November 2017

Hello Everyone

November 2017

The majority of rhododendrons have been in flower since September. I would like to mention an evergreen dwarf variety, Rhododendron ‘Chikor’. Bred in 1962 by the Scottish plantsman Peter Cox, this rhododendron was bred by crossing R. rupicola var. chryseum with R. ludlowii. The pale lemon flowers appear in early November. Peter Cox and his son Kenneth have written more than twenty books on rhododendrons, and the website for their garden, Glendoick, makes interesting reading

Irises have been featuring strongly this month. We grow a variety of them and they are much admired by us all.

Photo 1: An iris from a friend’s garden near Melbourne, “Peals of Bells.” S. Smith. I don’t know if this iris is grown in New Zealand?

Photo 2: A species Iris ‘nelsonii’. M.Long

One of the Loiuisiana irises, this iris likes moisture and is ideal around a pond, which is where ours is planted. We have had many garden visitors this month, with a group of fifty arriving for lunch and a visit tomorrow. I think the star of the show would have to be our first Cardiocrinum giganteum, the giant Himalayan lily which has flowered from seed. Once it starts to open, its movement can be monitored very easily within one day.

Another beautifully fragrant plant that is coming into flower is the shrub Philadelphus ‘Virginal’, a double white flowering shrub which sits either side of the head of the front water pond from where the water drops gently into the main pond.

Our visitors have been consistent with their feedback this season, and last, which indicates that we are tending a garden which has inspirational energy, harmony and tranquillity.

“It is a garden of beautifully manicured, perfect colour palettes ,textural contrasts and peace and tranquillity which shows your years of experience and dedication for all to absorb. Just fabulous.” Garden visitor.

An attractive clump forming perennial which is not often seen in New Zealand gardens is the amsonia. Many years ago I grew two varieties, Amsonia ciliata and Amsonia tabernaemontana. They disappeared as plants sometimes do. I’ve recently acquired A. tabernaemontana, which is also known as A. silicifolia. This plant, with its narrow grey-green leaves and cool slaty blue flowers, sits well with plants in the pink and mauve hues. I would like to find out where I can get Amsonia ciliata; does anyone know?

Photo 3: One of the last aquilegias to flower. J Nicholas.

Photo 4: Rosa Blairi Number 2, flowering through the Prunus autumnalis. M Long

We are going to have the garden closed to visitors in February while we do some renovations inside and outside the house. The outside refers to the rockery garden which is going to be revamped, with more local rock added and the plantings almost completely changed. Already we have started with some treasures that have been planted in the existing rock crevasses, one plant being Achillea clavennae.

I am enclosing a letter written to me by Helen Lowe, which will be of particular interest to Canterbury people.

“Hello Margaret,

We corresponded about the city’s heritage and notable trees during the pCRDP process. 🙂

You may have originally communicated with me via the Give A Little page? In which context be interested to know that we were able to raise all the money needed in the end but it was extremely hard work as you so rightly predicted.

Also on the trees note though, I have just last weekend received the 2017 Ron Flook Award for that process. It is given annually by the NZ Arboricultural Assn and the summary citation was for my “outstanding contribution to tree protection in New Zealand, in particular your devotion in saving the heritage and notable trees of Christchurch.” It was announced last weekend in Tauranga, but embargoed until then.

Also, since I know you are interested in the city and its trees, it has just come to my attention that the Council is doing a survey on residents’ views on trees. I believe it is focused on the ‘urban forest’ but feel it’s important that as many people as possible respond. So if you are able to spread the word to your networks, that would be very much appreciated:

Warm regards,
Helen L”

I do encourage you to take part in this survey.

Further, the info on the link below will be of interest to some of you

Photo 5: Helen Lowe being presented with the Ron Flook award by Raoni Hammer, a representative of the New Zealand Arboricultural Association.

If you live in Christchurch, please consider supporting the charity fundraising event next weekend.

A Wigram Lions Club Project

Raising funds for The Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Child Cancer Foundation

A Charity Garden Tour of Christchurch Including 11 gardens will be held on 25th and 26th Nov 10am to 4pm.

