It was the sight of the wonderfully scented old pale lemon climber, Lamarque, carrying a number of blooms quite out of season which drew me up towards the Rondel Garden on yesterday afternoon’s walk. And so, for the first time in over a year, I ended up exploring the abandoned remains of my first formal garden, the story of which you can read in detail in this post. If you wish for more, try a search for “Rondel’ on my blog.

lamarqueontheapproacharch Remains of lamarque

I consider this a happy post, although it is in some ways melancholic. These photos illustrate the extent of the decay: looking up on the left in the garden’s heyday, and down yesterday, the steeple into which Lamarque grew long lost and the rose a pittance of its former self.

Mother's Garden and New Old Rose Garden

It so happens that earlier yesterday I spent, for the first time in ages, several very hands-on hours in the garden. Two and a half years ago we moved the old roses from the Rondel to the New Old Rose Garden, a series of free-form beds beyond the Mothers’ Garden – seen here in the foreground and our newest planting project. (For anyone unfamiliar with my garden – try the search button in the right-hand column for more info on the various areas.) The furthest bed you see here we planted with the nursery stock – roses struggling along in bags, some grown from cuttings and some from seed. What I did not realise at the time was that many were rampant ‘wild roses’ from cuttings taken enthusiastically by my staff. Of value only as rooting stock. Last year’s good plan often turns out to be this year’s disaster. As these plants started growing enthusiastically we tied them up into the purple berberis in the centre of the bed to keep them off lesser growers. Yesterday I hacked my way through loads of thorns, removing all the offending roses as well as the berberis. No doubt in the process I lost a treasure or two, but that lowest bed is now clean of thugs and we can get on with evaluating the remaining roses. As you can see the other beds also received a thorough cleaning and raking, a job my staff love. TOO clean! Oh well, now we can interplant with some of the many perennials growing in the greenhouse as well as those I discovered surviving in the Rondel… Let’s return there.

The French Garden

I love the culmination of the axis through the Rondel beyond Lamarque, in an area I think of, but perhaps have never called The French Garden.


In Afrikaans this is called an ‘Omkeerploeg’ – a ‘Turn-around plough’, perhaps known as an ‘Inversion Plough’. Can anyone comment? It was used possibly from as early as the late 19th century until about 1960 on the farm. Between man and mule was suspended a complex pair of plough shares on a ratchet system, for at the end of every furrow you had to turn the plough so as not to fill your furrow with the next one’s soil. It must have been hard work. It takes several men to lift it off the ground. We positioned it as a sculpture and a reminder of the history of the farm. Its texture compliments that of the stems in the grove of sawtooth oaks in which it stands.

Inversion Plough Omkeerploeg

 This is bulletproof gardening. It gets better and better as it thrives on neglect. Turn in the opposite direction and the same can not be said…

rondelentrancegate Rondel entrance today

It is difficult to believe this is the same view. But the growth of the tiny Sequoia seen through the arch into the dark hulk beyond the gate gives perspective to the changes over some 18 years. I push open the gate. I know where the paths are, so I can find them, but yellow self-sown coreopsis, other plants and – yes – weeds fill bed and path indiscriminately. However to my joy I find several treasures which we will move to the New Old Rose Garden next week.

Blue iris in Rondel

A delicate grassy blue iris has clumped up over the years and – hello – is that a rose growing next to it? Better go see!

Lambs ear

Lamb’s Ear always makes for good underplanting in a rose garden. And there is quite a bit scattered around. I found the mother stock – or rather, the home-based siblings – of the cardinal red lychnis I wrote about in my previous post.


Joy! I find two perennials I had thought I’d lost. From the bottom of my memory I dredge up ‘Meadow-rue” but have to look up: Thalictrum minus adiantifolium , with glaucous leaves like maidenhair fern.  And a wine red penstemon which I remember first buying as ‘Garnet’. And last year in a compost heap I discovered Campanula persicifolia which I had not seen for 10 years. Must see if I can still rescue it.

Thalictrum Penstemon Garnet

Two geraniums, one South African and one European, can also be transplanted to the New Old Rose Garden. Two copper pots I’d forgotten about must be salvaged to go into my new life with me; they were lovely years ago when planted with Rosa viridifolia. They are lovely still, and can act as reminders of this garden.

Copper planter two
Copper planter one
Then I sit down on the brick steps between them and look out over the Rondel. I think of the fact that we are a week away from the 20th anniversary of Francois’ death. Only later does it occur to me that it must be 20 years to the day since I dreamt of this garden one night in great detail, and together the next day we planned it on paper. Behind me on either side of the platform grow the bay laurels which he suggested – visible in the photo on the left.

Abigail makes herself at home, surveying the world, on the central stone under which Francois’ ashes lie. I remember choosing the stone, rather larger than I’d imagined. I’d stood looking at it and said to him: this one is lovely, shall we try to move it? and a turtle-dove called in the tree above me, which I took to mean yes. And then the tractor pulling it on a sledge I had made specially nearly tipped it into the dam, and I heard him laugh nervously along with the rest of us as I contemplated throwing his ashes after…

View from Rondel

The Stone

Francois Swart

This morning I woke planning, at last, the next incarnation of this garden. We inherited graves dating from the 19th and earliest 20th century; I will leave (for my parents’ ashes should still be added here) 20th and 21st century markers. It will be affirmative of life if I leave a garden still at rest and at peace, but just a little more assertive.


2 thoughts on “A GARDEN AT REST

  1. reading this and then the Rondel post put the whole into a misty-eyed mood except there was also acceptance, discovery and future possibilities. Jack, I never tire of your tours and enjoy hearing about the planning and dreaming of areas of your garden. p.s. I rather like decay – it allows for the clearance of that which we would otherwise cling to and so something new arrives.

  2. Your garden is stunningly beautiful – even the bits that are overgrown and gone slightly wild. I could spend a day is absolute quiet under those big trees. Thanks for sharing…

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