January 2016 - Part 1

Hello Everyone

Welcome to the New Year and as you read this the first month is nearly over.

Weather has been a hot topic of conversation with most of us. Here in Canterbury we had some very good rains this week, following temperatures of 29° and 30°. Good moisture levels give us a new zest for gardening, as we all know that hot dry summers spent moving hoses can be a little soul destroying. We have been moving plants and composting; a very satisfying work. All sorts of things have emerged as we clear violet and anemone, polygonum, euphorbia and other rampant plants that have been ahead of us for some time.

I am including some general views of parts of our garden this month.

Photo 1: Looking toward the gravel garden and potager with Rose Nancy Hayward in flower earlier this month. Photo: M.Long
Photo 2: I do enjoy this scene with Calaycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’ in the centre foreground picking up the colour of the rose Mutabilis on the right, and these colours heightened with the rich bark of Acer griseum, the paper bark maple in the background. Photo M.Long
Photo 3: A front corner of the house, with domes of Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Waimea’. Earlier in the summer we had the exterior window and door frames painted this soft green shade. They used to be cream and I am thrilled with the way in which the house now sits more comfortably in its environment. Photo M.Long
Photo 4: Returning to Christmas time with the arrangement which was composed of plants from our garden. The arrangement was done by Marilyn McRae and photo by M.Long.
Photo 5: A closer look. Notice the foliage and hips of Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ in the background and to the right.

I have started reading a most interesting book, which I am sure some of our readers will have read; it was published in 1983. “Old Cottage Garden Flowers”, written by Roger Banks, is an informative account following three years of research into the origins of our old garden flowers. I would like to share one paragraph with you.

“Crocus, because of the highly – prized spice obtained from its dried stigmas is one of the oldest flower names in the world. From Latin “Crocum” it goes back via ‘Kurkuma’ in Sanskrit and ‘Karkom’ in the Song of Solomon to the basic ‘KRK’ in the consonantal root tongues of the ancient East. In Arabic the spice is ‘Za – feran’ which we anglicize into saffron.” Did you know that the slime from Bluebells’ bulbs was used to starch ruffs in Elizabethan times? Banks’ botanical paintings which feature throughout the book were widely sought after. Maybe there is a copy in your local library.

As I have been finalising arrangements for our tour to Melbourne and Central Victoria later this year, my writing is brief this month. At least the January newsletter is going out in January.

Chocolate Macaroons: M McRae

This is not a seasonal recipe as such, but a very quick-to-make all-seasons one. These little chocolate macaroons are delicious with a coffee or a cup of tea; with a glass of wine; on the side with a dish of icecream; with fresh berries; or with a mug of hot chocolate or a chai latte in the colder months. Any left-overs could be crumbled over fruit, eg. pears mixed with some sugar and a little water, and baked as a dessert; or broken up and mixed through softly whipped cream flavoured with a little vanilla, brandy or liqueur and fresh berries folded in. Maybe a small grating of chocolate on top!

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line at tray with baking paper.

If it seems very stiff, add a teaspoon or two of a neutral oil such as Rice Bran. Fill a small container with cold water, wet your hands and roll walnut-sized pieces of the mixture into balls then roll the balls in the icing sugar you put on the plate and place the balls onto the tray, leaving about 2-3 cms between. You’ll get about 25-30 macaroons. If you wish you can flatten the balls of mixture a little with the palm of your hand, but I quite like them left rounded.

Bake for exactly 11 minutes; the macaroons will still be quite soft, but will harden as they cool. Don’t cook them any longer as you want them to still be soft in the centres so that they are slightly chewy. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store air tight.

Best wishes to you all

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