Winter is finally coming to a close! The first two months (June/ July) were very cold, with heavy frosts, which were much worse than last year, damaging all the fresh new growth on the citrus trees (first photo) and almost completely destroying our beautiful native frangipanis, which had been doing so well (second photo). Hopefully, they will recover this Spring!Most of the salvias in the Moon Bed, a large area of agapanthus slope (1st photo) and the giant bamboo and the pots of succulents, daisies and aloe vera were also hit, and even the pink rock orchid (2nd photo) and the elkhorn (3rd photo), both of which should have been safe in their relatively protected positions! Luckily, they are both tough and show signs of recovery.Heavy frost certainly sorts out your plant selection! Only the tough survive!!Winter frosts also mean blue and gold sunny days and cold Winter nights and while the Winter Garden takes a holiday from blooming, we still did plenty of work in the garden, preparing for the new season, as well as exploring the local area and enjoying the Winter fires (both in the house and a friend’s bonfire night) and indoor activities.
I will start this post with an overall review of the garden in each month, followed by a recap of our garden jobs; creative pursuits and exploratory days out.June saw the end of the Autumn foliage (1st photo above of the Japanese Maple), a bounty of ivy berries for the bowerbirds (2nd photo above) and the last of the late roses. The photos below are, in order: Stanwell Perpetual; and David Austin roses, Heritage and LD Braithwaite.from which I made my birthday bouquet below: David Austin Roses: Heritage; Eglantyne; Fair Bianca; and William Morris; Feverfew; purple and white Dames’ Rocket; violets; Ziva Paperwhites and Buddleja foliage. From then on, it was vases of violets and Winter bulbs: Galanthus; Erlicheer and Ziva Paperwhites, all of which are flourishing in their new positions and naturalising well. Other June bloomers included: Primulas and Primroses; Winter Honeysuckle and Winter Jasmine; and Japanese Anemones and Wallflowers. Lots of whites; purples; lemons and yellows, with sharp sweet clean scents! The bees just adore the wallflowers!There were also the richer colours of gold and red in the Hill Banksia and the Grevillea. The first crop of our citrus was also very encouraging, though I should have harvested the limes and lemonades earlier before the frost damaged them! Seen below are photos of our lime tree; lemon crop (cumquats in background) and lemonade tree. I was very impressed with the sweetness of our first and only Navel Orange!In July, I was also very excited to see the emergence of our first Winter Aconite, which I had bought at great expense from Moidart Rare Plants last Spring, planted in the Treasure Bed and then waited for signs of life for months, resigning myself to the thought of having totally lost it! Now, it needs to multiply, then I will try naturalising it in the bird bath lawn with the Galanthus, which enjoys similar requirements.By late July, the leucojums (photo above) and hellebores had joined in. The first photo below is the corner of my neighbour’s garden by our shed. I can’t wait till our hellebores spread like that!! While I love the single form of Helleborus orientalis (above), I’m rather partial to the double forms: Purple, White and Red; as well as the rarer species hellebores: Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’.The japonicas, daphne and camellias also really picked up their game in early August, having been a bit shy to shine this year! I felt they bloomed much earlier last year with its milder Winter. The first photo below is the view from our bedroom window!I was delighted to have more flowers for the house.While June and July can sometimes feel a bit long, I love the quickening pace of August with its increasing day length, resulting in miniscule changes in the garden, which gives such a sense of hope, anticipation and excitement: The tiny leaf buds swelling on the trees (photo is the quince tree), shrubs and roses; The shooting of tulips and iris in the cutting garden, naturalised bluebells, crocus and Poets’ daffodils in the lawn and hyacinth and grape hyacinth in the treasure bed; and the celebratory blooming of miniature Tête à Tête daffodils and golden Winter Sun; Magnificent golden Wattle; Early Spring blossoms: Crab Apple; Plum and Birch; And the blooms of forget-me-knots, golden-centred white paper daisies and begonias.The birds are also revelling in the return of Spring! While the Winter trees were full of Currawongs, Crimson Rosella and Grey Butcher Birds (photos above in order), the tiny Striated Pardalotes have returned to the Pepperina tree, where their beautiful song marks the return of Spring.Eastern Spinebills and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are also enjoying the August sun.The Bowerbirds have been feasting in great numbers on the new loquat crop, stealing a march on the Summer flying foxes!They also enjoy a swim in the bird bath, when not picking off my erlicheer blooms!
The magpies have been busy building their nest high in the Pepperina tree since late July. Can you see it up there? Despite their vicious swooping assaults on any large bird foolish enough to come anywhere near their territory, they are incredible quiet with us, often waiting patiently within a metre of us while weeding for an easy meal.I was very excited with the return of last year’s baby White-faced Herons, to check out the old family home in the cottonwood poplar. We are crossing our fingers that they will nest there again, despite the magpies’ plans to the contrary! They seem to think that they own all the trees in the garden – in fact, quite possibly our house as well, though Oliver (2nd and 3rd photo below) might have something to say about that! The nurturing aspects and bird-viewing potential of our neighbour’s giant tree makes up for its vigorous, and dishearteningly constant, propensity to shoot out roots deep into the soil under our vegetable beds! Raised vegetable beds are definitely part of our future garden plans!Winter is a great time to clean up the old garden and prepare for the new season! Weeding has been a major job: the aforementioned battle between the cottonwood poplar and our vegetable garden; the Cutting Garden ( 1st photo); the Soho Bed (2nd photo) and Moon Bed; and the new Shed Garden.We pruned all the old messy and dead growth: the feverfew and dames’ rocket in the Cutting Garden and the salvias and Paris daisy in the Moon Bed; the hydrangeas in late June and all the roses in late July; and lastly, all the old dead wood of the feral and incredibly prickly Duranta, creating a new semi-shady area to grow a white shrub bed, as well as lots of work, cleaning away all the lethal spiky offcuts! We transplanted the Viburnum mariesii plicatum, which was struggling in its old position in full shade; the white lilac, which really was out of place and would have eventually been too large for its location, and four Annabel hydrangea rooted cuttings from my sister’s garden at Glenrock. The neighbour’s cats were fascinated by this brand new garden, but I’m not sure how their feet fared! The tubs were protecting my Galanthus from being demolished by trampling feet as well!We also transplanted the pomegranate and red azalea from the bottom of the garden to the entrance of the main pergola and the red border of the native garden respectively to make room for a future garden shed, which will hopefully be built in the next few months.Winter is a great time for garden planning and reorganization, as well as for building structures! Ross has built a fantastic rose frame, using steel posts and weld mesh from old gates, against the old shed wall to support and effectively control our Albertine ramblers, which would otherwise take over the camping flat completely! I can’t wait to see the future wall of salmon pink roses!We dug up the area underneath for a mixed dahlia bed, the plants hiding the bare legs of the climbing roses and blooms taking up the baton after the Albertine has finished. This decision has also freed up the old dahlia bed for a future Brassica crop, though we have reserved the front third for Iceland poppies!We also finally put up the weld mesh on the top of the Main Pergola to support this year’s Summer growth of the climbing roses!Ross is getting very organized in the vegie garden! He has defined the edges of the vegetable and cutting garden beds with old weatherboards; Confined all the raspberry plants to their own bed near the compost heap; planted two more blueberries, all in different stages (leaf bud; flowers; and Autumn foliage!); Transplanted the rhubarb, asparagus and Russian tarragon to the new perennial vegetable garden (the northeast bed, which grew tomatoes and raspberries last year) and the snow peas to the corner of the compost heap, allowing some to stay and climb up the raspberries; pruned the old raspberry canes, transplanting the new Heritage runners to their own run and extending the old run with the Chilcotin and Chilliwack varieties; and sown Calendula seed at the front of the bed. In the remaining space of the perennial bed, he will plant pumpkins and zucchinis, letting them rambler down the bottom corner. He will then rotate between the two old main beds, which will grow potatoes (with later cucumbers) and beans, carrots, beetroot, with the current parsley and rocket in one bed; and kale, silverbeet, shallots, snow peas and lettuce and the two new ex-cutting garden beds, which will house early Spring brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts), and solanums (tomatoes, capsicum and aubergines) this year, though he has promised to allow any self-sown sunflowers or zinnias from the old beds to co-exist. Here are photos of our Winter vegie bed, with kale; ornamental chard; snow peas; broccoli; Spring onions and carrot seedlings just up!Meanwhile, I have been busy with the flower beds! I have transplanted overcrowded self-seeded rose campion and catmint to their new positions in the Moon and Soho Beds; planted gold and soft purple Bearded Iris to the back of the shed beds; and created a complete silver ring of Lambs’ Ear to define the border of the Soho Bed. Stachys lanata is so tough, it didn’t even miss a beat on division and transplantation and, once established, will certainly make it difficult for any external invasion of weeds and grass! I love the downy soft feel of its foliage! We planted our new roses from Thomas Roses in the Shed Bed (Mme Hardy; York and Lancaster; Rosa Mundi and Chapeau de Napoleon); on the flat (Maigold) and on the Main Pergola (Souvenir de St Anne). Ross also dug up an area on the terrace under the Pepperina tree and divided the old clivia clumps, so we can enjoy a swathe of orange in Summer.This month, we have started sowing seed in punnets under a plastic poly-tunnel on the warm path for plants to be later transplanted after the frosts: Heartsease (already up) and Scabiosa; Aquilegia and Honesty; Green Nicotiana and Gaillardia, which has already emerged at two weeks; Yarrow and Echinaceae; and Sea Holly and Green Wizard Coneflower, though we should have read the fine print on the latter, as we later discovered that they need a constant 20 degrees Celsius to allow them to germinate! In lieu of an incubator tray, we have been carting them in and out of the house each day!!!We have also sown seed directly in the garden: Nigella, Miss Jekyll Blue, and pink oriental poppies, Princess Victoria Louise, in the Soho and Moon Beds (photo below); Cerinthe major and burgundy-blue-and white mixed cornflowers (‘Fireworks’) in the shed garden; and Iceland poppies in the cutting garden (and third of the potato bed, as they are one if Ross’s favourite flowers!!!) You can see why I can’t wait for Spring!!!The Winter kitchen has also been a hive of activity with a first batch of lime cordial, made from our very own limes; 28 jars of cumquat marmalade from 6.6 kg fruit, with still more setting and ripening on the trees!; and making lemon cupcakes for a birthday, as well as lots of warming Winter soups!On the colder, greyer days, I have enjoyed embroidering diatoms on a felt; discovered the joys of making cords using a Kumihimo disc; learnt to crochet a flower chain; and made another embroidery roll for a friend.The majority of the days have had blue-and-gold days, as in sunny blue skies, perfect for exploring our beautiful local area:
Haycocks Point;Canoeing on the Murrah River to the Murrah Lagoon and the sea, where architect, Philip Cox, built his holiday home;Exploring Bombala and Delegate, platypus country and part of the ancient aboriginal pathway, the Bundian Way;Visiting On the Perch, Tathra, with its amazing range of birds, organized into their different environments, including this Emerald Dove and Maud, the Tawny Frogmouth; Zoe loved feeding all the birds!Hiking from Bittangabee Bay to Hegarty’s Bay, part of the Light to Light Walk from Boyds Tower to Green Cape Lighthouse in the Ben Boyd National Park;Discovering Penders, the property owned by businessman Ken Myers and architect Sir Roy Grounds, which was donated to National Parks in 1976 and is now part of Mimosa Rocks National Park, with its amazing views from the Bum Seat, photographed below, of Bithry Inley and the sea; and fascinating history and built environment, including Roy Ground’s tepee–like outdoor eating area, The Barn, and his geodesic dome structure; the magnificent Spotted Gum and Macrozamia forests and old orchard, with huge old camellia trees in full bloom; as well as the beautiful coastal walk to Middle Beach, with golden banksias against the blue blue sea and our first ‘echidna train’. Apparently, during the mating season in July and August, one female will be followed by two to ten males, until she tires and the first in line gets lucky! According to the ranger on the track, echidnas are also very active just before rain and sure enough, three days later, it did rain! This quiet Swamp Wallaby kept us company over our picnic lunch.Other Winter highlights included my birthday (What a cake!!! Thank you, Chris!); and a visit to Canberra for an interesting woodcut exhibition at the National Library of Australia, ‘Melodrama in Meiji Japan’ (see: https://www.nla.gov.au/meiji). We also popped into our favourite nursery, where we bought some tuberoses to plant in September after the frost. I just adore their scent, but will have to plant them away from the frost!We finished the Winter with a local orchid show at Merimbula with some stunning plants and an incredible range of form and colour.Next week, I am returning to one of my favourite rose types, the Noisettes. I will leave you with a Winter miracle, the humble spider’s web!
