AUTUMN’S EMBERS

Checking on font changes, I play some more with my new theme –

Oak leaf hydrangea

The Oak-leaved Hydrangeas turn late, and this year they are spectacular. Below, one provides background to the self-sown rose which draped itself across a Rosemary in the Rosemary Borders. Its leaves are turning bright yellow and the first bud is showing colour. I suspect it might be seedling from the Musk Rose ‘Mozart’, which last year carried copious quantities of tiny heps. In fact, said heps featured in the first photo of a post from last year this time:

self-sown rose in the Rosemary Borders

Here are archive photos of Herr Mozart – he has slightly larger and darker flowers than the better know Ballerina, and forms an arching creeper rather than her compact twiggy shrub – first the flower and then last year’s heps.

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1-mozart-heps

The Water Oak on Freddie’s Dam still has a few leaves; one in the arboretum though glows with more than half the leaves still in place. The House that Jack Built is just to the right of this shot; a lovely place to sit out in any season!

Seating under the water oak

WE WELCOME WINTER TO OUR VALLEY

Makoudam

Winter is here. For days we have had scary weather forecast for the end of the week. On Thursday afternoon a hot berg wind – strong winds from high altitudes towards the sea – started blowing. Berg winds blow ahead of cold fronts, but mostly we are too far north to have such a textbook arrival of the cold. I have been in Grahamstown, close to the southern coast of Africa, when the berg winds have whipped the temperature up to 36 degrees Celsius, a sign that a massive cold front is following. And then seen it plunge in half an hour at midday to 14 degrees. When I went out at 10 last night the wind has died down and it was remarkably warm. By 2 I was aware of wind and I knew this would be the cold one. So when I went out at 6.10 this morning to take Alpha and Beta (as I refer to my foreman’s sons here) to the bus, I was dressed for real cold.

Swamp cypress on the makou dam

In fact it was not nearly as bad as I’d expected and the day could at most be described as bracing. But I guess tonight we will see a real frost… Mid-afternoon the boys and I went for a walk. After taking the top photo and hitting the cold shadows across the dam, we decided to double back to the sunny side of the valley.

Porcupine damage to the cannas

And so I came to notice for the first time how extensive the recent damage to the cannas is… Early this summer the porcupines after 20 years discovered they liked cannas. We started fencing the canna beds with shade netting and that seemed to put them off. But we ran out of shade netting and this end of the largest bed was never completed. In the last days – perhaps as other food became scarcer – they returned to the cannas. Sad smileFrost tonight will most likely shrivel the plants, but not their tubers. Will this be enough to chase off the porcupines or will they return with renewed relish now that there will be even less to eat? Luckily they are messy eaters and leave enough behind to regrow, but I fear our stock is more than a little depleted. Here they are in all their glory last summer –

cannas

Thus is the nature of gardening with rather than against nature.

Boys at play, Oak ave

A strange, fractured shot (because it was an on-camera panorama) of the boys at play along Oak Avenue captures the sunny, wintery nature of the walk. At 8pm tonight the outside temp was –1; that is remarkably low for so early at night, and considering that the lowest measurement of the season to date was +1. An at this point I shall prepare for bed, for at 6am I must depart for a Rotary function 150km away…

frost 140607

Saturday afternoon. When I left this morning it was –5 degrees. This is what I came home to; these New Guinea impatiens,  frost haters, were  standing up against the house walls well in on the veranda. The aloes that were coming along so beautifully hang shrivelled – see their recurring story in ‘Death of a drama queen’ from two years and one week ago. Let us return to earlier joys…

THtJB across the dam

Although it might look wintery in this shot from Thursday’s walk, it was still warm enough for the boys, in T-shirts, to wade into the stream to play. And of course Beta got water into the top of his gumboots. I’m certain his mother cussed when he got home…

Boys at play in the water

It was a bittersweet walk, the boys still excitedly picking up beautiful autumn leaves and playing happy games, whilst I contemplated the fact that I was on my last autumn walk through my gardens, knowing that within hours winter would set in.

