October 2014

Hello Everyone

October 2014

It seems a long time since I have written and I guess it is because it is the end of the month. So much has happened that I think it would be good one month if I wrote a few lines each day and sent them in the form of a newsletter.

Spring is most people’s favourite time of the year with flowers opening daily, foliage emerging in its various shapes, and Nature’s lush fresh greens appearing. The days are longer and our recipes are changing from casseroles and winter soups to the early summer delights of asparagus, spring carrots, and new potatoes next week.

For some time I have been struggling with the garden that borders the driveway. While there are many good plantings of rhododendrons, Solomon’s Seal, azaleas, daphnes, lilacs, magnolias, Disporum, hydrangeas and more, there are some gaps which I have been wanting to fill for some time, and nothing has come to mind whenever I think about that area. This week a friend brought me some blooms of the most delicious crushed raspberry coloured tree peony. A grouping of these will be ideal for the situation, providing compatible colour with other plants in flower in the driveway garden in October, and filling our gaps with divided tree peony foliage throughout the season. Like so many things in life, there is sometimes a “voilà” moment after much searching.

A planting combination which I enjoy very much in October is the white flowering Judas tree, Cercis canadensis ‘Alba’, alongside the white flowering Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’, underplanted with groups of the white flowering Deutzia gracilis “Nikko’. I am quite sure that these three plants will be readily available from your local garden centre, though the Cercis Canadensis ‘Alba’ will need a bit of searching. The deutzia propagates very easily from division and looks superb ‘en masse’.

Today I picked the first bunch of the coral peonies, P. ”Coral Sunset’ and P. ‘Coral Charm’. They are sitting in a vase on the kitchen bench by the window, and therefore backlit by the outdoor light. I can stand and look at these for a very long time.

Photo 1: The coral peonies.

I wrote about some of the wisterias in our garden last October. One more that I want to mention is Wisteria floribunda ‘Snow Showers’. The racemes are much longer than shown in the photo which was taken some years ago. Sitting on the front verandah in the evening is the ideal time to enjoy the fragrance of this wisteria.

Photo 2: Wisteria f. ‘Snow Showers’.

I have been talking about our new live willow fences in previous newsletters. Further interesting work of Mike Lilian’s can be seen in his own garden.

Photo 3: M Lilian. Mike has done a combination of dead and live fence at his gateway. When the solid weaving dies off in a couple of years time, it will be easy to replace….the front woven fence will grow.

Many of our roses are flowering now. One combination that I do enjoy and that is admired by our visitors is Rosa ‘Adam’ growing next to the more well known Rosa ‘Gloire de Dijon’ on the western wall of our two storeyed brick house. R. ‘Adam’ is described by Peter Beales as “probably a vigorous bush but better as a climber on a short wall”. I must say that ours is growing almost to the roof line; almost the same height as R. ‘Gloire de Dijon’.

Photo 4: Rosa ‘Adam’. M Long

We all have a list of plants that we have lost, or which have disappeared over time. Sometimes it is difficult to find them again in garden centres. One which I have had spasmodic success with is Delphinium ‘Pink Sensation’. Fortunately this is still available and I will try another grouping of three this year. When reading about this plant, I discovered an interesting fact, which is that ‘Pink Sensation’ inherits its colour from its orange-scarlet parent (which I also used to grow in), Delphinium nudicaule. Perhaps I will see if that is still available too as it is a most attractive plant.

It must be time for a coffee break now, so how about a piece of Marilyn’s Chocolate Truffle Cake to accompany the coffee?



  • 200 g sweet biscuit (I used a crisp chocolate biscuit, but any crisp biscuit would do…krispie, anzac, chocolate chip etc)
  • 50 g butter, melted


  • 375g dark chocolate
  • 2 cups cream (500ml)
  • 3 tbsp brandy, rum or liqueur (I used Cointreau)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Fold a long strip of baking paper or similar into a wide strip and lay it in the bottom of a deep, 20cm square cake tin so that the ends are sitting above the edge of the tin. Then line the tin with baking paper as normal. The long strip will help you to lift the cake out of the tin later.

Break the biscuits into chunks and drop into a food processor; process into a reasonably fine crumb. Add the butter and pulse to mix through.

Set aside about 4 tbsp of the mix and press the rest into the base of the lined tin. I used a square-bottomed jar to press it firmly into the base.

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. Place bowl over a pot of water barely simmering water on a low heat.

Bring 3/4c of the cream just to the boil in a small pot/enamel jug and pour over the chocolate; stir to begin the melting process and continue until all is smooth and glossy.

Whip the remaining cream with your chosen flavouring* and the vanilla to a soft peak stage, then use a metal spoon to fold it through the chocolate until there are no creamy streaks or flecks.

Pour over the crumbs, tap the tin on the bench a couple of times to settle the mix and then sprinkle over the reserved crumbs. I added about 1 tbsp of crumbled freeze-dried raspberries to the crumbs before sprinkling them, but this is optional.

Cover the tin tightly with plastic wrap or put the whole tin in a large plastic bag and tie the top. Refrigerate for 6 – 8 hours or overnight and it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Lift the cake from the tin and place on a chopping board. Use a large, sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut the cake, running the blade under the hot tap and drying it before making each cut. Cut into 16 squares. Lift each piece onto a serving plate, add a small scoop of mascarpone or plain Greek yoghurt and add a little of your chosen fruit. Rich, but meltingly delicious!

* Match the alcohol and the biscuits with the fruit you wish to serve the cake with….Cointreau could also be matched with a non-chocolate biscuit and mandarin or orange segments for example. Try rum with a coconutty biscuit and mango; brandy with chocolate biscuits and poached pears etc. A variety of freeze-dried fruits are available at the supermarket if you choose to add some to the crumb topping. They are a little expensive but the flavour is intense and a little goes a long way. They can be used to garnish iced cakes, sprinkled over a creamed pavlova etc.



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
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