1 The Italian Pot at its best

At its best the Italian pot which marked the end of the vista down the Rosemary Terrace looked like this. Yet even then the conifer seemed windblown and the Abelia ‘Francis Mason’ cubes were out of scale and straining at the lead. But the perceptive might have noticed the past tense in the above. Because things are changing.

2 Map of Sequoia Gardens The map – click on it to enlarge – shows the new visitors’ entrance I am working on. The red loop show the anti-clockwise movement of vehicles through the new parking area. And the new entrance will be along the axis of the Rosemary Terrace, past the pot whose sole purpose was to close the vista down the long, narrow terrace in the past. A beginning and an end are not the same I have realised. (Besides – the pot composition was seriously in need of attention, the abelias out of hand and the conifer departed.) Not seen in the photo below, lost in the cube of abelia at the end of the lawn, is the pot…

3 Rosemary Terrace in 2006 Now the Italian pot will be one of the first things one sees on entering the garden, and beyond it the terrace flanked by the Rosemary Borders.

4 From the new entrance How to treat it? For long I considered four clumps of zebra grass to replace the Abelia, then realised they were (a) too seasonal and (b) even more out of scale. Then on impulse I spent too much money on too many plants to give a complex mix of yellow and coloured foliage and orange flowers. And half of them quite tender to boot. Mistaaake… They stand forlorn, waiting for me to figure their future. Meanwhile I found some lovely young box plants in my own nursery. They can form, four to a hole, much smaller, neater cubes around the pot.

6 Cleared But what IN the pot? No longer only an exclamation mark at the end of a vista, it needs to be a welcoming first focal point too. And it is at an awkward height, the lip too close to eye level. Does one put in simple low bedding? Or a trailing foliage plant? What will be multi-seasonal? Low maintenance?

5 A blank canvasThis photo shows how the abelia hedge behind the pot has been removed for the width of the terrace, and gives an idea of the arch that will be cut through the dense maples to frame this view from the entrance. The old concept of yellow foliage against green no longer is valid. The pot is beautiful as it is. Does it stand empty? And suddenly a vision from a friend’s garden comes to me: a large Chinese jar filled with water, and a pump set to boil just below the surface right in the middle, thus creating little concentric waves which gently move in and out. Eureka! And I need to get electricity to the new entrance anyway!

3b Doubly looking down the terraceBack to the past. Here the late lamented Doubly looks down the Rosemary Terrace from the pots which mark its entrance from the path on the axis from the front door. The Upper Rosemary Terrace is newly planted.

9 Looking good - except for the edges And here he is again, some time later. The borders are looking good, the edges appalling, and the Rosemary hedge, planted as cuttings, reads only in the imagination. The viburnum hedge at the end of the terrace has never had a perfectly horizontal top. That soon must change. These borders – more particularly the Upper Border – are the closest to conventional borders I have. Maintenance and design (or visa versa?) on them need to be upped substantially. For South Africans don’t come to look at formal gardens; not on our mountain anyway. People need to be wowed before being led out around the dams and up into the arboretum…

10 Rosemary Border

This rather randomly chosen picture shows that the border is worthy of close inspection. But its real strength is when seen at sundowner time from the stoep (veranda) of the Big House, backlit by the late sun, the dam a black shadow beyond it.

11 The Lower Rosemary Borders in their prime I love this shot. It has an old-fashioned artificial quality, like an enhanced Edwardian postcard. The cosmos, the Golden Rain Tree and the  Pride of Indias are in bloom, the light golden, and all is well with the world. There will, by the way, be a single jet of water rising through a bed of river stones just to the left of the hedge. It will be visible from the front door down that axis. Semi-completed several years ago, it awaits the installation of electricity for the pump.

12 Upgrading the borders

There is much work to be done. But it has started. Beneath the roses visible in the wide shot of the Italian pot as it looks at the moment, there stands a yellow bucket. I had just used it whilst planting five different coloured Phygelius in shades exactly matching Rosa mutabilis. At the moment it is ‘Cornelia’, rather pinker, that dominates the composition. But I have no doubt that in years to come there will be a real show-stopper to greet visitors as they enter the garden!

Rosemary Terrace in B&W Late this afternoon I went for a walk in the garden. It was a glorious day after two sharp showers during the night. Roses and many other plants scented the air. I spent time photographing the Rosemary Terrace and Borders. Only when I started photographing the roses – about which a post will follow! – did I realise the camera was somehow set on black and white. So here is yet another very old-fashioned photo, taken from the path and looking back across the whole of the Rosemary Terrace area. Ubiquitous ox-eye daisies and an indigenous diarama (angels’ rod) in the foreground. I think I shall be spending more time with black and white…



  1. I think you should leave the pot empty – they can look very elegant like that and I think that sometimes that elegant is lost when they are planted up.

    The garden looks great

    • I’ve thought the same, Helen. But to prevent ice damage (we have night temps that dip below zero and ice up the bird baths)I think I might have to leave it empty in winter – so perhaps come spring the water will be a welcome change…

  2. Hello, dear friend, it is with much pleasure that I visit you and read about you thinking and plotting and pondering. And pots are tricky customers – usually those placed in other people’s gardens look brilliant, and ones own look wrong, unnecessary, or just plain silly.

    I like the water idea. When in doubt, water? Hee hee. Cheers, M

    • Deep bows and fanfare: trumput plus full orchestration. Welcome to my blog, Moosey! I couldn’t agree more on your comments about pots and water. And then there is that other great maxim: when in doubt, simplify. Can’t tell you how often that one has worked for me. (Included here: beware spotty planting. You were going to have an electronic reminder fitted? Me too!)

  3. Jack, Until I saw this aerial photo, I don’t think I really had any conception of how large your gardens are. I’m really impressed with the way the entrance garden is shaping up. I’m hopeless with containers, so I won’t bother giving you any (bad) advice!

  4. Pingback: A TAD MORE OF MY OLD ROSES « Sequoia Gardens Blog

  5. Pingback: OF MICE AND MEN « Sequoia Gardens Blog

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