Here is Alpha holding two leaves of the spectacular red plane – a tree I discovered as a sapling in a nursery many autumns ago, bearing red not yellow leaves. It has given us great joy, starting to turn in mid-Feb and some years holding onto its last few leaves right through to mid July!  I am pleased to say we have propagated successful cuttings from it, and one will go with me into my new life when we move from Sequoia Gardens in the months ahead.
Alpha with red plane leaves

The garden constantly surprises me. Only a few weeks back I discovered a self-sown (or rather bird-sown) rose in the Upper Rosemary Border, arching out over a shrub. Then I discovered that it was in bud – out of season, perhaps, because it was a chanceling, valiantly proving its right to life?  Here it is on Thursday, with an oak-leaved hydrangea in the background. I must check tomorrow if the bud – visible at the bottom of the photo – survived the cold.

Self sown rose in the Rosemary Border

Foraging into the back of beds and in under trees, I found, at the far end of Oak Avenue, some beautiful autumnal hydrangeas – and one solitary fresh bloom on the powder blue plant. Ah, for blue among the russets!

Late blue hydrangea

Wine and mint hydrangea

End of season hydrangea colours

To end this end-of-autumn post, I’d like to pay tribute to one of the great performers of late autumn – the always cheerful Chinese Maple. Here’s to a good winter: cold enough to kill off the bugs; predictable enough to not confuse too many plants; long enough to prevent an ominously early spring; and over before we grow too tired of it.

Chinese maples

AUTUMN WANDERS IN

Sunset after the solstice

Every day now the sun sets sooner. I looked up yesterday at 1/4 to 6 and realised the sunlight was fading and went out to find the sun just dipping behind the horizon to the right of the tree on the left; on this date it leaves the far horizon and creeps in behind the close hill. That steep curve has a compound effect on day length from now till the next solstice. Sigh. But as I live only 50km beyond the Tropic of Capricorn I have little reason to complain of short winter days…

Acer rubrum detail

As we walk around the garden now, we are on the lookout for autumn colour. This Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) is deceptive though: only the first branches have turned, as this rather poor distant shot shows.

Acer rubrum

These pics really are snapshots. Our walks have mostly been quite late, and I have used the camera on my S4 phone. It is a quite remarkable camera and functions in much poorer light than my entry level (and 4 year old) Canon SLR, but later pics have focus and/or depth of field issues and often there is an annoying blue cast to the shadows.  I have not yet had either the time or the inclination since returning from our holiday (I might still post on that) to do any serious photography…

Cercidyphyllum japonicum

Cercidiphyllum japonicum can be one of the glories of autumn. Our two trees are so-so, and here you can clearly see the damage caused by October’s hail. Their chief attraction is the fact that the dying leaves smell of burnt sugar, as far as I know the only tree with this quality. To me they smell of candyfloss (well that IS burnt sugar, right?) and many people smell strawberries. I was curious to see how the foreman’s sons (who I call Alpha and Beta here) would respond. Alpha (aged 10) after some sniffing lit up and said ‘Pineapple!’ which I thought was brilliant considering the unexpectedness of my question. Yesterday I picked a sprig of our indigenous mint which flowers very beautifully now and asked him what it smelt of. I loved his answer: ‘Colgate!’  It reminds me of my own disappointment when I first and finally sniffed at a magnolia. It smelt of gift soap!

The boys find a perfect universe

The boys love our walks and as so often happens, they dashed around the ‘stepping stones’, as I imagined children would, when we got to The Great Incomplete, as I tend to think of The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe ( about which you can read more here.) Boys being boys, they made their own rules though:

Caught cheating

Whilst on the subject of the boys – and introducing the dogs into the story – I love this pic of Beta and Monty. Monty is becoming quite grizzled, and I was horrified when one of my guests described him recently as fugly, but he is still full of games and joy (and visits to everyone in the valley). He loves nothing as much as a little personal attention. On a recent (cameraless) walk the interaction between Beta and Abigail, first with a fallen quince and then with a pair of pinecones, was a delight to watch. Is it because we can only dream of having their energy and dexterity that we so love children at play? Be it as it may, I love it when the boys join us on or walks!

