Eight days since last I posted! Life is rather hectic. I was considering two flowers, one endemic and one naturalised, for this week’s post, but they will have to stand over. This then is the leavy green High Summer view from my deck across to the arboretum. My parents’ house, from which I posted so often in September and October, is 10m to my left. The azalea off which my father picked a flower for my mother must be right in the front of this photo; and the tall gum tree against the sky on the right most likely features to the left in some of the views from Stone Cottage where I used to stay. Interesting things are happening, and interesting posts await publication. Give me time…;) !
February 9, 2010
December 18, 2009
I’ve been looking at old photos of late for the posts I’m preparing on the Rosemary Borders. Along the way I found some of the Cottage Garden. Hmmm. It is very green this year. I like the look of it, but there are too few flowers in the mix. On the other hand it is never without flowers either!
In these views the tall yellow verbascums and the Hydrangea serrata dominate, but the eryngium (see detail below) and solidago also add colour. The dark Eucomis (Pineapple Lily) bottom left is starting to make a strong statement, but not many would say that it ‘adds colour’ and of course the zebra grass has tremendous presence. The gauras are slow off the mark this year and the salvias are getting going…
Near the front door a pink Gaura and Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ compliment each other beautifully. This is the first year of their co-habitation – and I have not the slightest idea if the combination is deliberate or not, so I shall claim that it is yet another sign of my gardening genius!
I’ve moved down onto the road below the house now, where the way the trees around the dam form a wall of green these days can clearly be seen. Much of what is now super-green becomes super-bright by autumn. But I’ll keep you waiting till early April before I start that show !
The above photograph illustrates the rather over the top inspiration for the Tulip Tree Avenue; when we first conceived it my dad jokingly suggested calling it the Avenida da Liberdade – Marques de Pombal after this impressive (and impressively named) avenue in Lisbon – the Marques having been the man responsible for rebuilding much of Lisbon after an earthquake in 1755. Our Avenue has developed into a very beautiful feature. The linear layout now melds happily with the organic paths through the arboritum, and the concept which we feared might jar is, if I may again modestly say, rather good. These pics are specially for Deborah from Green Theatre, who I know will enjoy our avenue!
For the view of the Tulip Tree Avenue in the two pics above, I’ve moved across the dam and a little downstream. There are ten Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip) trees on either side of the avenue, which is around 70m long and 10 meters wide, stem to stem. A path runs up either side of the avenue and between the path and the trees there is a planting of hydrangeas in a mix of blues and whites. Between the paths is a solid mass of azaleas, photos of which have featured in a previous post . Like so many of our trees, they were grown from seed by my father. The hydrangeas on the left (upper) side can be seen in the first photo and those on the right in the second one.
This last photo is chosen rather randomly from the walk. But since this is a rather random post, it seemed suitable. The hydrangeas are crying out for a post of their own, but this chance combination with a self-sown native, Crinum macowanii , the River Crinum, really caught my eye!
November 21, 2009
I’ve been asked about my red foliage and my roses, so I’ll identify my roses in this post and tell you a little more about other plants. And I’ll take you to a number of other spots around the garden, but let’s start again in the Beech Borders.
All the roses you see here I grew from cuttings from stock first planted in the Rondel Garden in 1996. From left to right they are: the bright pink of the Damask rose Ispahan (early 1800s) which featured often in the previous post. A few blooms of the Bourbon rose Mme Ernst Calvat (1888) peek out from behind it and look rather similar. The pale pink is New Dawn, one of the best climbers of all time. In 1930 it sported as a repeat-flowering version of a 1910 introduction – one of the most fascinating rose sports of all time, as for the rest they are identical. To its right the rich pink of the Gallica Belle de Crecy(+-1850s) All these roses are wonderfully scented. Towards the back, more Ispahan. The red shrub is Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea and the pink flowered shrub which I love to mix with roses is Spirea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’. They too are grown from cuttings; when you garden on this scale doing your own propagation is necessary ! The background is a row of seven now mature Acer palmatum (Japanese maples – a glorious sight in autumn) and to the right is Acer davidii, one of the snake-bark maples.
My nephews aged 16 and 14 were here from Namibia last week. They crept down to The Embarkment to get to the water with good grace. They knew that cutting the plants that had fallen across the path was out of the question – an Abelia x grandiflora and two roses: the common moss rose Rosa centifolia muscosa (before 1700) and the Four Seasons White Moss Quatre saisons blanc mousseux (1835)
Another of these impressively named roses holds its own across the water after (I must admit) being dumped there some years ago when the area was much more open in the hope it would survive. To its left Acer palmatum atropurpureum with Rhododendron luteum and Exochorda x macrantha below and Salix babylonica ‘Crispa’, the lovely Ram’s Horn Willow to its right.
