The Rose island at Feldafing, Starnberger See

We left at 9.00 in the morning to catch the cool air for hiking, as it was pretty humid and a hint of thunderstorms approaching from the west, i.e. France and the Atlantic, which is our usual weather direction in Central Europe, the others being the British Isles, Russia and even Sahara dust storms across the Mediterranean.

Taking the train S6 from any one of the central stations of the Stammstrecke, you are whisked down south to the Lake Starnberg. We got off at Possenhofen, next to the Sissi Museum. Sissi, the pet name of Elisabeth who married Emperor Franz from Austria, loved this area. She went for walks, horse riding, boating and other pastimes. You may know the movie with Romy Schneider, which consolidated her fame as an actress. There is also a Castle Possenhofen, but it is private property. You can peek into the garden and watch the fountain, but not visit.

We walked down the steep hill past the youth hostel to the expansive lake. Many are the spots that bathers use to climb into the cool water and swim among the fish. Some are grassy, some pebbly, some steep and some flat. In between you will see stand-up paddlers and farther on there are small and large marinas full of boats covered with tarpaulins.

After about half an hour we reached Feldafing (also a train station) and bought tickets for the ferry (€4). The tall, muscular young man pulled out the metal ramp, let us climb aboard and told us the history of the Rose Island. In prehistoric times there were Pfahlbauten, lake dwellings built upon stilts, dated to about 3700 B.C. Meanwhile they are covered by silt and mud, as are the ceramic jugs and other items. Signs and ropes indicate the area that must not be touched. They are now inscribed in the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites of the UNESCO.

King Maximilian II of Bavaria acquired the island and had Peter J. Lenné design the villa and the rose gardens in the 1850s. Later, his son Ludwig II would entertain his friends there such Empress Sissi of Austria, Richard Wagner and the Zarin Maria Alexandrowna. The single building on the tiny Rose island, the “Casino”, can only be visited with a tour guide, every hour on weekdays and every half an hour on weekends, beginning at 12.15 (€3,50). It is advisable to reserve your tickets beforehand, otherwise bus groups will have gotten ahead of you and you’d have to wait several hours or go back. Young couples make reservations for the Gartensaal for their wedding (max. 30 p.)

The gardener lives in another small house with a tiny museum. The roses, cultivated since the 1860s, have nice smells, many white and pink and red ones, with benches and trellises all around. June is the best time to visit. Some trees, beech and thuja, are extremely old and worth looking at.

When you arrive at the Glockensteg of the Lenné Park again, do stop in at the Strandbad restaurant and savor one of their home cooked meals with fresh potatoes from the farm. Then you can don your bathing suit and hop in the cool lake!

Wrap a Wreath of W(hite)Roses

This is for fun when you have nothing else to do for 10 – 15 minutes and feel like a quick-fix for your home and / or garden. The only prerequisite is abundant creativity and a few cheap items which can be found in any sizeable garden.

Start out with a ring. Mine is metal with holders (cf. infra) which I found at a crafts fair, but you can just as well use a sturdy styrofoam ring, a ring of straw bound with raffia, willow branches bound with string, anything you can use as a base. I like the metal ring for the sake of its being stainless steel (rostfrei und unkaputtbar, ca. €16) and endlessly re-usable. I redo my wreath every couple of weeks.

The first layer is long supple green branches. Here I have used cherry laurel or Kirschlorbeer (prunus laurocerasus). Lay one branch end to end with the next, slightly overlapping the ends. Start at one point (12 o’clock) and work your way around clockwise. If you don’t have holders like my ring, simply wrap some raffia or string around your base.

The second layer can be from the same plant or a different one. Since I was clipping overhanging branches, I had yew or Eibe (taxus). Start at 12 o’clock again and overlap the branches. Take the younger, supple ones and cut away anything that is in your way. Now your base should be green.

In the photo on the left you can see the green leafy base. In the photo on the right is an example of what the wreath can look like when placing an artificial rose wreath on top. Personally I prefer fresh flowers, which I have in abundance, but they dry up so quickly. That would entail replacing them every day (alas, no time!). I have also tried the florists’ trick with the little tube vases of water tucked inside the branches. It goes without saying that this variant also takes time and patience and flowers that will last.

My quick-fix is mixing fresh green leaves and single artificial flowers (cf. photo in the middle). I have different color schemes according to the season or holidays, for Easter I am more into yellow and orange with ‘forsythia’ and ‘daffodils’. Now in June with the high temperatures, I opted for white ‘freesias’ and blue ‘hyacinths’.

As before, start with the longer stems, always tucking them in clockwise fashion, then the shorter stems and finally the short stems with the largest blooms,  in this case large white ‘roses’.

I like adding little ribbons in matching colors pinched in the middle with wire. The wires wrap around the branches, helping to hold down any stray ends and slipping stems.

The final touch is wrapping longer lengths of ribbons in different widths and colors and tying a big bow,  a little off-center for the best effect.

The raffia to hang the wreath on the wall with has an extra knot every ten cm / four inches. If the wreath has to switch spots, then I can hang it at different heights depending on the wall –  or simply hang it out of the way. Laying it on a large platter and putting candles all around or in the middle is another way to use your wreath.

Wishing you fun with your wreath!

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