Not the best photo I’ve taken lately, you’ll be pleased to hear – but the sprouting of our endemic Scilla natelensis and the sudden honey scent of Buddleja salvifolia on a recent warm walk signify the change in season at Sequoia Gardens – spring is here(ish). This morning we we woke to soft, measurable rain – 25mm in fact, the first rain to speak of since April!

Bluebells sprouting

Cannas sprouting

The Spanish Bluebells are sprouting and will flower if the bokkies (deer) allow; and the Japanese anemones that will mark the swansong of summer are already showing their first leaves. And over at the entrance the cannas which had been brown since June’s frost and were starting to collapse as though an elephant had been rolling on them, have been cleaned away, revealing the sprouting leaves hidden in the mess. Time to water, and to fertilise. (Thanks again for last night’s rain!)

Cleaning and watering cannas

At the entrance

The dominant colour remains wintery, but the first spring colour is beginning to show:

Spring and winter

Few azaleas are ready for full-length portraits, but detail opportunities are becoming plentiful.

Frilly bicolour azalea

whitr azalea

pink face azalea

Frilly palest pink azalea

pink double azale

watermelon double azalea

And as you might have noticed – we had a few drops of rain before last night’s decent downpours.

But back to the somewhat wintery: I have three Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ in pots. I got them from Sandford Heights Nursery, our wonderful local source of all plants happy here, and fast becoming one of South Africa’s top sources of a huge variety of Japanese maples. Yes, this is a plug, but not paid for; owners Erie and Laurie’s mom, Gub, is my gardening guru. Had it not been for her back in the 80s I don’t think I would have had more than a passing interest in plants. And last night I attended the 40th birthday party of their daughter, one of my good friends; friendship across three generations!

Acer palmatum Sango-kaku

Sango-kaku is my favourite amongst these, my favourite species of trees. Also know as the coral-bark maple – for reasons obvious from these pics – it has small, neat leaves with yellowish veins and stems, and buttery autumn colour; the way the corals and yellows combine is truly magical. Here one last leaf speaks of late winter, not a long gone autumn.

Acer palmatum Sango-kaku detail

Step back from these details and the view widens. We are at the public entrance to the garden, the wintery seats early in the post mark a resting space near the entrance, shaded in summer. The pots with ‘Sango-kaku’ form part of this area.

Rosemary Borders from entrance

The pots are behind the tree to the left. We are looking down the length of the Rosemary Terrace, much foreshortened in this view. Stand back, and the proportions become clearer.

Rosemary Borders from parking

Entrance from parking

Here we are now, looking across the guest parking towards the garden. To the right the avenue of Sequoia trees along the driveway to the house form a visual barier. Ahead the Chinese maples along Flora’s path separate the garden from the parking area; and below – since we’ve been reversing – the boys, the dogs and I set off down the Sequoia avenue at the start of a recent walk. We are halfway through the photos I have prepared…

Sequoia avenue - boys and dogs



The bleakness of the season (remember it is the end of winter here) but more so: the wonderful black and white photography of my friend Laura at eljaygee (just another fauxtography blog) has inspired me to experiment with draining the last vestiges of colour from my shots. I’m afraid these are just snapshots from an afternoon stroll, but they have excited me.


Some photos look more drained in colour than in black and white…

                   The bench under the beech - Beech Borders  bEECH bORDERS BENCH

But I cannot get away from colour, no matter how slight…

First crabapple blossoms

These are the first tentative crab-apple blossoms, testing the air to see if it is time yet to all frolic forth.

First crabapple blossoms 2

And these are the first sparaxis blooms, the flowers I associate so strongly with my mother’s last spring five years ago, when I first planted them. These, overwintered (or rather – oversummered) in their pots, are in bloom a full month earlier than in previous years.

First sparaxis

And so another spring starts, things start to perk up in the garden, and as Sequoia grows ever brighter and more colourful, I still don’t know when I will shut the hall door with its flanking panels of stained glass depicting Sequoia trees for the last time behind me.

Front door

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Dazzling Dixter

Jack Holloway:

Great Dixter and Sissinghurst are the two gardens that inspired me most as I developed Sequoia Gardens. Recently my gardening friend Dan Cooper visited Great Dixter – and reported so beautifully that for the first time I reblog (share) someone else’s post. Thank you Dan!

Originally posted on The Frustrated Gardener:

Having been utterly engrossed in our own garden for the last few weeks it was a relief to get out and about and start the summer holiday proper. Our destination was Great Dixter, the house and garden of the late, great Christopher Lloyd, nestled in the bucolic East Sussex countryside. The mellow Wealden house is a combination of an original 15th century dwelling with part of a 16th century yeoman’s house, transported here from neighbouring Kent. In 1912 the resulting building was sympathetically added to and updated by Edwin Lutyens, accentuating the property’s air of great antiquity.