Monty getting on

Here are the two dogs at the upper end of the Rosemary Terrace. It was with a pang that I suddenly realised that Abigail is also starting to age a little. However one of her sisters is quite matronly, and Abi is svelte and sassy… she is nearly seven after all…

Monty and Abigail at the top end of the Rosemary Terrace

Here we have a long view from within the parking area past the visitors’ entrance into the garden and with the same two pots at the far end of the view. Abi looking svelte and Beta looking active…

Looking along the rosemary Terrace

I prepared quite a number of pics for sharing tonight. But the rest will have to wait for a further post, which I hope will be quite soon. I’m off to bed now, bushed after a hectic week and play out on the first colour on Vitis vinifera. I really had to set up this picture, but night temps have started dipping below 10 degrees C (which is rather early), so autumn should gather pace now. My verdict is that at this stage it is rather slow for end March…

First colour in the vine

AN ACHE IN AUGUST

August is the cruellest month around here – but we’re not there yet. By now winter has stayed too long and bleached too fully – but this warmer winter has hardly bleached the lawn. Overnight there was a little rain, and although this Sunday was bleak, it had none of the relentlessness that makes August so cruel.

hydrangea in winter

Yes, there are plenty signs of winter, but they tend to be of winter’s beauty, like these flowers from Hydrangea arborescens. We had visitors staying in the cottages this weekend and they loved the gardens. So no despair there.

hydrangea in winter detail

Because the winter has been mild our camellias, usually decidedly marginal for most of their season, are looking good.

Dark pink camellia

They have also now reached a size where at least some blooms are protected from the worst frost damage, even in a cold year. So that was where my focus lay on today’s walk.

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Camellias in the arboretum

In fact camellias were not the only blooms – more and more azaleas are testing the waters. I expected to find magnolias, but didn’t.

Azaleas in the New Old rose garden

Here they are in the New Old Rose Garden, a red azalea almost the same colour as the stalky Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ in front of it, which will be blooming by mid October. Behind them our best beech hangs on, as beeches do, to its browned leaves. But back to camellias: two lovely pinks, followed by a red.

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One of our most thankful shrubs is Spiraea cantoniensis known in South Africa as the ‘Cape May’ – a misnomer if ever there was one: spiraea are known in the UK as ‘May’ because they are spring blooming, but to us May is autumn; and it comes not from the Cape, but from China, if its name is anything to go by. Also known as The Bridal Wreath, that is an apt name for its arching stems densely packed with tiny sprays of minute white flowers. But it has another trick up its sleeve. When you think autumn is quite over, its leaves turn most photogenically.

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All of this happens as the promise of flowers to come becomes ever more visible…

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And there are the flowering quinces and other delights – but as my battery died after the last shot, this is where I leave you for now…

TO GO FOR THE OU?

Piet Oudolf garden

I have for years been lusting after the effects Piet Oudolf achieves. (For those ‘less in the know’: Oudolf is a Dutch garden designer and plantsman, the power behind what is loosely called the New Perennial Movement, and undoubtedly the most famous garden innovator in the world today.) I picked up a magazine with an article about one of his gardens and was struck – not for the first time – by how many of the effects he strives for are similar to what I do at Sequoia Gardens. It is essentially ‘natural looking’ with some formal structural elements, it respects the seasons and the plant in its seasons, and it tends to be too twiggy to make for good photography!

1

The two pics I use on my facebook pages illustrate what I mean. And also make me realise where I fall short. It is the old 20% of the effect takes 80% of the effort formula. It is Mercedes-Benz versus the best from China. I have achieved a great deal. To achieve to the next level will take more time, money and even energy than I think I can muster. And that leads to the next instalment of my tale… Here meanwhile (a tree-scale rather than a perennial-scale!) is a view taken on this damp winter’s morning, with some of our Liquidambar formosana still colouring beautifully when others have long passed their prime.

Wet July view s

ALPHA, BETA AND ANIMALS

The idea started this morning when I looked out the window to see this picture: as you might know my foreman and his wife, my housekeeper, mean more to me than I can ever pay them. What I can offer is the luxury, to a rural black family, of them living together as a family 7 days a week. The boys, who I will refer to here as Alpha and Beta, love the dogs and love to come along on a walk. They attend our local school and during term time I take them up to the tar road every morning to catch the school bus. With them on holiday at the moment there is extra opportunity and incentive for walks. But first this moment…

1 Zakia and Monty

Beta (the younger) jumped up when he realised I had my camera out, but then joined me as I took more shots of the lovely wintery view down the main axis.

