I am writing this newsletter a little earlier as we return to New Zealand next month. There will be a few things to do here as we close the house for about eight months, and there will be the inevitable pile of things to attend to when we return to Frensham.
This year we’ve made a serious start on our garden in Normandy. The project sat for a while as I couldn’t make any decisions, but suddenly it became clear. It takes a while to get the feeling of the sense of a place and how a property is lived in. I’ve chosen plants that will withstand the hot summers that are becoming increasingly normal here. This week we have another heatwave, with 38° today and 42° in two days’ time.
When I was looking for plants to put in a small stone rill, I came across a euphorbia that I hadn’t seen before. It is Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, and has proved to be highly successful in its spot. It has fine, dainty stems with very small flowers and I pick it with white carnations, the real clover-smelling variety, for a table centre-piece. Does anyone know if it is available in New Zealand?
Photo 1: Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’. M Long
We went away for a week to the Berry region which is in the centre of France, and I discovered a garden that was new to me. It is the Jardin de Marie which is located in the Sancerre wine-growing region. Intelligently planted with a wide variety of plants, and artistically assembled in innovative ways, this garden is a must for our tour to the Dordogne and the Berry next year.
Photo 2: Jardin de Marie. Photo M. Long
Photo 3: Jardin de Marie. M. Long
Photo 4 & 5: Jardin de Marie. M.Long
I will be home for the graceful flowering of the Acer negundo ‘Violaceum’ trees, with their shrimpy pink tassles that sway gracefully in a breeze. This tree flowers in the last week of August and first week of September. If you have space, I do recommend it. We have a grouping of three to the side of the main front lawn, and I have seen a few in the grounds at the Ilam University in Christchurch.
Marilyn has provided another delicious-sounding recipe this month; thank you Marilyn.
Apple Chocolate Cake: M McRae
This is a quick and easy cake to make and utterly delicious! Absolutely delicious as a dessert with a little cream or vanilla bean custard (or preferred dairy-free option) and equally scrumptious cold with a cup of tea or coffee or in a lunch box. Keeps well in an airtight container for several days if you can manage to keep it that long! I’ll write the original recipe, made in a whizz, and then explain how I make it in a bowl.
Butter, or spray with baking oil, a 26 cm round flan dish or a slice tin approx 28 x 18 cm
Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius
For the Topping:
- In a whizz blend 1/4 c brown sugar
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp nuts
- 25 g butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Quarter and core 2-3 apples
- Peeled if preferred and whizz to chop
Then add in the order given:
- 125g melted butter, cooled a little
- 1/2 – 3/4 c sugar**
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups of flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp baking soda
Scrape into the dish or tin, spread flat and sprinkle over the topping mix. Bake approx 35 minutes, depending on the size of your container, until the cake is just firm in the centre, testing with a skewer. Allow to cool a little before plating up.
** The amount of sugar you use will depend on the tartness of your apples… and how sweet you like your cakes to be!
I don’t have a large enough whizz it make this recipe in so I make the topping in a small hand-held whizz that I use for chopping herbs etc and the cake in a bowl.
I have used Granny Smith apples, Cox’s Orange, Braeburns, etc and also mixes of apples.
Into the bowl, grate the apples. There’s no need to quarter and core, just grate the ‘sides’ off until you’re left with a square core to discard.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl in the order given and then follow original instructions.
I use spelt flour but you could equally use any gluten free flour mix if desired.
The contrast of the slight crunchiness with the softness and lightness of the cake is perfect!
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
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