February 2014

Hello Everyone

As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter the aborists have been thinning and pruning trees in the garden, and removing three trees that had served a good life. This month the aborists are back to work on trees in our long driveway. I hadn’t paid so much attention to the long drive, there being so much to think about in the main garden area. However in recent years lime trees have been planted and last year Sorbus aria lutescens and Tilia rubra, the red twigged lime. When I had the original avenue of lime trees Tilia europaea planted about ten years ago, I had wanted to plant Tilia rubra, the red twigged lime, but I could not find these in any quantity anywhere in the country. The reason given was that they were not being grown as there hadn’t been a demand for them. I was surprised to hear this as I think that these trees give such good value, particularly in winter with their very dark red branches and stems. Anyway, in a more recent planting about two years ago I located some, so they were planted in groups of three.

February is very much a month for cutting back, deadheading and watering. It is also a good time in the tranquil evenings to walk in the garden and assess the present garden, what changes may take place for the following year, to be actioned in autumn while ideas are clear in the mind. Plants can be moved towards the end of February. We have a few seedling single dahlias in a variety of colours, which will be moved to better spots where they are more colour compatible.

Trees are an essential element of any garden, providing shade at this time of the year, and ours are now letting more filtered light onto the plantings underneath as they were thinned last month.

Thornless blackberries are being picked daily and the courgettes are prolific. There are plenty of recipes for using courgettes but I learnt recently that grated and having the moisture squeezed out of them allows them to be frozen satisfactorily. This is a great idea for the curried courgette soup which I make on cooler days. I often grate raw courgette into a salad; another use.

In last month’s newsletter the photo of Dahlia imperialis was taken in north-east India (Sikkim) not China as mentioned.
This month I thought I would share threef photos that I took nearly three years ago in Christopher Lloyd’s garden, Great Dixter.

Photo1: A summer border. In the back is Euphorbia mellifera and to the left is a darker pink form of the Polygonum bistorta ‘Superbum’ which I wrote about in last month’s newsletter.

Photo2: Clematis in the nursery at Great Dixter. Clematis are tricky things to present well for sale and this system seems to work well. Christopher Lloyd wrote an informative book entitled “Clematis” which was first published in 1965. It is worth getting a copy if you are a keen clematis grower.

Photo 3: This photo gives a good example of the use of colour. A favourite iris of mine has part of its colour picked up by the maroon coloured Lysimachia ciliata ‘Purpurea’ in the foreground, which will have lemon-yellow flowers as the season progresses, and Phlomis russeliana, the Jerusalem sage, in the background which has tiers of warm yellow flowers.

Photo 4: This summer scene from our garden lasts for a long time. Towards the kitchen courtyard garden, the scene is framed with sasanqua camellia hedges and two Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’. We tie the berberis with string as they tend to flop a bit. Photo: B Weir.

I have just read “Stonefields” written by the highly acclaimed Melbourne landscape designer, Paul Bangay. This is a detailed account of the development of “Stonefields”, Paul’s private garden, which he developed after leaving St Ambrose Farm. With outstanding photographs, this generous sized book is well worth a read, covering all aspects of the design and planting process. The story also talks about the design and building of the house. At the end of the book, Paul includes some of his diary entries, where there is an understandable pre-occupation with drought. Paul’s previous books include “The Balanced Garden” and “Paul Bangay’s Garden Design Book.”

At the beginning of this month I visited the Tarankai garden, Te Kainga Marie. Developed over forty years by Valda Pattison and Dave Clarkson, this exquisite corner of New Zealand is well worth visiting. I had wanted to make the journey for some time, and was not disappointed. www.tekaingamarire.co.nz. An added bonus was the walk back to the city centre via the tranquil and outstandingly planted Te Henui Reserve. This walkway takes you to the seacoast where you turn and walk along New Plymouth’s paved waterfront; a walk of approximately one hour. Both the reserve and the garden are good to visit in any season.

Courgette and Lemon Cake: Marilyn McRae

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius and line two loaf tins with baking paper.

Dry ingredients: Mix in a bowl.... In a large bowl beat together When well combined and pale-ish add 2 c grated courgette and the zest of 2 lemons. Mix lightly.
Add the dry ingredients and fold in until just combined but not overmixed.
Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 50 - 60 mins or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
Cool in the tin and then transfer to a rack.

Use the juice of the lemons to make a drizzle by putting in a cup and adding demerara sugar until the mix is thick. Pour this over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven and cool cake completely in the tin. (By using demerara sugar you get more crunch! as the sugar doesn't dissolve as much as a finer sugar.)

OR: make an icing using the juice and enough icing sugar to make a pouring consistency. Ice cakes when cold and sprinkle with more sliced almonds.

OR: Leave out the lemon rind, add vanilla essence and some chocolate drops. This could be iced with a thin chocolate icing if desired.

This is a light, moist cake that freezes well. Freeze one and eat one!

Towards the end of this month I am going to the Philadelphia Flower Show. I hope that my photographs turn out well so that I can share some ideas with you. The PFS, held indoors in the first week of March in their late winter, is apparently a “Wow” event.

Best wishes to you all

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