What another summery day we are having in Christchurch as I write this letter. Yesterday temperatures reached nearly 20 degrees and the plants are bursting into bud and leaf much earlier than they normally do at this time of the year. Standing under the tree Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Leopoldii’ yesterday I could see the rich green leaf buds trying to hold themselves back from opening to the warm sun.
This tree is a great specimen tree to plant in a place where you will be able to sit under it in future years. I first had this experience at Marjorie Fish’s garden, East Lambrook Manor in Somerset. It was a very hot day in July 1992, and I found a large tree which I decided to sit under until I could join my friends when they left the garden. Looking up into the tree, which was an Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Leopoldii’, one of the maples from Europe and western Asia, I said to myself that the view was so beautiful with the sunlight filtering through the greenish-yellow leaves (with a hint of pink) that I would plant one of these in my own garden and sit under it one day. The limey green leaves are splashed throughout with creamy yellow. You will see some good photos on Google. The tree is rather slow growing, mine being planted 20 years ago, and I am guessing that in another ten years it should be providing the scene that I remember from East Lambrook Manor. Some things in life are worth waiting a long time for, aren’t they? Or, as William Blake said,
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way: as a man is, so he sees.”
Incidentally the site www.eastlambrook.com is worth looking at and I would be interested to hear if anyone has visited the garden within the last two or three years.
So many plants are flowering now and as I have the first group for the season visiting in August I am looking forward to showing them all that is happening.
One attractive azalea with dark green-bronze foliage is producing clear pink flowers. Normally I wouldn’t like this colour combination but in this case it is spectacular. It might have something to do with the fact that we are seeing this plant flowering when the light is softer. I can’t imagine how I would like it on a bright summer’s day. I contacted Dennis Hughes from Blue Mountain Nurseries about this azalea a few years ago as I wanted to know the name of it and it had slipped through my catalogue system when it was planted. Dennis couldn’t identify it from the photograph and asked me to send him cuttings in February, which of course I have forgotten to do. I have diarised it to do next February but in the meantime can anyone help with the name of this? Photo 1 by Martin Wilkie.
Three terracotta pots of Hermodactylus tuberosus, the Snake’s Head Iris, have been flowering outside the shadehouse where they get morning sun. The rich black velvet and chartreuse flowers stop me each time I walk past them. I used to have these planted in the rockery garden but they got a bit “lost” there and are far more effective standing alone. I also think that the long leaves can be slightly unattractive in the garden and tend to camouflage the flowers. There are good photos on Google.Before talking about some narcissus I thought it might be helpful to explain the terminology for people who don’t know the difference between a narcissus and a daffodil.
Narcissus is the botanical name for all daffodils and therefore daffodil is the common name for all members of the Narcissus family.The Narcissus paper whites, Narcissus papyraceus ‘Paperwhite’, are a great picker now with their soft fragrance and clear white papery flowers. It is easy to see why these bulbs are forced in glass containers for the Christmas tables in the northern hemisphere.
Narcissus romieuxii ‘Julia Jane’ was the first narcissus to flower this year. Native to Morocco, this plant was brought back by Jim Archibald who named it after his daughter. Coming from Morocco where it gets very hot in summer, it is important to keep the bulbs fairly dry over summer. Either excellent drainage or tipping the pots on their sides will help to produce a good flowering the following winter. Again there are good photos on Google.A miniature Narcissus which started flowering this week was N. Tete-a-Tete, and the flower buds of the very miniature N. ‘Yimkin’ will be open in a couple of days if these warmer temperatures continue.
Various snowdrops are now in flower, Crocus ‘Cream Beauty’, and large clumps of Leucojum ‘Snowflake’ are scattered throughout the woodland garden.
A number of different varieties of Camellia are in flower: C. ‘Scented Gem’ with its tiny pink scented flowers, C. Japonica ‘Takanini’. as well as the autumn flowering C. sasanqua ‘ Setsugekka’. The dark red C.j. ‘Takanini’ has Chaenomeles ‘Dazzler’ (one of the Japanese flowering quinces) of almost the same colour planted with it. The effect is so good that I would like to make a good grouping of this combination for next year.
Almost 20 years ago I planted a Sollya fusiformis, the Bluebell Creeper from south western Australia, by a trellis so that it would have protection from winter frosts. It thrived for many years and was so admired by many people that we tried growing plants from cuttings and seed with no success. The plant eventually died and about three years ago it reappeared in a position not far from the original, where it has no protection from frost. It has formed a generously sized shrub, whereas it was a short climber, and I am looking at the many seed pods and wondering if I should just scatter them in the area and wait a few years. Has anyone had success with softwood cuttings?All of these plants can be seen on Google; I would prefer to send you photos which can’t be found on another site and not overload some computers.
A question from a reader asked if I knew the location of Photo 2. Has anyone been there?I have started wearing hats this winter. It is not only practical, but the hats are fun. Take a look at this one made by Sharon Ovenden from The Longueville Gallery in Tai Tapu (a dangerous destination for me as there are so many interestingly creative things to look at).
I also bought a scarf in matching colours and I think I could have sold this combination many times. The hats and scarves are all handmade (felted) with 100% New Zealand Merino fibre. www.longuevillegallery.co.nz All of the hat photos have been taken by Sharon, mine being Photo 3.
Readers have asked me about the availability of particular plants. As I have mentioned earlier, do ask at your local garden centre first and if you are in Canterbury Andrew at the Terra Viva Garden Centre is happy to source plants for you. If you can help with either of the following requests, please email the person directly.Ian Baldick is looking for the Australia Christmas Bell, Blandafordia punicea. email@example.com
Geraldine Cooke wants the shrub/tree Erica canaliculata. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Click the images to enlarge or view the gallery)
Our recipe for this month:
Raid the winter herb and vegetable garden for this month's recipe. It is a savoury loaf that is as delicious cold and packed in a lunch box as it is when served hot. Try it served with a mushroom or tomato ragout/sauce or a good brown gravy; a tangy fruit chutney is nice if serving it cold. Add steamed kale or silverbeet to the mixture before cooking if you want to as well (about 1/2 cup cooked, well drained and chopped).It is a handy recipe to have on hand if you have someone who is a vegetarian coming for dinner or lunch; something other than the ubiquitous quiche! If it is made with gluten free breadcrumbs it is also suitable for those avoiding gluten.
Heat the oil in a medium-sized pan, add the leeks and carrots. Cover and soften...about 10 mins.
Add all remaining ingredients to the pan, season and mix well. Add steamed greens, cooking water squeezed out, if using.
Pack into a greased loaf tin or similar sized dish.
Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees or until set and browning.
Slice to serve with your favourite sauce, a winter salad or steamed broccoli or a mix of roast vegetables. And there it is, most of the ingredients coming from the garden. And if you have hens and make your own bread...very satisfying!
There are quite a lot of things happening in the garden this month apart from the usual pruning, weeding, composting and general maintenance. This Friday my willow maker friend, Mike Lilian, is coming to plant a live willow hedge. The hedge will indicate the way to the car parking in the paddock, and a brick fence is replacing the wooden paling fence in front of the garden shed. It is all exciting and I hope to have some photos to show you next month. I smile to myself as I remember how my husband used to be disinterested in the garden. He now makes the best compost ever, maintains beautiful lawns, and is now being asked if he will conduct some of the guided tours in the garden. We have come a long way since the day he asked me if I could reduce the number of plants that I was buying. I said that I had, and that same day while he was at home three trucks made plant deliveries to our place.