March - April 2016

Hello Everyone

The past two months have gone so quickly that the March and April newsletters have now become the Autumn newsletter. We went to the North Island in March, visiting friends along the way. One of the highlights was going to the Hamilton Gardens. It is many years since I had been there. The Gardens attract a large number of people and the day that we were there we were entertained by a group of Square Dancers, the Pumpkin Growing Competition and there were plant and produce stalls. Photo 1 shows the winning pumpkin in this year’s competition; hard to believe, but true.

There is an excellent website for the Gardens, including a short video. While in Hamilton I would recommend a visit to Sutton’s Country Garden. Full info and excellent photos can be found on the Gardens to Visit website www.gardenstovisit.co.nz. Attached are some of my own photos.

Photo 2. Sutton’s garden.
Photo 3. Sutton’s garden.
Photo 4. Sutton’s garden showing a mass planting of Betula jacquemontii.

When I was talking to Ann she mentioned that she is thinking of creating another garden; watch this space.

We are having a brilliant display of autumn colour this year. There are so many plants that could be written about for their autumn colour. I will talk about two which I don’t think are grown often enough in people’s gardens, remembering that I am talking about south of the Bombay hills.

Fothergilla gardenia and Fothergilla major produce superb colour. The reason that I want to quote from my April 2013 newsletter for readers who have subscribed since, is that the Fothergilla gardenia which I said grew in my garden, is actually Fothergilla major. I would be interested to hear from anyone who grows Fothergilla gardenia. Fothergilla major, which prefers slightly acid soil, is a choice plant. Flowering in spring with white bottle brush shaped flowers, it has the most spectacular autumn colour. See photo. A native to the Allegheny Mountains in eastern USA, it is closely related to the witch hazels and was named after John Fothergill, the physician, plant collector and philanthropist. Soon I am going to plant a grouping of Fothergilla major in the woodland area where a large clump of the white flowering Japanese anemone was removed recently. Accompanying the fothergilla will be plants of the oak-leaved Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’. This grouping should provide an attractive glade at the end of the woodland walkway.

Fothergilla gardenii is a plant which has been growing in our woodland for many years. Similar to F. Major, but having smaller leaves and a lower growth habit, this also has outstanding autumn coloured leaves.

The fothergillas can be propagated from layering or suckers.

Stephanandra tanakae, a member of the Rose family, is going to be planted in our woodland garden by the driveway. I had already chosen a southerly aspect towards the edge of the garden, when I read that it likes the opposite conditions to those that I am giving it. I am sure that with some TLC we will manage to grow it well here. I bought my plant from Blueskin Nurseries north of Dunedin over a year ago. Beth Chatto mentions in “The Damp Garden” that she had planted S. tanakae and S. incisa because she had seen them looking a dream of honey-gold in other people’s gardens, but for her they did not perform. Full info and good photographs can be found on Google.

Our live willow hedge continues to attract visitors’ attention. I have included two photos. The hedge is “whisked” once a week during the growing season, the hedge is waters deeply each week, and I am sure that Mike Lilian, the creator of the hedge, will be happy. See photos 5 and 6. Later in the year we are having our inner driveway resurfaced and this will include the entrance to the new garages as shown in the photos.

It has been a very busy start to the year, with family, friends, garden visitors, preserving the supplies from the garden and gifts from other people’s gardens. Like most people I am grateful for the years that have been given to me and I try to accomplish as much as possible during my waking hours. There are many rests and sleeps in between. One thing that is apparent to most of us is that it is impossible to live life away from our roots and the soil.

Soon we will be returning to our French home in Normandy. Several readers have asked if I could talk about the garden there. Yes perhaps I will. As we have a number of European friends, it will be great to spend more time with them as well as sharing our “other life” with New Zealand family and friends.

There are many ways of using quinces and this year the quince trees have fruited heavily in Canterbury. The following recipe was passed on to me by a friend some years ago.

(Click the images to enlarge or view the gallery)

Quince Chutney

Bring fruit to boil with half the vinegar, simmer til thick. Add ginger, orange and lemon flavours. Remove from heat and cool. Heat rest of vinegar with sugar until

Dissolved, stirring, boil, then cool. Combine with mustard and stir into quince mixture. Pour into jars, leave at least three weeks.

This chutney is good with cheeses or cold meats but even better when a jar is added to a winter pork casserole.

Best wishes to you all

Margaret



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