As the growing season slows down and we head towards the cooler weather, it is lovely to know that we have some beautiful, dreamy and inspirational books to browse by the fire in Winter! As editor, Ferris Cook, writes on page 12 in the foreword to his book, ‘Invitation to the Garden’, the first book featured below : ‘ Like so many other gardeners separated from their gardens by darkness, miles or inclement weather, I love to read about other gardens when I can’t be in mine’. I have divided these books into four sections :
Inspiring books about gardening and plants in general
General garden travel books
Books about specific gardens
Books about specific plants
And once again, this post is too long – too many wonderful books and too much to say about them! – so I have divided it into three posts : Part One on beautiful garden publications and general garden travel books (today); Part Two on specific overseas gardens (May); and Part Three on books about Australian gardens and specific plants (June).
Inspiring books about gardening and plants in general
Invitation to the Garden: A Celebration in Literature and Photography, edited by Ferris Cook 1992
The perfect title to start a post on garden books and it certainly lives up to the claim of its subtitle, as well as its reputation! Indeed, it was the winner of the 1992 Award for Excellence in Garden Communication from the Garden Writers’ Association of America. Divided into seasons, it is a wonderful read, which can be dipped into at random, always finding an interesting snippet or pertinent quote, poem or prose and always accompanied by the most beautiful sumptuous photos by specialist garden photographers: Ping Amranand; Ken Druse; Richard Felber; Mick Hales; Harry Haralambou; Peter C. Jones; Peter Margonelli; Hugh Palmer; and Curtice Taylor.
A good example is the very first entry in Spring, ‘Down the Garden Path’ by Beverley Nichols, in which she describes that familiar daily habit of all gardeners, ‘Making the Tour’, involving a detailed examination of every square inch of the garden and noting all new discoveries and happenings! In reality, I probably do this at least three or four times a day!!!
There are poems by Homer and Shakespeare; John Donne and Robert Herrick; the three Williams (excluding Shakespeare, as he was so much earlier!) : William Cowper, William Blake and William Wordsworth; Matthew Arnold and Emily Dickinson; two Roberts : Robert Bridges and Robert Frost; A A Milne and Virginia Woolf; Rainer Maria Rilke and William Carlos Williams (that’s two more Williams in one!!); Pablo Neruda; W H Auden; Sylvia Plath; and e e cummings; and that’s only a fraction of them!
There are also excerpts by Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Old Manse); Ivan Turgenev (The Rose); Lewis Carroll (The Garden of Live Flowers); William Morris (Collected Letters:Kelmscott); Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden); Edith Wharton (Italian GardenMagic); E A Bowles (The Passing of Summer); H G Wells (The Flowering of the StrangeOrchid); Colette (The Ways of Wisteria; and Hellebores); John Steinbeck (TheChrysanthemums); and Laurie Lee (Segovia-Madrid), again only a small selection of the entries! Hopefully, the titles are enough to entice you to search out this book!
The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Gardeners, edited by Deborah Kellaway 1997
An equally delightful coffee-table book to be enjoyed at leisure! Illustrated with beautiful artwork and superb photographs throughout, this anthology of musings by women garden writers is divided (for easy reference) into chapters, titled : Weeders and Diggers; Advisers and Designers; Plantswomen; Colourists; Countrywomen; Townswomen; Visitorsand Travellers; Kitchen Gardeners; Flower Arrangers and Visionaries. Its writers represent a ‘Who’s Who’ of the gardening world with names like Gertrude Jekyll; Alicia Amherst, Elizabeth von Arnim, Norah Lindsay, Beatrix Farrand, Constance Spry, Vita Sackville-West, Margery Fish, Edna Walling, Beth Chatto, Penelope Hobhouse, Rosemary Verey, Nancy Steen, Mary Keen, Valerie Finnis, Ursula Buchan, Joy Larkcom, Jane Taylor and Mirabel Osler, but there are so many other authors!Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations by Ken Druse and Ellen Hoverkamp 2012
I loved both the first two books equally well, but I ADORED this book! This would have to be the mosr beautiful book I have ever seen ! Every page is such a visual treat and showcases all the incredible treasures our Earth holds and their infinite diversity of colour, form, texture and function! Absolutely stunning photography, both of beautiful gardens and separate plant combinations, presented dramatically against a black background in the style of a combination of 1920s and 1930s American photographer, Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) (https://www.imogencunningham.com/plants/) and English botanical collage artist, Mrs. Mary Delany, whose beautiful paper collages can be seen at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?searchText=Mary+Delany. While I knew the work of Mary Delany, which inspired my floral collage cards (see: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/09/08/ambassadors-of-spring/), I did not know of Imogen Cunningham, but have fallen in love with all her work, from plant studies and still lifes to portraits and romantic family shots; the beauty of the human body (nudes; dancers) and her street scenes and landscapes. I particularly loved her photographs of the stunning architectural blooms of the Bull Bay Magnolia (Magnolia Blossom 1925 and Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels, 1925), as can be seen in the above link.
Ellen creates her floral photographs, using a flatbed scanner and produces images of unparalleled depth, colour and beauty. I found it impossible to select a favourite plate to show you, but here are some examples:
There are over 100 species botanical images of plants, which bloom simultaneously and compliment each other perfectly. They are organized by theme: seasons; plant families; form and function; colour; place (eg woods; open spaces; damp areas; rocky sites) and purpose (eg fragrance; butterflies; edible flowers; secret; literary; boxed; health and beauty; art; and nighttime). It is such a beautiful book and a lovely one to dip into whenever you get a chance! I cannot recommend it highly enough! Appendices include a list of edible flowers and flower meanings.The Language of Flowers: a Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 2011
A totally different book, both to the previous three coffee-table books, this one being a first-time novel, but also refreshingly original in concept and style. Based on the Victorian language of flowers, a compendium of which is included in the back of the book, this novel is written in first person, following the life of Victoria, an ex-foster child and florist and exploring complex themes like maternal love, forgiveness and redemption. Being a flower arranger, I was instantly attracted to this book and once started, I could not put it down! It is so easy to read and so hard to put down! Plus, I have used the flower dictionary constantly, when making my floral collage cards for friends and family.
Seasons at Home: Food, Family, Friends and Style by Holly Kerr Forsyth 2011
Both are beautiful books, which I would love to own one day, but in the meantime, I am enjoying this smaller book: Seasons at Home! While this book would fit equally well into my cookery book post later in the year, I have included it here because of its gardening and flower arranging content. Her photographs, styling and interiors are so beautiful and inspiring, how could I do otherwise!! Also, this book is a perfect lead-in to the next section with the first book also written by this knowledgeable lady!
General Garden Travel Books
Gardens of Eden: Among the World’s Most Beautiful Gardens by Holly Kerr Forsyth 2009
A Christmas present in 2012, when I was studying garden design at Burnley, this beautiful book covers fifty of the world’s most beautiful and famous gardens. Lavishly illustrated with over 500 photos, the gardens are divided into chapters titled : Lessons inGarden History; A Sense of Place; The Designer in the Garden; The Gardens of Politicians,Writers, Artists and Collectors; Clipped Perfection; Grand Passions and Private Pleasures; Water Delights; and Places to Pray or Play In. They span different historical periods, garden styles and cultures from the Paradise Gardens of Ancient Persia to the romantic rose-covered ruins of Ninfa and the Italian Renaissance gardens in Italy; the wildflower meadows of William Robinson’s Gravetye Manor to the Arts and Crafts gardening style of Gertrude Jekyll-Edwin Lutyens (Upton Grey and Hestercombe) in England and Beatrix Farrand’s Dumbarton Oaks in the United States of America; the famous gardens of Sissinghurst Castle (UK), Le Canadel (France) and the island gardens of Isola Bella, Isola Madre and La Mortella (Italy); and the Buddhist-inspired gardens of China and Japan, not to mention Australian country gardens like Bentley (Tasmania), Jack’s Ridge (Victoria) and Nooroo, Bebeah and the Berman Gardens (NSW). A wonderful book for armchair travel and research for your next garden adventure!A Photographic Garden History by Roger Phillips and Nicky Foy 1995
For a more in-depth look at garden history, predominantly through photographs! This book is organized into three main sections. The first part covers the European Tradition, starting with Roman peristyle gardens and moving chronologically from Islamic influences to Italian Renaissance gardens; the French Formal movement and the romantic/ potager style in France; the Baroque German and Dutch gardens; and the British medieval gardens to the English Landscape movement; Victorian and Edwardian gardens and natural gardening styles. The second section focuses on Chinese gardens, while the third section explores Japanese gardens. The text is backed up with featured gardens with specific details and notes on their date and features, as well as their place and importance within the particular historical background. Throughout the book are topics of pertinent interest to the time period or garden style, covering a broad range of subjects from garden elements (potagers; parterres and carpet bedding; topiary and mazes; rockeries; water features (lakes; ponds and pools; waterfalls and fountains); the concept of garden rooms and borrowed landscapes; and specific gardens for roses, natives and Autumn foliage colour) to garden structures (garden buildings and furniture; arbours and arches; follies and grottoes; steps and staircases; gates and fences; and even ha-ha walls) and decorative techniques (trompe l’oeil; shellwork; mosaics; sculptures; and pots and urns). I initially borrowed this book from the library, but found it to be so comprehensive and interesting that I just had to order it for my horticultural library!
