May 23, 2012
It was almost involuntary… The next thing I knew I was outside in bracing but not bitter cold, camera in hand, on the first day of proper frost. However my guess is (I never checked) that the minimum at 1m above ground where we measure temps, was above freezing. And the sun was noticeably warm when you stood in it, and there was no wind to speak of.
My favourite Berberis against the juniper was looking spectacular, although the Prunus which forms part of the composition was already bare.
A fine mist drifted over the water as the sun hit the cold air. Several swamp cypresses around the Makou Dam are looking lovely, and the Chinese maples (Acer buergerianum) which germinate everywhere from the avenue of big trees in Flora’s Path are more noticeable now than at any other time of the year – and the inclination to weed them out is zero!
They are, after all, only beaten by the Japanese maples for their autumn show.. The trilobal leaf belongs to the Chinese maple – the Japanese version has five or seven fingers. I love the gable and the brick pillars at the bottom of the steps which one almost doesn’t see in this photo.
Here again it is the Chinese maples that provide the rich colour. I was actually photographing the mauve Tree dahlias on the right, but by the time I had processed the pic into oblivion, I decided to really make it arty and give it a dry brush filter. So turn to the next pic to see the Tree Dahlias (Dahlia imperialis) which have only just survived the first frosts – having only started to bloom earlier in May, for they take all summer to grow their remarkable bamboo-like stems.
Back to the Makou Dam for the next two shots – again of Swamp Cypresses (Taxodium distichum), a deciduous conifer which turns from fresh green to cinnamon. They each march to their own drum, and so some are just starting, whilst in the background of the lower pic there is a tree in full splendour and to the right of it two trees that are now almost skeletal.
Canna ‘Phaeson’ is frosted, but after only a few nights of lightish frost there is still remarkable colour in the plants.
And the sun was catching them too beautifully!
Other plants too were looking splendid, but these are snapshots – having gone out impulsively I left both my tripod and my warm jacket behind!
The frost was melting on the ground-spiders’ webs as the sun hit them, but once again I took only snapshots…
This photo of one of the frosted zinnias I mentioned in my previous post is of slightly more than snapshot quality though…
And I rather enjoy this last gasp of a pineapple sage and the subtle colours of one of my favourite autumn-coloured annuals, a form of marigold which one year ages ago completely dominated the garden as the young trees showed us a glimpse of what they would do in future autumns…
‘Elegant decay’ might best describe these gorgeous antique velvet colours, but their subtlety was less – well, subtle – only a
few days month ago…
I finish off with a pic from yesterday, showing that the autumn splendour is not yet over – behind the Japanese maple is the row of Chinese maples referred to earlier, which seed so freely. To their right is Liquidamber formosanum, our first specimen and a tree which will retain its leaves in a near green state right through to very late winter. Beyond the steps some of those weedy maples give colour (hoorah), with the swamp cypresses beyond them. The rounded tree with yellow leaves across the valley in the arboretum is a chestnut and the spiky trees beyond are a close relative of the swamp cypress that go by the very impressive names of Dawn redwood or Metasequoia glyptostroboides! In the foreground the aloes start their display, and we hold our breaths for at any moment this display can be cruelly curtailed by a heavy frost…
May 19, 2012
OK, fine. This is a gardening blog with a ‘come stay in my cottages’ slant. The fact that I’ve just spent several days in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, staying in an apartment overlooking that city’s icon, really is not important. So forgive me if it keeps creeping in to my conversation. The above panorama I took leaning out of the sliding doors soon after waking on my first morning there, in order to get the full 180 degrees in-your-face of Table Mountain…
On a visit to a beautiful tea-garden in the Jonkershoek Valley above Stellenbosch I took this photograph… but to what extent was it the similarities with home that inspired me? Although this opposite view is very different to anything OUR mountain can offer!
We went up Table Mountain on a perfect day. I deliberately avoided taking too many pics. And the one I choose to share with you I took back down in the road, right next to where our car was parked. It is one of the many beautiful proteas that grow on Table Mountain.
We returned home after dark on Thursday. And woke to a surprise. I had forgotten that our neighbour’s gum plantation was being cut down… We had dreaded the day, but our row of big gums now breaks the sheer expanse of the devastation beyond. This was the surprise as I opened the front door on Friday morning…
I mark the end of autumn on 15 May. Anything after that is a bonus. And so it should not surprise me that the composition is suddenly wintery on the morning of 18 May… But winter has its flowers too and the early aloes usually get to flower before the frosts get too heavy.
