Out with the old and in with the new is often said, particularly as a new year begins. Whilst it is interesting to try new things, many of them are old things that have turned the full wheel.
I have a book in my library called Park’s Success with Seeds by Ann Reilly. Published in 1978, this well illustrated encyclopaedic book is a wealth of information, based on the Park Seed Co’s horticultural research and more than 100 years of experience. Park Seeds is based in South Carolina, U.S.A. and is still active today. I find this book invaluable, especially as we have been developing nursery stock for sale over the past two years. In the initial days of developing the garden over twenty years ago I sold many plants and really enjoyed this aspect of the garden.
With the disappearance of so many nurseries and the resultant disappearance of many plants available for sale, our nursery is doing very well. When visitors come to the garden I mention that we have plants for sale, all of them being things that can be seen in the garden. It is sometimes difficult to envisage what a plant in a pot in the nursery is going to look like when it is growing in the garden, so many people enjoy this way of buying. Today I was potting up pulmonarias, a great plant for a dampish situation. With very little care they look good for so long and sit well with other plants. The majority of our plants sell for $5.00 each. The two most popular plants sold are Polygonum bistorta ‘Superbum’ and Eryngium planum.
Polygonum bistorta ‘Superbum’, formerly known as Persicaria bistorta ‘Superbum’ is a plant which grows to about 90cm, with dock-like leaves and spikes of small light pink flowers. It spreads and can be invasive if not controlled, but this factor does not stop people buying it. In fact it makes a great ground cover where that effect is wanted.. It will grow in full sun or part shade. Ours is planted under groupings of the Rose ‘Mutabilis’.
Eryngium planum, the sea holly, with its thistle-like silvery blue flowers, is easily grown in any soil. Described as doing well in dry sandy soils, ours does well in a clay soil in the gravel-surfaced garden. This eryngium seeds and for us we now have lovely masses of these stunning light blue flowers throughout the summer. As the season progresses, some of the leaves at the base of the plant dry off and turn yellow and these are cut off to maintain the cool blue effect. One of the gifts that I received for Christmas was a book which, in its Abbreviations, said:
Syn: synonym. The existence of more than one scientific name is due to divergence of opinion among botanists and gardeners. This made me smile. I thought that the frequent changing of botanical names was based on scientific fact, not opinion. Some photos which I thought would be interesting this month are:
Photo 1: Pickings from the garden. An arrangement of gypsophila, Corokia ‘Geenty’s Green’, Astrantia major, Ilex crenata, a rosebud and the perennial white sweet pea. Arranged by Marilyn McRae who provides the wonderful recipes; all are from our garden Photo: M. Long
Photo 2: Frensham Boxed Lunches. Photo: M. Long
Photo 3: View towards the potager, showing Rose ‘Chateau de Clos Vougeot’ on the left and ‘Rose ‘Nancy Hayward’ on the right. Photo: M.Long
Rose Frensham: a Floribunda seedling crossed with ‘Crimson Glory’, was introduced in 1946. It became very popular after the second World War as a bedding rose all over the world. I saw a bedding planting of ‘Frensham’ in a private garden in Scotland nearly twenty years ago. Flowering continuously throughout the summer and autumn, ‘Frensham’ is a very good picker and therefore ideal for floral arrangements, holding its petals well.
The dahlias are flowering well now. We grow many varieties and colours, mainly singles. Our single dahlias of bright pinks, reds, yellows and mauves look great when viewed across the pond and placed next to appropriately coloured roses, kniphofias, and foliage plants. The fourth photo was taken by a friend on a recent trip to China.
Photo 4: Dahlia imperialis in Yuksam. Photo: S O’Brien.
One of the things that I have done this week is collect seed from Lathyrus sphaericus, the grass pea which has a deep orange-red flower, Salvia patens, the dark blue variety, and the asparagus pea flower. These seeds can all be sown directly in the late Spring.
This month’s recipe uses the beautiful fresh apricots that are ripening just now. The recipe is from a book showing French interiors, gardens and seasonal recipes and the photograph is mouthwatering! The tart, once it was baked, was also delicious and worth sharing the recipe as it is so simple to make. One alteration has been made to the original recipe…the addition of little dabs of butter, topping the tart before baking and making the final product just that bit more scrumptious and moist!
Tart of Apricots
- 375g ready-rolled puff pastry, chilled
- 1 egg, beaten for glazing
- 500g ripe apricots, halved and de-stoned
- 1/3 c apricot jam
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tbsp vanilla sugar *
- about 25 – 30g soft butter
- sifted icing sugar to decorate (optional)
Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius or 200 fan bake.
Cut a circle 25 cm in diameter from the pastry. Place on baking-paper lined tray.
Re-roll scraps if necessary and cut strips about 2 cm wide.
Leaving a 2 cm border round the edges of the circle of pastry, prick the centre all over.
Brush the border of the pastry with the beaten egg. Place the pastry strips around the edge, cutting the ends to be joined on the diagonal so that they join neatly.This will form a ‘wall’ to hold the apricots.
Brush the beaten egg all over the pastry, including the pricked area.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and risen at the edges. Prick the centre again or flatten gently with your finger tips.Cut each apricot half into 3 segments. Arrange them, standing as much as possible on their ‘ends’ around the edge of the circle and continue towards until the centre of the tart is full.
Mix the lemon juice into the apricot jam and warm, if necessary, to make it brushable. With a pastry brush, ‘paint’ as a glaze all over the fruit.Sprinkle over the vanilla sugar, then dot all over with small pieces of the butter.
Bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the apricots are soft, fragrant and beginning to brown slightly on the tips.
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar if preferred Delicious with clotted cream, ice cream or mascarpone.
* If you don’t have vanilla sugar, measure ordinary sugar and drizzle in a few drops of pure vanilla extract. Stir through and then sprinkle over fruit.Dark red plums, nectarines or peaches could also be used.
Experiment with the sugar; I didn’t, but I imagine that a soft brown sugar would add an extra depth to the apricots.
If using plums, use plain sugar and add a couple of pinches of ground cardamom…wonderful with dark plums. And use plum jam instead of apricot.If you have a little gas torch for caramelizing things such as Creme Brulee, then give the top of the baked tart a slight ‘sizzle’ to brown all the tips of the fruit…looks great and adds another layer of flavour.
It is very dry here now and so we are spending time on keeping things watered. The arborists were here yesterday and after good thinning of some trees, more light is reaching plants that were becoming a bit lanky because of lack of light. A new scene emerges.
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