The Gardens of Europe, edited by Penelope Hobhouse and Patrick Taylor 1990
Edited by garden writing doyens, Penelope Hobhouse and Patrick Taylor, this book focuses on 700 European gardens, open to the public, from the Mediterranean gardens of Southern Europe (Italy, France, Spain and Portugal); the cooler, more temperate gardens of Northern Europe (Great Britain and Ireland; Belgium; Holland and Scandinavia); and the gardens of Central Europe (Austria, Switzerland and West Germany) and the Balkans, East Europe and Russia (Bulgaria; Czechoslovakia; East Germany; Greece; Hungary; Poland; Romania; European Russia; Turkey and the then, Yugoslavia). Even though this is quite an old book now and the details of opening hours and admission charges might be out-of-date, the basic information about its history, general design and prominent features is still relevant and is a starting point for further up-to-date research. There is a biographical list or principal architects, garden designers and gardeners in the back, as well as a glossary and bibliography of further books (guide books and history) to read.
Gardens of Persia by Penelope Hobhouse 2006
I have always loved the underlying concepts of the Islamic garden : an enclosed protected paradise with a quadripartite layout (a four-fold pattern called chahar bagh) and watercourses forming the principal and secondary axes, all meeting at a central pool or pavilion and representing the four rivers of life. They are full of colourful flowers and bulbs, shady fruit trees and birdsong; a place for contemplation and spiritual nourishment; and a little oasis in a challenging hot and dry climate, the latter, which I suspect will be increasingly valued in our Western world with the increasing temperatures and prevalence of drought with climate change. In this book, Penelope explores these notions, as well as the elements and history of Islamic garden design; the climate and environment; flowers and trees planted and of course, the spiritual dimension. Throughout the book, she provides many examples of Islamic gardens from Cyrus the Great’s garden at Pasargadae 2,500 years ago, Timur’s gardens at Samarkand (late 1300s); his son Shah Rokh’s gardens at Herat (1400s); and Bagh-e-Fin (1504) and other Safavid gardens to the 18th century gardens of Shiraz, ‘city of roses and nightingagles, cypresses and wine, and poetry and painted miniatures’: Bagh-e-Eram (Garden of Heaven); Bagh-e Golshan (1760s); and Bagh-e Shahzadeh (Prince’s Garden 1880s); the Mostoufi Garden, Tehran, 1930s; the geometric Moorish gardens of Southern Spain like the Generalife and the Mughal gardens of Northern India and Kashmir. All, of course, accompanied by beautiful Islamic architecture! In the back, notes on each garden for travellers, lists of the royal houses of Persia and Persian plants and a glossary of Persian terms. A very interesting and informative book, as well as a feast for the eyes! Readers, who want more information on Islamic Gardens may be interested in these links : http://gardendrum.com/2017/02/24/take-the-ancient-silk-road-to-a-2500-year-old-garden/ and http://gardendrum.com/2017/02/23/berber-home-and-garden-morocco/.
The Secret Gardens of France by Mirabel Osler 1992
I have already briefly mentioned this book in my post on Favourite Rose Books (see: https://candeloblooms.com/category/rose-books/), as it described one of my favourite bucket-list French rose gardens, La Bonne Maison, as well as the roses of André Eve. However, it discusses 18 other gardens in France from productive potagers to medieval herb gardens; Nicole de Vesian’s architectural topiaried balls of lavender and rosemary in the Luberon to a coastal garden in Brittany; and another bucket-list garden, Le Jardin des Cinq Sens at Chateau d’Yvoire on the shores of Lac Leman. Mirabel has a lovely writing style- very chatty, enthusiastic and inclusive- and all the gardeners featured are very inspiring! While many of the gardens are private and not open to the public, this book is a lovely read with a wealth of ideas and information.
Kitchen Gardens of France by Louisa Jones 1997
I would love to do a garden tour with Louisa Jones (see: http://www.louisajones.fr/) !!! While she has written many books on the gardens of Provence and the French Riviera, this particular book is about French kitchen gardens. She examines Heritage Gardens (medieval plots; renaissance gardens; potagers and heirloom vegetables ); GrassrootsGardening (from country potagers in the Ardeche to village greens and community gardens; city allotments in Paris and hortillinages (floating islands) in Amiens; and Hmong gardens at Alençon in Normandy); Dream and Utopian Paradises (the jardin decuré style; Rousseau’s orchard-garden; Pigeard’s mystic metalwork; photographer, Denis Brihat’s alchemist workshop in Provence and another bucket-list garden, the organic garden of Terre Vivante in the Domaine de Raud in the Alps); and Vegetable Graces (gastronomic creations and designer visions; Gilles Clement’s moving potager; and future fashions). This last chapter has an in-depth look at the Gardens For the Five Senses, mentioned in Mirabel Osler’s book. The text is supported by many showcase gardens and beautiful seductive photographs. It is such a dreamy inspirational book! Details about each garden featured can be found in the back. For more ideas about gardens to visit, it is worth consulting Louisa’s blog (http://www.louisajones.fr/blog/index) and Links pages (http://www.louisajones.fr/links).
The French Country Garden by Louisa Jones 2000/ 2005
A very recent addition to my library and a wonderful find! Thank you, Denise! I was delighted to add this book to my library, as it discusses many French gardeners and their gardens, whose names I knew, but were not necessarily covered by my other books like Nicole Arboireau on the French Riviera; Doudou Bayol in Provence (what an amazing sense of colour!); Martine and Francois Lemonnier, who have the National CollectionLabel (CCVS) for Meconopsis and Hellebores, in Normandy; Mme Marie-Joseph Teillard in the foothills of the Pyrenees; Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières at Cordes-sur-Ciel; Eléonore Cruse at La Roseraie de Berty in the Ardèche; as well as old favourites like Alain Richert of the Garden of the FiveSenses, Yvoire; Nicole de Vésian in Provence; Gilles Clément of the Centre Terre Vivante at the Domaine de Raud and the different biomes of Le Domaine du Rayol. These gardens and more are discussed in depth in her chapters, each featuring three gardens, and titled : Intimate Country Gardens; A Passion for Plants; Celebration of the Senses; Formal Play; Nature’s Ways; and Planetary Perspectives. The photos again are superb and complement the text perfectly. Another beautiful book to browse…!Great Gardens of Britain by Helena Attlee 2011
A lovely book about 20 wonderful gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. A difficult task selecting only twenty garden, but those chosen celebrate their diversity in garden styles, plants, settings and history. This is a wonderful guide with beautiful glossy photos and is essential reading for those planning a garden trip to Great Britain. Inspired and informed by this very book, I would love to visit Charles Jenck’s earthworks and waveforms at his Garden of Cosmic Speculation on the one day of the year it is open !; Ian Hamilton Finlay’s concrete poetry at Little Sparta; the famous topiary at Levens Hall; Scampton’s perennial naturalistic meadow, designed by Piet Oudolf; the rhododendrons and five terraces of Bodnant, North Wales, including its famous Laburnum Arch; the lakes and classical temples of Stourhead; Lawrence Johnston’s garden rooms at Hidcote Manor; Christopher Lloyd’s herbaceous borders of Great Dixter; the restored gardens of the East Ruston Old Vicarage and Beth Chatto’s gravel gardens; the holy grail of old rose gardens, Sissinghurst Castle, made famous by Vita Sackville-West, with its garden rooms and white garden; the extensive plant collections, trial gardens and scientific research laboratories of Wisley, the home and flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society; the futuristic environmentally-controlled geodesic domes of the Eden Project, the brain child of Tim Smit; and the unlikely Mediterranean-style gardens of Tresco Abbey in the warmer climes of the remote Scilly Isles in the English Channel. Addresses and websites for all the gardens are listed in the back. We have already visited Kew Gardens twice, but it is such a wonderful garden, that I would always include it whenever I visit England and I would really like to see the Marianne North Gallery, which is devoted solely to the wonderful paintings of this amazing Victorian botanical artist and explorer. See: http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/explore/attractions/marianne-north-gallery and http://www.kew.org/mng/marianne-north.html, specifically: http://www.kew.org/mng/gallery/index.html.
While not strictly part of the Southern Highlands, being slightly further north and at a lower altitude, I am describing this wonderful property as part of my Southern Highlands garden post, because it was part of our terrific weekend away- in fact, it was the initial draw card, as its Spring Fair was being held this particular weekend and Glenmore House was only a 45 minute drive from Mittagong, where we were staying.
Glenmore House is a very dreamy romantic garden and we were delighted to be able to visit it for their annual Spring Fair, having originally read about Mickey Robinson’s Kitchen Garden in the ABC Organic Garden magazine and subscribing to her blog. Her home and garden are an absolute delight and a must for anyone who loves organic vegetable gardening, as well as old farm buildings! Mickey, an interior decorator, and her husband Larry, a leadership communication consultant, bought the dilapidated old Georgian sandstone cottage (1840) with all its equally dilapidated outbuildings in 1988 and have renovated them all to the wonderful state they are in today. They also developed a beautiful garden with many different spaces, all visible from the house and full of plants, chosen for their scent and the family memories they evoked. Mickey has written about their journey in a beautiful coffee table book called ‘The House and Garden at Glenmore’, which was launched at the Spring Fair and contains many beautiful photographs and very informative text, as well as some delicious recipes! She describes all the different garden areas in detail, which have been illustrated in this map by Catherine O’Neill: Her favourite section is the kitchen garden and she gave us a very interesting tour and talk on the day. She also runs lots of workshops, which are advertised on her website and include:
Kitchen Gardening Days: Seasonal vegetable gardening with Linda Ross: crop rotation; successional planting; staking and structures; pruning; harvesting and storage; seed collection; compost making; pests – basically everything to do with planting and growing produce. Includes a delicious seasonal lunch in the loggia.
