1 The house that Jack Built in spring

I have always said that the bridge across the overflow of Freddie’s dam is the icon of my garden. It forms the focal point of the view from The House that Jack Built, which for ten years was my permanent home, and my holiday home the ten years before that. I miss the bridge, or more precisely the way in which the early morning light plays on the whole composition day after day as it rises behind the house.

2 Autumn sunrise over my icon

Each day is different, each season has its beauty.


Sometimes it is the afternoon light that I notice, as in this shot with its high summer greens.

4 Summer afternoon  light

It is a year since I moved up to the big house, where much of the garden is also  of my composing, and living with it on a daily basis, I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of this view – but I still miss my bridge…

5 View from front door

When I heard that the theme for this month’s photo competition at Gardening Gone Wild  was the genius loci, the sense of place, of a garden, it was inevitable that the bridge would be  the focus of my sifting through the archives, looking for my entry.

Bridge (3)

Besides which, I have long wanted to blog about the bridge… Yet, in searching through my archives – a bit of a hit and miss affair, for my computers have needed to be  reformatted this week and my external drive for photographs is on the blink, and I really don’t have the time to indulge anyway – I saw several photos that made me wonder if the bridge should indeed be the theme. But the bridge it is.

bridge in autumn (2)

Several qualities define the many photos. They reflect the seasons, or the quality of the light, or the reflective quality of water.

bridge in autumn

Few of them contain strong structural shapes other than the bridge.

4 White hydrangeas at the bridge

Some zoom right in on the bridge, or even just parts of it.


Others are photostitched panoramas which cover an impossibly wide angle in trying to capture the moment.

panorama (3)

panorama 1 June

panorama further edited

There are scenes from inside the house…

From inside

…and even scenes without the bridge Winking smile


Yes – as in without the bridge… this scene from the mid-nineties is positively naked!

view of dam from house early 1997

Light, colour and reflection are definitely the key triggers that make me reach for my camera. But which of the many images captures the genius loci – and why? Is it this dramatic autumn shot, as warm sunlight on hot colours meets subzero blue light on frosted grey foliage?


Is it the beauty of autumn with its unbelievably rich colours that really captures the spirit of my garden?


Or is it in the stark geometry of the winter garden that the true beauty lies? Does the removal of all colour in fact bring forth the truth – the opposite of an autumn view?

Ye olde icon - winter view in sepia

Is the power of a summer storm more telling than a wispy dawn?

misty autumn bridge

The big picture or the telling detail?

The Bridge

And finally it is the telling detail which wins the day. Not the framing of the bridge by the white hydrangeas. Nor the touch of colour from the beautiful indigenous pink River Lily, Schizostylis coccinea. It is the breath of wind which stirs the perfect calm of the reflection, the reminder that the exquisite counterview is the sum of a series of random events in nature, and that the truest beauty in a garden is never the work of a human hand, and never lasts for long.

This last shot, one I have treasured for years, captures the genius loci, the spirit of my garden, like no other. It is not chocolate boxy, or even pretty. It is above all serene and expansive. Which is how I’d like to think of my garden. This then is my entry into the competition at Gardening Gone Wild. You can see all the entries here and learn more about this month’s competion here.

20 thoughts on “THE ICON OF MY GARDEN

  1. WOW! What amazing pictures, and telling such a wonderful story without words. Unbelievable how much your garden changes through the seasons, and yet the bridge always belongs and is always the same. I wish you luck and hope you win the competition.

  2. Dear Jack, I love your garden. The bridge is a jewel! You are right – the scene without it looks naked! Win or not, I am giving your pictures my own virtual medal!

    • Thank you, Tatyana! What I like about this competition – in fact almost all those at GGW – is that the judge’s introduction and award blogs and all the entries together make up a fascinating discussion on the topic.

  3. Jack, this is a great post. Your garden is stunning (despite the baboons!) and your series of photos shows how much your treasure and muse on this particular feature. I agree that this month’s competition theme has encouraged not just great photos but also really interesting posts on the idea of sense of place.
    Good luck.

    • Thank you, Jill! I hope you don’t mind that YOUR competition entry is my current screensaver! It is generic of almost all I adore in gardening…

  4. Jack, this is amazing, I love your photo’s just shows how talented you really are, Great Great Great LUL Gwenn

  5. Oh Jack – your garden is gorgeous. What a wonderful idea to take photos of the same view over the seasons. I had such joy from the changes and colours. Thank you.

    • Why, Leslie!! Hello!! Your suggestion of pics of Charlotte’s Jetty is a good one… I will work on a post and let you know…

  6. Wow, I love all the photos! Glad I didn’t have to make that decision. Of course I was completely surprised that Sequoia Gardens had fall color until I realized this was not the land of the giant redwoods we’re talking about… What a fun blog.

  7. Hi,
    You know, I just was looking for information about Tibouchina and then I found your blog about the beautiful bridge. It was like a magic. I was attracted to the pictures and could not stop. It’s so lovely. Here, In my country – Israel – there is almost no autumn, only dry summer and few days/weeks of rain. That’s the reason I love so much autumn colors and that’s why I love the autumn pictures the most.
    Because of your blog, Jack, I subscribed to the site and hope to read more from you.
    Zehava (female. it means Gold)

    • Thanks, Gena! A real compliment, coming from you… I’d love to see the photo’s YOU take if let loose in my garden…. 😉

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