May 2014

Hello Everyone

May 2014

The autumn colour in the garden is spectacular as I write this newsletter. While many people choose cherry trees for their Spring blossom, I have selected some for their bark or autumn colour.

Prunus autumnalis, the cherry tree that flowers twice a year, has great orange foliage in autumn. I also have Prunus yedonensis ‘Chinese Brocade’ which at this time of the year has the clearest, slightly burnt orange foliage. As this tree was planted in the centre of a lawn area, it makes a great feature now, whilst providing shade in the summer.

Photo 1: Rose ‘Nancy Steen’ with Prunus autumnalis. Photo by Sue Dromgoole.

Photo 2: Prunus yedonensis ‘Chinese Brocade’ in the foreground. The weeping Nyssa ‘Autumn Cascade’ in the background. Photo: Sue Dromgoole.

Still flowering is Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpureus’, an evergreen shrub which flowers from mid to late autumn. With small holly-like leaves, the dainty white flowers are highly fragrant. I used to grow this plant as a hedge near the front door where the fragrance could be enjoyed. I think I have written about this plant before, but it may be of interest to our new subscribers. The dark green foliage has burgundy coloured new growth and this shrub grows to just under two metres. It is easily kept trimmed or shaped.

I am enjoying growing various berberis. Berberis x ottawensis ‘Superba’ has dark red-purple leaves which are now turning bright red. With small mustard yellow flowers in Spring, this plant looks great in front of Euphorbia melliferaBerberis x ottawensis ‘Superba’ can be thinned about every second year. The first bereberis that I planted here was Berberis Thunbergii Atropurpurea ‘Rose Glow’, which has pink and white new growth in the Spring. Standing at over two metres now, this is a very useful plant which requires no maintenance though every second or third year it is thinned out where necessary. The small leaves which turn from bright pink to yellow in April, are now dropping softly on the ground. Meanwhile I have another group of Berberis Thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’ and Berberis Thunbergii ‘Little Favourite’ ready for planting in the red garden. The berberis make a very good accompaniment to dark blue-red flowering plants. B.T. ‘Helmond Pillar’ as its name suggests, has a columnar form, growing to about two metres, while ‘Little Favourite’ is a compact shrub growing to about one metre. A wide range of bereberis are available from Blue Mountain Nursery and local garden centres will have some.

This is the first year that I have had success with growing the black passionfruit. I think about 28 fruit have ripened. As I have not had success growing this plant before, it has been exciting this year. The plant is growing on an east facing brick wall where it gets the warmth from the wall throughout the day , having had the morning sun. For some reason the fruit crops have been lighter this year. The pear Doyenne du Comice, introduced to Britain from France in 1849, had about six pears. The apricot trees didn’t fruit at all and the quinces were less prolific. I was slightly pleased about the latter as I do give away a lot of quinces after cooking a lot myself, but this year I didn’t have to cook so many!

For many years I have grown the native fuchsia, Fuchsia procumbens, in flat round dull green pottery pots. It is native to the region from North Cape to Coromandel in New Zealand. I had always thought that this fuchsia would need protection from Canterbury winters, but recently I saw it doing very well outside in a friend’s garden, not far from where I live. The site is on a small hill and the fuchsia is planted near a building, making a great ground cover.

Photo 3: Our driveway. Photo: S. Dromgoole

Photo 4: Pin oaks, a weeping birch, liquid ambers and Sam the cat. Photo: S. Dromgoole.

Being a royal watcher, I went with a friend to the official opening of the Visitors’ Centre in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens last month. I haven’t been back to see inside the building yet but I am looking forward to seeing it. It will be interesting to see how it fares with other Botanic Gardens Visitor Centres.

The next newsletter will come out in August; readers receiving the newsletter by post will have their subscription due dates adjusted accordingly.

Herb and Walnut Pasta: Marilyn McRae

The recipe for this month uses some of the delicious fresh walnuts that are starting to become ready for eating, and some of the abundance of parsley and mint that’s around just now before the winter bites! It’s a very tasty stand-alone dish, but is also good as a side dish to go with baked chicken pieces. The mint is an unusual herb to put with pasta, but it works very well. Use a good quality pasta in whatever shape you like, but I like this sauce through a flat pasta like linguine or fettuccini.

  • 2 portions of preferred pasta
  • about 1/2 c of fresh walnut pieces
  • lots of chopped mint and parsley,
  • about 1/2 c each when chopped
  • about 1/2 c of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper

Have all the ingredients prepped before you start cooking the pasta so that you can assemble it quickly and get it to the table. The pasta cools quickly.
Bring water to boil in a large pot, add some salt and cook the pasta so that it is just el-dente.
When the pasta is nearly done, melt the butter in another largish pot until it starts to sizzle.
Drain the pasta and tip it into the butter to coat the ‘ribbons’ of pasta with butter.
Season with salt and pepper and add walnuts and herbs.
Toss and add parmesan and a little olive oil to ‘open up’ the pasta, making it loose enough to separate the ribbons.
Serve immediately in shallow bowls or as a side to your chicken.



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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