2 View down the axis

3 Closer view down the axis

Which is when we spotted this fellow and brought him closer to photograph.

4 Chameleon

He’s a tiny fellow, the Drakensburg Dwarf Chameleon, and plentiful on Sequoia. Below you can see just how tiny as he sits on my hand.

5 a tiny fellow

There’s a reason he was sitting on my hand and not one of the boys’: many black people, even sophisticated westernised ones, have an irrational fear of chameleons similar to the more common fear of snakes. If they see one, they kill it. Over the years I have persuaded my staff to at least ignore them, if not appreciate them. Yesterday for the first time I got Alpha to hold another, larger specimen, but Beta had shied away from doing so. Luckily by the time we had finished studying this one, both boys had held it and lost their fear. Then we took it to the greenhouse were we released it into a warmer atmosphere than the great outdoors in winter…

7 released in the greenhouse

We photographed him and then searched for yesterday’s fellow, who we had also released here.6 Zakia and Renki come to have a look

And we found him! But we couldn’t find a third one, a very tiny fellow, whom Beta had spotted in the greenhouse when I was showing this one to them after taking it there yesterday.

8 Company

When I was still living down at The House that Jack Built, chameleons moving in in the late winter afternoons to the warmth of the clematis that grows in under the roof at the front door was cause for daily excitement. One winter I counted five most nights! That is why I know that they seek out warmer spots in winter.

9 Examining a snail shell

This afternoon’s walk started off as an inspection of the stocks and primulas planted in the Rosemary Border in the hope of having additional colour as visitors arrive during the Spring Fair at the end of September. A few plants show on the right. Alpha is examining a snail shell which lay hidden under the growth cut away in preparing for the annuals. Here it is on the wall.

10 Snail shell

We are incredibly lucky that these, the only snails we ever see here, are carnivorous. I’ve always feared accidentally bringing in the round snails I’ve seen chew up whole beds in London – and do only slightly less damage in Johannesburg.

11 Makou dam in winter

Then the walk continued. Taubie is now 14 years old and although she is slow and for a large part of the day quite sedentary, she loves a walk and still eats well. But two years ago I would not have predicted that she would still be with us now…

12 Taubie at the stream

Whilst in an elegiac mood – I took on today’s walk what might well be the last photo of the pine trees around The House that Jack Built. The sawmill is cutting in our forests and I’ve decided that these trees, now all 35 or more years old, must go. In a plantation they would be cut after 25 years. There will be some rethinking of the area around the cottage once they’ve gone.

13 THtJB before the pines are cut

From here we zig-zagged through the arboretum, the boys playing hide-and-seek amongst the tall azaleas, jumping on puff-balls and making the happy noise children make when they can run free.

14 Big House reflected

One would think it was quite a long walk – but Mateczka decided otherwise. She started a game of running, tearing through the dried cannas, and got the boys as excited as she was. I kept swinging around with the camera, trying to achieve no more than having a dog, a boy, or both in the shot when I pressed the shutter…

15 Action shot - Mateczka

16 Action Mateczka and Zakia

17 Action blur

19 Action again

18 Mateczka camouflaged

Then eventually Mateczka stopped dead in the cannas, as if she knew how well camouflaged she was…

20 Renki in the Garden Celibrating an Imperfect Universe

And when I looked again, Beta was jumping along the Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe, just as I imagined children would jump when I first conceived the garden two years ago… it really must be completed now!

21 Autumn rose in Alfred's Arches

By now we were making our way back up Alfred’s Arches and with the leaf canopy gone I could marvel at just how many bird-sown plants were growing in the dappled shade it provides – including a pair of willowy roses almost opposite each other. Could they have Rugosa blood?! With a bit of luck they will flower next year and I will learn more about them. To end off, a farewell to autumn shot: also growing here courtesy of the birds, and perhaps storm water, are many nandinas and several berberis. Here they make an impressive showing, even though the solstice has come and gone!

