1 Mothers' Garden hedges planted

The hedges are planted! After more than a year in which the rectangle of barren earth needed constant explanation, the Mothers’ Garden is laid out, the hedges planted and the central yew trimmed dramatically in preparation for training as a pyramid. I hummed and hahed before realising the obvious… The pillars of the lower steps must be visible and the yew must not obscure the dam. But it is surprising how long it took me to realise that a pyramid would be the ideal shape. Since the newly laid grass path has a topdressing of compost similar to the beds, it rather disappears at the moment. And in the harsh light the irrigation pipes are the dominant line. But I promise you: when you sit on the bench looking across this view, with the curves of the New Old Rose Garden to your left, the big lawn and the blobby rhythm of the Upper Rosemary Border to your right, and an assortment of trees framing the view and protecting your back… it is, I believe, potentially the most beautiful spot in the garden. You can read about the planning of the garden here. We have revisited the choice of roses and made some changes. Hopefully when we go to Johannesburg at the end of the month we will collect the 26 roses due to go in here. Although quite frankly at this stage I’d be happy for the hedges to settle down first.

2 Ellensgate to new Mothers' Garden

Here is the view from across the big lawn. To the left you can see where we dug up the grass for the paths and are still digging for other lawn work. In the process the upper border is being squared off and enlarged. This will give a new area for annuals and other flowers. I want to start collecting dahlias, as there are a great many old varieties around Haenertsburg. There is a whole new development waiting here! In the process the lawn is now finally surrounded by straight lines – the wavy top border, its shape never really planned, was more and more of an anomaly.

3 Alfred's Arches

When I turned my head from taking the last picture, this is what I saw. With a bit of imagination you can see the water-spout beyond Alfred’s Arches. Last year I decided the Arches, of pussy-willow, had to be cut down and grow out again; then I relented, but in the winter decided that the Arches really were looking tatty. Now I look at them as they start to fill out with young green, and I find the rustic rhythm totally enchanting. What to do? I guess there is so much else that needs doing that this is far from a priority!

4 arboretum reflected

The dogs and I make our way down the Arches, past the Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe (much more of a priority!) and down to the Makou Dam. Where we stop to enjoy the reflections and the thousands of backlit plants in the arboretum.

5 Scilla natelensis on Makou Dam

Along the edge there is a self-sown clump of the beautiful local lily, Scilla natelensis. Usually they choose stony well-drained slopes, but these, perched on the edge 30cm above the water, are blissfully happy. Which makes me so too.

6 Siberian Iries on the makou Dam

Around the corner on the dam wall grow the clump of Siberian irises we first planted there 20 odd years ago, and which we thought had disappeared. As you can see – they are back in force! Then we stop to collect stones for a rosemary bonsai I am preparing as a birthday present for Felicity, my dad’s care-giver and my adopted sister.

Rosemary bonsai

Here it is, settling in in the greenhouse. I know nothing about bonsai and have never attempted it before. I’m sure my rocks overhanging the container break every rule, but I’m quite pleased with the way I managed to arrange the gnarled plant as though it had grown out from amongst the stones, just like the ones I found growing in the garrigue when I was in the south of France… But onward and upward (to quote my blogging friend Frances…)

7 View of formal gardens from arboretum

I stopped to photograph the pink flowering cherry, but it was the view of the garden that intrigued me. Look how neat the hedges are on the left, and how good the Upper Rosemary Border is looking with its regular shrubby rhythm. To the right of the red azaleas (which are looking great against the long blue line of the rosemary hedge) there is over 100m2 of recently planted scatterpack. It is germinating nicely and a green haze lies across the ground there. I’m hoping for a fortissimo display by December. And in the bed below that the cannas are beginning to make an impression.

8 Dogs at the mollis and copper beech 

This is the area I particularly came to see:  the mollis azaleas in shades of yellow and orange near the darkest of our three copper beeches. Let’s take a closer look.

9 Copper beech and orange mo;;is

Difficult to capture the luminous darkness of the beech without the orange of the azalea looking washed out by the strong sunlight.

10 Dark orange mollis

So we need to take a look at the azalea on its own – and even then the light is far from ideal…

11 Yellow Mollis

The yellow one, in the shade, is easier to capture. But what I can’t share is the heavenly scent of these azaleas.

12 Orange mollis

For richness of colour, delicacy and perfume these azaleas are a match for the best roses can offer – what a pity that they flower for only a week or two!

13 Dark yellow Mollis close-up

I spend some time here, treasuring the moment, enjoying the scented shade.

14 Taubie among the azaleas

Taubie agrees and joins me; Mateczka and Abigail snuffle around happily, chase down paths, then come back to check all is OK with us. Monty is away patrolling his territory, probably entertaining visitors at the Cheerio tea-garden, relishing his role as the alpha male (human and otherwise) of the valley…

15 Mollis and Copper beech in arboretum

All in all it is a good place to be… especially at this time of year.

16 The Avenue



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