Tickets at $35 pp may be purchased at any Oderings, Terra Viva, or Portstone Nursery outlet, or on line at at $37 pp plus free information brochure. One ticket gives access on both days.

Christmas Cake: M McRae

The ‘season’ this month is the Christmas Season and the recipe is another of my mother’s old recipes. This is for a Christmas cake that she made every year that I can remember. As children, my brother and I ‘helped’ by peeling the almonds, sorting the mixed fruit (no peel!) and sifting the flour. And we all had to have a final stir once everything was incorporated and before the thick, fruity mix was packed into the tin. We were told to make a wish as we stirred…I wonder if any of those wishes came true?!

Because of the slightly different method of ‘construction’ this cake is known in our family as ‘Mum’s Custard Cake’.

In honour of the original recipe I will give the quantities of ingredients in pounds and ounces…it’s a relatively easy thing to convert especially if you have scales with both measures.

First, prepare the tin….don’t skimp on this as the cake is in the oven for a long time and the tin needs to be well lined.

Line the bottom of the tin first with a double layer of brown paper (paper bags are good or thin cardboard etc). Put the tin on your chosen material and draw around the outside…cut out just inside your line so that the paper will fit snugly in the base of the tin. Then line the sides of the tin with a double or triple layer of baking paper so that the paper is about an inch taller than the tin; then cut a double or triple layer to line the bottom of the tin (over the cardboard/brown paper). Wrap the outside of the sides of the tin with a several-thickness layer of brown paper or newspaper, cellotape to hold temporarily then tie string around firmly. This might sound like a rigmarole but it stops the cake burning and drying out during baking….and it’s all part of the ritual!

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F

  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 lb flour
  • 2 1/2 – 3 lbs mixed fruit including plenty of blanched whole almonds. (currants, unless soaked first can make a cake like this dry so use raisins, sultanas, cherries, cranberries etc)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • vanilla (about 1 tsp of good quality)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sherry
  • 1 c milk

Rub butter into the flour in a large bowl. Add fruit and stir through.
Beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla until mix is thick and creamy.
Bring the milk to boiling point in a largish pot, remove from heat and immediately add the egg/sugar mix. Stir and allow to cool a little.
Add to the bowl containing the butter, flour and fruit and stir to combine well.
Dissolve the soda in the sherry and stir through. Make a wish!

Dollop into the tin, smooth out with the back of a tablespoon or spatula and then create a shallow ‘dish’ in the centre of the mix so that the cake will rise level rather than with a bump….easier for icing. If you’re going for the un-iced option with the nuts now is the time to place them and it won’t matter so much about the scooping a shallow bit.

Bake in a moderate oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 4 hours. Check after a couple of hours…if the top is browning too quickly, put a paper bag or a couple of layers of baking paper over the top of the tin and perhaps lower the temperature of the oven by about twenty degrees. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can brush the cake with sherry when it comes out of the oven if you like. Then cool the cake in the tin for an hour or so before turning onto a rack, still in it’s papers, to cool completely. Carefully remove all the papers and wrap in clean greaseproof paper then in foil and store cake in an airtight tin.
Nice left plain or iced. If you are not wanting to ice the cake it’s nice to make a pattern on the top of the raw mixture (before baking) with blanched almonds.

NB: this is a well-flavoured, but delicately flavoured cake and so almonds are better than hazelnuts; the dried fruits mentioned better than figs, prunes etc. I have made it with Spelt flour and with almond milk (or soy, rice etc) with perfect results. I also think the temperature given for the oven is better taken down to the equivalent of 160 degrees Celsius from the word go and then lower it further if necessary after a couple of hours if the cake is browning too quickly; the coal ranges my mother used for baking gave a gentler heat (if that makes sense to the scientifically minded!)…they certainly didn’t dry out baking the same as electric ovens can do.

Nice covered with a layer of real marzipan and left at that; or add a layer of brandy icing over the marzipan for more indulgence!



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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