October 2013

Hello Everyone

October 2013

There is so much to see and talk about at this time of the year with flowers and leaves opening as we watch. Magazines announce the spring and early summer colours, and it is easy to be distracted when driving. I have the roses ‘Nancy Haywood’, ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ and ‘Château de Clos Vougeot’ in full bloom now, with ‘Mutabilis’ much earlier as mentioned in my last newsletter. Rosa spinosissima ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ certainly lives by its name, flowering from the end of September until early winter. It was introduced in the UK in 1838 apparently the result of a chance seedling of a Mrs Lee who lived in Stanwell. With its highly fragrant flowers, long flowering season and very prickly stems, it would make an excellent hedge. I can’t recall seeing it grown as a hedge but would like to try this. The Swedish Rose Society recommends this rose for growing in northern Sweden.

I want to talk about Rosa chinensis ‘Viridiflora’. I used to grow it and lost it, and while I’m not wanting to add many more roses to the garden, this is one that I would enjoy in a group of, say, five. I was reminded of it when reading through an old copy of the New Zealand Gardener (September 1998). I found it interesting to come upon a letter written by a lady whose great grandfather brought this rose to New Zealand. “His name was Appo Hocton, an anglicised name from Ah Poo Hoc Ting. He settled in Nelson, and his personal history is sufficiently interesting to be recorded in the NZ Bibliography. No mean achievement for a Chinese of that period.”

I came across an interesting piece of information about the tree/shrub Drimys winteri. Native to south America, D. winteri was discovered in 1575 by Sir Francis Winter, one of Sir Francis Drake’s men. I have never grown one but have often admired it in other gardens and I think it is time to plant one. I know that wind chill can cause some damage, so how about growing it against a wall?
From walls to steps: I had shallow steps constructed so that our garden carts could be moved easily and so that people could manage well. This is so important with very young or elderly people. See Photo 2.

Behind the summer house the highly fragrant Wisteria sinensis ‘Peaches and Cream’, which I bought from Parva Plants many years ago, is truly ‘blooming’ this year. I thought it was lost a while ago, but with good TLC it has come to life again. Our summer house has trellis walls so it is pleasant to sit inside and smell the wisteria, followed later by jasmine and rose perfumes. Wisteria sinensis forms originate from China and have shorter racemes than Wisteria floribunda, the Japanese wisteria. Flowering along the back of the house and garage now is a mauve wisteria which makes a great backdrop to the planting of roses ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ which are interspersed with the patio rose ‘Winter Magic’.

Three or four years ago I bought three standardised wisterias, planted them in the garden and lost two to frost. The survivor was potted up, kept under the shadehouse over winter, and is brought out each Spring when it is in flower. This mauve wisteria sits very well with the rose ‘Nancy Hayward’.
Another standardised plant I have is Ilex ataclerensis ‘Hendersonii’. In fact I have four of them planted at the centre points of the potager. I think I mentioned these in my Autumn newsletter, as their main ornamental feature is the red berries. However I do enjoy the very small white flowers which appeared two weeks ago. There is not so much “white” that it startles the eye, but just a soft suggestion of something happening.

It was in 1992 while visiting Nymans Garden in Sussex that I saw my first Handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata. Also known as the Ghost Tree or Dove Tree. D. involucrata is in flower now; the story of its discovery is rather fascinating. The Frenchman Père Jean Pierre Armand David had discovered the tree in China in1869, bringing sketches home, but it wasn’t until 1899 that Veitch & Co, the leading English nurserymen of that period, paid Ernest Wilson £200 to go to China, find the tree, and bring back seed. The project was slightly complicated as Père David had passed away. An Irish plant hunter, Augustine Henry, was believed to have seen one, and so for Wilson to find the Davidia, he first had to find Henry. Wilson found Henry a year later and was given a map of a village where Henry had seen a D. involucrata twenty years earlier. When Wilson found the village eight months later, the tree was in the process of being felled. Wilson walked further north and found several of the same species in the area which Père David had been many years earlier. Further reward was that the trees were flowering.

Unknown to the British, one of Père David’s successors, Père Paul Guillaume Farges (after whom Decaisnea fargesii is named) had sent Davidia seeds back to France five years earlier. One seed germinated and so the French beat the British!

I have met many interesting people over the years when they are visiting Frensham. One such person was Seamus O’Brien who was here about two years ago. Seamus is the Curator of the National Botanic Gardens in Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow, Ireland and in 2011 his book “In the Footsteps of Augustine Henry” was published. I highly recommend this book with its excellent photography and informative text. ISBN-13:978-1-87067-373-0. There is a splendid photo of Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana inside the front cover. Seamus’s next book is “In the Footsteps of Joseph Hooker”. I am hoping to visit the NBG at Kilmacurragh next year and spend a little more time with Seamus; there will be plenty to talk about.

It is such a busy time of the year with garden work, garden visitors, and visiting other gardens. Next month I am hoping to visit Julie May’s Iris garden at Motukarara and a friend and I are making a trip to Tapanui to talk to Denis Hughes at his Blue Mountain Nursery. It is seven years since I made a visit there, when I was leading a tour of New Zealand with members of the British Hardy Plant Society.

Photo 1: This pyracantha caught my eye when I was walking in the hills behind Makarska on the Croatian coast. Photo by M.Long

Photo 2: A private garden in England. Photo by M.Long

Photo 3: See my notes above. Taken at Frensham by V Oakes.


  • Sit 4 salmon fillets with skin on bottom, on an anti-stick sheet.
    Ginger paste:
  • Blend 7cm fresh ginger, finely grated,
  • rind and juice of 1 lemon,
  • 2 spring onions finely chopped,
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce,
  • 120ml oyster sauce.

Brush upper side salmon with paste, grill until it begins to change colour. Turn over, remove skin, spread remaining paste. Grill.

If there is any salmon left over it is always good on a green salad the next day.

All of the plants that I write about can be Googled for images. The photos that I include in my writings are hopefully photos that you haven’t seen before.



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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