If there were enough calendar days in February, you would be receiving this newsletter in late February. What a busy month it has been here with garden visitors (many from overseas visit in January, February and March), very dry conditions which has meant watering has to be kept up, bush fires that came very close to destroying our property (our neighbours’ driveway intercepted that happening), and now the team of arborists is here to perform the annual pruning of the large trees in our garden and its surrounding macrocarpa hedges. I do love the smell of the macrocarpa when it has been freshly cut.
Talking of visitors, so often I am asked when people are making arrangements to visit the garden: “What is the best time to visit?” The answer depends entirely on the person asking the question. I have found a kindred spirit in David Glen from Lambley Nurseries near Melbourne. David says:
“We are frequently asked: ‘When is the best time to visit?’ Our immediate response is invariably: Anytime.”
Amongst my many favourite plants are the herbaceous plants, epimediums; their name coming from the Greek language meaning ‘a word of obscure meaning.’
The plant is often grown for its foliage, and when the flowers emerge on wiry stems, the foliage can be quite scruffy. So it is a good idea to cut the foliage back in winter so that the flowers can be appreciated, along with the new leaves. Flowers can be damaged by spring frosts.
Epimediums are great grounds covering plants, with flower colours ranging from white to acid lemon, soft mauve and many hues in between. A few of the larger leafed varieties grow quite tall, sometimes up to 60cm. On a recent visit to the gardens of Vasterival in Normandy in France, I saw where some very large leafed varieties were being trialled.
The epimediums that we grow at Frensham include Epimedium rubrum, Epimedium pinnatum and Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum.’ E.rubrum is readily available, E. pinnatum was given to me by a plant friend, and E. x youngianum ‘Niveum’ was bought from Blue Mountain Nurseries in Tapanui.
E. rubrum, with its reddish brown markings on and around the edges of the leaf, sits very comfortably against our recycled brick walls of the house and is colouring well as autumn approaches, while E. pinnatum, with its smaller leaves and gorgeous acid lemon flowers in spring looks good amongst miniature hostas.
I have found that epimediums survive fairly dry conditions, which make them an ideal plant in these warmer times. Doing well in sun or shade, this is a plant to be considered if you aren’t already growing it.
Another plant which is often a talking point with our visitors, and which sells out each year, is Ornithogalum longebracteatum; sometimes known as the Pregnant Onion. It is propagated by taking off the baby bulbs which develop on the mother bulb, and resowing them. I don’t usually include photos of plants which I write about, as there are so many good photographs accessible on Google.
However, Photos 1, 2 and 3, taken by me, show this plant well. There is a short video clip on Google.
One of our readers, Trish Reynolds wrote to me last month saying:
“I have just bought a tree for my front (sub-tropical style) garden recommended to me at Black Ridge Nurseries (big tree specialists) near Auckland Airport. It’s a Stenocarpus sinuatus – Australian Firewheel tree and I must say after looking it up on www having never heard of it before – I thought the tree and especially the bright orange/red passionfruit-like flowers look magnificent – I can’t wait for autumn/winter when it flowers and neither can my neighbours. The 80 litre one I have bought has no main central leader and appears to look like it will make a lovely shaped ornamental tree with a blaze of winter colour. It is one that Russell Fransham also recommends and cannot understand why it is not more widely planted up this way.”
“Here is Russell Fransham’s own writing about it – which attracted me more to it, after the nursery suggested it – just for your info www.subtropical.co.nz”.
Photo 4: Stenocarpus flower, sourced from the internet.
Photo 5: The tree in the writer’s garden.
While there are still plenty of nectarines available, do try Marilyn’s seasonal recipe. I know that many readers really enjoy her recipes, and the options and suggestions that she makes.
Nectarine Feuilletées: Marilyn McRae
This is a simple, but delicious recipe using any of the stone fruit that’s in the fruit bowl… nectarines are very nice; so are peaches, apricots or plums, especially dark-fleshed plums. The quantities are for making eight, but it can be halved…or quartered, making two which can be eaten in a sitting by one person!
- 2 sheets good quality frozen puff pastry, just thawed
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 c ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 4-6 pieces of stone fruit, depending on size
- 3 tbsps caster sugar
- about 2-3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed to finish (optional)
Heat oven to 200 degrees C and line two trays with baking paper. Cut four circles, approx 12cm in diameter, from each pastry sheet. Place four on each tray. Put the butter, almonds and vanilla in a small bowl and stir to make a paste. Divide between the pastry circles and spread, leaving a 1.5cm border. Cut the fruit in half, remove stones, then cut in 5mm (1/4 inch) slices.
Arrange the slices over the pastry, overlapping to cover and leaving a thin border. Sprinkle fruit on each circle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the sugar is bubbling. Remove the trays from the oven, place on a rack and brush the hot fruit and pastry with warm jam if using. Serve hot or at room temperature.
If you haven’t got enough of one fruit to make all 8 tarts, use different fruits and have a variety to choose from! Serve simply with creme fraiche or mascarpone; or cream, whipped or ‘runny’.
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