August 2014

Hello Everyone

August 2014

Often when we read garden newsletters or monthly garden magazines, we read of things that are pertinent to the month they are written. Things need to be done “this month or very soon after”. I thought I would write about something to think about for the future, and this is plumbago.

Plumbago auriculata, syn. Plumbago capensis, the Cape leadwort, is a woody shrub native to South Africa. Growing to just over two metres, with a spread of about three metres, this drought resistant frost tender shrub has many uses. Ideally it grows well in Auckland, and on the hills of Christchurch, my home city, as well as corresponding geographical situations. I have grown both the pale blue Plumbago auriculata and the white Plumbago auriculata ‘Alba’ for many years. The ‘Alba’ or white flowering variety did pass away a couple of years ago and this may have been because it didn’t have enough shelter in our winter months. It was growing against a front corner of the house. Plumbago auriculata has icy blue flowers of a similar colour to tweedia, appearing in late summer. I have grown this next to the garden shed door, against the garden shed wall, where the brick wall of the garage is one and a half metres opposite the shed wall. This has obviously provided enough shelter for the plumbago, which has been growing in clay soil for nearly twenty years. Whilst plumbago has a naturally spreading habit, ours has been trained to frame the garden shed door, fanning out softly

Because I like the plumbagos and would like to grow them in other parts of the garden, and they make a good short term pot plant, I have decided to do a “Gertrude Jekyll” without the number of gardeners that this talented woman had. The plumbagos can be planted in pots and kept in the shade house until any fear of frost has passed, and then the late summer flowering delights can be plunged into garden beds. Perhaps some readers have done this? As the plumbago roots easily how about trying to grow it in a sunny stone wall?

This morning I took a walk outside at 6.a.m. and didn’t need a torch. The days are longer and new potatoes are being planted, to be eaten with salt and butter on a summery evening. Another very pleasant thing to do now, with sunny days in mind, is to put compost around all of the clematis plants. Being great feeders, the clematis will enjoy the food and their roots will benefit from the extra shelter from the sun in the warmer months, as their roots like to be kept cool.

In the August newsletter last year I talked about the live willow hedges which had just been planted. Mike Lilian, the highly talented and experienced willow weaver has been back this month to remove the existing ties on the willows, replace any plants that haven’t taken, and extend one of the existing hedges/fences. This fence is at the back corner of the vegetable garden. The area in front will be planted in dwarf apricot trees. I am including a photo which appeared in the November newsletter last year, for the benefit of our many new subscribers.

Photo 1: Willow fence early summer. M. Long.

A plant which is flowering well in many gardens now is the Chaenomeles, or the flowering or Japanese quince. I have grown an apricot coloured variety for many years, and now have a white, flushed with soft green variety growing on the corner of the house where the white plumbago used to be. I have seen some superb dark red varieties growing in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. Deciduous and hardy, these low growing shrubs can be pruned to the shape required, left to grow into an attractive spreading bush, or used for hedging. The small fruits can be used in cooking in the same way as quinces (they are quinces too), and also make an attractive arrangement in a bowl on a sideboard or table. Chaenomeles root easily and the easiest way to do this is to layer branches into the ground in winter and they should be rooted by next autumn.

In July I visited the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh in Ireland. These gardens which are being restored under the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Curator Seamus O’Brien, are well worth a visit. If you think that staying in an Irish Country House is for you, I highly recommend Margaret Cully’s Manor Kilbride near Blessington in County Wicklow. Not only will you be staying with a passionate gardener, (Margaret has been maintaining 40 acres of grounds for more than fifty years); you will dine extremely well and have complementary tea, coffee, fruit and snacks in your room. Margaret loves sharing her garden with guests and because she has been gardening here for so long, her knowledge is immense. Five minutes drive from here, the two well known gardens of June Blake and Jimi Blake can be visited. The drive to the NBG at Kilmacurragh takes you over the soft, green rolling Wicklow mountains.

Manor Kilbride: Photos can be found on google.

June Blake:

Jimi Blake’s Huntingbrook Gardens:

Photo 2: National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh. Photo: M. Long.
Photo 3: Inside the walled garden at Manor Kilbride. M. Long.
Photo 4: Herbaceous borders at Manor Kilbride. M. Long.

When visiting a friend recently I noticed a book on her coffee table, “Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary or why can’t anybody spell?” I read some fascinating things, such as William Wordsworth, the great daffodil lover, talking of “eughtrees” in his original manuscript.

Garden visit bookings are coming in frequently for the next eight months, and I wondered if any readers who haven’t been to Frensham, would like to come and meet us, and see the garden of course. Our garden is worth visiting in more than one season, if you have been once before. We are constantly changing areas where nature has asked us to, or where things need to be reassessed. Having visited Blue Mountain Nursery and Blueskin Nursery in Otago earlier this year, there are many interesting plants which I bought and will be placing in the garden over the next month.

In June we spent relaxed summer days in the home and garden of Eliane and Michel Philippe in Normandy in France. One of the many memorable dishes which Eliane prepared for us was Chocolate Mousse. Try it!

Chocolate Mousse: Eliane Philippe

  • 200g cake of chocolate,
  • 70% cacao and
  • 6 eggs

Beat the egg whites stiff. Melt the chocolate gently in a microwave or over a pot of hot water. Add the egg yolks. When well mixed add the stiff whites, one spoonful at a time, mixing well after each addition. This is important.

Our generous hosts have an idyllic Bed and Breakfast which is perfectly located if you are wanting to visit Monet’s garden, Versailles, Jardin Plume (one of my favourites) or many of the other gardens in Normandy. You can see images and info on Google. Should you wish to make a booking , contact Eliane or Michel Philippe:

Happy Spring gardening and be ever so careful not to crunch on your emerging trilliums.

Best wishes to you all


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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