Here is a view of my house through the Four Seasons Whie Moss, the camera held above my head. If nothing else this photo proves that it was not pruned last year, but survives quite happily nonetheless! ‘Four Seasons’ is a bit of an exaggeration – it repeat flowers slightly in autumn. Which was, of course, very unusual when it was first introduced…
Whilst on the far side of the dam, a view of my house and yes, my vehicle: a Malaysian designed Toyota Condor 4×4 diesel: it works like a slave, can carry 7 passengers or a load of plants or cement or even take a full-sized mattress when I go camping. Irreplaceable, it has been superseded by vehicles that are hopelessly too sophisticated and expensive to play such a multi-purpose role! (Anyone from Toyota reading this??) White climbing Iceberg roses (1968 – had to add a date for this modern classic!) grow left and right onto my house, with a Clematis montana adding to the show on the right. Overhanging the dam at the entertainment area are two Félicité et Perpétue roses, a lovely old climber from 1827. Penelope, a Hybrid Musk from 1924, graces the Cottage Garden below the Condor.
Here is another view across the Cottage Garden to where we have just been; the green rod in the right quarter has me baffled. I suspect it is a rather potent Watsonia – but it will come as a wonderful surprise when it flowers. (No, I’m NOT going to identify the trees to the right of the willow right now!)
Near the garage the Wichuraiana rambler Excelsa scrambles up into a pine; wonderful if the mildew doesn’t do too much harm to it!
As I’ve said before, the Rondel Garden, home to my original old-fashioned roses, commemorating Sissinghurst in its name and Francois in its existence, is in need of serious replanning… This is Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’. I’ve never seen a single one of the famed flagon-shaped hips on it. Climate? Or just my bad luck to have an infertile strain? Iceberg on the house.
Still in the Rondel, Pink Grootendorst (A Dutch surname meaning ‘big thirst’ – there are three members in the rugosa family!) has flowers frilled like a carnation and dates from 1923. To its left in the rugosa bed is Frau Dagmar Hastrup from 1914. Prunus cerasifera in one of its many forms provides a plummy background.
We now move to the end of the wisteria arbour in the Anniversary Garden where the Polyantha climber Veilchenblau (1909) lives up to its name which means ‘Blue veil’. Below it the wonderfully subtle strawwy yellows of Buff Beauty (a shrubby climber from 1939) can be seen. Veilchenblau is beginning to climb up into the Japanese maple. I can’t wait to see the effect five years from now!
I planted New Dawn in the Upper Rosemary Border by mistake, thinking it something else. It has scrambled about, reaching for the sun through the thick planting of smallish shrubs, and set off especially well against Abelia x grandiflora. The species Rosa rugosa has been a mixed blessing next to it, suckering whenever the roots are damaged during cultivation. However the flowers are a perfect colour match with Spirea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’ and the rose flowers continuously, later producing startling orange hips at the same time as its magenta flowers. I enjoy the unsubtle colour mix and the birds enjoy the food. Win-win, I’d say.
Here is another view, taken from the Rosemary Terrace; I’ve written enough and you’ve read enough. No more details on the planting.
This is the first year I’ve even noticed the Tausendschön (Thousand beauties, 1906, a Polyantha climber) in the purple crab-apple. It must be five or more years since I planted it there. It repeat flowers in a good spot. This can’t be one. But it will grow through the tree and in years to come give greater joy.
Gosh, this walk is exhausting me! We are now up in the arboretum where I planted a number of tough roses some six or more years ago. The rather garish pink was incorrectly marked ‘Compassion’ but has proved itself to be tough alright. Behind it is South Africa. I will sing its praises (the best rose since Iceberg???) in a future post. A single flower is all that can be seen of Rosa chinensis mutabilis about which I will tell you more when I post close-ups soon.
And so down we go and across the Makou Dam to the old stone barn. Tausendschön, the mother plant of many on the mountain, absolutely loves this sunny spot where I planted it nearly 20 years ago. Beyond it another repeat-flowering pink rambler-like climber grows on the fence of the vegetable garden. I’ve known this rose all my life here on the farm and in neighbouring gardens. Unlike most climbers – and definitely most ramblers – it has an incredibly long season, being one of the first in bloom and carrying on right into winter. It is very happy here where it steals the sun from the veggies, happier than its mother plant, and being a sucker for charm and beauty I allow it to keep pride of place.
