April 2013

Hello Everyone

April 2013

So much has happened this month, apart from what is going on in the garden, that instead of calling the newsletter “Four Weddings and a Funeral” it could be “Two Conferences and a Heart Attack.” More later…

A reader asked me where she could get a parasol which featured in a photograph last month. www.parasoul.co.nz

The first half of the month we were still having many visitors to the garden, with everyone enjoying the sunny summer type days with their autumn colours. Over the past few nights we have had a lot of rain, and with sunny days and temperatures reaching 18 – 19 C this week, it is the perfect time to weed, shift plants and generally tidy.

We have a new garage that has been built in the courtyard of the main garage, and yesterday it became clear to me how I would plant around this building. Soft greens and greys will complement the recycled bricks of the garage, which have remnants of mortar, thus giving the garage a slightly grey tone, with the window frames being very pale green. So I think that the plantings I have in mind will look good here. The only flower may be lavender as it is a north facing site, hot and dry with poor soil. Shapes is what I am thinking; pittosporums, Lavendula ‘Gray Lady’, corokia.

Plants I want to write about this month display good autumn colour or complement autumn colour.

Fothergilla major, which prefers slightly acid soil, is a choice plant. Flowering in spring with white bottle brush shaped flowers, it has the most spectacular autumn colour. See photo. A native to the Allegheny Mountains in eastern USA, it is closely related to the witch hazels and was named after John Fothergill, the physician, plant collector and philanthropist. Soon I am going to plant a grouping of Fothergilla major in the woodland area where a large clump of the white flowering Japanese anemone was removed recently. Accompanying the fothergilla will be plants of the oak-leaved Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’. This grouping should provide an attractive glade at the end of the woodland walkway.

Fothergilla gardenii is a plant which has been growing in our woodland for many years. Similar to F. Major, but having smaller leaves and a lower growth habit, this also has outstanding autumn coloured leaves. See Photo 1 by Paul Roper-Gee.The fothergillas can be propagated from layering or suckers.

Schizostylus coccinea (synonum Hesperantha coccinea, has performed very well in our autumn border. Members of the Iris family from South Africa, particularly Zimbabwe, colours range from white, through pinks, apricots and reds. I chose the deep coral red colour which matched exactly the autumn colour of the Trachelospermum jasminoides, or Star Jasmine, which is planted beside it. I wonder if the leaf of the Star Jasmine colours so well further north? Photo 2 of the Star Jasmine. Google Schizostylus coccinea to see the flower, the colour in our garden matching the autumn colour of the Star Jasmine, as seen in the photo.

One of my favourite trees at this time of the year is the Acer griseum, or paper bark maple, from China. They were two of the first trees that I planted in this garden twenty years ago. I was so enthusiastic to have them, that two were planted each side of a pathway. The ground gets quite waterlogged on one side, and as these acers prefer dryish soil, they grew unevenly. Now, with other plantings of trees and shrubs taking up the moisture, and a trench being dug by my husband to move the water away, we have two Acer griseums that are evenly displaying vivacious copper, burnt copper, and rich green colours, particularly when the sun shines.

The added bonus is that A. griseum has rich brown bark which curls and peels throughout the year, giving it the name of the paper bark maple, AND it is wind tolerant. Being a small tree, why not try it if you don’t already have one? It doesn’t have dense foliage so doesn’t give heavy shade for under planting. Ours is limbed up quite a bit so that we can enjoy the peeling bark trunk and limbs. Photo 3 of Acer Griseums each side of the pathway, the lower plants being Viburnum plicatum ‘mariesii’ on the left and another viburnum on the right. Photo by Martin Wilkie.

Nyssa sylvatica‘Autumn Casacade’ is changing to very bright yellow and orange. Planted at the end of the pond, this vibrant autumn coloured pendula form of nyssa is spectacular, and not seen in many gardens. I got mine from Peter Cave many years ago.

Sources for plants: Canterbury people can ask Andrew at the Terra Viva Garden Centre, people in other areas ask your local garden centre if they can get the trees or shrubs, and another good option is Blue Mountain Nurseries in Tapanui. Dennis and Chris Hughes have all sorts of plants that aren’t necessarily listed in the catalogue.

On the first weekend in April I attended the New Zealand Gardens Trust Conference in Dunedin. It was a lively, friendly and informative event, well worth attending. The NZGT is not only open for membership to garden owners whose gardens are open to the public for visiting and have been assessed by the NZGT, but also now offers Associate membership.

The Associate Member category provides an opportunity for those who do not have a garden open to the public to be part of the New Zealand Gardens Trust and enjoy the benefits of being associated with the activities of the organisation.

Associate Members are welcome to attend any conferences, workshops or other events. They will also receive the New Zealand Gardens Trust quarterly newsletters which are distributed electronically. If you want more information about this, do contact me.

IDS Conference: A week later the New Zealand branch of the International Dendrology Society held its Annual Conference in Christchurch. I was one of the organisers and we were thrilled to have a record attendance at the Conference, including members from Australia. As this group had not had a Conference in Christchurch for many years, it was rewarding to receive such positive feedback for the programme which we had arranged.

In the midst of these two Conferences my husband had a heart attack. He is recovering very well and fortunately the weather has been conducive to him being outside lawn mowing, mulching autumn prunings, fixing water pump problems and making a rocking horse for another grandchild. (I mean conducive for him, of course!)
So it really has been a month of “Two Conferences and a Heart Attack”.

A question from me: Has anyone visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Jordan? I would be keen to hear from you if you have.

Our recipe for the month is Quince Cordial and I hope you still have some quinces left to make this cordial.

Quince Cordial

Combine 2 cups of castor sugar and 4 cups of water in a large pot and simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

Wash 1.5 kg of quince thoroughly to remove ‘fur’. Without peeling them, quarter, core and slice thinly.

Place slices in the syrup, adding water if necessary so that the fruit is just covered. Simmer very gently, uncovered, for about 2 hours or until the fruit turns a lovely orange-red.

Place a sieve over a large bowl and pour the contents of the pot into the sieve. Drain thoroughly and allow the syrup to cool completely. (The fruit can be used for desserts, added to muffins or frozen for later use.)

Add the juice of a lemon (or to taste) and then about 400ml of vodka (this ‘preserves’ the syrup). Pour into sterilized bottles and store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.

Pour over ice or serve with mineral water. Also lovely when topped up with a champagne-style sparkling wine.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the length of the newsletter. Is it too short, too long or about the right amount?



About Frensham

Our relaxed country garden started twenty nine years ago. In the early days I had very little gardening experience and no vision for the site, but an interest in plants was quickly developing. Over the years, with much trial and error, a garden has emerged which we and our visitors do enjoy.

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139 Old Tai Tapu Rd, Christchurch 8025, New Zealand
+64 3 3228 061

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