Making risottos; desserts; cordials; jams and marmalades;
Preserving days; Slow Food days; and Tomato days.
Open Garden and Spring Fair
Spring Chamber Music Concerts
Other creative workshops:
Natural Christmas : Christmas decorating and table settings.
Christmas Willow Vines and Foliage workshop with Penny Simons.
Flower Workshops with Jardine Hansen, who arranges lovely blowsy bouquets of seasonal local flowers.
Herbal Garden workshops with Anthia Koullouros, a naturopath and herbalist, who founded Ovvio Teas (http://www.ovvioorganics.com.au/), which are totally organic and certified, and include a range of 38 teas – quite delicious, as we later discovered, having purchased three different varieties at the fair.
Natural Dyeing workshops with India Flint: Bag Stories; Botanical Alchemy.
A Journey Round Italy with Stefano Manfredi.We had a wonderful morning exploring all the different sections of the garden, as well as looking at the stalls including :
Secret Garden : Herbs and perennials
Camden Park : Rare plants
Patio Plants : Vegetable seedlings
Sibella Court : Tinkered hardware
Twig Furniture : Rustic garden furnitureMickey was also selling garden tools, baskets, vases, soaps and creams, scented water and and her trademark hat dress and apron from the Barn, the centre of her interior decorating business.Like Red Cow Farm, there is so much to this garden. It is well worth buying her book for more detail, but here are a few photos, illustrating some of our favourite aspects :
1.The Persimmon Lawn at the entrance with its old Silk Floss tree Cebia speciosa; the peppercorn tree, under-planted with orange clivias; a pair of old persimmon trees; an old macadamia tree and a hoop pine.2. The old stone cottage was very sympathetically restored with two new wings, separate to the house, so it did not compromise the integrity of the original dwelling, and so similar in style that it is difficult to discern that they are not original. The front courtyard has a round pond of bulrushes, a dry stone wall and huge dramatic agaves Agave americana. Beautifully- scented frost-tender plants like ginger, ornamental banana, stephanotis, justicia, shell ginger and coral cannas fill the space between the main cottage and the bedroom wing. There is also a bed of Bourbon roses: Mme Isaac Pereire, LaReine Victoria and Souvenir de la Malmaison next to the house.3. The back courtyard with the steps to the gallery flanked by a pair of bay trees; a raised hexagonal stone pond with white lotus Nelumbo nucifera ‘Bliss’; crazy paving; a pair of timber Lutyens-style benches; a copper of Japanese Iris; verandahs clothed in grape vines; and numerous terracotta pots of succulents; pelargoniums; box spheres and pyramids; and mint and chives for the kitchen nearby. I loved its emphasis on white with hybrid musk rose Prosperity, Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ and Viburnum opulus; Hydrangea quercifolia and Japanese windflowers.4. The arc between the house, driveway and paddocks with its old peppercorn tree, yuccas, germander row and sphere; phlomis; romneya; philadelphus; santolina and salvias; Rosabrunonii along the fence; and a firepit.5. The Barn Garden with its Malus ioensis plena in full flower, a White Cedar tree, their daughters’ old cubbyhouse, a juniper hedge, philadelphus, maybush and roses. Rambling rose Félicité etPerpétue grows over the Barn and an espaliered pear tree ‘Sensation’ is trained on the end wall in between topiared balls of cotoneaster. I loved the belfry and the stable doors, painted with auriculas by artist Xanga Connelley.6. The Old Stables, which were converted to a pool house and have a pair of frangipani trees planted on the front wall, under-planted with Gardenia radicans, and a Climbing Cécile Brünner rose over the end of the building. The fence is covered with Trachelospermum jasminoides, with further scent provided by an apricot Datura and an Osmanthus fragrans at the bottom end of the pool enclosure.7. The beautiful 3 metre wide double herbaceous borders, which ran the length of the pool fence and were a riot of colour and scent with plantings of : Daybreak Yoshino Cherry Prunusyedoensis ‘Akebono’; New Zealand Flax Phormium tenax with its strappy bronze leaves; striking stands of Miscanthus sinensis; Rugosa roses Sarah Van Fleet and Fru Dagmar Hastrup; apricot canna lilies and burgundy pompom dahlias; cardoons and Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’; Achillea ‘Moonshine’; pink Valerian; Salvia guaranitica; clary sage; Russian sage Petrovskiaatriplicifolia ; pink peony poppies; and Knautia macedonia. The southern end is marked by two timber lattice obelisks, supporting the rose New Dawn and a murraya hedge (bottom photo).8. The Dairy Garden with Iceberg roses, Lavandula angustifolia and a wire heart against the wall. The Dairy now has a semi-commercial kitchen and is used for weddings and workshops.9. The old hayshed, where Martin Boetz put on a splendid lunch for the day.10. The Croquet Lawn, complete with Labyrinth, where the stalls were set up, in front of the orchard of almonds, olives, apples, figs and crab apples, all protected with substantial wire guards.11. The Dairy Garden and Chook Citrus Yard (Valencia and Navel oranges, a Clementine and a grape fruit), a perfect combination as their scratching keeps the citrus surface roots free from weed competition. The chooks have the delightful names of Cabbage and Rose! Ross was very impressed with the picket fence of tomato stakes topped with rusty tin cans. I loved the red walls of the dairy covered with jasmine and the shady garden of Acanthus mollis beneath the huge Peppercorn tree.12. And the pièce de résistance, Mickey’s Kitchen Garden! It was so impressive with its black bamboo and mulberry supporting structures; raised traditional beds with crop rotation from legumes to leafy greens, fruit and root vegetables and the occasional green manure crop and chook cleanup at the end of the season; the intermingled guild beds, which confused the pests; the espaliered fruit trees and apple tunnel; the fully netted raspberry house; and the use of numerous companion plants: wild poppies; fennel; nasturtiums; tansy; wormwood; borage; lovage; calendula; sorrel and oregano.We also loved the behind-the-scenes area, hidden behind the potting shed, with beds of garlic, leek and onion; lots of potted plants; four huge compost bays, worked by a tractor; two aerobins for kitchen scraps; a worm farm in a bath and sinks of comfrey tea; as well as new workshop plots for natural dyeing and herbal remedies.And finally, there are informal areas beyond the garden fence, as well as the rest of the farm beyond. Mickey and Larry run a small herd of Red Angus cattle. Tomorrow, I will post the last section of our Southern Highlands garden treat!
Nothing gladdens the heart on a cold Winter’s day so much as a vase of cheery red or delicate soft pink-and-white or even virginal white sprays of Chaenomeles, nor the warmth, taste and sweet aroma of a jar of quince paste made from the golden fruit of Cydonia! In this post, I will be featuring both these plants, long-time favourites of mine and an essential element of every old-fashioned garden. Unfortunately, our tiny plants of flowering quince have only just started producing flower buds- in fact, they have not even lost all their leaves yet and our new quince tree is years away from bearing fruit, so I have used some images from http://www.pixabay.com, as well as old personal photos from our previous gardens. We also saw some wonderful old shrubs of 3 different colours (red/ white/ pink-and-white) blooming in the old garden at Bolobek, Mount Macedon, Victoria.
Chaenomeles, pronounced ‘kee-mom-ee-lees’, are also known as Flowering Quinces or Japonicas, though the latter really refers to the origin of one of the species (Japan) and also refers to camellias.
Extremely tough, low maintenance, heritage ornamental plants, they originated in China, Japan, Korea, Bhutan and Burma and their beautiful blooms are often depicted in oriental paintings.
Family : Rosaceae : 5 petals and 5 sepals : Includes apples and pears, strawberries, potentilla, cotoneaster and roses.
Genus : Chaenomeles: Derived from Greek words : Chaino, meaning ‘to gape’ and Melon, meaning ‘apple’, referring to the erroneous belief that the fruit splits open.
Originally placed in the genus Pyrus, then Cydonia, then back to Pyrus and finally Chaenomeles.
Chaenomeles are related to quinces (Cydonia oblonga) and Chinese Quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis), but are different to them in that there is no fuzz on the leaves of Chaenomeles and the flowers have deciduous sepals and styles, which are connate at the base.
Species : There are 3 species :
1.Chaenomeles speciosa : Ornamental Quince/ Chinese Flowering Quince
‘Speciosa’ means ‘showy’.
Native to China and Korea, they were introduced to Europe in 1784 by Joseph Banks as Pyrus japonica.
6-10 feet tall and wide.
Flowers are red, white or flecked with red and white.
Hard green apple-shaped fruit 5-6cm diameter.
2.Chaenomeles japonica : Kusa-boke (草木瓜) : Japanese Quince (japonica means Japanese) or Maule’s Quince, named after the Bristol nurseryman W Maule, who introduced the plant to Britain in 1869.
Smaller and suckers freely.
Flowers mainly red, but some varieties are pink or white.
Small golden apple –shaped fruit 3-4 cm wide and containing red-brown seeds.
3.Chaenomeles cathayensis : ‘cathayensis’ means ‘Chinese’, referring to its origin in China, as well as Bhutan and Burma.
6m tall shrub.
White or pink flowers.
Largest fruit of the genus 10-15mm long and 6-9cm wide.
x superba : C. speciosa x C. x japonica
x vilmoriniana : C. speciosa x C. cathayensis
x clarkiana : C. japonica x C. cathayensis
x californica : C. x superba x C. cathayensi
There are up to 500 named varieties of Chaenomeles including :
C.speciosa varieties :
Moorlooseii : Apple Blossom : 6 foot tall; spreading habit; large pink and white flowers 3.5cm across; coral buds open to white flowers, which turn pink as they age.
Yukigoten : 1.5m tall and wide; semi-double white flowers.
Toyo-Nishiki: 6-10 foot tall and wide with pink, red and white flowers all on the same branch, as well as within the same flower.
Contorta: 2-3 foot tall and wide with twisted, contorted dark brown branches and pink and white flowers.
Double Take™ series: Scarlet Storm; Orange Storm and Pink Storm : 4 foot tall and wide; thornless; fruitless; double flowers in scarlet or orange or pink.
Rosea plena : semi-double pale rose pink flowers.
Falconet Charlet : semi-double salmon-pink and rose flowers.
Red Kimono : red flowers; thornless.
Winter Cheer : compact- 2-3 foot high; scarlet red flowers- one of the first to flower in late Autumn/early Winter.
