February 2015

Hello Everyone

February 2015

In many parts of the country the priority is keeping up with the watering. This can be time consuming but it is very relaxing. I know that many of us are so busy keeping up with the garden work that we don’t take time to stop, look and enjoy our plants. Work in the garden which is best done in February includes moving trilliums and/or host as if required, and putting a handful of potash around each rose plant at the end of the month. This will encourage the new growth to harden off. There are of course many other things to do in February but I know that information is readily available elsewhere, and that is why I rarely talk about “things to do” each month.

As it’s not widely known that the best time to move peonies is in February, I will talk about this. It has worked for us so trust me! Moving peonies:

In February after the flowering has finished and the new leaves have hardened off, it is the ideal time to move or divide and move peonies. If the plants are young and healthy and in good soil the rootball can be left intact and replanted after a few hours once any cut root surfaces have dried off and sealed over. If the plants are old, this is a good opportunity to pull the crown apart by hand, or lever it apart carefully with garden forks so that the brittle roots aren’t damaged. Wash off any remaining soil and cut off any old material, using sharp clean pruners. It is a good idea to sterilise them in boiling water first. Dry the plants off for a couple of days in a cool place then replant them with good compost pushed into any gaps and plenty of water to settle them.

Don’t plant the peonies too deeply; the crown shoots should be at or slightly above the surface so that the plants are exposed to winter chilling, which initiates flowering. At this time of the year peonies can be fed with three parts potash to seven parts phosphate.

A shrub that I would like to talk about, which has been in flower for at least a month in our garden and will continue for at least another month, is Schima superba, also known as Schima wallechii. The Schima family is related to the Camellia, Gordonia and Stewartia families. The plant can be grown as either a tree or shrub. At Frensham our plant is growing at the front of the woodland in part shade conditions although it will tolerate more sun. The flowers are very fragrant; there are excellent images on Google.

I am now going to share with you an account by Mick Reece from Dunedin, who collected seed from the Schima in the Arun Valley, Nepal in 1995.

“The flight to Tumlingtar in Nepal afforded us a good view of the snowy peaks of the Himalayas as we flew above the cloud and dust. We arrived at Tumlingtar around noon on a picturesque dirt runway near the cluster of thatched wooden houses of the village. The camp was in a cultivated landscape of open fields and hedges with large shade trees offering a respite from the temperatures which were in the 30 to 35 degree centigrade range.

The trees around the fields which were being prepared for planting in anticipation of the monsoonal rains were a representative introduction to those to be commonly encountered during the next few days in the sub tropical valleys. The dominant canopy genus was Ficus (fig) with species such as F. benghalensis, F. religiosa (Pipal) and F. glaberrima which was frequently lopped for forage for stock and hence exhibited attractive reddish purple new growth throughout what remained of the canopy.

Schima wallichii, a member of the Theaceae, was in full flower with its open centred creamy yellow blooms contrasting beautifully with the glabrous foliage. Specimens of Bauhinia purpurea, Alnus napaulensis, Mangifera indica (mango), Bombax ceiba (kapok), and the huge bamboo Dendrocalamus strictus were also observed. The latter was to become a common sight as we travelled from these modest elevations (600 m) up to 1500m, and its value as a building material in many different ways never ceased to amaze us. A South American shrub or small tree Jatropha curcas formed most of the hedgerows bordering the arable land. Its unpalatable nature, in common with many other members of the Euphorbiaceae, making it ideal for containing the wanderings of the local cattle and water buffalo. It obviously grew well from hardwood cuttings pushed into the light fertile soils and we observed the village children blowing bubbles by breaking the fleshy lobed leaves to create a soapy membrane which was gently blown across to produce the required bubbles and gales of laughter. This laughter was significantly increased when we tried to replicate the feat.”

Schima wallichiana/superba can be seen in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens in the Himalayan border, two being directly behind Rhododendron arboretum.There is no common name for Schima superba/wallechii.

I bought my plant from Peter Cave some years ago. It would be worth trying Blueskin Nurseries north of Dunedin, or Blue Mountain Nurseries at Tapanui.

I have been asked by the Heritage Roses New Zealand group if I would share information about the forthcoming lecture in Christchurch. All info is on the attached Word document.

As some readers know, I used to take Garden and Cultural Tours overseas, creating the itinerary myself. There are many wonderful memories from those days and friendships that were formed continue today.I thought it would be good to share some photos with you from these tours, so I will do so over the coming months.

Photo 1: Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac ; the Eyrignac Gardens in the Dordogne in France. M. Long

Photo 2: The same garden. M. Long

Photo 3: Eyrignac again. M. Long

Braised Courgettes with Lemon and Herbs: Marilyn McRae

  • 5 or 6 courgettes, sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • and zest of 1/2a big handful or two of basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • OR mint, a small handful, torn
  • OR a clove of garlic, crushed

Use a large heavy-based pot or pan and gently heat some good olive oil over a medium heat. Add the courgettes to the pan (with the garlic if you are using), stir to coat with oil, cover the pan and reduce heat to very low.

Cook for about 25 minutes, stirring now and then so the slices don’t stick to the pan, until the courgettes are meltingly tender.

Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and zest, a good grinding of black pepper and a pinch or two of sea salt. Stir through and then add whatever herbs you choose. This is delicious with BBQ-ed chicken, with fish or simply served with crusty bread to mop up all the yummy juice.

Uncooked Chia Seed Jam: Marilyn McRae

This is so simple and very versatile. Really yummy made with raspberries but other berries or fruit can be used. Experiment!

  • 2 cups of frozen 9and thawed) or fresh seasonal fruit
  • 2 tbsp honey, maple syrup or rice syrup (optional to taste)
  • 1/4 c chia seeds….available from the bulk dispensers at most supermarkets

Put your chosen fruit in a food processor or blender and add 1/4 c of water and the sweetener if using. Pulse to blend.
Pour into a sterilised glass or ceramic bowl, add the chia seeds and mix well.
Transfer to sterilized glass jars and place in the fridge to set.
This will keep in the fridge for 2 or 3 weeks and is absolutely gorgeous on thick Greek-style yoghurt, winter porridge, panna cotta, ice cream…or just toast!



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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