Garden as seen from verandah

I was going to start this post with a quote or a fine example. Something from John Brookes, or Beth Chatto, or Penelope Hobhouse or Garden Design for Dummies. Something about focal point plants, or a little more literately – full-stops and exclamation marks. But I have neither the time nor the inclination to search for such a quote.

Dark Eucomis in the Upper Rosemary Border

We all know such plants. Always (?) vertical (thus exclamation mark), they are strong enough in a composition to bring the eye to rest (thus full-stop). An example: the above Eucomis  or Pineapple Lily, surrounded by frothy small-leaved plants – in this case Lonicera nitida, Rosa rugosa and penstemons, about a third from the right in the border you see in the first picture.

Morning mist from the stoep

This picture possibly best illustrates what I  wish to talk about tonight: the vast scale of my two punctuation marks. The view from the stoep (veranda) of the Big House is across a series of descending horizontals with the dam at the bottom of the valley followed by the road on the opposite side and finally the expanse of the arboretum. Contrasting with these horizontals are the vertical lines of the two gum trees.

Spring view from Big House 2

The front gum, larger and considerably older, was claimed by my mother as HER tree whilst they were on honeymoon back in 1954. Even then it dominated the valley from all angles. Thus, over the years, we have had plantation trees, garden trees, and Mom’s Tree.


Even though from some angles the second tree appears as tall or even taller, the ground is at least 10m (30 foot) higher where it grows. 0ne of the plans for the next year or two is the layout of the Mothers’ Garden, commemorating Louis’ and my mothers (about which you can read more here), which faces her tree. Looking back to the bench which already marks the top of the Mothers’ Garden, you can see what we are heading towards…

Golden light of sunset - in the lowest bed the canna leaves begin to show up

Hold it. This pic doesn’t yet include the bench I’m talking about. Try this one…

Bluegums, house and Mothers' garden from arboretum

These trees form an exclamation in any season…

Gum at first lighht

Garden as seen from verandah 2

Sunset from stoep

Liquidambar formosana in arboretum

They exclaim from unexpected angles…

Big Gum reflected

076 sunset across lilypond

Reflections and silhouettes; both accentuate the power of these trees. Even from inside The House that Jack Built, their silhouettes can dominate a view if the light is right.

075 sunset across cottage gdn

6 Salvia, grasses and trees at sunset

And so often they are part of a sunset composition – either catching the last light or seen against a glowing sky.

Summer sunset

But let’s get back to a more naturalistic view of the garden for our final photo…

There. I miss the icon of my garden, the curved bridge reflected in the water which one sees from The House that Jack Built, where I used to live. But this is pretty good as garden focal points go!



  1. Loved today’s pics, Jack! I’ve been searching for pics of tropical vignette pictures that perhaps I could use (copy with zone-appropriate plants) in my proposed new Steampunk garden. Some of yours fit the bill! I’m looking for ideas that the plant hunters of the 19th century would have brought to the West and emulated in their gardens, e.g., a magnificent hoya vine climbing through the branches of a tropical tree in India. Any ideas??

    • Wow, Gordon, this is a difficult one for me. I don’t really attempt the tropical look, because I can see it by visiting friends 10km away. Therefor I am not at all clued up on how to get a tropical look with non-tropical plants. Your local garden centres will give you much more useful info thanI can possibly do! Good luck!

    • Hi, jsut a thought , I have seen bouganvileas growing through the branches of a large jaccaranda, very spectacular when both are in flower and very tropical. I dont particularly like bouganvillea because of its nasty thorns and inclination to grow over everything,. In an isolated situation though it is striking.

      • Thanks for the suggestion! Sounds good, but bougainvillea, while a favourite of mine, is not hardy here, but there must be something that is hardy and has a similar flowering habit. I’ll search around and see what I can find. Maybe a tall-growing clematis?

      • Hi Ian – welcome to WordPress and to my blog! It is interesting how often I still receive visits to this early post, but it is one of the most spectacular pics I ever posted, I suppose, to those who have never seen a real tropical garden! I agree that bougainvillea can be a pest though, and I am pleased that composition is not my problem!

  2. Pingback: EARLY EIGHTIES ARCHIVES | Sequoia Gardens Blog

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s