February 2016

Hello Everyone

February 2016

We are having hot temperatures this month, so watering and placing deep layers of compost on the garden is paying off.

There are many good plants to have for this time of the year when things are feeling a little dry and tired.

Francoa ramosa. Known as the Bridal Wreath, Francoa ramosa is native to Chile. Ours are flowering now, with long stems of white fowers, their hairy leaves with their rich texture stay throughout winter. There is a pink form available. My plants have clumped up over the years and soon they are going to be moved to a better spot in the woodland garden by the drive.

Sisyrinchium striatum: With its grey green iris-like leaves this sisyrinchium has creamy lemon flowers on long stems and looks striking in larger groups. It seeds readily and is very easy to pull out. Remember to do this after seeding if you want more plants next year. Flowering in January, this plant will grow in very dry conditions. I know that some people don’t like the black leaves that start when the plant is going to seed, but maybe because ours are placed in a big garden area, the black leaves don’t bother me and are not that noticeable until the plant is ready to be pulled out and its seed shaken.

Sisyrinchium bermudianum, known as bermudiana: Flowering over a long period, S.bermudiana is ideal as a border plant. The flower colour can range from blue to dark blue and sometimes mauve. Again it tolerates very dry conditions and is lower growing to about 15cm.

Sisyrinchiums are an ideal plant for growing close to trees as they are shallow rooting and are not deterred by the dry barrenness of the soil in this spot.

Agapanthus ‘Tinkerbelle’: Although many agapanthus are considered weeds in some parts of the country, one that I really enjoy is Agapanthus ‘Tinkerbelle.’ With its variegated leaves, and light blue flowers in February, it is a treasure. Many visitors have said that their plant never flowers. Ours didn’t flower last year and there was only one flower on it this year, but maybe next year… In the meantime its foliage is attractive all year.

Photo 1: On the Garden Shed bench. Photo: M. Long. In this group there are (left to right) Lathyrus sphaericus, the grass pea or wild pea which produces a dainty orange red flower, (a seed pod can be seen in the photo), imitation apples in a hand woven basket, green thornless blackberries, Daphne burkwoodii and Hydrangea ‘Merveille Sanguine’, a collection of New Zealand pottery, Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ and Scarlet runner beans.
Photo 2: Floral arrangement from our garden, created by Marilyn McRae and photographed by M.Long. Comprised of Astrantia ‘Ruby Wedding’, Astrantia major, Asters, Japanese anemone leaves, Eryngiums, Eupatorium cannabinumSanguisorba officinalis and grasses from the paddocks, this arrangement sits perfectly in the green glass vase.
Photo 3: Schima superba at Frensham. M.Long.
Photo 4: Schima superba close up. M.Long.
Photo 5: Schima in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. Photo B Wheeler.

I had just photographed this plant for the newsletter when I received an email from Barbara Wheeler, Collections Supervisor at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, saying that she thought I might be interested in seeing a photo of their Schima superba flowering in the Gardens.

My plant was sold to me many years ago by Peter Cave. Barbara says that they have “three species of Schima in flower, although we have yet to confirm identification on any of them, as they are not what they came in as!” She goes on to say “they are almost the perfect flower for me. Pure white, beautifully scented, and perfect in their form… The flowering on all three species here this year has been nothing less than stunning.”

I will follow this story with interest and as some of our readers may be keen to acquire a Schima for their garden, I will find out where they can be obtained.

For readers who have joined our newsletter mailing list more recently, I’ll mention again that I rarely include a photo of a plant that I am writing about as excellent photos can be found on Google. I like to include photos that can’t be found on Google.

Little Spinach Tarts: M McRae (or one big one)

In my enthusiasm to keep up a regular planting of perpetual spinach, I overdo it and end up with a glut…this is a tasty way of dealing with some of the overflow. They can be frozen and there are many variations. Leave out the bacon and add crumbled feta; use filo or flaky pastry if you have it; add fresh herbs such as chives, parsley or garlic; add some left-over cooked rice or other grain for a more substantial tart; add cottage cheese or ricotta; top with a slice of tomato or grated cheese; try adding a grating or two of fresh nutmeg…surprisingly good.

Good hot, warm or cold.

  • 2 sheets (or the equivalent) of savoury short pastry
  • about 300-400 g of spinach
  • 4 or 5 slices good-quality streaky bacon, cut reasonably small
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • and a little salt (more if you leave out the bacon)

Heat oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly butter or spray with oil, a 12-hole muffin tin, a 23 cm pie plate or 4 x 10cm fluted tart tins. Pop the tin/s in the fridge to set the butter while you prepare the pastry.
Cut appropriate circles from the pastry or, if using filo, butter and layer three sheets and cut into squares a little bit bigger than your chosen tin (excess is folded over once the tins are filled) Fry or grill the bacon until it is crispy. Drain.

Bring a pot of water with a little salt to the boil, drop in the spinach, stir and after about half a minute tip into a colander, run under cold water and drain. As soon as it’s cool, squeeze out any excess moisture and roughly chop.
Whisk eggs lightly with a fork, season and fold in spinach and bacon (and/or any other desired additions) and divide the mix between the tins. Fold over the filo pastry if using, but don’t completely cover the filling.
Bake about 20 minutes or 30 for a bigger single tart or until the pastry is crisp and golden.


With an ample number of people registering interest in this tour, our brochure is being sent to the people to these people this week. If you think now that you could be interested do contact me and we can send you a brochure as this tour need to be confirmed by the end of February.



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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