I never thought my next post would focus on a rose, but of all the exciting things that have happened in the last fortnight, this is the most surprising. Quite out of season – in other words super early – several buds I had not even noticed opened on the seedling rose outside the guest room.

Sequoia Rose

I’ve searched back through my writings on this particular rose which was selected rather randomly from amongst the seed and cutting-grown roses in my nursery to replace a deceased standard. At that stage the young rose merely had the right colour bloom, and did not show any particular promise or distinctive habit. But it soon proved worth mentioning. You’ll be wading through a lot of rose-talk to find it in this post but it is described in detail here.

Now, after watching it over two years, noting its disease resistance, its fondness for flowering, its willingness to grow long willowy shoots and finally its early start, I’ve decided it deserves a name. If I have ‘Cascade’ and ’Mothertjie’, and not forgetting ‘Stef’ and ‘Stephan’ as well as a clutch of other unnamed and largely unremarkable roses, then this must need a moniker. I hereby christen you THE SEQUOIA ROSE. May your cuttings, which took so willingly, prosper and please me in places I do not yet know; may they also go out and please other people and spread the memory of the one bright shining hour of my private Camelot.

And as all my other pics and stories really are quite separate, and it is bedtime – let me post this. The rest can wait.


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.



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


For the first time ever a month has passed without my posting anything. Is my blog dying? I fear it might be. As more and more my mind moves into the ‘life after Sequoia Gardens’ mode, the daily developments here seem less important, the big picture of the past 30 years, and the next 30, stand out clearer.

THtJB reflected s

Nearly four years ago I moved out of The House that Jack Built. In the first month of my blog I wrote about it here and little over a year later I wrote about moving into the big house here. I now know that moving out of my cottage was the start of where I am now; had I not left that inner sanctuary, I don’t think I would have managed to be on the brink of departure today, actually longing to put this time of limbo behind me.


I searched Google images before choosing this picture. In the early days of teaching on the mountain I remember saying to a class: “When Mandela dies the world will weep together like it has never wept for one man.” And it did, but not quite as I had imagined.  For too long all had known that death would be a blessed relief for him. The grief was tinged with relief, for this man deserved the right to die peacefully like few ever before him. In July my cousins gathered as usual on the farm on the Limpopo I have often written about, and where I took this photo.


City Press carried this headline this last week:

Africa mourns its towering baobab.

The eldest of the grandsons is the political editor of an important Johannesburg daily paper. The last thing he did from Polokwane before leaving ‘civilization’ in early July was to contact his team of people standing ready to cover Mandela’s death at the hospital in Pretoria where he lay critically ill, at his homes in Johannesburg and Qunu, at parliament and in various other places. Then he dropped down into the Limpopo valley where reception is at best erratic; twice a day he made a trip to higher ground to check on developments. Had Mandela died, he would have left within the hour. By the nature of things Mandela was central to our July discussions; it became clear to me that this young man was not just a great intellect and a people-person, but also a formidable manager. I mention this to illustrate the logistics underlying the death of a man of Mandela’s stature. But he didn’t die in July, and gradually the international press went home, and the time of waiting started.

Mateczka 9_taubie_at_the_new_stairs__yew_behind_her_650

There were other losses, and near losses, during this past month, less important perhaps, but more personal and thus more poignant. For some weeks I had had an ampoule of a calming fluid to give to my dear old dog, Taubie, when the time came to take her sore old body 35km down a twisting mountain pass to be put down. But I gave it instead to my youngest dog, Mateczka, my ridgeback, 4 years and 4 days old. She had developed over several weeks a progressive neurological degeneration which affected her movement and spacial perception and was constantly anxious, not understanding what on earth was happening to her. When she took a tumble whilst trying to squat, I knew that her life was no longer a joy to her. And so it happened that I came back up the mountain with a second ampoule, and took Taubie down 10 days later. Mateczka Mothertjie Muddypaws aged 3 months left, and Taubie in her prime seven years ago. And then there was Louis, who was it not for the miracle of modern sonar scans and medication would certainly have died during this past month.


