Forsthaus – A German Woodland Garden

The inspiration for this month’s Garden theme came from one of our own family gardens. The recently acquired home, “Der Forst Haus”, of Phoebe Rohn, Editor of The Montage Collage and owner of Phoebe Rohn Antiques & Interiors, and Jacob Bussman, co-founder and CEO of Seed forward GmbH, in Osnabruck, Germany.

The Forsthaus is made up of a series of buildings that originally comprised a farm on the estate of Dominic Frei Herr Ostman Von der Leye. Over the years, it’s use turned from agriculture to Forestry and then, post World War II, into use as a hunting lodge.

The extensive grounds have mature shrubbery and some formal beds that give it ‘bones’, but the orchard, lawns and swimming pond were overgrown and encumbered by benign neglect. The beds had a mixture of old growth roses, dead boxwood borders and little else. The plantings around the fences, gates and accessory buildings were overgrown and far less floriferous than they should have been, due to years of uncontrolled growth and sprawl.

Phoebe and Jacob have devoted themselves to the work of clearing away the detritus, elevating the trees, rehabilitating the charming swimming pond as well as hours and hours of weeding, pruning and gradually replanting areas of their new garden.

The large lawn that passes along the side of the house was, when the couple first moved in, cut in half by a thicket of elder and blackberry bushes. Opening this up was one of their first priorities, and so, throughout their first winter in the house, the couple spent countless weekends uprooting bushes and fighting with the persistent thorny mats of blackberry vines. “It’s amazing how quickly the forest reclaims things.” Said Phoebe, who’s knuckles still carry blackberry battle scars. Now with the trees elevated and the thicket cleared, the entire property has gained a grand park-like feel, that was missing with the garen so divided. 

The couple have a clear vision for their lifestyle, this informs the priorities for their property. Entertaining family and friends every weekend, combined with Phoebe’s passion for cooking, using organic, home grown produce and fruits, means that the raised bed vegetable garden, berry bushes and orchard require special attention. Jacob’s background in agriculture certainly does inform his contribution to the management of their personal eden. “Every inch of the ground has been thoroughly fertilized!” states Phoebe with enthusiasm and an eye roll. All of the couple’s vegetable seeds have been treated with Seed Forward’s organic bio-stimulant coatings before they are planted.

Jacob’s background also played into the couple’s work at bringing  back the ecological balance of the swimming pond. A long established man made pond, it requires filtration, flow and balance, to keep the water clear and fresh and to minimize the zoological infiltration of water bugs, frogs etc. The combination of introduced probiotics, advantageously placed water plants and a stream like landscape provides a great deal of natural filtration for the nearly 9000 gallon pond. 

Though they have already completed many of the projects on their list, Phoebe and Jacob have seemingly endless ideas for their two and a half acre garden. Next on the list? That depends who you ask! According to Jacob the next project will be a sauna, while Phoebe can’t wait to replace the aluminum and concrete driveway gate with an antique!

Dana Rohn
Dana Rohn

Dana is a fourth generation antiques dealer with more than 35 years experience in the business. Montage Antiques is truly Dana’s brain child. She saw an empty space in Millerton in 2015, and decided to go out on a limb and start a Pop-Up shop there with the aim of combining antiques and arts for the home. She spends every day buying, selling, and cooking up new ideas for Montage, the newest of which is Montage Collage!