We end our walk (pant, pant) at Trudie’s Garden outside the big house, where I reiterate what I said at the beginning of the previous post: I like roses where they can grow as huge as they like and flop over complimentary shrubs and be voluptuous and abandoned. This might be a rather more elegant lady, a prim and sophisticated hybrid tea called Germiston Gold, but she too benefits from the arm of a dapper shrub to show off her assets…
October 22, 2009
I was going to share my roses this week, but there is time enough for that…
Rather, let’s consolidate on spring as a process, something I have shared in several posts over the past weeks. The greens have filled out and only a few trees are not yet in full leaf. The array of fresh green shades dancing in the breeze and the light is amazing and uplifting. So here is a final chapter (?) on green, and more comment on the poppies to be seen in the foreground: blowsy tennis ball sized doubles and slighter singles.
October 16, 2009
Right. I have a small problem. I have moved 97 photographs taken over the last weeks into a file marked ‘azaleas’ with the intention of writing on this most ubiquitous plant on our mountain. As a teacher my pupils knew my favourite quote from Churchill: “Please excuse this long letter, but I don’t have the time to write a short one.”…
Perhaps I must tell their story, and show their portraits, and add captions only where necessary. And not try too hard to edit and order. And leave room for a follow-up. So here goes!
Sometime in the Seventies we became aware of the Spring Festival, today known as the Magoebaskloof Spring Faire. For two weeks as first the azaleas and then the flowering cherries put on their show, the local Garden Club ladies opened the ‘garden’ of our neighbour to the public. Over the years the Garden Cottages where built with the proceeds: a group of 20 or so cottages let at excellent rates to retired folks in our local village of Haenertsburg. The Faire has grown to include numerous activities and venues, and the 25th anniversary of the ‘modern’ Faire was celebrated this year.
Box Thompson, our neighbour, the infinitely gentle spinster daughter of a pioneering legend on the mountain, was a brilliant horticulturist who obtained a B.Sc degree in Botany and Zoology before WW2. She at first grew indigenous and exotic bulbs in her nursery, but for various reasons started changing to azaleas and flowering cherries during the 1960s. (In “Between Woodbush and Wolkberg” her mother, Googoo Thompson, recounts her fascinating 96 years to Brigitte Wongtschowski - a worthwhile read for anyone wanting a sense of our local history.)
Our first visit to Box’s ‘garden’ was magic. It was not really a garden but a series of mother-beds and grow-on beds and cutting beds clambering up the hills in small terraces, reflected in several still pools and shaded by a magnificent collection of trees.
“The woman is mad” we said, “she has turned her whole farm into a garden!” But the seed was sown and within a few years we were well on our way to madness ourselves… Today the gardens are owned by her niece, and go by the name Cheerio Gardens – and I have seen the glorious mix of red and pink azaleas reflected in the water on a calendar I found in Europe!
Our first azaleas we bought in full flower during the festival from Box and from various neighbours. They would be dug up with a spadeful of soil and wrapped in wet newspaper and a piece of plastic, and we would plant them shallowly in rich acidic soil without them so much as dropping a bloom. It was wonderful, standing among hundreds of gorgeous plants and saying “Let’s have that one…and that one… and that one…” and paying next to nothing for them! Almost immediately we started taking our own cuttings. Happily the best time coincided with the long summer holiday over Christmas; and happily my dad had had a little wall built behind which my mother organised her cutting bed. It was a comfortable height for inserting the cuttings, and afterwards she would shield them with umbrellas of bracken fronds. By the time we planted the arboretum we too were producing at nursery scale! And just as well, for my dad planted over 1000 of them during that spring and summer of 1997…
Because of the way they were bought and propagated, names never entered the picture, although yet another of Box’s nieces is very good at identifying and naming the various colours and growth patterns. I must admit that I’ve never tried to master the intricacies of the subtle differences between cultivars. In fact I’m rather vague on the whole genus Rhododendron. Originally Rhododendrons and Azaleas were classified separately. Today the over 900 species, not to mention many thousands of hybrids, are lumped together. I would say I could tell the one from the other – until an expert tries to confuse me with borderline examples. Then I’ll be useless. The easy answer is that we find few rhododendrons in South Africa (Why? I don’t know…), so it is most likely an azalea.
Rhododendrons –and from here on I’m talking entirely from my own knowledge and experience, not from books, so don’t take it as gospel – rhododendrons are altogether coarser plants, with bigger, thicker leaves. Those I know in our part of the world are tree-like rather than shrub-like. They carry their flowers in trusses which develop from huge buds like many deciduous trees, just bigger; those pictured above are 3cm (over an inch) long. The new year’s flowerless growth is from similar but slimmer buds. The bud top right is beginning to break into individual flower buds.
