December 2015

Hello Everyone

December 2015

As it is so close to Christmas Day as I write to you, I have decided to include a medley of things rather than write about some of my overseas garden visits, as I said I would in my last newsletter. So much has been happening which warrants a mention. The very good news is that here in Christchurch last night we had a very steady rain which will bring relief to many people for the Christmas season. We have had a steady drift of visitors to the garden this month and it has been hard to “keep up appearances” with the unusual weather patterns. However, people are certainly enjoying the results of years of thought that have gone into Frensham, and fresh plantings and planting alterations are keeping the garden lively. Recently two of our visitors decided to relax on our lawn, with the resultant Photo No 1 showing that our resident cat Sam has similar ideas.

Photo 1: Taken by P. Fanselow-Brown.

Our potatoes will be dug on Christmas Eve day, snow peas will be picked, lettuce and coriander also. I have podded a good crop of broad beans, and I will shell the outer grey case and use the inner delicate green bean for our salads. A friend told me that broad beans were very nice sprinkled with mint sauce.

A refreshing book has just been written and published by Barry Ferguson who now lives at Mahurangi West north of Auckland. “Flowers are my Passport” is the story of Barry’s life. Coming from modest beginnings in New Zealand to being one of the most sought after floral designers in New York for many years, Barry also tells intriguing tales of his botanical exploits to extraordinary places. I found this book difficult to put down until the last page had been read. Retailing at $45.00 this hard covered book would make an ideal gift for yourself or someone else. To buy a copy, go to Barry’s website:

Photo 2: Barry as a hippy, with magic mushroom, in the Sangre d’Christo mountains on the Colorado/New Mexico border. Taken about 1973.
Photo 3: Barry and clivias.
Photo 4: Photo on which Barry’s book cover is based.

Another great book has just been produced by our neighbours at Otahuna Lodge. Written by the owners Miles Refo and Hall Cannon, with Simon Farrell-Green, “For the Love a Place” tells several inter-connected stories beginning with the nearly six decades Heaton Rhodes and his staff spent crafting a magnificent home and grand English park. It follows the history of the estate through its years as a Christian Brothers’ seminary in the 1960’s, commune in the 1970’s, private home in the 1980’s, and finally its painstaking re-imagining over the past nine years as one of the world’s leading lodges.

While the first half of the book narrates the tales of one of New Zealand’s grandest homes and its 30 acres of magnificent historic gardens, the remainder is devoted to the “potager-to-plate” cuisine for which Otahuna has been internationally recognised. More than 70 recipes are arranged across eight evocative chapters showcasing different locations in the house and grounds. From breakfast in the Kitchen to a light lunch in the Turret, afternoon tea in the Drawing Room to dinner in the Wine Cellar, each is lavishly illustrated with full-page, colour photographs.

As we are thinking so much of the Christmas season this year, my travel agent Melissa Landrebe from United Travel Ferrymead has put together a wonderful tour, “Christmas Markets by River” for November next year. If you would like to receive information on this tour in Europe, including Germany, Holland, Austria and Hungary, contact Melissa Phone (03)3842 700.

Which leads me on to mention the Melbourne tour for November next year led by me and the highly knowledgeable and talented Stan Smith. I recently returned from Melbourne where I visited family and spent time with Stan Smith, our local guide and Tour Leader for next year, preparing some visits for the tour. After each day I felt quite a buzz as it is such an interesting programme. We are most fortunate to have Stan with us, as he has lived about an hour’s drive inland from Melbourne all of his life, (he is younger than me) and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his “patch”. He has a degree in Fine Art and Sculpture, is at present a Landscape Designer, and tutors in horticulture two days a week in Melbourne. With my organisational skills and experience in tour leading I think we make a great team.

As I mentioned earlier, I went on tour in this area with Stan and Gordon Collier in October this year, and when I was asked to lead a tour with Stan it was a “Yes” as I had enjoyed the wide range of experiences so much. We visited gardens, discovered local flora with Stan, visited art galleries and small historical towns inland from Melbourne. Stan is a history buff in the area we are travelling, so all together there is something for everyone. We stay in two places only on the entire tour, one in Melbourne and one about one hour’s drive north of Melbourne.

We will fly from Auckland or Christchurch to Melbourne on Sunday 6th November, returning on Saturday 19th November. If you are interested in going to the Melbourne Cup it is on Tuesday 1st November. If you would like to receive further interest in this tour, and haven’t already registered, please email or phone me. We hope to have the brochure ready at the beginning of February.

Photo 5: The sun orchid, Thelymitra pauciflora, which we may see on one of our wildlife exploratory days on the Melbourne tour. This is one of 22 species of Thelymitra found in central Victoria. Photo: S. Smith

An exciting discovery this week at Frensham was to find an arisaema flowering in the garden. I had planted a few arisaemas many years ago and I think this one decided to show itself as a lot of invasive violets had been removed from this area.

Photo 6: Arisaema. Photo by M. Long

Now to conclude with some sweet desserts. I tried a recipe recently which sounded a little curious to me, and the result was delightful. Having a considerable amount of my home made Christmas fruit mince sitting in brandy in the fridge from last Christmas, I decided to try this recipe and the result was delicious.Bring fruit to boil with half the vinegar, simmer til thick. Add ginger, orange and lemon flavours. Remove from heat and cool. Heat rest of vinegar with sugar until


  • 1 kg mixed dried fruit (or fruit mince),
  • 2 cups orange juice,
  • freshly squeezed or from a carton,
  • 2 cups SR flour,
  • 2 tsp mixed spice

Place dried fruit in a large bowl and pour over the orange juice. Let soak as long as possible, one hour is ideal but can be overnight. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray 22cm spring form tin with baking spray and line the base with paper.
Sift flour and mixed spice into fruit mixture. Combine well. Put into prepared tin and bake 45 mins, then reduce temperature to 160°C and bake further 35 – 40 mins.
Cake should feel firm. Cool in tin 15 mins, then carefully turn onto cooling rack. Can be frozen.

Most of my family and friends know my Chocolate and Raspberry Trifle well as I have made it over many years for special occasions.

MOCHA RASPBERRY TRIFLE: Australian Women’s Weekly Summertime Cookbook

  • 2 x 225g chocolate sponge cake,
  • 1/3 cup Tia Maria or Kahlua (I use more),
  • 500g fresh/frozen raspberries,
  • 100g grated dark chocolate,
  • 300ml whipped cream.
  • 4 egg yolks,
  • ¼ cup cornflour,
  • ¾ cup castor sugar,
  • 1 ½ cups milk,
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder,
  • 1 tbsp hot water,
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence,
  • 300ml cream.

Break sponge into pieces and place half over base of serving dish. Sprinkle evenly with half the Tia Maria, top with half the raspberries, sprinkle with 1/3 chocolate, spread with half the custard. Repeat layers. Decorate with whipped cream, remaining chocolate and extra raspberries.

Coffee Custard: Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together in pan until smooth. Heat milk in separate pan, gradually stirring into egg yolk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Add combined coffee, water and vanilla essence. Cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent skin forming. Cool to room temperature. Beat cream, fold into custard.

Best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful Christmas season.



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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