Simonii : prostrate dwarf, spreading habit; semi-double dark red flowers.
The flowering quinces, which we have planted in our garden, are all C. speciosa varieties : Apple Blossom 2-3m tall and wide; White Flowering Quince 1.5m tall and 1m wide; and Red Flowering Quince 1m tall and 1m wide.
2. C.japonica varieties
Fuji: upright; vase-shaped; thornless; single red flowers.
Orange Beauty : 1.2m tall and 1.5m wide; orange red flowers.
C.x superba varieties
Rowallane : developed early years of last century; bright red flowers.
Crimson & Gold: 1-1.5m tall and 1.5-2.5m wide; suckers easily, so makes a good hedge; flowers are dark red with a gold middle.
Nicoline : small shrub; single scarlet flowers.
Knaphill Scarlet : flame red flowers.
Hollandia: single scarlet flowers; thorns.
Texas Scarlet: 2-3 foot tall; red flowers.
Fire Dance : C. x superb x C. speciosa : red flowers followed by a heavy crop of fragrant fruit.
Colombia: deep red flowers.
Vermilion : orange flowers.
Pink Lady : dark pink flowers.
Cameo: compact, low and spreading; double pink and white flowers.
Minerva: compact; flowers range from white to pale peach and pink.
Jet Trail: ground cover with white flowers.
Lemon & Lime : greenish flowers.
Deciduous shrub, up to 3m tall and wide, though dwarf varieties can be 1m tall and up to 2m wide.
Multi-stemmed, they sucker freely to form dense thickets.
Long, thin, sharp thorns along their stems, so they should not be planted along paths and care should be taken when pruning or weeding.
They are one of the first flowers in Winter, their flowers appearing on bare stems from early Winter to early Spring, when the foliage reappears. The flowers are 3 – 4.5 cm wide, have 5 petals and a boss of golden stamens in the middle and are borne in clusters. They come in a wide variety of colour (white, pink, salmon and red) and form (mostly single, but some semi-double and double). They bloom for 2 months and deepen in colour as they age. The flowers are hermaphroditic (both male and female organs in the one flower) and are pollinated by bees.
Leaves are oval, glossy, simple and dark green; have a serrated edge and are alternately arranged.
Fruit : pome with 5 carpels, borne in Autumn; it looks and smells like a quince, but is inferior to the latter. Hard and astringent, it is softer and less tart after bletting (softening with fermentation process); Higher in Vitamin C than lemons and more pectin than apples or quinces; can still be made into liqueurs and preserves like paste, jelly and marmalade. Alice Coates in her book ‘Garden Shrubs and Their Histories’ describes a tea party during the First World War, in which Reverend JJ Jacobs serves jelly made from 6 different varieties of C. speciosa.
Use in the Garden
While the Victorians grew them as standards, today they are grown as :
An open bush or shrub; in massed plantings in a woodland garden or as an early Spring accent in a mixed shrub border; or as a wall shrub.
They can be espaliered on a wall or in a fan-shape. Once the flexible branches are tied to the horizontal framework, the side growths can be pruned back to a couple of buds in Summer.
They make an excellent impenetrable thorny security hedge, deterring people, dogs and cats and even deer, but not rabbits! They provide excellent wildlife habitats, especially for nesting birds and are a good bee plant, providing both nectar and pollen. They are the food plant for the larvae of some Lepidoptera : Brown Tail (Euproctis chrysorrhea)and Leaf Miner (Bucculatrix pomifoliela). Here is my daughter’s latest feature plant watercolour, depicting a very colourful abstract rabbit wearing a floral crown of Japonica blooms!
Climate: Wide climatic range and can be grown everywhere in Australia except the tropics. They can tolerate cold up to minus 25 degrees Celsius. Because they are one of the first deciduous flowers to appear, they can be damaged by severe frosts, so avoid planting them in frost pockets.
Growing in sun or part-shade, they flower better when planted in sunny positions.
Soil : They also tolerate a wide range of soils from acid to slightly alkali, but will become chlorotic (yellowing leaves due to insufficient chlorophyll) on very alkaline soils. They do best in a fertile, neutral, well-drained soil. They don’t like wet feet. They tolerate heavy clay soils, but are not as vigorous.
They are really tough plants, coping both with drought and urban atmospheric pollution. Windy areas should be avoided, as the wind can snap the branches.
Planting and Care :
Buy plants in late Winter/ early Spring, when the plants are blooming so you can select the desired colour. There is a big variation in all the colours, especially the red hues!
Dig a hole no deeper than the depth of the soil in the pot, but twice as wide.
If the soil is clay, add grit to the clay or grow your plants in a raised bed of loose topsoil and compost. Avoid frost pockets or very windy locations, as the wind can snap the branches.
After planting, water well and mulch to suppress the weeds and retain soil moisture. Weeding can be perilous with all the sharp thorns and you don’t want unsightly Kikuya marring the picture-perfect blooms! Water at the base of the plants, as spraying water at the top will encourage rot.
Water well in the first year, then reduce the amount and frequency of watering once established, except in times of drought, when irrigation will promote more growth and better flowering.
A slow release fertilizer or compost can be applied in early Spring.
To avoid the development of a thorny thicket, pull out suckers as they appear. They can be pruned to any shape and size and will tolerate heavy pruning, though really it is best to keep it light. Prune just after the blooming is over, as the bush blooms on old wood. One source I read suggested removing one third of the oldest shoots right back to the ground each Spring, so that the centre does not become woody and congested and the flowers are shown off to their best advantage. That’s if you can get in there, that is!!! Otherwise, just remove any shoots growing in the wrong direction or any diseased wood.
Pests and Diseases :
They have few pests and diseases : occasional attacks by aphids, scab, brown scale or mites; fungal leaf spot during heavy Spring rain, which causes defoliation of the leaves, and the worst case scenario: fireblight, a bacterial disease common to all members of the Rosaceae family, which spreads through the plant’s vascular system until the plant eventually dies.
Cuttings are best. Take cuttings from half-ripe wood (new season’s growth) in Summer or mature wood (current year’s growth) in late Autumn and plant in a cold frame.
Layering can be done in late Spring and Autumn, but it takes a whole year to produce new plants.
Seeds can be planted as soon as they are ripe in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame and germinate within 6 weeks. Seed can be stored in the greenhouse in Winter. Prick out the seedlings and plant in individual pots. Plant out in Summer and protect the first Winter or plant out in the following late Spring.Uses : Chaenomeles make stunning indoor floral arrangement during a time when very few other plants are flowering. The blooms last well in water (vase life 3-10 days). Flowers should be picked when the buds are showing some colour, as tight buds will not open inside unless forced. The colour of the newly opened buds inside will be paler than those on the shrub outside.
To force stems to bloom indoors in late Winter:
The best flowers for forcing are near the top of the plant with the buds swollen and closely placed. The larger the bud, the more quickly it will open indoors.
Trim any side shoots or buds which will be under the water level of the vase.
Recut the stems on a long diagonal and place in a bucket of cold water in a cool place for 2 days.
Recut the stems again and place in a vase of fresh warm water and keep in a bright area. Within 4 weeks, you will have a beautiful bouquet, which will hold its blooms for 10 days or more.
Flowering Quince are popular in Ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arranging, as its long stems can be bent and shaped and the flowers are long-lasting, even when out of water (2-3 days).
C. speciosa has been widely used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The greenish-yellow unripe fruit is picked in late Summer/ early Autumn, blanched to a grey-white colour with boiling water, then cut in half lengthwise and dried. It relaxes the tendons, muscles and meridiens.
All Chaenomeles fruit has analgesic, anti-inflammatory; anti-spasmodic; astringent and digestive properties. It contains organic acids (malic; tartaric; fumaric; citric; ascorbic) and saponins, which reduce pain and spasms.
Chaenomeles has been used to treat the following conditions: sunstroke; arthritis and joint pain and swelling; muscle spasm; cholera and associated cramps; nausea, colic and indigestion; diarrhoea.
As already stated, the Cydonia genus originally contained the 3 shrubby quinces, now classified in the genus Chaenomeles, leaving the quince as the only member of the Cydonia genus today. The name, Cydonia, refers to the ancient Greek name of the Cretan town ‘Chania’. The latter was called ‘Cydon’ in Minoan times, a name, which is thought to be a corruption of the ancient Greek word ‘Chthonia’, meaning wet, rich and soily grounds, referring to the fertile dense forests, which once covered Crete. The Arabs are thought to be responsible for the name change of the city. When the Saracens from Cordoba, Spain razed the original town to the ground in 828AD, they built a new city with a suburb called ‘Al Chania Kome’, after the God’ Velchanos’ or ‘Vulcan’. They then applied the name ‘Al Chania’ to the whole city and after they left, the Byzantines removed the prefix ‘Al’ and the city became ‘Chania’. The species name ‘oblonga’ refers to the oblong shape of the fruit.
The modern name ‘Quince’ originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, derived from the old French cooin from the Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum.
The quince was cultivated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans and dedicated to Aphrodite (the Roman Venus), the Goddess of Love. It is a symbol of beauty, love, fertility and happiness and the fruit was given to every Greek bride on her wedding day. Eating quinces at a wedding was said to be preparative to the sweet and delightful days between married persons! Quinces are planted in the Balkans on the birth of a baby promising fertility, love and a happy life.
It was introduced to Britain in 1254 on the marriage of Eleanor (1241-1290) of Castile to the elder son of King Henry III, Edward I and were planted at the Tower of London. The Spanish love quince cheese, a sweet quince confection called ‘mermelada’, the original marmalade, whose name derives from the Portuguese word for quince: ‘marmelo’. It was only in the 18th century that citrus fruit were identified with the making of marmalade!
In 1292, the quince was held in high esteem. The cost of 100 quinces was 4s, compared with 3d for 100 apples and pears. However, by the early 20th century, quince production had decreased due to the rising popularity of apples and pears. They were introduced to the New World and Australia and New Zealand, where many of them are now wild. They are now rare in America due to their destruction by fireblight with only 100ha in production, mainly in California.