I have been meaning for weeks to share my roses. Here is my favourite, The Hybrid Musk rose Penelope. And below is another favourite, known only as Aunty Corrie, from whom I got her. She blooms only once a year, but is magnificent. With a bit of luck I will have roses to pick next week – the first have bloomed after the destruction of October’s hail. And thus life continues. Even if I have yet to write a proper post on roses. Winking smile 

Aunty Corrie Rose s


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


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



In the process of going out to photograph roses, much else can happen. Hence this rather random post. But let’s start off in the Beech Borders, where ‘Isphahan’ perfumes the air. I promised a close-up of this rose, which starts off the purest of bright pinks before fading to a softer, paler but still lovely colour. For a few short weeks it is a winner.


Recent trips around the garden have varied from misty rain through darkening dusk and bright early morning sun – so forgive some inconsistencies!

Beech borders

Looking up the Beech Borders towards the beech which gives this area its name, and the bench from which one looks down on the lily pond. The last of our azaleas blooms in tandem with the roses.

New Dawn at lily pond

Turning around from the above scene, yellow and pink water-lilies with ‘New Dawn’ making its way through a tree beyond.

Beech borders 2

Halfway up the Beech Borders. The pale rose in the centre is again ‘New Dawn’.

Cannas 1

On a very different tangent, the large canna bed, replanted at the end of last summer, is coming into its own. I love the Roberto Burle Marx-ish tropical rhythms of the massed leaves, especially early in the summer; there are green, red-brown, yellow/green and pink/red-brown/green leaves in this composition. Beyond the lawn is the Lower Rosemary Border where the swathes of meadowmix annuals are just starting to flower. Hopefully there will be many more pics later in the summer. Meanwhile the first flower not a white alyssum (and rather photoshopped) is included below…. Beyond the meadowmix is the Rosemary Hedge with the Upper Rosemary Border showing above it – the white is a candelabra of yucca flowers, and beyond that again but not visible, the New Old Rose Garden which will feature anon.

Cannas 2

Spot the spade – and the hopping logs in the Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe just beyond the cannas.

Cannas 4

Textbook examples of plants benefitting from backlighting. This time spot the gable.

Cannas 3

A precocious bright red canna already in flower – and more signs of a gardener at work – and below the first of those annuals!

First flowers in the meadow planting

Let us proceed to the New Old Rose Garden. Below is an overview.

New Old Rose Garden

More roses will be planted this summer, filling gaps and replacing those that did not survive transplantation. I’m quite pragmatic. Many roses will not be replaced; rather I will try new varieties, and duplicate those that have done well and I’ve been able to propagate myself. The only criteria is that they should be bushy old-type (thus often very modern) or interesting genuinely old varieties. And then the underplanting with perennials must proceed!

View from within Rosemary border of Roses

Photographed from within the Upper Rosemary Border, this shot looks across the Mothers’ Garden, hopefully to be planted with its roses within weeks.

Louis and Taubie in the New old Rose Garden

Here Louis and Taubie sit picturing the Mothers’ Garden all planted up…

Louis and Taubie in the New old Rose Garden 2

Here they are again, seen through the Aunty Corrie Rose which is undoubtedly my favourite with its glorious colour and scent – what a pity that it lasts for only a few short weeks!

Ellensgate rambler

Of course there are other roses too. Here is the unnamed rambler beginning this year to make a show around the window of the Ellensgate Garden.

Roses roses everywhere

And here is its parent – a seedling which grew through a myrtle bush in the lawn –unplanned, untameable, inappropriate and almost impossible to eradicate – and quite frankly I love the cussedness of this chance encounter. Beyond in the border grow a circle of five ‘Ballerina’ roses, one of the few features predating the makeover of this bed 5 or 6 years ago.