22 Autumn finale

IF THE LAST ROSE FLOWERS IN JUNE IS IT STILL OF SUMMER?

1 Mozart heps

This surely is what an autumn rose should look like – all heps? Well the Hybrid Musk rose ‘Mozart’ sure does this, one sprig only of a large bush visible in the photo. I’ve become a great fan of Herr Mozart, after he flowered away with clusters of small pink and white single flowers all summer, and is now bedecked in tiny, beautiful and bird friendly heps. What’s more despite their diminutive size they contain plump seeds, so some will be kept – what might the harvest be?!

2 Young mutabilis

No, not just heps: so many roses are still flowering away that I hardly realised I was building up material for a dedicated rose post on the weekend’s walks. One of my favourites is that great bloomer over an unbelievably long season, a rose that appears to be a species rose – Rosa chinensis mutabilis. This rose changes colour and gave its genes to all roses that grow redder as they age. Here it is in bud and early flower – a warm salmony cream. Then it fades to straw before darkening to a soft pink. The stages follow below.

3 Mutabilis in their prime

4 Mutabilis in their late prime

5 Mature mutabilis

The final stage is a rich dull red. These flowers are on the largest shrub I transplanted from the Rondel Garden into the New Old Rose Garden two years ago – you can read all about it starting here, the first of a four part posting about my roses

7 Cecile Brunner

Cecile Brunner, ‘the sweetheart rose’, carries her perfectly formed miniature roses on a substantial bush – she was the second largest of my transplants and nearly didn’t pull through. If you read all four parts mentioned above you would have heard all about it. Today she doesn’t look as though she ever ailed.

6 Mrs Oakley Fisher

Another bush I  feared had not survived the transplanting was my favourite of those in the hedge of single flowered early Hybrid Teas around the Rondel Garden: Mrs Oakley Fisher. But she made a fashionably late appearance, a single bush having completed the journey.

6 Soft peech canna

No, not a rose but a canna! It was in my mother’s cousin Audrey’s garden – reported on enthusiastically here – that I first realised what lovely companions roses and cannas can be, both the softer colours like this one and the strident colours with the modern bright roses. This beautifully shaded salmon canna was a gift from her that day and gave me great joy in the New Old Rose Garden all summer. I have a pale yellow and a cream which I will be moving in here, the time having come after two summers in which to settle down for the roses to accept serious underplanting in this garden. (Nature has already started the task – nicotianas will stay, crocosmia must go…)

9 Penelope

The Hybrid Musk rose ‘Penelope’ is one of my favourites. Some years ago I was very successful in propagating it, but the moment I decided to use it in the Mothers’ Garden my attempts failed dismally. Perhaps this winter we will be more successful. Late in the season it always has a pleasing combination of heps and softly coloured blooms.

8 Jacques Cartier

Over the years the tough but elegant Portland Rose, ‘Jacques Cartier’, has proved both the easiest to propagate and to thrive on the kind of neglect my roses must anticipate. There must be 30 roses from my original bush around the garden today. Bravo, Monsieur!

10 Maria Callas

After all the old fashioned roses, here is a lady who will always have a part of my heart: ‘Maria Callas’. She is one of the Hybrid Teas I do not wish to be without. Behind her is some of this year’s bumper crop of Browallia americana – to my mind the ultimate blue self-seeder which graces the late summer garden wherever it gets the opportunity.

11 Browallia americana

I end with one of the most rose-like of all the azaleas, a rich red double which flowers on and off through summer but prolifically in both autumn and spring  – perhaps my dear friends Laurie and Erie can supply us with a name…?

12 Red azalea

 

GREETING JUNE part 2

Down the main axis

We pick up the story as we set off on Saturday’s afternoon walk, which might or might not indicate that we are going to see mainly afternoon shots. I do get a kick out of this narrow and layered view with the spout at its end  every time I see it! Abigail leads the way.

Beech Borders, Taubie

We follow the various axes to the final gesture at the Beech Borders, where I look back at the many secondary plants turning against the bare branches of May’s maple spectacle, whilst old Taubie picks her plodding way at her own pace. Every time I have returned home this year my first thought has been of her and her condition, but she soldiers on, pacing herself, and  occasionally bouncing like a puppy for a few excited seconds. She turns 14 this month.

