Author: Minette Tonoli

Recipe: Baked Earl Grey Cheesecake with Lavender

Recipe: Baked Earl Grey Cheesecake with Lavender

Ingredients Base: 1 packet biscuits (I used Tennis Biscuits from South Africa, Coconut Based) 115g butter, melted Filling: 500g cream cheese (2 tubs) 100g caster sugar 100ml sour cream 1.5tbsp cake flour 2 large eggs 1 egg yolk 1 tsp vanilla extract with seeds 50ml […]

Newsletter – March 2018

Newsletter – March 2018

The first month of Autumn! And while March is still relatively warm, one can start to see the changes in daylight and feel a slight drop in night temperatures too (at least I can!) I’ve even spied a few leaves turning yellow and red on […]

Newsletter – February 2018

Newsletter – February 2018

Wow! We’re in the last (official) month of summer already, and the gardens are full of produce and flowers. This month’s newsletter focuses on my top 10 herb flowers for use in food, medicine or cosmetics. Perfect time to harvest these beauties!

Also the February 2018 calendar for some ideas on what to sow and grow. Remember as always to take YOUR climate into consideration. February2018

Feedback appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Do-It-Yourself: Seedling Soil

Do-It-Yourself: Seedling Soil

I’ve been making a lot of my own seedling soil and cutting mix for a few years now. It’s super easy to make, and you can control exactly what goes into your mix. I’m not convinced it saves money unless you make a lot over […]

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes – How To

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes – How To

The cherry tomatoes are dripping fruit… and it’s a race to get to them before the birds do! But what to do with all of them once they are picked? I’ve done dehydrator “sundried” cherry tomatoes, and of course, we snack on them constantly, but […]

Week in Retrospect : 8 JAN 2018 – 14 JAN 2018

Week in Retrospect : 8 JAN 2018 – 14 JAN 2018

We are Open

While I know this is supposed to be a retrospective post, I feel it will be remiss if I don't add that today, 15 January, officially marks the opening of MeadowSweet Herbs & Flowers for 2018.  🙂

North Shore Herb Group

If you've missed the news - I'll be taking on the community interest group for herbs on the North Shore of Auckland! 

I've managed to secure a lovely new venue for our group. For more informatio see our Facebook page for more details.

I have a lovely history with the North Shore Herb Group, and feel very happy and excited to be running it! 

Long ago, and far away... about 8 years ago, and just over 12,000km away... I had a little herb shop and nursery and did a newsletter which got picked up and subscribed to by a lady in New Zealand. Turns out the lady was the then president and convener of the Auckland Herb Society. I was very chuffed indeed to find a address on my subscriber's list as we had already started our plans to move to this new country... Long story short, I e-mailed her directly, and we became good friends over the long distance and our shared love of herbs. When I finally arrived in NZ, I was happy to settle in Albany and to finally meet her face-to-face and join in with her wonderful Herb Group on the North Shore. I've been part of the North Shore Herb Group ever since.

To plant by the moon, or not to plant by the moon

Moon calendar planting is often scoffed at, and on the other hand sometimes even given magical credence... and I've been asked about it often. Here's a few FAQ's around it...

Do I garden by the moon?

Yes, I do follow the moon calendar for planting. But here is the qualifier: *as much as I can*. This means that I don't only ever sow above-ground crops in the week or so following New Moon. Life sometimes have different plans, and maybe you can't get to your seeds or garden when the calendar says you should, and I for one, don't always want to wait another 4 weeks (for the next "fertile period") to put my seeds in when I didn't quite manage to do so in the moon allocated time.

Why do I garden by the moon?

It is a great tool for me to schedule tasks in my garden, and give me a routine to work with. Otherwise gardening can become a bit-of-this and bit-of-that affair without any real focus or strategy. If I block off certain times of a month for certain tasks, I find more gets done, and I feel calmer about it all too. And if I am going to schedule my to-do, then I may as well do it according to moon calendar.

Does it work?

The theory around moon gardening works on 2 main principles, as far as I understand it at least - the main one being water and the moon's gravitational effect on it, and the other is light.

Now anyone who lives near the sea, understands and experiences first-hand, the pull that the moon has on the bodies of water on our planet (tides). So too, says the moon-calender proponents, will it have an effect on the sap of the plant, the water molecules in the soil, and the water table. 

The other is that light affects germination, and with the increase of light after New Moon (the dark period), seeds may germinate better (at least the ones that need light to germinate).

I have found that although seeds will germinate and grow almost anytime, sowing and planting according to the moon calendar gives me better germination rates, faster sprouting times, stronger seedlings and healthier plants. The difference isn't a shocking or awe-inspiring one, but there definitely is a benefit to growing by the ideal moon phases.

In the nursery

Now that I've cleared up that I do normally plant by the moon, but also plant at other times when I have missed an ideal period according to the moon calendar, let's look at what I managed to sow this past week. I'm very excited to find great germination rates and times! Looking forward to an abundant late summer, early autumn. 


  • Honeywort - Pride of Gibralta
  • Masterwort - Astrantia 
  • Hyssop 
  • Cleome
  • Fenugreek
  • Lesser Calamint
  • Chervil
  • Salad purslane
  • Parsley - Flat Leaf Italian
  • Zinnia
  • Dill
  • Ice Cream Bean (Inga Bean)
  • Gaillardia - Burgundy
  • Spring onion
  • Dahlia - Unwins Bedding Mix
  • Dahlia- Sunny Raggae
  • Marhshmallow
  • Anise hyssop - Blue
  • Armenian Basketflower
  • Hollyhocks - Dwarf Lemon, Ebony Towers, Mix, Yellow, Red,  Apricot White
  • Chives
  • Garlic chives
  • Coreopsis - Dwarf Red Amulet 
  • Coreopsis - Plains 
  • Lettuces - Lollo rosso, Danyelle, Rouge d'Hiver, Mix Leaf
  • English Lavender
  • Sunflower - Bronzes


In the garden

New additions to my garden... because aren't they just SO pretty!? 

