A walk around my garden, part 2

This time we’ll really set off on that walk…  although the dogs’ expectant looks will show you that they thought I too often stopped to take a pic!

My purpose is to give you an idea of the layout of the garden. One of the many lessons I learn during my tour of England is how often the unexpected combination of formal and informal have delightful results, and whilst still there I started wondering how I would achieve this on the farm. It made sense that the formal gardens related to my parents’ house, altogether a grander and more conventional structure than mine: the existing steps directly in line with the front door gave me a starting point…

The view down the main axis from the front door. All the formality is seen against the backdrop of a natural woodland garden in the narrow valley. There are two lakes, or  dams as we call them in South Africa, in the stream which flows through the valley.

The view down the main axis from the front door. All the formality is seen against the backdrop of a natural woodland garden in the narrow valley. There are two lakes, or dams as we call them in South Africa, in the stream which flows through the valley.

That then is the first pic – the view from the front door. We gave the pots to my parents as a house warming present and planted them with miniature roses. Every two or three years they are replaced. However we don’t throw them out: they are planted as a border to the rose garden outside their living room, where they flourish and provide many more blooms than they ever do in the small pots. Only when my mom wants to prune them – she approaches all roses as if they were hybrid teas – is there a problem; and when I say ‘just shear them’, she is always horrified!

Stompie is my parents' dog, but moves in with me when they return to Johannesburg where they spend half or more of their time. I have four dogs of my own and will introduce you to them as we come across them.

Stompie is my parents’ dog, but moves in with me when they return to Johannesburg where they spend half or more of their time. I have four dogs of my own and will introduce you to them as we come across them.

Next we stand at the top of the stairs, Stompie patiently waiting for me to get going. To the right is the Ellensgate garden. At the end of the vista, through the archway, there should be a tall jet of water sparkling in the afternoon light. That fountain is only half-completed and is in fact a little forgotten these days – completing the lower part of the axis is one of the jobs awaiting me now that the school no longer takes up so much of my time. (So where is all this new time? says I…)

Doubly the Border Collie waits under Alfred's Arches. My male dogs have always been called after generals- a family tradition. I inhereited him with his mere corporal name (he has a double white stripe around his neck). Sentimental, beautiful, loving and compulsive in his behaviour, he is not bright enough for a higher rank.

Doubly the Border Collie waits under Alfred’s Arches. My male dogs have always been called after generals- a family tradition. I inherited him with his mere corporal name (he has a double white stripe around his neck). Sentimental, beautiful, loving and compulsive in his behaviour, he is not bright enough for a higher rank.

Now we are standing outside the gate of Ellensgate. I learnt about bergenia edging paving at Hestercombe in Somerset – possible the greatest lesson in economy of planting I ever learnt. Usually the bergenia is in need of weeding. The grass-like plant is an indigenous diarama which I have removed regularly… The top of the Abelia ‘Francis Mason’ hedge is supposed to be at paving height. These days it is 20cm higher. Come the spring growth it will be cut back more than usual! The Ellensgate Garden received plenty of exposure in part 1, and in the coming weeks will be exposed again as it undergoes a make-over.

I never realised how effective this would turn out to be!

I never realised how effective this would turn out to be!

Alfred’s Arches is one of the big success stories of the garden. I planted Salix caprea (pussy willow) as a plentiful and quick growing edging to narrow the focus, then tied them across the tops. They are now grafted and are cut twice a season, and create a delightful tunnel. They are called after Alfred, a remarkable young man, a creative and enthusiastic gardener, who used to take perfect care of my hedges; I had to fire him because of his uncontrollable cleptomania, the last time he stole the neighbour’s camera, which gave him a criminal record. I do miss him though, and his enthusiastic understanding of what we were working towards. On the left the willows are underplanted with a variety of herbaceous and annual flowers in a very narrow bed, which make for a delightful stroll down the outside of the arches: yellow and brown Rudbeckia hirta varieties, deep blue indigenous Agapanthus inapertus, and other odd flowers, survivors of a long gone scatter pack, are great conversation pieces when my mom and I take to the garden. Perhaps for this summer it is time to re-sow though, as the variety is getting less. On the right there is a low hedge of chaenomeles (flowering quince) which helps to keep the deer away from the roses in the adjoining Anniversary Garden. Some shade loving self-seeders – also from a scatterpack – surprise us here from time to time. In the heat of summer this is a truly delightful area, even though I never anticipated its potential.