All the way along the Beech Borders axis

This is not  a good photo, even when well enlarged. One day I will position myself here with perfect lighting and a long lens, and I might succeed: I am looking back from just below the road which goes below the arboretum across the Beech Borders axis. Lit up in the centre distance is the beech tree which features in the  right background of the previous photo. The axis crosses the lily pond and the bottom of the valley before cutting a path  through a poplar grove, with blue hydrangeas planted in the clearing. I can spot one of the two late blooms still showing colour quite clearly: it is on the very left edge of the hydrangeas, a third from the bottom of the photo. Below is a summer view from across the valley. I gives the idea.Hydrangeas on Beech Borders axis -summer view

Red Japanese maple

We continue on our walk (and return to our late autumnal theme) to find another Japanese maple still in full glory: this one has remarkably tiny leaves with a short middle finger which gives a round outline, and the autumn leaves are a uniform red. Pretty. Very pretty!

Hypericum revolutum

Nearby grows Hypericum revolutum, our local St John’s Wort and possibly our most plentiful indigenous shrub. The books say it flowers from August to January, but here there is never a month in which a search will not reward you with a flower – and at the moment the bushes are covered – the beautiful Afrikaans word ‘oortrek’ literally means ‘pulled over’ – with flowers.

Jack's Red maple no longer red

On a much more wintery note, here is ‘Jack’s Red Maple’ – now no longer red, the last leaves still clinging to it a definite brown, as are those beneath it. But, defiantly, the stream shines more silverly than ever…

THtJB in June

Colour has also been drained from The House that Jack Built – but on the forest floor there is a wonderful subtlety to be found.

Forest floor2jpg Forest floor

Ethereal compositions abound…

Ethereal autumn

And a few azaleas, especially the scented mauve ones,  seem messengers of spring.

Mauve azalea in June

Even some ferns contribute to the palette…

Autumn ferns

And thus we stand below the arboretum and look back across the garden, subtle colours in the late light and late season, before starting the final ascent home…

View across Makou Dam detail

View across Makou Dam

HELLO JUNE!

Autumn spires

Hello, I’m home…!

And in celebration I took several hundred photos today, selected 68, and will now weed them down to a story… But the very first – above – captures the sunny exuberance of this Indian summer quite perfectly. There was some frost in late April, but night-time lows have been above 5 degrees with day-time temps in the low 20s. More or less what those of you in Britain are hoping for from this summer, I’d guess. We are having a memorable late autumn.

An aloe year

In fact we could say we are having an ideal year for aloes. For now, anyway. The aloe on the left often has one bloom turning yellow, the one on the right seldom gets this advanced. Watch this space. The next 10 nights are still forecast to be well above freezing. Except we go to Samaria – the game farm on the Limpopo I’ve at times reported on – towards the end of the coming week. So I might not see the ‘end of the aloes’ after all. Or I might return to a once-in-a-decade show!

Main garden in early June

Another morning shot (afternoon ones will soon be included) showing Alfred’s Arches nude  and gnarled, and the pots emptied of their summer stock – soon to be replaced with winter stocks (BAD pun Sad smile)

Rosemary Borders

This picture of the top end of the Rosemary Borders makes clear the name – below the lawn a hedge of rosemary and above it many rosemary bushes give rhythm to the border.

Rosemary Borders panorama

Here we are looking at the furthest third of the Rosemary Borders, with rosemary bushes spilling over the wall on either side of the stairs and  beyond Flora’s Path – the row of Chinese maples I’ve referred to in recent posts about the early days of the garden – in all their silver seedy glory. Each tree has hundreds of thousands of seeds and they are all keen to germinate.

Looking down Flora's path

Another shot, taken from along Flora’s Path and looking down onto the Entrance Fountain Pot. Periwinkle in the foreground and the furthest part of the rosemary hedge beyond that.

