Although many gardens are interesting throughout the year, this is the time when most of the garden visiting starts. It is a real privilege and pleasure to visit another garden which has been carefully tended. I enjoy almost every garden that I visit. Sometime it is the design that appeals, the way the plants have been placed together, or maybe I discover a plant that I have not seen before.
With the plants in my garden, like the things in my home, most have a story to tell. A plant may be a reminder of a garden that I visited, it may have been given by a friend who is living or who has passed on, or it may be something that I have read about and decided to try. (Who can say “No” when a catalogue arrives?) These days of course most of the catalogues are available on the internet and it is even more tempting to see the life-sized images. The flowers that have grown from a packet of seed and were planted by my son before he went to work in another city bring memories.
The rose season is well underway. The first flower of R. ’Nancy Hayward’ has opened with its clear raspberry red petals. This year I am really looking forward to Rosa ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’. It is not an easy rose to grow in Christchurch as the hot sun can spoil its flowers. It prefers some shade. Very dark red, reasonably thornless and heavily scented, this rose has been struggling in the various parts of my garden in which it was planted. I now have two placed in part shade and growing up a tree. They will grow to about three metres and will flower from midsummer until autumn.
For Canterbury readers: As we have had a very dry and windy Spring, it is extremely important to water now as the ground is very dry, and it is said that we are heading for a hot dry summer. When you have watered well, if you have bare soil, put a thick mulch on such as compost or pea straw, as the mulch creates a barrier between the air and the soil, thus avoiding evaporation. This is one of the most important tasks to do now, and could well apply in other parts of New Zealand.
Photo 1: Beth Chatto’s Dry Garden near Colchester, U.K. Photo by M. Long
I wrote about some specific clematis in February 2013. This month I would like to talk in general terms about clematis, and encourage gardeners to grow more, as I think they are not used often enough. The word ‘clematis’ comes from the Greek word “Klema” meaning a vine branch.
Belonging to the Ranunculacea family, the clematis plant comes as a climber or a herbaceous perennial. Like the buttercup which also belongs to this family, clematis prefer to have their roots cool and out of the sunlight. They do not like root disturbance. Many gardeners say that they have lost their clematis to wilt disease. The most important thing to do to prevent this is to plant the clematis deeply. The wilt fungus attacks at the surface level, but not under the surface. So, plant your clematis at least 5cm deeper than you plant other things. If the plant is attacked by the fungus, it can make a new shoot below the ground. Cut the plant to ground level immediately as a clematis can be lost within 24 hours of succumbing to the disease if there is no prevention. When planting, dig a hole roughly three times the size of the root ball and mix in plenty of compost. The compost will help to hold moisture around the root system, as well as feeding the plant. Add some more mulch/compost to the surface and this will help to keep the roots cool.
When deciding where to plant your clematis, keep in mind that they like the company of other plants. Some ideal places for clematis to grow are through shrubs, roses, wisteria, trees, and they can be trained on walls or over tripods or poles. Be careful not to plant a clematis that does not need pruning through a plant that need hard pruning.
For pruning clematis, there are three categories.
The first category is the small flowering varieties that flower in October – November. Immediately after flowering, cut back the shoots that have flowered. Some examples of this group are Cl. montana, Cl. armandii, Cl. alpina and Cl. macropetala. The second category is the large flowering hybrids which start flowering in early Summer. Prune these in August – September by cutting out the dead wood, and cutting the remaining stems back to the first pair of strong buds. Some examples of this group are Cl. ‘Nellie Moser’, Cl. ‘Belle of Woking’, Cl. Ville de Lyon and Cl. ‘H.F. Young’.
Photo 2: Clematis ‘H.F.Young’. M. Long.
The third category includes all of the clematis that start flowering after mid December. In August and early September cut all of the shoots back hard to a strong pair of buds one metre or less above the ground. Examples here include C. flammula, C. tangutica and C. ‘Jackmanii’.
One of the ways in which I grow clematis is to let a plant weave through a herbaceous border. In our pink and mauve garden, C. ‘Kiri Te Kanawa’ does beautifully threading her way through the other plants, her roots are kept cool by her companions, and her flowers can be seen readily.
I haven’t included the pruning of herbaceous clematis here, but they can be cut back when the other perennials are being cut back, either in autumn or spring.
Last month I mentioned that I had visited Stockton Bury Gardens near Hereford this year. Stockton Bury Gardens have been created over the last 30 years by Raymond Treasure and Gordon Fenn. With their combined skills they have transformed the four acre garden into a haven for plant lovers. The garden sits at the heart of a working farm and features many medieval buildings – most notable are the pigeon house and the tithe barn. The main lawn, which is home to the largest monkey puzzle tree in Herefordshire, dates back to the 19th Century and the wall in the kitchen garden to a similar time. The grotto, secret garden and Elizabethan garden sit comfortably in the site and it is often assumed that they are much older than their tender years.
The garden is home to a kitchen garden, water garden and spring garden. It is a plant collection of unusual trees, shrubs and perennials and is place that many come to relax or admire.
For fun I am including three photos of an outdoor flower shop in Barcelona.
Photos 3, 4 and 5: Photos by M. Long
I am thinking of writing a Christmas Special, in which I will tell you more about several overseas gardens that I have visited in recent months. While there won’t be much spare time for reading my Writings when you are preparing for Christmas, there may be a day or two after Christmas, when you are sitting down to rest. I’d love to get some feedback on this to know if readers are interested, or any feedback in general is always appreciated.
LEMON SLICE: Marilyn McRae
This is a very lemon-y lemon slice…just the thing to use up some of the lemons that you might have pruned off if you had to shape your lemon tree recently. (If you need to prune your lemon tree and haven’t done it yet, it’s best to do it very soon as the pruning cuts can become vulnerable to the Lemon Borer’s attentions once they are on the wing as the weather warms up from now on.)
Grease and line a tin, approx 16cm x 26cm that is at least 3cm deep. Line with baking paper, leaving a 2-3 cm overhang to make it easier to remove the slice from the tin. Turn your oven to 180 degrees (not fan bake).Base:
- 150g butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 c caster sugar
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 1/3 c plain flour
- 4 eggs
- rind of 2 lemons
- 1/3 c plain flour
- 1 1/3 c caster sugar
- 2/3 c fresh lemon juice
When the butter has cooled, stir in the vanilla and sugar. Sift the flours over and stir with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough. Tip into the tin and press gently into the base of tin. Bake for 15–20 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool a little. For topping, whisk the eggs with the rind, flour and sugar until there are no lumps. Add the juice and whisk to combine. Pour over the base and bake a further 15 minutes until just set. Cool completely in the tin.
To serve: dust with icing sugar and cut into 24 pieces. Any left over will keep in a single layer in a tin for several days, maybe in the refrigerator if the weather is warm. The slice goes perfectly with a cup of tea or a cold summer drink or serve it as a dessert with some new-season’s berry fruit and some slightly sweetened whipped cream. Enjoy!
I had a call from a friend to say that she had made last month’s recipe of the Carrot Cake….without enough carrots, no walnuts and no ginger! She substituted kumara, hazelnuts and chocolate chunks and said it was great!
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