With my folks is Taubie, a x-Bull Terrier and my most beloved dog of all time. After two thoroughbred Bull Terriers I swore I'd never take on that battle of wills again. But then she looked at me and I was smitten. I'd guess labrador has played a part in her bloodline: she is the most intelligent, obliging and amenable dog I have ever known, with a gentle and loving nature.

With my folks is Taubie, a x-Bull Terrier and my most beloved dog of all time. After two thoroughbred Bull Terriers I swore I’d never take on that battle of wills again. But then she looked at me and I was smitten. I’d guess Labrador has played a part in her bloodline: she is the most intelligent, obliging and amenable dog I have ever known, with a gentle and loving nature.

Here is a summer photo of my parents at the walk; cornflowers and Queen Anne’s Lace in the background. Unfortunately walks now are more and more difficult, but luckily most of the major areas are accessible by vehicle, and I load them into my 4×4 and we ride through the farm in low range at low speed. Truth be told though, until I can persuade my mother into a wheelchair, a circumnavigation of the big lawn is more than she can cope with. But that gives me an idea of how I can justify the wheelchair to her…

The Japanese Walk really is stil raw raw raw here, and it is not a good photo - but the hose I warned about is there!

The Japanese Walk really is stil raw raw raw here, and it is not a good photo – but the hose I warned about is there!

Just before the start of Alfred’s Arches we look to the right down the Japanese Walk. This is parallel with the view across the Ellensgate Garden into the White Garden in part 1. It is the most recently completed of my projects. Imagine the space between the slate paving and the various rocks filled with green moss… The path is designed to be wheelchair friendly, should it in time to come be needed. (Aha – I wrote all the above in May 2006!) The path goes as far as the entrance to the Anniversary Garden, then up a step to a less obviously ‘paved’ area which is still incomplete. It is known as the Japanese walk, because of the three Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) flanking the path. Once that concept was established, other japanesque elements came into play; the bed to the right (the edge in fact of the Ellensgate Garden) is planted thickly with beautiful specimens of Japanese bamboo (Nandina domestica); there are now two cut-leaf Japanese maples as well beyond the nandina. There is the bamboo infill in the pergola wall. And there is of course the future, when the pergola will be positively dripping with deep mauve wisteria flowers…

A slight problem: the bees have discovered the pots and a subtle modification is needed to restore tranquility to the Japanese Walk...

A slight problem: the bees have discovered the pots and a subtle modification is needed to restore tranquility to the Japanese Walk…

I must slip in another photo here: not one of last weeks walk-arounds: this is the plinth containing home made beer pots acquired from the home of one of our farm workers; our best bit of ‘garden ornament’, I think! Again, imagine it on a sea of thick, lush green moss… Three years on that ideal is far from realised, but this summer the wisteria will start to cover the horizontal plane.

And that is enough of the tour for now. So we’ll take a last look up towards the front door from the steps below the bottom of Alfred’s Arches, there where the fountain aught to be…

Next we will take a look at the Rosemary Lawn and the Rosemary Borders that stretch off to the right...

Next we will take a look at the Rosemary Terrace and the Rosemary Borders that stretch off to the right…

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4 thoughts on “A walk around my garden, part 2

  1. (You can see that I’m enjoying your website immensely!)
    Prompted by your mention of Taubie, I’d like to tell you about a conversation I had earlier this year with the Honourary Secretary of the South African Labrador Club: I was looking for a Labrador x Dobermann dog to replace ours but where does one find fine basterbrakke? (That’s what I’d breed if I were a dog breeder.) So I called the club to hear whether they might know of a little accident – to the incredulous consternation of the secretary. “How could you ask that? Why would you want that?” When I said that I’d known two such crosses who were lovely (with beautiful physiques) she said with finality: “They must’ve been flukes.” So… no-one’s Labrador has had a chance encounter, I asked again (by this time fearing that eliminating an unwanted litter might not be beyond them). “No, and if they had, they’d be too ashamed to tell me.”

    • Loved your story, Carolize! Let me know if you find such brakke. That is exactly the sort of dog I have in mind to replace Taubie and Doubly, both now over 10 years… and I’d like Taubie to ‘maak die brakkie groot!’ because she is such a wonderful dog herself.

  2. Pity dog breeders have such fascist notions when dogs are so merrily amoral – have dog breeders never heard of hybrid vigour? Many dog breeds are human creations anyway.

  3. Pingback: GARDENS OF A GOLDEN AFTERNOON–A MIDSUMMER MUSING « Sequoia Gardens Blog

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