brand new penthouse home. Edith had just returned from seven weeks in Australia and her newly planted boxwoods show the stress of the heatwave that swept the area while she was away. I can only imagine how lovely she'll have this balcony looking by next year :-)

While this photo is not artistic, I wanted to remember the boxwoods that I saw everywhere, often planted in clay planters like this. While these type of planters do not survive our New York winters, I think I'd like to plant boxwood this way.

Looking straight out over the balcony railing, I couldn't help but be drawn in by the amazing tapestry of evergreen trees in every direction. You would never know that this penthouse was only one block from the town center in Geestacht.

Edith was a wonderful host to me and my brother Michael who arrived two days later. She drove us all over the area, most often, to the tiny town of Krukow where we all had more family.

As a child, my most favorite place in the world was my aunt and uncle's farm in Krukow, just east of Geestacht which is just east of Hamburg. A community of only 250 people, every house looking like a postcard image.

So often when revisiting places as an adult, you find your memory played tricks but not this time. I still would list this town as my utmost favorite place in the world and would love to spend a year of my life living there.

Although we arrived in Hamburg in the evening, Edith drove me straight to the farm where we suprised a whole gathering of aunts, uncles and many cousins.

I credit my Tante Inge and Onkel Heinz for making me the gardener that I am today. The idealic days I spent on their farm as a child I learned organic methods of farming (lots of manure) and the love of the outdoors which imprinted my soul.

This photo is one I will stare at many times in the coming year as it is my aunt standing at her doorway (with two more aunts in the backdrop). See all the boxwoods in the garden, they really were everywhere.

Growing against the doorframe was this stunning passion flower. While the summer temperatures in Germany are generally much cooler than we experience here in the USA, the winters are milder and I was amazed at the plants that overwinter in Germany.

Not to be outdone by other homes, you can imagine what a delight it was to sit under this roof, eating delicious food in the fresh air as a light rain fell just a few feet away from you.

Tante Inge's Clematis were a wonder, everybody had to comment on them.

Tucked into the cracks and crevices of the retaining wall were a wealth of plants. I wish I could share back and forth with my aunt as I know she would love the plants in my little rock garden.

Lots and lots of sempervivum were in the garden, some whole beds were bordered with them. Tante Inge had cut off some of the bloom scapes and was holding them over in a bucket of water. I wonder what kind of craft they will end up in.

A small glass house was chock full of runner beans, tomatoes, salads, and more.

Here you can see the tomatoes in the back of the greenhouse. We had lovely ripe tomatoes to eat with our meals before the tomatoes in my own garden here are even close to turning red.

As a closing shot, I thought I'd include a family pose in case some of my cousins are visiting here. The internet will hopefully bring us all close together as my mom, brother and I are the only branch in the USA.

From left to right is Onkel Heinz, next is my cousin Ellen who lives outside of London (another branch that moved away), I'm the tall one in the suit and at my right is my Tante Inge. This is another photo I will really treasure.

Time to wrap this up, I hear the rumble of thunder coming close and think it's time to close down this post.