Tall chimneys, typical of many Lutyens country houses, rise above the flowers in the Peacock Garden
Tall chimneys, typical of many of Lutyens’ country houses, rise above the flowers in the Peacock Garden

I have to confess to not having fully appreciated or enjoyed Great Dixter’s gardens on previous visits. I understand this statement might be considered tantamount to blasphemy in horticultural circles, but I put it down to poor timing and my own underdeveloped taste. On paper I ought to be in complete harmony with…

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Wondering how to share with you my dream, I went to Google Images. I did not really find what I want, but this image captures the spirit if not in any way the subject of my dream.


an early 20th century card by Josef  Madlener

I have asked myself the question: what if I won the lotto before I leave Sequoia Gardens. Would I stay? What would I do to develop the gardens further? I must admit that I think I would leave, for in my head I am ready for the next stage of my journey. But I would regret not completing three projects: The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe, about which I have often written, e.g. here

The boys find a perfect universe

The potential of this garden, the size and simplicity of the idea, the audacity of it makes it my greatest loss; the project I would most like to complete.

Next in line is a recent concept,  and one which is so far beyond my financial reach or any practical implementation in the way I envisage it, that I allow myself to dream ever bigger. It is impossible – so don’t even consider the possible! That is where the top picture comes in. I was dreaming of a magical space – a spiritual place, a chapel or a meditation retreat under the avenue of pin oaks. I cleaned the site up a little in this photograph.

My cathedral space

Under these tall, upright pin oaks there is an space that can easily be levelled. The trees soar like the pillars of a gothic cathedral. In winter their traceries meet overhead, but in summer the leaves form a dense roof high up. Cleaning up and levelling the space beneath them is very possible – in fact it would be my first project should I stay. But then the dream kicks in. Beautiful as this space is, it cannot protect one from the elements. A simple glass-roofed structure on slim supports will protect those gathered beneath. Simple. Oh, exquisitely simple. The supports would be cast in specially prepared moulds; or perhaps carved from a softer material. They would be the attenuated organic shapes one finds in the best Art Nouveau work; picture the entrance to a classic Parisian Metro; or beautiful Art Nouveau stained glass. Perhaps loops and curves, great bone-like shapes.

paris_metro_elev_b1305601010270 97839cd5ab66d56b175160f4271f15d3 images image-3

Did I mention stained glass? The roofs would be clear – except for swirling tendrils creating the structure. But perhaps at eye level – or higher – between the pillars – there could be stained glass such as one finds of the period; a botanical, illustrating our native flowers; or perhaps allegorical scenes. Or even glorious unstained glass…

a b c d e

 Imagine our natives immortalised in beautiful stained glass…

schizostylis-coccinea 16-lobelia-erinus gladiolus-dalenii-2 ouhout-thicket impatienssylvicola agapanthus-inapertus begonia-sutherlandii

Oh right. . There’s a third dream. But it doesn’t quite  flow from here, so let’s keep it for later…

(I see now – yesterday it was the 5th anniversary of my blog… happy birthday to me!  That is quite an achievement, I think Smile)


July colour in the arboretum

You can see them clearly from the house, although in the photograph it takes a little imagination; behind the white stems of the tall gum trees two Camellia ‘Donation’ proudly sport a crop of pure pink flowers, and other, shyer, camellias flaunt their shiny evergreen foliage. Go closer and you will find there too are flowers. So near to the water it really is too cold for them. But after 15 plus years the camellias stand taller and throw protective shadows against the frost.  With the exception of one night four weeks ago, which was one of the four coldest nights I’ve ever known here, winter has been mild so far, and the camellias are happy. And that means they are flowering. So up into the arboretum we have been going to admire them.

camellia donation

‘Donation’ demands a group pose; the other want portraits.

Camellia 1

camellia 2

camellia 3

And then the boys pick up a huge flower fallen from a tree and bring it to show me…

camellia 4

But after weeks of collecting beautiful autumn leaves and stacking them up, one on top of the other, a red one, a yellow one, a multi-coloured one, and sending me home with a sheaf of leaves to spread in the blue plate on the table (their idea, not mine), presenting me with one found flower is apparently not enough. So:

Creating camellia 1

An azalea gets picked and added. And my enthusiastic response leads to a new game…

Creating camellia 2

Soon enough leaves get added to the confection – I’m only showing you some of their trophies.

Creating camellia 3

Creating camellia 4

And still the flower grows…

Creating camellia 5

But eventually we leave it ceremoniously on a rock, a funeral spray for a lost autumn.

Creating camellia 6


Aloes in the early light

Aloe saponaria is one of the few aloes that positively thrives in our cold climate, suckering happily and flowering freely. Over the years the bed in front of the stoep has twice been thinned. This week the winter clean-up in the garden started, and the dark seed heads which featured in the foreground in my previous post have gone. And still the last autumn leaves linger…

Aloe saponaria


Checking on font changes, I play some more with my new theme -

Oak leaf hydrangea

The Oak-leaved Hydrangeas turn late, and this year they are spectacular. Below, one provides background to the self-sown rose which draped itself across a Rosemary in the Rosemary Borders. Its leaves are turning bright yellow and the first bud is showing colour. I suspect it might be seedling from the Musk Rose ‘Mozart’, which last year carried copious quantities of tiny heps. In fact, said heps featured in the first photo of a post from last year this time:

self-sown rose in the Rosemary Borders

Here are archive photos of Herr Mozart – he has slightly larger and darker flowers than the better know Ballerina, and forms an arching creeper rather than her compact twiggy shrub – first the flower and then last year’s heps.



The Water Oak on Freddie’s Dam still has a few leaves; one in the arboretum though glows with more than half the leaves still in place. The House that Jack Built is just to the right of this shot; a lovely place to sit out in any season!

Seating under the water oak