October 2017

Hello Everyone

October 2017

Well, I had quite a lot of correspondence from readers last month, about the Decaisnea fargesii shrubs/ small trees which I wrote about in September. There are quite a few growing in the South Island; I haven’t heard from readers in the North Island who are growing them.

After reading other gardener’s experiences, and remembering my own, I don’t think mine was watered enough. One reader grows his alongside Rhododendron fargesii and Clethra fargesii, also discovered by the plantsman Farges.

I have one ordered from Blue Mountain Nursery in Tapanui, so it will be fun to try another one, keeping a much closer eye on it.

Chris O’Sullivan from near Geraldine wrote:

“Thought you may be interested in this vertical garden I saw in Mexico recently (before the earthquake!) it is on a very very tall building in the town.”

Photo 1: Developing vertical garden in Mexico, taken from a bus. C O’Sullivan

I received an email from a reader who told me about his Garden Club’s library. The library evolved from books that had been put on the sales table and requests that were made to members for any unwanted books. Furthering this cause, our reader was downsizing his home and decided to donate his garden books to the Club’s library for everyone to share. I wonder how many other clubs do this?

Aquilegias, columbines or granny’s bonnets, whichever name you prefer, are coming into bloom now and make a very good tapestry at Frensham. I started with a few plants more than twenty years ago. We have let them seed wherever they want to, and have deleted any plants where the colour clashed with the neighbouring plants. As aquilegias are slightly difficult to move because they have one tap root, we have found the deleting process easier for achieving good colour combinations. They are numerous, and there is the work of cutting them back when they have finished flowering, but what a joy they are. Our aquilegias are one of the dominant plants in some areas of our garden at this time of the year.

Unknown to many gardeners as being poisonous, aquilegias can be sown from ripe seed in late January or February. Prick the seedlings out, spacing them well, and leave in a cold frame over winter. They can be planted out in September.

Cornus ‘Eddies White Wonder’, a hybrid of C. florida and C. nuttallii is a superb tree for a small garden. I have three planted in the rock garden, one of them having been there for over twenty years. Their graceful white flowers are present and in autumn the foliage takes on rich reddish purple tones.

Verbena bonariensis: This summer stalwart, which is much admired in our gravel garden, derives its name from the city of Beunos Aires, Bonariensis being the Latin for Beunos Aires.

Speaking of the rockery garden, the area which sits between the front lawn and our umbrella table, I have made a decision to have a complete overhaul of this garden. When I arrived here over twenty five years ago, there were some large rocks in this bed and three large bright red rhododendrons grew there. These were given to a gardening friend soon after I arrived as I didn’t want the rhododendrons there and I had nowhere to put them at that stage. Plants have been put into the rock garden over the years and many have done well. However it has always been a mish mash of planting, and apart from the rocks that sit on the border of the garden, other rocks just sat on top.

I have thought for some time that rocks in this situation look better if one third of the rock is buried into the soil. I know when I like a rock arrangement but I don’t know how to achieve this and so I have asked for the help of Rob Watson, a local landscape designer and plantsman, whose input I have appreciated in more recent times when I haven’t been sure of something in the “design” department. We enjoy Rob’s presence in our garden, and two of our part time gardeners will join in the discussion. When the rocks have been put into their rightful places, planting will begin. I am thinking of whites, greys and greens to complement the rock colours. February will be a good month to place the rocks as they will be quite large rocks, so machinery will be required.

Another name change in the plant world: Dicentra spectabilis is now renamed to Lamprocapnos spectabilis.

We have many visitors to the garden this month, and one of the comments that is regularly made is how tranquil and beautiful the garden is. This is achieved by many years of thought and hard work. We are constantly editing the garden when a shrub or tree dies, as did happen to a few things after our very wet winter. As plants grow in size adjustments have to be made, and we are putting a variety of new plants and shrubs into the garden this season.

The group of part time gardeners who work in our garden are a very happy group who are just as passionate about the garden as we are, and I am sure this is reflected in the atmosphere of the place. Over the course of a year we have just under three and a half days help each week, with a recent addition of half a day per week being included in this total.

My husband takes care of the lawns, mowing and maintaining them, which set off the garden superbly.

Photo 2: A morning view. Photo by L Crowder.

Some years ago when the Ellerslie Flower Festival was held in Christchurch, a member of the Dunedin branch of Heritage Roses was here with her colleagues, setting up and holding an exhibition at the Flower Show. After the Festival, my friend left two or three roses with me, which looked as if they may not survive, but today one of them is growing and blooming magnificently at the back of our potager garden. Not seen in gardens very much, Rosa ‘Francis Dubreuil’ is an outstanding shrub rose. With glossy foliage and generous perfume, this rose should be grown more often I think. An old French rose, ‘Francis Dubreuil’ was bred in 1894. It takes on varying shades of blackish red throughout the day, depending on the opening of the flower and the amount of light at the time.

Photo 3: Rosa ‘Francis Dubreuil’. M Long

Photo 4: Rosa ‘Francis Dubreuil’ by M.McRae.

Many types of irises, roses, clematis, perennials, and shrubs are coming into flower by the half day, as well as some of the flowering trees. What an exciting time it is to be out and about.

Pear and Thyme Galettes: M McRae

Serves 8

Pears are not exactly seasonal in the southern hemisphere (my tree is flowering if that counts!) but it is a happy way to make use of some of the last (or first for those in the north) pears available. This dish can be served warm as a dessert with some cream or…I have eaten it at room temperature with some extra blue cheese and a spinach salad as a lunch. Versatility!

  • 2 sheets good puff pastry
  • 2-3 tbsp fig jam
  • 2-3 ripe, but firmish pears
  • 3 tbsp walnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp blue cheese
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp each of butter and honey or maple syrup melted together

Heat oven to 200 degrees C.
Lay the pastry sheets on a tray/s and roughly round off the corners. Spread thinly with the jam.

Core the pears, slice (no need to peel them) and lay slices in a circle, slightly overlapping, (stem end to the centre) leaving a 1.5cm border around the outside edge. Sprinkle with the walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and the thyme leaves.

Drizzle with the butter/honey mix and fold the edges of the pastry in to make a ‘rim’. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and the pear is softened.

Cool slightly and then use a spoon to remove any excess juices if necessary before serving. Can be made ahead and served at room temperature or prepared ahead and baked when required.



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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