Azaleas on the other hand are less bullet-like in their buds and more twiggy in their growth. The flowers show colour from early on, rather than breaking from a bud. And if you count, you will see that they are mostly carried in threes – it is the density of the twigs that gives the impression that an azalea is smothered in flowers.
And smothered they are; on a good bush one sees hardly any leaves. Typical also are the markings on the flower, and it is here where the infinite variety comes in; white azaleas, for instance we have in three sizes, each with soft green, strong green, soft pink, strong pink or no spots.
Speaking of white azaleas – these seem to have two not three buds. So I went on a bit of a search; and I change my statement to ‘evergreen azaleas have two or three buds, seldom more’. Although these azaleas are evergreen, in autumn a percentage – say 20% – of their leaves change to lacquered red, orange or yellow, set of by the bright green of the remaining leaves. As a complement to the wonderful autumn trees they are perfect!
Our evergreen azaleas come in every imaginable shade between white and brightest pink, some two-toned or picatee, reds from half-ripe tomato via watermelon to pure rich red, and all shades of mauve. Flower size varies from 15mm (1/2 inch) to 75mm.
Halfway between the deciduous and the evergreen azaleas lies our pale mauve one. It is more deciduous than not, and there is a quality about its colouring which is uniquely its own. It is tall and upright like the deciduous azaleas, and like most of them it is scented, but only lightly. Yet its buds are those of the evergreen azalea, although here they seem to be grouped in fours and fives. Let’s take a look at the “claws” of the deciduous azalea, and you will see how much they differ:
Try to ignore the stunning smoky flame colour and look how the flowers start from a single point within a growth bud (you can see the bracts that covered the bud below the flowers). More importantly, look how they were folded together within the bud. If the evergreen azalea starts off like this, then the flowers have become like little candles by the time they are visible.
So to me the biggest difference between the two lies in the way the flowers are carried – the evergreens’ are candles, the deciduous’ are claws. Then of course there is the colour. Whereas the evergreens tend to white-pink-red, the deciduous are mainly in the cream-yellow-orange range, often with magnificent smoky oranges you find in few other flowers.
However you also find soft pure pinks, and many salmony tones.
And when they are covered in blooms they can be as generous as any evergreen, with their profuse claws making up for their fewer twigs. This pale cream one with russet buds has the most wonderful scent as well, like so many of these deciduous azaleas!
A 2006 photo of the white azaleas across my dam – how the trees have grown!
I love the white azaleas, but there is no doubt that there are very few garden plants that can blast you with colour the way azaleas can. Combine them – with one another or with other plants – and the possible colour effects are endless, from the most subtle to the most strident, and a walk through the garden in azalea season is about as close to sensory overload as one can get! I’ll leave the visuals to speak for themselves…
October 11, 2009
Someone asked for more pics of wisterias… and I have long wanted to consolidate my wisteria photos into a story – so here goes! Most of our wisterias we grew from seed, taken from a plant which was the off-spring (clonal, I think) of one at the family farm which was originally planted in the early 1900s. We grew them because we – my dad and I – had just discovered the joy of germination on the farm and well: because they were there! Wisterias carry long velvety seedpods with big seeds that call out “good with beginners”!
These first two photos are in fact the last I took. This particular plant, incredibly robust, covers a camphor tree and the adjacent pin oak, which is just visible beyond the camellia on the right. It has completely swamped the small pergola built for it between the two trees and has set off through the adjacent shrubbery, where last year we realised that it was leaning too heavily on a flowering dogwood and twenty assorted shrubs. I was looking at it yesterday and thinking that it needed further curtailing. The blue spikes below it are Scilla natalensis, a bulb which grows wild on Sequoia. The netting is to protect it and the young roses from the deer (more correctly buck – duiker and bush buck). Early in the season when food is scarce they love to nibble on fresh rose foliage and the blue firework flower stalks.
Here it is in close-up. Definitely; this year we will search for rooted cuttings amongst its meanderings. It is floriferous, with good colour and long racemes, and the fact that it is two weeks later than most can only be an advantage. I will plant it in the huge old mother-pine where its sister’s dumpy flowers are over before the yellow banksia rose gets under way.
Every year I have to act the contortionist just to get the yellow and mauve into the same frame. The banksia was planted by a friend’s mother as a young woman. When their yard was subdivided, he offered me the huge old root ball. Within three years it proved a good investment, worth transporting 350km (over 200 miles) to its new home!