Worldwide, there are 43000 (106,000 acres) of quince in production, the total crop weighing 335 000 metric tons. Turkey is the largest producer, with 25 percent of the world’s crop, while China, Iran, Argentina and Morocco each produce less than 10 per cent of the world’s crop. There are 23 named varieties in production, including ‘’Champion’; ‘Isfahan’; ‘Morava’; ‘Vrajna’; and ‘Smyrna’ (our tree). ‘Champion’, an American variety, has large golden pear-shaped fruit with a slightly lemony fragrance mid to late season. Their fruit becomes a superb ruby red colour when cooked. ‘Smyrna’, originating in the Greek islands, but a favourite variety in Turkey, has rounder, slightly oblong fruit, which keep longer and have a stronger fragrance, but less prominent, but still excellent flavour. Maggie Beer (see later) likes this variety, because the white flesh holds its shape when cooking and doesn’t break up. It is also the best for quince paste.Description : A multi-stemmed shrub or small deciduous tree, 5-8m tall and 4-6m wide and takes 10-20 years to reach maturity. Our Smyrna quince will grow to 7m high and 7.5m wide. They are very long-lived and become increasingly gnarled and twisted with age.
The leaves are alternately arranged and are simple with entire margins and are covered with a dense pubescence of fine white hairs. The flowers appear after the leaves in Spring and are single; solitary; 4-5 cm diameter; pink and white and scented with 5 petals; 20 stamens; 5 styles and an inferior ovary with many ovules. Having hermaphroditic flowers, quinces are self-fertile, but can have larger yields of fruit from cross-pollination with another quince variety in the garden. They are pollinated by insects.
The fruit is a golden-yellow pome 7-12 cm long and 6-9cm wide. When immature, it has a dense grey-white pubescence, which rubs off before maturity in late Autumn, as the colour turns golden. In Australia, it is harvested between mid-February in warmer ares and late April in cooler areas. The stringy perfumed flesh is high in pectin, which decreases as the fruit ripens, but apart from a few varieties, generally, the fruit is too hard and astringent to eat raw, unless bletted.Growing Conditions:
Like its flowering namesake, Quinces are extremely tough and hardy. They are resistant to frost and hardy to minus 15 degrees Celsius. They require a minimum 500 hours of chilling to produce fruit i.e. less than 7 degrees Celsius, so thrive in cold climates. They are adapted to hot, dry climates and need warm sun to fully ripen the fruit. They are grown in Australia from the cool subtropics to the cool temperate areas.
As already stated, they perform best in a sunny position. They still grow well in semi-shade, but produce less fruit and can tolerate deep shade, but produce no fruit.
They like moist, fertile, light, slightly acidic soils best and hate water-logged soils. In highly alkaline soils, they become stunted and suffer iron chlorosis.
They can withstand both drought and severe cold, but avoid planting on south-facing slopes with a cold Spring (lack of pollinating insects); frosty hollows (flower damage and resultant lack of fruit) and excessive wind (broken branches).Planting and Care: Plant in late June/ early July when dormant. They may sucker as a young tree, so prune for the first few years to produce an open-crowned tree rather than a small thicket, which is much harder for control of pests and diseases. Prune minimally when older, as fruit sets on the current year’s growth. They like organic matter, so put some compost in the planting hole and feed 1-2 times a year with compost, aged manure or blood-and-bone. They don’t like being shifted. We bought the Smyrna quince tree photographed below for our friend’s 50th birthday- it’s the first tree in their orchard!Propagation : is mainly by cutting and grafting. Cuttings of mature wood are taken in Autumn and grown in a cold frame. Layering in Spring takes a full year to produce a new plant. Seed can also be sown, as soon as it is ripe, as well as in late Winter in a cold frame . Seedlings should be pricked out and kept in individual pots in the cold frame for the first Winter, planting out in their permanent position in late Spring and early Summer after the last frosts have passed.For more information on quince growing, see : http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2009-67-1-cydonia-oblonga-the-unappreciated-quince.pdf;
The worst one is Fireblight, which is common to apples, pears and quinces and is caused by a bacteria Erwinia amylova, which is particularly prevalent in areas with warm, humid Summers, thereby restricting its cultivation. Cydonia is one of the most susceptible of the Rosaceae family to fireblight, which spreads through the vascular system , eventually destroying the tree. The leaves and branches appear scorched and blackened, as if damaged by fire. To avoid, do not use excessive nitrogen and do not prune much. There is no cure, only prevention, though genetic modification may help.
My tree suffers from Fleck or Quince Leaf and Fruit Spot, caused by a fungus: Diplocarpon mespili ( formerly Fabraeae maculata). Symptoms include : reddish purple spots with tan centres and reddish halo on the leaves, which drop early; defoliation; brown spots on the fruit; disfigurement of fruit. Cool wet weather favours the development of the disease in Spring and it is worse in moist coastal areas. To treat, rake up and burn all the fallen leaves and remove affected leaves and dead wood and do not overhead irrigate. There are treatments with fungicide. See : http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/quince-leaf-spotPowdery mildew and rust can also be a problem. The main pests are Fruit Fly , Codling Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth. See : https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/plants/fruit-and-vegetables/a-z-list-of-horticultural-insect-pests/queensland-fruit-fly ;
Other pests include : Pear and Cherry Slug Worm; Borers; Curculio; Scale and Tent Caterpillars. Birds can also cause damage to the fruit.Uses :
An attractive display tree in the garden : superb Autumn colour.
The quince is the food plant for a number of Lepidoptera larvae:
Brown Tail Euproctis chrysorrhea; Bucculatrix bechsteinella; Bucculatrix pomelifoliella; Coleophora cerasivarella; Coleophora malivorella; Green Pug and Winter Moth.
Dwarfing Pear Root Stock
In England, France and the United States of America, the plant is widely used as a dwarfing pear root stock, the technique having been used in Angers, France before the 1500s using quince as a root stock dwarfs pear growth. It forces earlier fruiting and faster maturing of the pear fruit and encourages the growth of more fruit-bearing branches.4.Medicine
The fruit has been used since ancient times and its use was described in writings by the Greek physician Theophrastus in 300 BC and the Roman physician Pliny the Elder(23AD-79AD). Persian philosopher, Avicenna (1025 AD), notes in his ‘Canon of Medicine’ that quince can be used to control abnormal uterine bleeding. A review in 2015 found that this effect was achieved by inhibiting inflammation and counteracting the proliferation of human cervical cancer cells. The Canon of Medicine was an overview of the contemporary medical knowledge, largely influenced by Galen and thus Hippocrates and remained a medical authority for centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic World and was used as a standard medical textbook throughout the 18th century in Europe. It is still used in Unani medicine , a traditional medicine used in India.
Culpepper (1616-1654) advised bald men to mix the silky down of the quince skin with wax and apply to their scalps to encourage hair retention and new hair growth.
The seeds of the quince contain nitriles, like all the Rosaceae family, which are hydrolyzed in the stomach by enzymes and/or stomach acid to produce hydrogen cyanide, a volatile gas, which is toxic, so large quantities of seed should not be ingested. However, used carefully, the seed are very useful in a wide variety of conditions. They are a mild, but reliable, laxative and have astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. When soaked in water, the seed swells to a mucilaginous mass, which has a soothing demulcent when taken internally and can be applied externally to minor burns. In subcontinental Indo-Pakistan, the seeds, known as Bihi Dana, are soaked in water to produce a gel, which is used by herbalists to treat throat and vocal cord inflammation; skin rashes and ulcers and allergies. The stem bark can also be used to treat ulcers. The fruit and juice can be used as a mouth wash or gargle for mouth ulcers gum problems and sore throats. The soaked seeds are used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, especially in children. In Iran and Afghanistan, the boiled seeds are eaten raw for pneumonia. The unripe fruit is very astringent and quince syrup can be used to treat diarrhoea. In Malta, 1 tsp quince jam in 1 cup boiling water relieves intestinal discomfort. The fruit contains pectin, which reduces blood pressure. These are just a few of the medicinal benefits of Cydonia oblonga. For more information, please read : http://www.idosi.org/gv/gv14%284%2915/9.pdf.
The mucilage from the seed coat has even been used as a gum arabic substitute to add more gloss to material, but its greatest claim to fame is in the culinary world, even from Ancient Roman times! Apicius, a ancient Roman cookbook from 4th-5th century BC (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29728/29728-h/29728-h.htm) recommends stewing quinces with honey or combining them with leeks!Cooking:
They can be eaten raw and soft in tropical climates, the best varieties being ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Kuganskaya’, but generally they are best cooked before consumption. The fruit will keep for months after picking, scenting the room with its sweet, spicy aroma.
Once peeled, they can be roasted, baked or stewed, the colour of the flesh deepening to a caramel red, the longer the cooking time. They can be poached in wine or water. Their high pectin content make them ideal for making quince jam, quince jelly and quince cheese. Small amounts of quince can enhance the flavour of apple pies and jams. In Italy, they are the main ingredient of a traditional food called mostarda di frutta, in which quince fruit jam is mixed with candied fruit, spices and flavourings to produce regional variations eg: mostarda vicentina; mostarda di Vicenza and mostarda veneta. In Spain, quince flesh is eaten with cheese and in boiled desserts, but their favourite confection is the sweet fragrant jelly-like Dulce de membrillo, which is cut into slices and served with cheese. Portugal also makes a similar dish called marmelada, as do the Balkans, Hungary and Dalmatia. In Albania, Kosovo and Bulgaria, quinces are eaten raw in Winter. Quinces (known as ‘Ftua/ Ftonj) are stewed in a sugar syrup in Albania, while in Kosovo, they makes a quince jam, as does Lebanon and Syria (where the jam is called’ sfarjel’).In Syria, quinces are cooked in pomegranate paste and served with shank meat and kibbels. Morocco uses quince in their lamb tagines, along with other herbs and spices. Quince is also popular with lamb dishes in Armeria, as well as in other savory and sweet dishes.
