Friday, May 27, 2016
Having been very taken with the shaped hedges at Highgrove, we decided when we planted our leiland hedges, we would add some interest by having archways and castellations in them.
Above and below: The shaped hedges at Highgrove.
The archways line up with vistas inside the house, so that from certain French windows you can see through the hedges to focal points, such as a bench under the copse of Oaks in Spencer's corner...
The hedge has made reasonable progress since a year ago...
In time the arch will become higher and acuter, resembling more the sort of arch below...
The arch above looks as if it is fashioned out of a Hornbeam or Beech hedge, whereas the more traditional choice for a clipped hedge would be Yew, like the arch below...
There are many things that you can do with hedges to add interest (other than clip them into waves). Here are some more examples I found on Pinterest, which I rather like...
I really like these topiary obelisks which 'book-end' the hedge nicely and again frame a vista in the garden.
More hedged pillars...
Niches in a hedge with recessed busts are also a dramatic way to add interest to an otherwise green wall, and give people the joy of discovering things as they journey through the grounds...
Friday, May 20, 2016
Last month the leather couches for the salon arrived. We chose some traditional deeply buttoned Chesterfield styled couches, with two matching chairs. After a few iterations, we settled upon a configuration which splits the long salon into two smaller spaces suitable for conversation...
The area is split in two by a Boulle cabinet with a lovely Lalique lamp on it, which we leave on most of the day for effect, and at night it makes a lovely 'night light'.
At the moment the space is still a little less cosy than desired, so we plan to add area rugs under the two coffee tables, which will help to absorb some of the echo, and some parlour palms.
Examples of area rugs and parlour palms used to good effect...
We also have our French Boulle clock in the corner nearest the music room...
Friday, May 13, 2016
Willowbrook Park holds an intimate monthly degustation dinner known as “The Supper Club”. Our guest chef will lead you on a gastronomic journey through six courses of gourmet cuisine, each course accompanied by a different wine on which our sommelier will provide tasting notes.
For our inaugural Supper Club the menu has been carefully chosen by Kerr and Ladbrook to be paired with a selection of wines from Mills Reef winery.
At The Supper Club your pleasure doesn’t stop at the fine dining. Each of these exclusive events is accompanied by entertainment throughout the evening. Getting our first occasion off to an effervescent start, we are very pleased to announce that soprano Evelyn Bourton, freshly returned from touring aboard, will be providing operatic amusement for our guests.
Willowbrook Park supports the responsible service of alcohol, so guests will be collected from their homes by Carrington Limousines so they can arrive in style, and then be delivered safely back home at the end of the evening.
Of course, guests may choose to make a weekend of it, and having started their mini-break with class, continue it with a stay in one of our three luxury suites.
Numbers are strictly limited to 14, and have already sold out within the first week. Be sure to book ahead for our next one. Bookings can be made through our website www.willowbrookpark.co.nz.
Friday, May 6, 2016
There is something quite wonderful about foraging for ones food in the countryside, be it simple nettles for a summer soup or wild mushrooms for this winter warmer. Obviously one must be very careful to ensure one knows what one is picking, as the prospect of serving a poisonous broth to ones guests is alarming. When picking mushrooms firstly know the flora of your local area, secondly, take a good field guide with you, and thirdly, if in doubt, don’t pick it of have it checked by a mycologist first.
The best time to forage for mushrooms is the first few days of sun after a wet spell. That is when they tend to have grown the most. Autumn is the perfect time, as it has cooler wetter weather, but still sunny days.
The most common variety around the Waikato region would be the common field mushroom, Agaricus campestris, which is what we found in our fields at Willowbrook, (shown above). They have thick fleshy caps about 5-8cm across, on white stalks 5-8cm tall. As the caps grow the gills change from pale pink in colour to dark chocolate brown. But beware imposters, the 'yellow stainers', Agaricus xanthoderma and Agaricus pilatianus. These mushrooms have relatively large caps up to 15 cm in diameter, with prominent rings on the stalks. The gills are white when young, becoming brownish with age. Consequently, they superficially resemble the common field mushroom (Agaricus campestris), however, both species are poisonous and should not be eaten. Agaricus xanthoderma can be easily distinguished because it stains bright yellow when bruised or cut but Agaricus pilatianus only stains yellow when it is young.
Veloute de champignons sauvages
For this recipe you will require about 200g / 7oz of wild mushrooms of your choosing. If you have some that you have dried from a previous expedition then about 30g of dried mushrooms would suffice, but there’s really nothing quite as good as the fresh thing.
7oz / 200g of wild mushrooms. Morels, ceps, and porcini are best.
2 ½ pints / 6 cups of good homemade chicken stock (a word about bought stock – don’t)
1oz / 30g butter
2 onions coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2lb / 800g of cultivated mushrooms, such as buttons, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 fl oz / 125mls of Madeira or dry sherry
2-3 tbspn of plain flour
4 fl oz / 125mls of crème fraiche or soured cream
Freshly ground pepper and pink Himalayan rock salt
Fresh thyme or chives for garnish
If using dried mushrooms rinse them well in a sieve under cold running water to remove any sand or grit. Place them in a pan with 8 fl oz / 250mls of water and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling take the pan off the heat and set it aside for 45 minutes to reconstitute and cool.
Meanwhile, in a good quality saucepan (heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish) melt the butter over a medium heat and then gently sautee the onions until golden. Add the garlic and the button mushrooms as well as any freshly foraged mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Then add the rest of the seasoning and sift over the flour. Cook for about another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened and the flour has been well cooked.
Add the Madeira or sherry, the chicken stock , and if using dried mushrooms these as well as the water they were soaked in. Simmer with lid on for further 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are deliciously tender.
The soup is now ready to be pureed. Put soup through blender until smooth. Return to the pan and stir through the crème fraiche or soured cream and bring back to near boiling (but do not let boil).
Ladle into bowls, swirl a small amount of crème fraiche through the centre of each bowl for decoration, then sprinkle over the fresh herbs to garnish and serve.
Disclaimer: We strongly advise all readers to take full precaution in ensuring correct identification of any wild foraged food before consuming it. The following resources may aid NZ readers in this. All overseas readers are advised to consult with their local specialists first.
Landcare Research provides a virtual mycology library for NZ species, with field mushrooms to be found here.
More examples of Waikato / Taranaki species can be found here.
Alternatively, you could always grow your own to be sure with kits from Mushroom Gourmet NZ.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Happy May Day! Here are some lovely shots of the dawn breaking as seen from the balcony of the bridal suite...
The sun's rays cascading through the early morning Waikato mist on a cool Autumn day...
The crisp blue sky...
with Swallows darting about, and the Nymphaeum in the background...