From Ellensgate

Open up the camera, and this is what you see – I am standing outside the gate to the Ellensgate Garden.

Cardinal Hume and lychnis - again

Down again to the border: directly above the pot in the above picture, here is a better shot than last week’s of ‘Cardinal Hume’ and his floozy –Lychnis calcedonica.

Freddie's dam with roses

Further afield the  roses on Freddie’s Dam are looking lovely.

The bridge

In fact much at Freddie’s Dam is looking lovely, and the first of the white hydrangeas are starting to flower.

Makou Dam

And the Makou Dam is not looking too shabby either!

So let’s amble back up to the house, and take in the end of a perfect summer’s day from the stoep…

Sunset over the garden



1 Roses across the lily pond

Following on from last week’s post, ‘Mothertjie’ by the lily pond is going over but ‘New Dawn’ is on the ascendant. A most unusual sport in that it differs from its parent (from which it ‘sported’) by being repeat flowering, ‘New Dawn’ dates from 1930 and was the first plant ever to be patented. I should not have added that, for my next statement is that it is easily raised from cuttings and my original specimen was a gift from a friend.

New Dawn after the rain

It is a large, robust and easy climber which I have both growing into trees and twirling through a shrub border. A friend very successfully trained one I gave her into a well ordered trellis which it shares with a jasmine.

2 Cottage Garden

Outside The House that Jack Built the Hybrid Musk ‘Penelope’ and Portland ‘Jacques Cartier’ are all going fortissimo, backed by Clematis Montana. These too were grown from cuttings.

3THtJB and Felicite et Perpetue

If we step back a little we notice not just how green everything has become, but also the two climbers in the fence below the water oak. They are ‘Felicite et Perpetue’ with accents on the 1st, 2nd and 5th e, very French… It was introduced in 1827 by the gardener to the Duke of Orleans. One more accented e there!

4 THtJB and Felicite et Perpetue 2

It too sported interestingly, although some sources claim it to be a seedling: ‘Little White Pet’ (which I’ve not found in South Africa) is a small repeat flowering shrub, whiter than the delicious red bud through pink to white of this beautiful rambler.

5 Felicite et Perpetue

Moving on we pass the spot where I planted a number of Yuccas – I think Y.gloriosa, gathered as truncheons from a friend’s garden. Like magnolias, the flowers are fleshy and bruise easily and must be captured at just the right moment to display their full beauty.

6 Yucca flower

I picked one from the huge candelabra and laid it down on the mown grass to photograph.

7 Yucca flower 2

We turn up the Beech Borders where several pink roses, including huge arching bushes of ‘Isphahan’,  are gorgeously scented and appealing, although not at their best after days of soft rain. Details on this rose will have to follow.

Beech Borders

Two roses I did manage to take detailed shots of – the first is ‘Mme Ernest Calvat’ who also featured in the previous post.

Mme Ernest Calvat

The second is one of the most beautiful of the striped roses, ‘Variegata di Bologna’, a Bourbon  which sported in 1909 from a rose called ‘Victor Emmanuel’; I can’t help wondering if there is a logical link between the Italian King and the Italian city  which these two roses are named after… Apparently it sometimes reverts to the solid dark violet of the old king. I shall keep an eye out.

Variegata di Bologna

I visit ‘Cardinal Hume’ which I have been meaning to photograph for days after telling about giving him to my cousin. He is rather squashed for such a high ranking cleric, by both the heavenly ‘Angels’ Fishing Rod’ (Diarama) and the rather more earthy, not to say brazen, Rose Campion or Lychnis Coronaria.  However she wears her glad rags with no less dignity than he his ecclesiastical purple, and they make a fine couple despite what ‘some people’ might say…

Cardinal Hume & Co.

At the end of the walk I sat down on the seat below the spreading branches of the pin oak overlooking the Makou Dam and whilst I was on the phone I kept an eye on the fish rising and the dogs cavorting all around me.

