After much rain a few weeks ago, followed by warm temperatures, the plants in the garden are moving at a very fast pace. Gardeners and garden viewers are blessed in these lockdown times, when we have a little more time to observe, not only what is happening in our own gardens, but what is happening in nearby neighbours’ gardens.
The true mark of the beginning of spring in our garden is when the three box elder maples, which grow on the front lawn, come into flower. This happened nearly a week ago and excellent photos of the shrimpy-pink tassel-like flowers can be seen on Google. At the same time, the willow shelter belt on the western side starts to show a hint of green, and spring is underway. The patterns of the seasons are grounding, especially in these unsettled times. Many varieties of daffodils and winter roses, azaleas, camellias, viburnums, fritillaries, wood anemones, magnolias and apricot tree blossoms are some of the plants in flower as I write. I’ll stop making bird porridge at the end of this month.
I am sure that the peonies in the garden behind the summerhouse moved as I stood beside them last week. One day the wine-coloured foliage, looking so theatrical, was pushing through the ground’s surface, and within a couple of days these intriguing shapes had moved to the point where a flower bud had set. Peony flower buds sit a while before opening; usually at the beginning of November. Twice I had intended to go inside and get my camera to take photos of the emerging peony foliage, but it will have to be next year now. That is something to look forward to, and it will come around almost as quickly as the peony foliage emerges; it seems.
I have ordered a number of plants so that we can fill spaces this year, thus giving more of a feeling of abundance. Groupings of perennials that we are adding include agastache, eryngiums, echinops, astilbes, kniphofias, hebes and cimicifuga, along with a dear little plant, the evergreen Australian bluebell creeper, Sollya heterophylla. I planted this by the archway in the gravel garden at least twenty five years ago and it was the most commented-on plant in the garden in those early days, because of its dainty mid-blue flowers which people brushed past as they walked trough the trellis archway. The Sollya will grow up to two metres if trained as a climber. It was good to see it in Parva’s catalogue. I’m also adding another climbing rose, Lamarque, which will complement the existing one which climbs on one side of a bay window. Lamarque, with its fresh lemony fragrance during the hot summer months, gives so much value, flowering into early winter. The present one has been there for nearly thirty years.
Visitors to our garden will be able to see the extensive work that has been done in the northern woodland, the area having been extended when we had the willow shelterbelt felled. Shrubs and trees which were planted last spring are growing well, and whilst it will be a few years before we see the maturing of this area, I’m looking forward to watching the zelkova and bird cherry trees come into leaf. Underplantings in this woodland are being developed; we’ve already added some stunning varieties of winter roses and I am looking forward to visiting some nurseries that specialise in woodland plants in the next few weeks. Styx Mill Plant Centre, where they have good display gardens, comes to mind. All of the plants look so much better for the filtered light which now comes through since the shelterbelt has been removed, plants can now thrive without interference from the willow roots, and background glimpses of green hills with varying contoured shapes can be appreciated.
For readers who are missing travelling to other places, I thought I would share photos taken on a tour that I co-led to Tasmania in October 2018.
Photo 1: A planting of fritillaries in the Kaydale Lodge gardens in norther Tasmania. Photo by Margaret Long
Photo 2: Trilliums, looking towards the fritillaria meadow at Kaydale. I would love to revisit this garden to see the development of the plantings. Photo by Margaret Long
Photo 3: The Italian Garden at Prospect House in southern Tasmania. Photo by Margaret Long
Photo 4: Outside my bedroom window one morning, as I opened the curtains. Photo by Margaret Long
Simple Spaghetti: Marilyn McRae
Toss spaghetti with a simple sauce made from 1 part lemon juice, a little lemon zest, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and 3 parts cream heated until just simmering and then seasoned to taste. Add some freshly grated parmesan, stir through the pasta and serve immediately. Nice as a side to pan-fried chicken or fish or toss through some toasted walnuts or hazelnuts for a simple supper.
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