Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Peaches and cream

A couple of years ago a peach seedling volunteered itself in our garden. It is not in the perfect place but I thought at least if it had the grace to grow itself I would let it stay. Last year there were nine fruit on it, unfortunately I got to pick three, I suspect someone else got there before me. This year, there is much fruit on the tree and I got in before it was pilfered! I presume the peach is a ‘Golden Queen’ an old time favourite, especially for preserving and cooking. The way I like them best is flambéed, with butter brown sugar and a little whiskey. After the flames, allow the mixture to reduce a little, wrap in crepes and a dash of whipped cream, what a way to start a Sunday! Last Sunday in a consolation to at least one waist line, the peaches were added to apple a little brown sugar (to allow the juices to run) and eaten raw on the crepes. I have to say the dietary measures weren’t extended to a cream substitute, although this week I have added, Greek yoghurt with honey, to the shopping list. With the heat of summer still scorching on, the only other things to be surviving at the moment are the tomatoes. These too are now almost finished, the last fruits beginning to shrivel on the vines.
While scratching about in the garden recently I have made a couple of discoveries. Firstly a palm tree I planted around four years ago, lost beneath a queen of the night. Guess the Queen-of-the-night is going to have to yield now to the rediscovered treasure. The palm is related to the kentia and comes from the same island, Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. The botanical name for this palm is Howea belmoreana, having a long slender trunk, often leaning and topped by graceful curving fronds. If you think the kentia, Howea forsterana is slow growing, I think you might find its cousin H. belmoreana even slower. It is worth the wait and as I hinted, the old queen (not me!) is for the chop! The other more common kentia palm, H. forstana was hugely popular in Victorian times as a house plant, as it survives very well in low light and containers. This spawned a large seed industry in Norfolk Island at this time.
The other discovery was the flower of my blood lily, Haemanthus coccineus, from the family Amaryllidaceae, a genus of some fifty species. These bulbous plants are largely native to southern and tropical Africa. This one is native to South Africa and sends its bloom up from the dry earth in the middle of summer, just as mine has done this year. The flower, as the name suggests, is blood red while the stem is pale green with purple flecks on it. This display is followed by spectacular fleshy leaves, each bulb usually sporting just two, like large green tongues poking in opposite directions. The foliage alone makes it worth growing but the ability to survive, especially in my garden through the dry is just another bonus.
Well on that dry note, I hope everyone’s plants are battling through in the dry. It is a season to expect some failures but there is always autumn, a great time to get plants in the ground. The soil will still be warm and the replenished water table will provide the perfect environment for new plants.

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