After over 28 years of gardening here, it has been timely to refresh some areas. Wooden trellising has been removed from the walls of the summerhouse, and this has opened up new windows to the garden.
On the northern boundary we’ve had a willow shelter belt removed. We now bring in the hills, tree plantings and vineyards from our neighbouring property as a backdrop. Having the willows removed will give our existing woodland garden so much more opportunity to thrive. Scattered at random spaces near where the willows were, we’ve planted a grouping of Zelkova serrata trees, Prunus padus, the bird cherry trees, and Cornus ‘Greenvale’. The zelkovas are ideally placed as they are able to withstand strong wind and drought. In the back corner we’ve planted a group of Garrya elliptica.
Garden furniture is being repainted in the same colour as the window sills of the house, which are half a tone darker than the exterior window and door frames.
The new rock garden, an area in which I have featured local rock, will be planted at the end of this month when, hopefully, frosts are behind us. Plants which will blend with the silvery grey lichened rocks include Artemisia canescens, Artemisia pontica, Artemesia ludoviciano ‘Valerie Finnis’, Cytisus kewensis (soft cream flowers in spring), Saxifraga grisebachii, Stachys byzantia ‘Big Ears’, Convolvulus cneorum, and a smattering of Crambe cordifolia, the flowering Sea Kale, which will be in flower early summer. This plant, with flower stems reaching almost two metres, will help give structure to the garden which already has three spring flowering dogwoods, Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ flourishing.
Photo 1: At Frensham in the woodland walk, just before the frosts hit, destroying the foliage on the Japanese maples. Note the Azara serrata, the Vanilla tree in the top left hand corner. The flower produces a delicate vanilla scent. Margaret Long
Photo 2: Sweet pea stakes in place, and the penstemons were cut back the day after this photo was taken. Margaret Long.
The Tai Tapu Garden Tour is being held this year on Nov 8 from 10am until 4pm. It showcases seven beautiful locations all with their own unique features. The gardens range in size from medium to expansive, historic to modern, native to exotic and are full of colour, texture and diversity. This is a rare opportunity to see the gardens of the historic Otahuna Estate. Tickets are available on Eventfinda and more information is available at the website http://www.taitapugardentour.nz
Wild Weed Pesto: Marilyn McRae
With the spring weeds bouncing out of the ground, it’s a pleasant thing to harvest some of them as food! A month or so ago I began harvesting chickweed as an early salad green and found it delicious, so, now that more weeds are looking lush, I decided to try making a pesto from some of them.
I gathered a mix of chickweed, young dandelion leaves, a few fresh carrot tops, some bitter cress, some plantain leaves, the tops of Italian parsley that were beginning to form seedheads and some garlic chives then padded the mix out with a few spinach leaves and put approx. 2 cups of my harvested greens, washed and tough stems removed, into the beaker of a stick blender. I added 1 clove of garlic (add two if you don’t have garlic chives in the weed mix and like a stronger garlic flavour), the juice of a lemon (or you could use organic cider vinegar…1-2 tbsp), about 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan, about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of toasted nuts (I used walnuts as their slight bitterness would be a good foil to the high proportion of sweetish chickweed I had. If you have a majority of more bitter weeds such as dandelion, rocket, sorrel etc, us a more mild nut or seed, perhaps cashews or sunflowers for example), a grind or two of black pepper and a good 1/2 tsp of salt and about 1/2 cup of olive oil. I then used the stick blender to reduce it all to a fine pulp. Add more lemon juice or olive oil if the mix is too stiff and check the seasoning before finishing the blending. It might be that a little maple syrup or honey could help to balance the flavours.
** For a vegan option, substitute nutritional yeast for the Parmesan and use maple or agave syrup if sweetening is needed.
Weeds you can use for salads, pestos or sauces, or to add to smoothies….nettle tops (pick using gloves and blanch them in boiling salted water for a minute or two then use tongs to drop them into cold water before draining); dandelions; chickweed; puha/sow thistle; narrow-leafed plantain leaves; fathen (pronounced fat hen aka Chenopodium album); red Orach if it’s seeded everywhere in your herbaceous border; Italian parsley; wild garlic or garlic chives; sorrel (just a few leaves); bitter cress aka pinger weed; the finer inside fronds of carrots; nasturtium leaves. You may be able to think of others to try, but always clearly identify the plants you wish to use before harvesting. Pick them when they’re at their freshest, early in the morning and always wash them. And enjoy the sweet revenge of eating your weeds!
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