While a group was visiting yesterday I noticed some autumnal changes in the garden. The air temperature has told us for some time that summer is over. It’s time to wind down a little, especially in these uncertain times, and enjoy the peace of our own patch.
Photo 1: Fothergilla major is beginning its autumn change. I have written about this shrub in wo previous newsletters. Very soon I hope to have all past copies of newsletters archived on the website. Next month I will send another photo of the fothergilla, when it will be rich yellow. M. Long
Photo 2: Ageing flowers of many hydrangeas are more fascinating to me than the new season’s colour. Imagine a vase of these in a room, modern or classic. M. Long
Plants which carry good flowers for several months are tobacco plants.
Photo 3: Nicotiana langsdorfii. With its lemony green bell-shaped flowers, this annual plant will self-sow and provides a great accompaniment to many other plants. Ours grows amongst roses of coffee-mauvey shades, in full sun, though it will also do well in part shade. M. Long
Photos 4 and 5: Nicotiana sylvestris, too, flowers for months. Ours grows against the south side of the house. Its distinct feature is that the flowers are highly fragrant in the evening, and the whiteness seems to glow a little as darkness approaches. It also self -seeds. Both varieties are very easy to remove from unwanted places. M. Long
Photo 6: Often used in dried arrangements, Catananche caerulea, the perennial paper daisy, is showing its seedheads. From now on many seedheads of other plants will be appearing throughout the garden, and the spring flowering varieties already are. M. Long
Photo 7: Our very small sales table, which we keep topped up, proves popular for New Zealand visitors. M. Long
Mulled Pears: Marilyn McRae
It was all hands to the paring knife in February when I was growing up. We all sat around the big kitchen table, a box of pears, peaches or apricots in the centre, bowls of water for sticky fingers and rows of preserving jars. A pot bubbled on the coal range with the seals and bands being sterilized, another pot held a syrup of sugar and water and a big cast iron cauldron half full of water, a folded tea towel in the bottom, waited to be filled with the full jars of fruit ready for processing.
Mulled Pears would have been deemed a little frivolous possibly but they are in fact wonderfully versatile.
Try them cold, or warmed, with a thick vanilla custard or a spoonful of thick yoghurt. Add a crumble topping and bake or put them into a winter fruit salad. They’re also delicious with cheese or a terrine or pate.
And for a light spring lunch…a slice of baguette, good butter, a thick slice of ham and a well-drained mulled pear half!
Quantities are sufficient for 4 x pint or 500ml jar or 2 x larger jars (called quart jars in my day!)
125g sugar 500ml red wine 500ml water
1.5kg small firm pears whole cloves 2 or 4 whole star anise
2 or 4 5cm pieces of cinnamon stick (one for each jar)
Put sugar in a medium pot with the water. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring to ensure all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the wine, stir, cover and keep warm.
Peel pears, leaving stalks attached and drop into a bowl of cold water with the juice of half a lemon.
When all the pears are peeled, cut them in half, remove cores, stud each half with a clove or two and pack into warm sterilized jars. Add a piece of cinnamon stick and a star anise to each jar.
Bring the wine mix to the boil and pour over fruit until jar is full to the lip. Cover with a seal, screw on band firmly and then loosen half a turn.
Place the jars in a roasting pan 5cm apart, place pan in a 150 degree oven and cook for 1 hour.
Remove the jars, placing on a wooden chopping board and tighten screw bands.
Leave overnight until quite cold and if they’re sealed, remove bands, wipe jars and store.
Keep for one month before using. Unopened jars will keep for 6-7 months.
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