It is a mild morning as I write, after a time of frosts and clear sunny days. Yesterday was overcast with the temperature going to 17°, which made a very pleasant day for working in the garden, without the frosty morning starts. It reminds me of a day in July two years ago when we were at our home in France where the temperature that day was 17°, the same recording as the temperature in Christchurch that day. I received an email from my niece in France yesterday saying that they have had a month of rain there. Gardening is certainly a juggling act in more ways than one.
A lot of work is being carried out on the extension to our woodland garden. The first step, of course, is good preparation. Years of accumulated anemone and comfrey are being slowly but surely eradicated. Once this has been done several times to the point where we think that we are in control, layers of cardboard and thick slabs of pea straw are put down. I bought some Helleborus “Ice’n’Roses Red’ last week to go in one of our new spaces.
I am still surprised when people say to me that ‘of course it is quieter for you in the garden in winter, with not so much to do’. My gardening friends here would say that it is the busiest time of the year, and I am in total agreement as the winter is going so quickly, and the lists are still endless. I do think that visiting a garden in winter, when there is so much year round interest, is very important. The photos here give an insight.
Photo 1: In July there is plenty to see. In the right foreground the twisted trunks of Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady’ give year-round interest. Behind it, three of our seven Prunus serrula, the mahogany-barked cherry, give warm glowing colours when the winter sun rests on their bark. Further back, three of the four Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ give constant reliable interest all year. They haven’t needed any watering or feeding for the fifteen years that they’ve been there. The two tallish woody shrubs in the centre of the photo are Philadelphus ‘Virginale’ which have small white, highly-perfumed flowers in mid-summer. In the far right background, one of the paper-barked maples, Acer griseum, features its coppery peeling bark all year. All of the box hedging and domes have been grown from cuttings off the original box hedge which is in the kitchen courtyard. Photo by Juliet Nicholas.
Photo 2: The fire is on as early narcissus flower under the silver birch trees, Betula papyrifera. In the middle, the short dark shrubs are Cornus pumila. So many visitors over the years have asked what they are and unfortunately I forgot to record where I bought the original three many years ago. The nursery may not exist now. To my knowledge I don’t think they are available, so this year we are propagating some for our sales table. You can read more about these invaluable deciduous plants in the March 2013 and October 2019 newsletters, which are archived on the website. Photo by Juliet Nicholas.
Photo 3: Looking back towards the house, these soft colours blend seamlessly in July. This year we have cut back the Michaelmas daisies earlier. The foliage at the base of the archway is the star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides. Photo by Juliet Nicholas.
Photo 4: A plant that I highly recommend for early summer flowering with its inky blue flowers is Agapanthus ‘Blue Mountain’, bred by Denis Hughes from Blue Mountain nurseries in Tapanui. Note how the early spring leaves have a fascinating dark tone at the base. Photo by Margaret Long.
The many birds are enjoying their meals which are a combination of seed and dripping balls bought from the local butcher, and my homemade bird porridge.
Bird Porridge: M Long
6 cups hot water
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup wholemeal flour
1 cup sugar
Put 3 cups hot water and the dripping into a saucepan. Heat until the dripping is melted. Add dry ingredients. Add rest of water and bring o the boil, stirring. Add seeds if you wish.
A book that I am about to read is Garden Portraits: Experiences of Natural Beauty by Larry Lederman. It was recommended to me by Marilyn. I can tell at a glance that I am going to enjoy this.
I have been giving talks to a number of groups throughout the south Island over the past eighteen months. For the rest of the year I’m giving the talks in the Christchurch region only. They have been very well received, so if you belong to a group and think that they’d enjoy the talk, do contact me. My topic is ‘My Thoughts on Creating my Garden, which have Evolved over the Years.’ In this talk I cover plantings, design, colour, light and shadow, and the ‘soul’ of the garden. The second part of my talk is about developing my garden in Normandy in France.
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