In Iran, ‘beh’ is eaten raw, stewed, pickled, or made into soups or jam, the leftover syrup saved for use in a refreshing Summer drink with iced water and a few drops of lime juice.With its high malic acid content, quinces are used to make a sweet dessert wine, high in alcohol, as well as liqueurs : Liqueur de coing is a digestif in Alsace, France and the Valais in Switzerland; and sburlone in Parma, Italy; as well as a brandy and liqueur in the Balkans. There is even a Quince cider!So, there is a lot of experimentation to do in my kitchen , when my little Quince tree finally bears fruit!!! Here in Australia, chef Maggie Beer’s name is synonomous with the quince. See: https://www.maggiebeer.com.au/visit-usOn her property, ‘Pheasant Farm’ in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, she planted 350 Smyrna quince trees, which she uses to make her famous Quince Paste, as well as quince wine; quince jelly; quince conserve; quince glaze; quince puree; preserved quinces and pickled quince (see photo above). She also uses them in flat quince tarts; poaches them with pears in verjuice and bakes them, stuffed with walnuts butter and brown sugar or honey. You can read more about her quince adventures by visiting her and reading her books: Maggie’s Farm and Maggie’s Orchard. See: https://www.penguin.com.au/contributors/129/maggie-beer and https://cheznuts.com.au/guest-chef/guest-chef-maggie-beer/.We visited her farm back during our Australian trip in 2008 and I ended up by mistake in her TV kitchen, where I was photographed posing behind her kitchen counter by a visiting tour group! On our heritage rose trip to the Heritage Garden in Clare, South Australia in November 2014, we discovered that our host Walter Duncan was growing a whole orchard of quince trees for Maggie Beer! The quince orchard can be seen in the background of the photo below.CHINESE QUINCE
The final quince that I should touch on is the Chinese Quince Pseudocydonia sinensis, also the sole species in its genus Pseudocydonia. It is closely related to Chaenomeles, but lacks thorns and bears its flowers singly rather than in clusters. It looks superficially like Cydonia oblonga, to which it is also closely related, but its leaves have serrated edges and no fuzz. It is native to China and East Asia, where it is known as ‘mugua’ and ‘mogwa’ in Korea.
Description: It is an attractive deciduous or semi-evergreen tree , 10-18m tall, with a dense twiggy crown and a mottled trunk, which tends to flute with age and exfoliating bark, revealing patches of brown, green, orange and grey. The shiny leathery leaves are simple and alternately arranged and have a serrated margin. They turn a red orange in Autumn. Its single, pink, 2.5-4cm wide, Spring flowers are earlier than Cydonia , but after Chaenomeles. The large, oval pome, 12-17cm long, has 5 carpals and ripens in late Autumn. The fruit is highly aromatic with an intense, sweet smell. It is hard and astringent, but softens and becomes less tart after frost.
Propogation: Chinese quinces are propagated by seed, cuttings, rootings and grafting. As with all the quinces, seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification and should be sown as early in the year as possible.When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. As with the other quinces, fireblight can also be a problem.
The high pectin content of its fruit makes it ideal for jams and chutneys. The wood is used in Japan to make low-end shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument, which is plucked with a plectrum called a bachi and which sounds a bit like an American banjo. Chinese Quince has also been used for years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Extracts of its phytochemicals have antioxidant and antiviral properties. For more information and a photo of this beautiful tree, please read : http://www.louistheplantgeek.com/a-gardening-journal/1053-pseudocydonia-sinensis.
Unfortunately, I cannot even find a photo, but it certainly sounds worthy of a place in the garden! If only we had the room! Maybe, I shall have to investigate a bonsai version, though I suspect it is all a bit technical for me!
It was my son’s birthday this month and since he loves curries, the hotter the better, we decided to celebrate with an Indian feast – beef curry with pappadums and a variety of vegetable sambals. These recipes have been long-time favourites with my family. In fact, they are inherited from my childhood, when Mum used to make it using an early Indian cookbook called ‘Curries from the Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Doris M. Ady (Reed, 1968). As kids, we used to love mixing up all the fragrant and colourful spices. It was so much more exotic than the ubiquitous curry powder of the times! All of the recipes serve 4-6 people and we often had delicious leftovers for the next day. Even though we have such a wealth of multicultural dishes these days compared to my childhood, the combination of all the different colours, textures, scents and flavours still makes these recipes a wonderful birthday treat and is indeed a feast for all the senses!
Indian Beef Curry
Mince 6 garlic cloves, a 1 inch piece of ginger and 4 chillies and dice 1 onion. Dice 750g chuck steak. Measure out 60g ghee.*
Fry garlic, onion, ginger and chillies in some of the ghee.
Mix spices in a separate bowl : 1 tbsp coriander; 2 tsp cumin; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp poppy seeds. Reduce heat and add spices, cooking slightly. Remove from pan to a bowl.Using the rest of the ghee, fry the meat.Add spice/ onion mix and 1 cup beef broth. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1.5-2 hours.Serve with rice, chapatis or pappadums; sambals and small bowls of sultanas; dessicatedcoconut; sliced banana; mango pieces; mango chutney and plain yoghurt.* Note : Ghee is basically clarified butter. It comes in a green tin, but if you cannot source any ghee, you can make it yourself: Simmer 500g melted butter for 1.5 hours; Strain through a fine muslin into a metal container. Luckily, it is readily available from most supermarkets these days.
Green Apple SambalPeel, core and dice 2 Granny Smith apples and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon.
Add 1 sliced red or green capsicum, 1 finely sliced onion and 3 tbsp dessicated coconut, soaked in a little hot milk, sugar and salt.
Sprinkle 1 sliced cucumber with salt, rest for half an hour, then rinse in a colander in cold water. These days, we always use Lebanese cucumbers, which don’t need peeling or salting.
Grate 2 heaped tbsp frozen coconut cream and add to cucumber.
Flavour with lemon juice, salt and pepper. OR
Cucumber and Yoghurt SambalCut 1 Lebanese cucumber into quarters lengthwise and slice finely. Remove seeds.
Add one quarter of red capsicum, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1 inch lengths.
Add 3-4 tbsp yoghurt, chopped chives, salt and pepper.
Tomato SambalChop 3-4 tomatoes roughly.
Add 2 sliced shallots, half a sliced capsicum, 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.
Green Mango Sambal
Peel and grate 1-2 green mangoes.
Mince a half inch piece of ginger, 1 fresh red chilli or a quarter red capsicum, diced finely.
Add 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, 1 tsp sugar and salt to taste.All these recipes can be made beforehand, so all you need to do on the night is steam the rice, heat up the curry and fry the pappadums. As kids, we used to love watching the latter bubble and swell as they quickly cooked! Just be careful of the hot oil, which tends to spit!
The recipe looked complicated, but the accompanying video made it look a lot easier!
Cardamom Cream CakeDrain 680 g fresh, whole-milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick (unless it already is very thick, in which case, eliminate this step!)
Make the milk syrup: It can be made 3 days beforehand and stored in the fridge.In a small saucepan, combine 475 ml whole milk and 4 cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half (30 -45 mins).
Stir in 75g sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer.Let the mixture cool.
Strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in 1.5 tsp rose water.
Make the cake:
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two 9-inch cake pans with Gladbake. My tins were actually only 7-inches wide, but it doesn’t matter-it just means each cake is a little thicker, making it easier to slice in half!
Lightly whisk together 4 large egg whites, 240 ml whole milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp rose water.Using an electric mixer, beat 170 g softened unsalted butter.
Sift 330g flour, 300g sugar, 20g baking powder, 1/2 tsp cardamom and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and add to butter with a third of the milk-egg white mixture.Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth top with a spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes till skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely.Make the ricotta filling:Using an electric mixer, whisk drained ricotta, 120 ml heavy cream and 95g icing sugar until quite smooth (30 seconds).
Beat in 1 tsp rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.
Make the mascarpone frosting:Using an electric mixer, beat 170g unsalted butter, 125g icing sugar, 1 tsp rose water and 1/2 tsp cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
On low speed, beat in 240 ml cold mascarpone and 60 ml cold Greek yogurt, until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle. I was so careful to use the marscapone and yoghurt straight out of the fridge and underbeat, to the extent that it probably wasn’t quite as smooth as it should have been, but I was paranoid about botching the recipe and losing all the ingredients!
An easier frosting is to add the rosewater and cardamom to a standard cream cheese butter cream :
Beat 250g unsalted butter and 250g cream cheese till light and fluffy.
Beat in 2 cups icing sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 2 tsp vanilla.OR
Ice the cake with whipped cream flavored with a little icing sugar, rose water and cardamom.
When the cakes have cooled:
Use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake.Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Use strips of Gladbake under the cake so you don’t get icing all over the plate. Top with 50g chopped and toasted pistachios and candied rose petals for garnish; chill until ready to serve.This cake was delicious! Very rich and very good for osteoporosis, though not so good for the waistline!!! I loved the rosewater and cardamom flavour, set off well by the pistachio topping! A great success and my son loved it!There are a number of different methods for making candied rose petals. I consulted a lovely little book in our home library called ‘Edible Flowers‘ by Claire Clifton. A variety of flowers can be used : tiny rose buds or rose petals; violets; mimosa; lilacs; cowslips; fruit or herb flowers and mint leaves. Pick them on a very dry day, remove all the stems and green, trim the white heels from the rose petals and wash and dry thoroughly. I discovered the reason for the latter advice when I picked a lovely LD Braithwaite rose, only to find 3 tiny snails also enjoying the petals. Be assured that I did not use the petals they were on and I did wash the rest of the rose very well! I also used our first violets for the season.
I chose the first method in the book, which was to cover all petal surfaces with beaten egg white, then dip each petal into caster sugar using tweezers and place on a baking tray in a warm oven with the door open to dry. Unfortunately, I mistook salt for caster sugar, so I had to start all over again! The egg white bubbled up in a messy glob, but I took most of it off and given the crystallized rose petals are sprinkled in little broken bits over the top of the cake, it didn’t really matter, but I might try a different method next time!!!
The Easter break can be a busy time, both for visiting or hosting visitors, so I thought a post on Easter baking would be useful with the holiday period fast approaching. I am going to share some old favourites with you : Mardi’s Date Loaf; Dutch Ginger Cake; Mrs. Wilson’s Walnut Cake and Speculaas, as well as some new favourites: Date and Ginger Cake; Easter Biscuits and finally, Annabel’s Ginger and Apricot Biscuit Slice.
