September 2018

Hello Everyone

September 2018

I thought I would share some of the correspondence that I have received after the last newsletter was sent out.

Jan of Auckland replied:

“Gardening in different countries is very interesting re the conditions – I lived in Singapore – there were no seasons; in Australia watering was an issue; in Finland we lived in Helsinki and it was novel to wrap plants and shrubs to protect them from the snow and ice of winter but most of all it is Nature and the adaption of plants and trees that is the most fascinating and stupendous phenomena … in Spring we were initially told that Helsinki “greens in a day” and I wondered what this meant, then experienced it. At 8.30am one Spring day I noticed that all the deciduous trees were still bare of leaf. At 2.30pm on the same day there was a green blush across the city and by evening all the new leaves had unfolded on the trees. I HAD to find out how this could be, how could the leaves grow in a day? Nobody seemed to know! The following Autumn when the leaves were falling from deciduous trees in our garden I studied their branches and was astounded to see that new leaves were forming as the old leaves were falling. They were wrapped around the branches at their full length size making the branches a wee bit thicker – unnoticeable unless you were to examine them. During the 8 month winter with the temperature dropping to -32dC in Helsinki, thick ice formed around the bare branches of trees and snow would lie inches thick on top of the ice. When the melt came and the temperature warmed and conditions were absolutely right across the city, the leaves, fully formed just waiting to be released, uncurled in a few hours to ‘green Helsinki in a day’. Nature is astounding!”

The subject that rises constantly is the warming up of the seasons and as I mentioned last month, Spring growth arrived early in Christchurch. My neighbour Glenys said:

“Even the proteas have finished flowering earlier than last year and this Saturday will be my last day at the Lincoln Farmers market. I shall miss the weekly markets…always a nice social affair and so good to have many ‘ regulars’ coming back because they like my flowers. One lovely lady regularly buys little bunches for her dog’s grave…charming!”

I sent a special notice out recently, telling readers about the re-opening of Peter Cave’s nursery. I saw that Peter listed Albuca bracteata, also known as the Pregnant Onion. We acquired the plant some time ago and the name was not known. Whilst it was in flower we identified it as Ornithogalum longebracteatum. Further investigation showed that these names are synonyms, as is Ornithogalum caudatum! As a gardening friend mentioned “Sometimes I think that the etymologists are changing plant names to fill in the time between coffee breaks!”

I have just attended a two day symposium in honour of the late Beth Chatto who passed away in May this year. The Beth Chatto Trust organised the symposium, entitled “Ecological Planting in the 21st century”. What a stimulating event it was both in the quality and diverse interests of the speakers, and in the opportunity to meet so many like-minded people from around the world. Twenty seven countries were represented with over 500 attendees; a huge accolade to Beth, her life’s work and generosity. To see the speakers:

I personally experienced Beth’s generosity of time on several occasions and felt when I was in the lecture theatre that Beth’s spirit will live on for a long time. For readers who don’t know about Beth, I recommend that you get copies of her books; her thinking was a little ahead of her time.

One of the speakers was the highly motivating Olivier Fillipi who has a nursery for Mediterranean plants in the south of France. I am thinking of putting some of his plants into the garden in Normandy. We have a corner section with three metre high stone walls on two corners and several stone terrace walls and rills within the garden. With heatwaves for the past five summers, and its own microclimate created by the stone walls, I have realised that as long as they have good drainage, plants suitable for hot dry conditions will be right. I don’t always want to be in France during the hot summer months, so the plants will have to take care of themselves. Have a look at Olivier’s website to see his plant catalogue. Whilst the text is in French, botanical names are in a universal language. I think a lot of us in New Zealand are reconsidering some of our plantings with hot dry summers seeming to become the norm.

Nearly all of the speakers had travelled widely, observing plants in their natural habitat, and this came across clearly as being one of the things that we as gardeners should be aware of when choosing plants for our gardens. The right plant for the right place, as Beth said many years ago.

Photos: All taken in Normandy. M Long

Spring Soup: Marilyn McRae

This is a lovely fresh, light soup and uses any of those newly emerging Spring herbs and ‘weeds’ that are looking so lush just now. There is a certain satisfaction in eating those you consider to be weeds! Use a roast chicken carcass to make your own stock or you might have some stock in the freezer or fridge.
One of the good quality chicken stocks available from supermarkets would also work well.

  • Harvest a packed 1/2 cup of herbs and ‘weeds’ choosing from sorrel, parsley, chickweed, small dandelion leaves, watercress, chervil, nettle, fathen, tarragon etc.
  • Wash these thoroughly, drain well and chop finely.
  • Fry these gently in about 20g butter or 2 tbsp olive oil for a few minutes.
  • Add 1/3 cup white rice and cook, stirring, for another few minutes.
  • Add 5 cups chicken stock and bring to the boil.
  • Cover and simmer until the rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper, and if you think it needs it, a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Pour into bowls and add a swirl of sour cream or a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Garnish with sprigs of chickweed, calendula petals etc. Or oil and chargrill trimmed whole spring onions…one for each bowl…and lay those atop.

Because this is such a simple and light soup, an accompaniment of a good white sourdough bread and quality butter is all that’s needed.



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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