It has been a busy month with bricklayers, builders, painters, scaffolding around the house, and other disruptions that come with earthquake repairs and some minor alterations to our thirty year old home. I said recently that our garden is looking the best that it has ever looked, and I say this again. The maturing of plans made over the years, the high level of maintenance, and the health of the plants which are fed with plenty of our home made compost all contribute to a very attractive environment.
Recently a friend lent me a copy of “Envisioning the Garden” by French garden designer Robert Mallet and I came across this, which I don’t think is considered often enough when people are designing/developing their gardens.
“When you can no longer see the outer limits of a space, you are no longer able to mentally focus on its interior details.
When you cannot see the interior details., you are not in a suitable frame of mind to look for the outer limits.
The first part of this observation explains why people visiting a public garden for the first time often want to know how big it is.”
Mallet, of the Mallet family who has Parc de Moutiers on the northern coast of Normandy, and Mallet himself of hydrangea fame, develops this theory in the following paragraphs. I am finding this book refreshing and thought provoking. As one of the critics, well known horticultural writer Hugh Johnson says:” I am delighted to see the masterwork of French garden art and technique translated into English. Robert Mallet lays out the elements of garden composition so clearly and illustrates them so well that I cannot imagine a gardener failing to profit from this book. Wherever you garden it will open your eyes.”
The text is accompanied by photographs and skilful drawings by the architect Yves Poinsot.
One of our readers. Jean Griffen from England, was asked to judge the Britain in Bloom competition on Guernsey Island this year. The competition for Floral Guernsey encourages residents to beautify their area and care for the environment. It all stems from Britain in Bloom.
Whilst there Jean visited the island of Herm.
Photo 1: Erygium maritimum on Herm. Photo: J Griffen
Photo 2: Ophrus apifera, the Bee orchid on Herm. Photo: J Griffen
With the days becoming hotter and drier, there is a plant which I would like to talk about, which does very well in these conditions. It is not widely grown and we sell it quickly when people ask for something that copes with dry conditions, and see it growing in our gravel garden. It is Dorycnium hirsutum, the Hairy Canary Clover. Native to Portugal, this low growing silvery hairy leafed shrub has small pink and white pea-like flowers followed by red – brown berries. After a couple of seasons the shrub becomes lax and looks “over”. This is the time to pull it out and this is done very easily as the little shrub has a very poor root system. The good news is that there will be lots of seedlings coming on so this very drought tolerant plant has had a home in our gravel garden for many years.
I thought I would finish with a photo of our new brick wall. This is the spot which is directly in front of you when you arrive at our house. There used to be a high paling fence there and only part of the roof of the garden shed could be seen. What a welcome improvement; now it is time to thin out the lime trees.
Green Summer Salad with optional dressings: Marilyn McRae
This is a lovely salad to celebrate all the wonderful green vegetables that are around at this time of year and on into the summer. Feel free to use just some of the choices or to substitute others…for example, broad beans are delicious and so is sliced fennel bulb. Or add some avocado there as there is a glut of those this year.
- a bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off
- green beans with the stems removed
- frozen (or fresh if available) edamame beans
- sugar snap peas
- snow peas
- Lebanese cucumber, sliced or in batons
- courgette, sliced into batons
- fresh dill fronds or basil leaves (small ones or tear larger ones)
- 2 spring onions, sliced diagonally
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 – 2 tbsp good olive oil
- Some roughly chopped toasted almonds, hazelnuts or pistachio nuts (optional)
Bring a pot of water, salted, to the boil and blanch the asparagus, courgette, the beans, edamame and the peas…nall separately, making sure they still have some ‘bite’ in them. Lift out with tongs or a slotted spoon and drop them into a colander. Refresh them under cold water and place on a clean tea towel to dry/drain.
Place, with the prepared cucumber and spring onions, in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season. Mix gently to coat the vegetables.
Transfer to a large serving platter and scatter the dill or basil over (and the nuts over if using).
Now the dressings…you could use a good French style dressing with the addition of some whole seed mustard or you could try the following dressing which I highly recommend.
My daughter has been known to make the dressing and eat it…. without the salad!
Yoghurt and Tahini Dressing
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 2 tbsp hulled tahini (or unhulled if you like a stronger flavour)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 clove garlic crushed with a little salt
- juice of 1 lemon
- small grinding of black pepper
Whisk all together in a small bowl until it’s like thickened cream. Add a little water if too thick. Adjust the seasonings and when ready to serve the salad, dollop small spoonfuls over the vegetables and serve the remainder of the dressing on the side.
For a dairy free dressing, leave out the yoghurt and increase the tahini to about 1/3 – 1/2 cup. You may need to add a little more water than otherwise.
Remember to stir the tahini in the jar before spooning out as the oil separates.
This dressing is equally delicious with all sorts of salads (try it with a carrot salad) or, without the yoghurt and substituting grated fresh ginger for the cumin, it is great as a dipping sauce for sushi.
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