December 2013

Hello Everyone

December 2013

As we are in the Christmas month I think of roses, strawberries, cherries and family.

Whilst roses can be a lot of work they are so irresistible. I’m not intentionally adding to my collection but there are two that have come to my notice recently.

Nearly two years ago a friend left some tired looking roses after she had set up an exhibit for the Heritage Roses stand at the Ellerslie Flower Show. The roses were left unattended in their pots for a while but once planted into the back of the potager garden they sprung to life.

The first is Rose Eugenie Guinosseau, a Moss rose. Discovered in 1864, it has large fragrant cerise pink flowers, fading to mauve. Growing to over two metres, Eugenie Guinosseau flowers continuously and the flowers are followed by long narrow hips in autumn. I have already found a spot for this rose where it will be situated amongst other pinks and mauves, and as it has a slightly lax habit it will drape gracefully onto the border.

The second rose which is doing very well in the potager garden producing highly fragrant dark red flowers is Francis Dubreuil. I haven’t seen this rose grown widely. The late world renowned rosarian Trevor Griffiths said that when he first saw this rose at the Sangerhausen Gardens in Germany in 1984 its colour, scent and form really stood out. Flowering over a long period of time and preferring a little shade, Francis Dubreuil is available from Tasman bay Roses. Of unknown parentage it was introduced in 1894.

Photo of Rose Francis Dubreuil by M. Long

Another rose that I would like to mention is Rose ‘Adam’. Almost thornless, it is very similar in colour to Rose ‘Gloire de Dijon.’ Thought at one time to be lost forever, Adam was raised by Monsieur Adam in his garden at Reims in France. It is also available from Tasman Bay Roses.

I have Gloire de Dijon and Adam climbing the recycled brick wall behind two specimens of the Cornus ‘argentea alternifolia.’ The dainty creamy lacey flowers of the cornus sit well with the soft creamy apricots of the two roses. On the wall and between the two rose I have a climbing Schizophragma hydrangeoides which is yet to flower.

It has been a difficult season particularly for roses with lots of Spring rain, a very mild winter, and now warm dry days. Rust, blackspot and mildew are prevalent. What better way to finish work on a hot day as we did last summer, than with a bottle of cool Rosé. The accompanying photo shows the beautiful blue bottles that remained when the Rosé had gone.

We coveted Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’: this year and got two meagre flowers from three plants. What are the ideal conditions for this poppy? It is obviously not easily grown, judging by the amount that someone paid on Trade Me. Peter Cooke from Hereweka gardens on the Otago Peninsula may have plants available next winter.

Native to western Spain and Portugal, Seed of Angelica pachycarpa was given to me from a friend when I admired it in flower in his garden. The clusters of creamy white flowers grow on tall stems in late summer. With its shiny green leaves, I think this plant will look great amongst some of our hebes and perennials. As we have struck a number of plants from the seed given to us, it will be fun to plant the angelicas out soon. It is native to western Spain and Portugal.

Astilbes: These are plants that I think should be grown more widely. They offer something fresh to the eyes when many perennials are going over and need to be rejuvenated. Planted amongst hostas, or with azaleas and small rhododendrons, in masses or small groups, they make a refreshing scene. Astilbes tolerate clay soil and like shade or will tolerate more sun as long as the soil is kept moist. One of the better known ones is Astilbe ‘Sprite’ which grows to just under a metre and was named by the late Alan Bloom from Norfolk. He selected it from a seedling. When I was gardening alongside some astilbes this week I became aware of the delicate fragrance; I paused for a little while.

Watering is on the gardening programme in Canterbury as it is now hot and dry. Best watered in early morning or evening, gardens are also better visited at these times. I am encouraging visitors who come in January or February to visit late afternoon ─ early evening. Plants and people enjoy each other far more at these times..

Yesterday I had a call from a lady who wanted to buy plants of Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firedance’ which we grow. The lady was not aware that we are open for any number of visitors, being under the impression that we welcomed large groups only. Any number of people are welcome to Frensham, from one to one hundred or more. The maximum number of visitors that we have had in a day is 1,000.

Our garden is now ready for the “Chelsea Chop”, i.e. cutting back all of the perennials so that we will have tidy plants in late summer to early autumn, with a second flowering. I am inclined this year to call it the “Philadelphia Chop” as at the end of February I am going to the Philadelphia Flower Show which is held indoors during the first week of March. It has long been on my bucket list after speaking to friends who have exhibited and lectured there. I will also go to Longwood and Winterthur; good bones I think.

Today my work in the garden will be gentle as it is forecast to go to 28°. I will be trimming the side growth on the sides of the newly planted live willow hedge, photos of this hedge being in the last newsletter. In the evening the garden will have a final “tweek” before visitors arrive tomorrow.

How about this recipe for the Christmas season from Marilyn McRae?

Spiced Pinot Cranberries

  • 2 cups each of pinot noir
  • water and sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 or 2 star anise
  • 2 slices of root ginger
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 slices of fresh orange peel
  • 2 cups of frozen cranberries

Place all except the cranberries in a pot. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half. Remove the spices.

Add the cranberries to the syrup and simmer for a few minutes until the cranberries are heated through. Don’t simmer too long or the berries will collapse.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour into your jars and keep in the ‘fridge until required. The recipe could be halved.



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
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