I was hoping to save seed and be able to offer the coreopsis and gaillardia in the nursery at some point, but I think they may both be hybrids (need to do some more research), so the seed may not come true to type. Still going to try though! I honestly loved the flowers from the seed I saved from my Moulin Rouge sunflowers, and they were F1 hybrids. Always worth taking a chance, I reckon!

Coreopsis, Dwarf Mango Orange

Gaillardia, Arizona apricot

Salvia gregii, Deep Pink

Ajuga, Pink Spire
























Now, as neither the salvia nor the ajuga is listed with the NZ PVR register, I can definitely add them to my nursery list as soon as they are big enough to propagate from! 

I've also put into my garden some of the plants from the nursery that have reached their best-by date - hopefully they still thrive and provide for lots of seed for MeadowSweet:

Bee balm, lemon

Coreopsis, Plains


Harvests continue pretty much the same as last week, except I have a few more yellow zucchini, and lots more tomatoes, and a lovely big rampicante zucchini too! The chillies are now ripening beautifull, and I've harvested Cayanetta and Hungarian Hot Wax this week.

I'm still getting cucumber, cocozelle zucchini, beans, spring onion, tomatoes, and lots of culinary herbs - marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, basil, mint, chives, and thyme. 

Edible flowers I have harvested this past few days include calendula, bergamot, sunflower, dianthus, cornflower, viola, starfire marigold, chives, rosemary, and scented pelargonium.

Seed Saving

There is a lot of plants going to seed now, and one of my busiest times for seed saving is just about to start!

Heads of sunflowers heavy with seeds bow down in the wind, and fluffs from lettuce seed heads gives the garden a misty look. This past week I've also saved seeds of:

  • Gaillardia, Arizona sun
  • Forget-me-not, Chinese (pink)
  • Sweetpeas, tall (various colours)
  • Sweetpeas, dwarf (pink and purple)
  • Nigella (love in the mist)
  • Purple tomatillo
  • Tomato, lots of different varieties.
  • Lettuce, drunken woman fringed head
  • Lettuce, freckles
  • Marigold, starfire mix

Sunflower seed head

Lettuce seeds


Made from the Garden

Deliciousness straight from the garden... yes, lots of tomatoes, because "Tomato Season!" 🙂

Eggbake - with NZ spinach and herbs from the garden, made with our own quail eggs, and home-made ricotta.

A humble lunch - tomato and cheese sandwich with a red-gold-green heirloom tomato medley

Cooling herb tea with lemon balm, lemon verbena and pepper mint

Herbed cherry tomatoes ready for the dehydrator

Homemade tomato pizza - with a base heirloom tomato sauce and freshly picked basil.


Week in Retrospect : 1 Jan 2018 – 7 Jan 2018

Week in Retrospect : 1 Jan 2018 – 7 Jan 2018

And just like that, it is a new year! 2018 marks the 5th year that I’ve lived in New Zealand, the golden year of immigration adjustment, if sources are to be believed. I’ve always loved being a Kiwi, but let’s hope this year will indeed […]

Seed List January 2018

This is a list of the seeds I have in my seed boxes at the moment. In my own particular order, so apologies if it makes no sense… 😉 Seed Box A Anethum graveolens MDS Alluims …chives MrF …spring onion evergreen MrF …spring onion Yts […]

Rose Petal Jam – How To

Rose Petal Jam – How To

When life gives you rose petals… make rose petal jam (or jelly)!

Every day that my Westerland climbing rose is in flower and I walk up to, or out of my front door, where the scent from it is strongest, I long to capture that magnificent soft fragrance for the winter days when the roses are bare and the heady days of summer is a distant memory… Together with petals from my (okay, my daughter’s) DL Braithewaite (for the colour more than the scent), I decided to make a rose petal preserve to try and do just that.

Far from being my most fragrant rose – Blackberry Nip gets that title, nevertheless it is sublime, and this year my favourite rose in my garden.

Recipe for Rose Petal Jam


  • 4 cups packed rose petals, rinsed and bitter white heel snipped off
  • 3 cups sugar (I find jam setting sugar works really well)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, or more to taste


  1. Pack the rose petals with 2 Tbsp of the sugar between each layer in a sealable container (non-reactive) and leave them overnight.
  2. Bring the rest of the sugar and the water to a boil and then cool down slightly.
  3. Add the rose petals and sugar and the lemon juice and bring back to the boil until setting point is reached (around 104ºC), or a rolling boil.
  4. Pour into sterilised jars and let cool before sealing and storing. 












This is really sweet, but delectable, and the colour came out amazing! We had it on pikelets with fresh (tart) blueberries from the garden, cream and some lemon basil. It was delicious! Next up I’ll try it with scones and Earl Grey tea.




Chamomile Tea – How To

Their white and yellow daisy heads nod on their stems above the fresh apple-scented ferny leaves as bumblebees and bees flit to and fro. Summertime is chamomile time. Take the time to harvest and dry some of your own chamomile for a year’s worth of […]