Today I went and took this photo specially. The banksia flowers 10 meters up into the tree. The wisteria reaches twice as high and will eventually climb to the top of the tree – but no longer has a single flower. Now imagine the banksia combined with the day before yesterday’s sprawling giant…
The next example I think is a brother; a sprawling good-for-nothing brat, a disgrace to the family name; why he has not been disinherited I do not know! He grew right here from a root in what used to be the nursery holding area. As a result he was a bit neglected as a child. Surrounded by trees (some of which have subsequently been removed), he didn’t have one of his own to look up to – and so he was left to his own devices and became a scruffy introvert. The brown behind him is an unsuccessful rescue job (just as well, considering where it was planted), a conifer from a terracotta pot that I valued more than its occupant. Beyond, an assortment of conifers including a gawky ginkgo not yet in leaf. The area to the right is the future Sage’s Walk, a path through a collection of salvias (in sun) and plectranthus (in shade) culminating in the azalea crescent in the distance. It is also the area where most of my collection of seed-grown pink deciduous azaleas are concentrated. Their twiggy outlines add to the general scruffiness, but by this morning they too were coming into flower!
We now move to an area up on the boundary below the neighbour’s gum plantation across from my house, where many of the seedlings were planted just to get rid of them. Bear in mind that it takes up to ten years for a seed-grown wisteria to flower. That is according to several sources I’ve just consulted. The figure I remember is seven, and my first ones flowered at five years if I remember correctly. It was a convenient spot to dump them while we waited. Out of sight proved to be out of mind, and not one of them was ever moved. They are a motley collection, mostly disappointing and can easily be grubbed out if something better comes along. However one of them, visible in the centre, will still make me my fortune (he said wishfully.)
This wisteria’s flowers are of good but not spectacular colour, but their length and grace is exceptional. What really makes this plant unusual though is that it chose to be a tree rather than a climber. From a young age it had a sturdy, self-supporting stem. As time passed it became clear why: the space between nodes is compressed. This has a further advantage: the magnificent trusses are carried close together, so that the flowers literally hang like a beaded curtain…
Here you can see my wisteria tree, al the way from its stem to its spectacular flowers. On the left an altogether less impressive sibling grovels before my Joseph’s Coat (hmmm: Wisteria ‘Joseph’s Coat’ - it has a ring to it!) In addition to its typically short flowering season , it is most beautifully hung with silver-brown velvet pods for many months of the year, some of which can still be seen in this photo!
If the tree wisteria is my most important specimen, this one is my most successful. It grows over the pump-house (I have to stoop slightly to fit under that green cross-beam) and the surrounding trees. To the left foreground lies my water-lily pond. I have a dream of building a deck and a pergola over the edge of the water to support the wisteria and its reflection… but that will relate to developing Sequoia Gardens as a tourist destination in years to come!
To give you an idea of the setting, here is a picture taken this morning; the wisteria is spent, but the first water-lilies are in bloom! To the left an indigenous tree fern is stretching out its 2 meter fronds, at this stage still rolled and golden. And as I tend to interrupt myself when speaking, why not do so here? So here’s a bonus pic :
As the pump-house wisteria is all round my best example, and the flowers hang conveniently low, here are a few close-ups and flower studies.
Each pea-flower is perfection in itself.
And then a bee arrived to complete the photo-shoot!
Just about the only wisterias not propagated on Sequoia are the matching clones planted in the Anniversary Garden. Their tresses are disappointingly short, but born profusely and richly coloured. If it was not a five year project – at least – I would replace them though with cuttings from the pump-house. This photo you have seen in a previous post.
To end off – a romantic shot of a carpet of wisteria flowers and a yellow iris; one of those shots that make me feel I have achieved my objective in the Anniversary Garden!
September 28, 2009
End September sees the greening of the valley, the first wet weather and above all – the chorus of frogs! This morning all were noticable from the veranda of the big house…
September 14, 2009
Spring is definitely here! Blossoms multiply and all over trees are in leaf. The oaks have limy green flowers and are buzzing with bees. Again I cheat, with two photos this week – one a detail of the other.
The view into the arboritum from my parents’ front door, with azaleas and blossoms making their spring statement. I am so pleased that I planted sparaxis, an indigenous spring bulb, in the two pots at the entrance this year. We’ve always had miniature or pot roses there, moving them to open ground every year or three. Roses would not be making a show now, and my mother gets endless joy from these flowers, close enough for her to enjoy when we wheel her into the sun for a few minutes…