Mardi’s Date Loaf
This was Ross’s mother’s recipe and I used it for many years. In fact, it was the mainstay (along with Anzac Biscuits) for Ross’s natural history tours, when Ross would make his guests afternoon tea out in the bush. He often had international visitors and whenever I make this recipe, I am reminded of a pair of German girls, who were initially very suspicious of this loaf, but after the first few tentative nibbles, went on to demolish the lot very quickly over their cuppa!!!Set the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and line a loaf tin with Gladbake.Bring to the boil in a saucepan : 1 cup chopped pitted dates, 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp butter and 1 cup boiling water. Take off the stove and immediately add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, which will cause the mixture to fizz! Allow to cool.Add 1 well-beaten egg. Mix in 2 cups sifted self-raising flour and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.Spoon into loaf tin and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t overcook or get too dry. Delicious with butter, but equally tasty on its own!Dutch Ginger Cake
I think this one came from the good old Women’s Weekly recipe book years ago and it fast became a firm favourite, not just because it is quick and easy to make (apart from the baking time that is!), requiring no mixmaster or beaters, but also because it’s really DELICIOUS and dangerously more-ish! But BE WARNED! Consumption of more than two wedges at one sitting is definitely NOT RECOMMENDED!!! It is very rich (it’s all that butter!), but even though I have tried to reduce the butter amount, it’s best with the full ration! I use the glace ginger in its own syrup, sold by Buderim Ginger. Do not use crystallized ginger. I often used to make both Date Loaf and Ginger Cake at the same time, because they both take 45 minutes to bake. Their flavours also complement each other well.Set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a 20 cm round cake tin with Gladbake.Melt 125 g butter. Sift 1.75 cups plain flour. Add 1 cup castor sugar and 125g chopped glace ginger.Mix in melted butter and 1 well-beaten egg. Spoon mixture into cake tin. Glaze with milk and 30 g flaked almonds.Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Do not expect the cake to rise too much. It’s more of a flat shortbread. Cut into thin wedges!Date, Honey and Ginger Cake
Since we love both the recipes above, as well as honey (my husband being the human reincarnation of Pooh Bear!), I was keen to try out Matthew Evans’ recipe from his lovely book : ‘Winter on the Farm’ . It’s a beauty and is on a par with the faithful old Date Loaf in my affections!Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 24cm square cake tin with Gladbake.Boil 1 cup water in a saucepan, add 150g chopped pitted dates and 1/2 tspbicarbonate of soda, then remove from the heat and set aside.Beat 250g softened butter with 250g castor sugar and 350g (1 cup) honey with electric beaters until light and fluffy, then add 3 eggs, one at a time.Fold in 450g sifted plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt, another 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp cinnamon and 150g (1.5 cups) lightly chopped walnuts.Drain the dates, saving the liquid, and fold dates into the batter. Add enough water to the saved date liquid to make up a cup (250 ml) and add to the batter. Stir well till combined.Pour mixture into a tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 20 mins , then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.Mrs. Wilson’s Walnut Cake
Mrs. Wilson was a teacher at my children’s primary school and she brought this divine cake along to a parent-teacher evening one year. For even more exotic flavours, hazelnuts and lime juice can be substituted for the walnuts and lemon juice. Both forms are delicious and make a lovely moist cake.Preheat the oven to 160-180 degrees Celsius and line a 20cm springform cake tin with Gladbake.
Toast and finely blend 200g walnuts or hazelnuts.Cream 125g butter and 150g castor sugar. Add 1 egg and beat till light and fluffy. Stir in 3 tsp grated lemon rind or lime rind and 2 tbsp brandy.Sift 50g plain flour and 50g self-raising flour together and fold into the mixture gently with the nuts. Spoon mixture into tin. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
Make a hot syrup from 60ml lemon or lime juice and 55g castor sugar and pour over the cooked warm cake.Cover with foil and cool slowly to room temperature. Keep in the fridge.
Serve dusted with icing sugar. I often use a stencil to create a pretty pattern on top.
Now for the biscuits! Both the Speculaas and the Easter Biscuit recipes come from a lovely book called ‘Festivals, Family and Food’ by Diana Carey and Judy Large.
Traditionally baked for consumption on St Nicholas’ Feast in the Netherlands (Dec 5), Belgium (Dec 6) and around Christmas in Germany, the true speculaas are made in wooden moulds, decorating the thin spicy wafers with images of Christmas. I use cookie cutters in appropriate seasonal shapes instead. For example, sleighs, fir trees, Santa Claus and stars for Christmas; Wombats, kangaroos, kookaburras and other Australian animals for Australia Day or international visitors; And rabbits, eggs, flowers and hearts for Easter. I have a big tin of cookie cutters from my children’s childhood and still find it hard to resist purchasing new shapes when I see them! Even though these biscuits take a while to make, I still often make them before a big car trip, because it’s a generous recipe, making a large number of biscuits, which last well (apart from gobbling them up!)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.Cream 250g butter and 175g brown sugar, a pinch of salt and the grated rind of one lemon.Sift 250g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2tsp mixed spice and 2tsp cinnamon.Fold flour mixture into butter mixture and add 1dsp milk.Roll out thinly. I often use a sheet of Gladbake between the rolling pin and board to prevent sticking.Cut our shapes and place on a biscuit tin lined with Gladbake. Bake for 5-10 mins.Easter Biscuits
These are pretty little biscuits when cut with a fluted round cookie cutter and contrast well with the spicy brown Speculaas on the tea table.Preheat oven to 190-200 degrees Celsius.Rub 125g butter into 250g plain flour with your fingers.Add 125g castor sugar, a handful of currants, 1/2 tsp each of mixed spice and cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon juice.Mix in 1 beaten egg with 1 tbsp brandy and form a paste.Roll out thinly on a floured board. Here again, you can use a sheet of Gladbake between the rolling pin and board to prevent sticking.Using a fluted round cookie cutter, cut into rounds. Sprinkle with caster sugar if desired.Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Be careful to not burn or brown too much.Annabel’s Ginger and Apricot Biscuit Slice
Sourced from ‘Free Range in the City’ by Annabel Langbein, this is a very easy, no-bake slice with some of my favourite ingredients: dried apricots, ginger, pistachios and sweetened condensed milk! I always love a good excuse to open a can of condensed milk, especially when the recipe doesn’t use the whole tin. A teaspoonful of sweetened condensed milk cooled in the refrigerator is divine, although these days I am a lot more self-disciplined!!! I use Marie or Nice biscuits for the biscuit base and crush them to fine crumbs in a double plastic bag (ie : 2 plastic bags, so if one gets holey, you don’t lose the crumbs!) with a rolling pin.Line a 30cm x 24cm baking tin with Gladbake.Place 100g butter and 3/4 tin sweetened condensed milk in a pot and heat gently till the butter melts. Remove from heat. Crush 375g sweet biscuits.Mix 1 cup finely-chopped dried apricots, 1/2 cup finely-chopped crystallized ginger, 1 cup dessicated coconut, 1 tsp ground ginger, 2 tbsp lemon juice and finally, the crushed sweet biscuits.Add butter and condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Press biscuit base into the prepared tin and set in the refrigerator for 1 hour.Make Lemon Icing : Melt 50g butter and mix to a smooth consistency with 3 tbsp boiling water, 1 tsp lemon juice and 3.5 cups icing sugar.Spread icing over biscuit base and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger and 2 tbsp chopped pistachios. When the icing is set, cut into slices and store in a cool place.
I hope you enjoy making and eating these cakes and biscuits and have a Happy and Safe Easter, especially if you are travelling on the roads! Here are some fun photos from Easters past!
The February garden has been full of excitement and industry with the construction of the Main Pergola, the decommissioning of the pumpkin patch and the harvesting of all the Summer fruits and vegetables, not to mention finishing the brick edging of the Moon Bed and the multitude of Summer tasks from weeding, watering and mulching to lawn mowing and planting out new vegetables and seeds!
We were so thrilled with the Main Pergola and even though it is far from finished, the positioning of the new stringybark uprights gives a real sense of its potential and provides a framework and a perfect entrance way to the garden, as can be seen in the photos below. We used 2 old tall fenceposts (from the old Kiwi trellis) in the middle of the pergola. which lend it a rustic air and fit in well!
Wombat Ross dug all 6 holes by hand, all to a depth of 850 mm, which was as long as his arms could reach to scoop out the loosened soil with an old salmon can, but that was sufficient!
We strung up a horizontal wire and tied the laterals of the climbing roses to it, finally providing them with their much-needed support! As we source the wooden beams, we will gradually complete the top of the pergola, but the major part of the work has been done!
Having achieved the major goal for February, Ross then turned his attention to the rampant pumpkin patch, which was again threatening to take over the maple tree and was growing pumpkins up the back chook fence and sneaking through to the neighbour’s garden!Even though it was still producing tiny new pumpkins on a daily basis, we felt we had more than enough for the season and Ross was keen to reinvent the No-Dig Bed. My friend’s prized dahlia seedlings were up and running and we need to thin them out and transplant the extras to a larger area. I just hope that they last the distance and can reveal their beautiful flowers before the late Autumn frosts!He was also keen to establish a Winter crop of peas, cauliflowers and brussel sprouts, while we still have this wonderful growing weather. He has already planted new chard, carrots, lettuces and baby spinach, as well as a late Autumn crop of Dutch Cream potatoes.But back to Ross’s revenge attack on the pumpkin patch! It was swift and it was brutal and in no time at all, we had a new vegetable garden, as well as 37 Queensland Blue pumpkins and 4 GINORMOUS marrows, which are really zucchinis or courgettes, which have been let go (or forgotten in our case!)
Leaving one for our neighbour, we stored the rest in the shed in our trailer, bringing back memories of Ross’s mercy mission, when he and his brother delivered a trailer load of Queensland Blues to the starving people of Brisbane after the massive 1974 floods! A bit ironical really, given that Ross has always disparagingly referred to them as ‘pig food’! Please don’t read that the wrong way!!!
We much prefer the smaller, striped Jap pumpkins, which are growing in the future chook enclosure and to which we have allowed a grace of one extra week to fully mature!!!So, plenty of hearty Winter Pumpkin soups ahead! Fortunately, our son is staying with us at the moment, so not only was he able to help Ross out with the pergola posts, but he has been concocting the most delicious lunches and dinners from produce, fresh from the garden, including the dishes photographed below. As my son remarked, he feels he has given the humble and much-maligned marrow a measure of respect! Even though considered quite bland and requiring other ingredients with strong complimentary flavours, the texture of the flesh was superb! I had half expected this old zucchini to be tough and stringy, but it is tender and really quite delicious, even on its own. I’m a fan!!!
Today, we enjoyed an exquisitely light and creamy home-grown Red Cabbage Soup, garnished with parsley and an Italian Lavender flower! Red Cabbage is also incredibly healthy: see website:http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/healthy_eating/eat-a-rainbow/anthocyanins-blue-purple-food.htmWe harvested the last of the Dutch Cream potatoes. When Ross dug up the old pumpkin patch, he discovered another bucketful of this delicious and much-coveted potatoes. We are storing them in a bucket under the house, but I dearly wish we had kept our old wire safes to store them!!!
We have also been very impressed by our colourful capsicums, a first-time crop for us!The heritage tomatoes also produced a large crop and we made tomato chutney and a spicy tomato sauce, not unlike Barbecue Sauce, as well as using them in all our salads and on toast for lunch!
We also made a Sweet Apple Chutney from our small apple crop. Unfortunately, the birds had demolished a fair number of them, even though they were not ripe enough to eat!