The Japanese Maple on the edge of the lawn was originally chosen for its rich colour which lasts well beyond most others. As it has grown it has not disappointed, and it ensures that autumn lingers.
The bare ground to the right is the top end of the Mothers’ Garden, which has lain fallow all summer. Come spring we need to at least plant the hedges…
This morning there was a light frost. And as I set off on this afternoon’s walk I suddenly realised: that frost had been the first. The striped zinnias (about which I posted here) which yesterday were still flowering bravely were now browned. And from there on I kept seeing more signs of frost damage. Then whilst photographing the damage to the canna below there was a crash and a huge branch broke out of the biggest gum across the Makou Dam and fell to the ground. I have only known such things to happen on hot, still afternoons following on either heavy rain or great swings in temperature. When I got there I saw it was – before shattering – over 8m (yards) long and as thick as my thigh at its thick end. I was pleased to not have started my walk 10 minutes earlier…
Strange how I set off to photograph the end of autumn, but kept feeling I was capturing the beginning of winter… Here is the view from the Makou Dam’s wall.
On Thursday whilst we were on our way back from Cape Town the local garden club paid a visit. I’ve received many compliments, but I do hope they experienced something slightly more like autumn! This is the view this afternoon from the bridge across Freddie’s Dam.
As I walked I regretted not being here for the end of autumn, and thought of the Fairest Cape where I had been instead. The cable-way climbs from the station in this picture, taken from our window, to the pimple up on the top of the mountain. The elevation there is just over 1000m – and the see at its closest point can not be much more than 1000m away!
I thought of the trawler which in a bizarre accident was stranded last week at Clifton, one of the world’s most exclusive stretches of beach, and the words of one of the men involved in successfully towing it back to sea yesterday without any environmental mishaps… “that is the most beautiful empty space I have ever seen!” (Watch the video as the ship comes free here.)
I stood at the Cottage Garden at The house that Jack Built and I thought of the flight home across our vast and rugged country; of endless mountain ranges and valleys; of empty plains where there was hardly a homestead to be seen in the semi-desert; of rivers and huge circular patterns of irrigated lands, and of not reading one paragraph between take-off and landing as I stared out the window … and then I turned to my own piece of paradise, and was pleased to be home.
May 6, 2012
The Beech Borders: so named because they lead down across the lily-pond, across the valley and up the cutting through the poplars where the blue hydrangeas are massed on the axis from the biggest of our beech trees. Under the beech there’s a bench looking down these borders, and behind the tree a semi-circle of what was envisaged as pleached limes. Currently they are sapling-like lime trees, not quite beyond pleaching, and interplanted with witch-hazels. Oops. Confusion in the nursery. And one of the random qualities I love about Sequoia’s gardens! (See the blue hydrangeas here and the bench under the beech here. And in the process see the garden in other seasons! )
At an angle to the axis, tapering down to a point, grow a line of Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, one of our earliest and most successful plantings. They were planted along the stream from the fountain from where we get our house-water. In the above photo you can see the pipe which takes the water from the collection tank near the fountain to the storage tank from where it is pumped up to the house tank.
When I laid out the Beech Borders I planted a second row of Japanese maples in exact symmetry with the the existing ones. They seemed impossibly far of to the left of the axis, and stuck out in the unwelcoming veldt. But they are beginning to make a statement in their own right, as can be seen in the above photo, even if they don’t yet relate – 8 or more years later – to the axis. We are looking back up the slope from the bottom here.
Thirty years on the original trees are majestic, every bit as lovely – nay, more so! – than those we admired at the neighbours, sometime in the mid-seventies when we still thought them crazy to have allowed the garden to take over the farm. (See my post on Cheerio Gardens.)
Here we are looking down that line of Japanese maples, the pipe again visible, with a snakebark maple (Acer davidii) blazing bright yellow in the foreground. But it is in the close-ups that the true beauty and grace of these trees can really be understood…
There. The peak of my year in the garden…
Change of pace now as we stand near the bottom of the Beech Borders and a little off the axis, looking across the water-lily pond to the original grove of swamp cypresses (Taxodium distichum). In the background my exclamation mark gum about which I recently posted.
And we wind up our autumn walk looking across the lower terrace, with more swamp cypresses, Liquidamber formosana and cannas that look good surrounded by autumn colour. As does Mateczka.