Louis on Flora's Path

One final shot in the opposite direction, taken this afternoon as we returned from our walk. Flora’s Path started life as a screen between the Plett and the newly built staff houses of both my father and my uncle, each three times the size of our caravan-home. It was one of the first features to be named – after the indolent and slovenly wife of an early employee whose young sons  nearly burnt the farm down when playing with matches. My mother  always commented that the least loved person ever was best commemorated! On the opposite side of the big lawn Alfred’s Arches commemorates a cheerful and capable young man. Our paths diverged when his kleptomaniac tendencies – a source of some frustration – led to him stealing a camera in full view of the owner on the neighbour’s farm…

Mothers' Garden

Well that was a bit of a tangent. Whilst in this general area, here is the Mothers’ Garden, still consisting only of hedges, although these now nicely established. My thinking on these four beds – first discussed here – grows ever simpler. Before summer I want to plant the roses and perennials that will fill them!

Mateczka at the Mothers' Garden

Ninety degrees to the right and you can see the young abelia hedge under the maple tree that will eventually mirror the one across the big lawn outside the Ellensgate Garden. And an impatient dog. The stones to the right are the steps to the platform from where a bench looks over the Mothers’ Garden.

Sequoia Avenue

That same young hedge and its maple are to the right in this picture, an unusual angle I took to capture the Sequoia Avenue. Paler and softer in texture beyond them is a Kashmir cypress -Cupressus cashmeriana – a very lovely tree and one of the many I can remember in detail how when and where I acquired it! The garage wing (and the window of my office) on the left, with the old stone barn giving texture through the stems of the sequoias and Croft Cottage to the right of it. In the foreground yet another area which should have been planted this summer but wasn’t. We will replant here this coming week and add Namaqualand daisies for colour at the time of the Spring Festival.

Japanese maple at Anniversary Garden

We seem to have strayed somewhat from the topic which, rather loosely, was about where we stand with autumn now that June is here. The Japanese maples are mostly over, but not all are, as these photos of the tree behind the Anniversary Garden show.

Japanese maple at Anniversary Garden 2

However these leaves are falling fast, as the richly coloured carpet below the tree testifies…and here I will stop for tonight. Remaining photos will have to wait for later in the week…

Japanese maple at Anniversary Garden leaves

INDULGING IN AUTUMN

Acer palmatum - possibly Bloodgood

A week ago I returned from a 20-day marketing trip to Kwazulu-Natal during which I covered over 4400km. The first thing I did on arrival was take a quick dusk walk around the garden, and followed up with regular walks thereafter. As I write this at the end of what has been a busy first week home, I can claim: autumn is at its peak! Minutes after I arrived last Saturday, friends from Bloemfontein, lovers of the garden over many years, arrived for their first ever autumn visit. Do you think they enjoyed it? Winking smile

Pieter in Bloodgood

These first photos were taken at one of my favourite autumn spots. The red maple is our darkest red Japanese maple – I suspect it is ‘Bloodgood’ although very few of our Japanese maples came to us bearing names. In fact this morning I discovered that the graftings propagated from it by my friends Laurie and Erie from Sandford Heights Nursery at the top of Magoebaskloof are sold as ‘Jack’s Red’!

Favourite trees

So here it is again: a weeping flowering cherry and beyond it ‘Jack’s Red’, then a swamp cypress just beginning to turn and ‘Jack’s Red Plane’ – a plane I found in a KZN nursery in April some 20 years ago bearing red instead of yellow autumn leaves.

Layers of autumn colour

I have after a week at home yet to take any systematic autumn shots – and thus I present to you now a selection of photos in which Japanese maples unashamedly predominate…

Light through Japanese maple leaves

Detail Japanese maple leaf

It’s been a good year for mushrooms – I’ve never before seen a fairies’ apartment block! (Colour-coded, of course…)

Fairies' apartment block

Here is the view from the bridge, looking across to one of our best autumn views.The House that Jack Built is a little to the right when seen from here.

View from the bridge

We are back at the trees in the first shots now, looking at the stream as it flows beneath them; a branch from Jack’s Red (I’m liking using that name Smile) and leaves from the weeping cherry. And then a self-portrait taken meters downstream.

Stream at favourite trees

Self-portrait

A close-up of you-know-what…

Jack's Red Japanese Maple

We are due to move on now to the maples at the Beech Borders, the most overwhelming of all our autumn sights – but I think I’ll first have to sort through that pile of pics…