8 From under the oak

Often these last days it has rained and photo opportunities were quick dashes out the door – or even through the windows. In the process The Ellensgate Garden – close to the house – received special attention.

Ellensgate roses

10 Ellensgate from steps

In the foreground is ‘Maria Callas’, after nearly 50 years still one of the great pink Hybrid Teas, with ‘Bewitched’ growing inside the Ellensgate Garden. A rose with a cast iron constitution, it inherited much from  its parent, ‘Queen Elizabeth’, including its towering stature. Also growing  here, now in its second summer, is what I suspect to be the 1840s rambler ‘Russeliana’ which gives some repeat flowering. If it has a weakness it is a tendency for the flowers to age and die in the truss to a dull grey. I much prefer its more romantic name: ‘Souvenir de la Bataille de Marengo’, but I am pleased I don’t have to remember it by that name! The Nicotiana elata in the garden are, with the exception of one packet of ‘Limelight’ bought from Thompson & Morgan in the 90s, all descended from plants grown by a dear old friend, many years departed, in her garden in the 40s-70s; my mother always referred to them as ‘Mrs Swartses’ and they are by far the most valuable self-seeders in my gardens: easy, willing, and manageable with a colour range through white to deep plums, purples, reds and pinks, and an ability to chose their colours serendipitously to match or support nearby flowers…

9 Ellensgate from livingroom

It is too long since I photographed the Ellensgate Garden from the formal lounge, especially as it was designed to reflect the proportions of that room, with its windows as wide as the bay, and its width identical to the room’s, all aligned exactly. This photo proves yet again that the junipers which flank the start of the axis from the front door have grown too large, but I am scared of losing their graceful naturalness to hard pruning. Sooner or later I will have to take the plunge.

One last pic: the living room is flooded with scent from the roses on the roll-top desk Louis picked this morning: Harmonie, Maria Callas, Bewitched and Oklahoma.

Roses in the house


‘Tis the season of the rose… Many of mine are once flowering old-fashioned types, others are so tatty by the end of summer that they hardly have a leaf left. Mine is not the perfect climate for roses, and my adapt or die attitude does not make it easy for them. But after months in which I doubted the sanity of growing roses by the hundred, propagating them from seed and cuttings, owning shelves of books on them and generally being more than a little obsessive about them, I am once again overwhelmed…

Jacques Cartier
Jacques Cartier by the dozen

Intoxicated by their scent, I am pleased I planted a dozen cutting grown Jacques Cartiers outside The Plett – a typically high-shouldered Portland which does brilliantly with me.

Anniversary Garden

Despite having lost well over half the roses planted in the Anniversary Garden, it is still possible to take an impressive picture there – the deep gold is ‘South Africa’ (KORberbeni, marketed in other countries as ‘Golden Beauty’) The pale one is the David Austin rose ‘Molineaux’.

Aunty Corrie

Then there are the two nameless roses I received from two favourite aunts who live 1400km apart. They are very similar, but definitely different. Both are heavily perfumed, tend to suckering and long whippy growth and are once-flowering. I would describe them as Centifolias of obvious Gallica parentage, but can do no better. Aunty Corrie, pictured above and below, is a rich fuchsia pink with a silvery sheen to the reverse of the petals, and it darkens to a lovely rich pink. In fact, the colour ‘old rose’ seems to have been invented for this rose.

Aunty Corrie 2

Any help in identifying them will be hugely appreciated! Aunty May is a slightly smaller rose,  a little paler, with narrower petals and  less robust in growth, but she also darkens with age. Here she is below.

Aunty May Aunty May 2

The next rose I can identify with certainty. She is Mme Ernest Carvat and was introduced to the world by the widow Schwartz in 1888 after sporting from Mme Isaac Pereire. Bourbon climbers, they are two of the most beautifully scented roses in the world. I have several of the darker pink Mme Isaac Pereires, having grown them from cuttings, but I lost my two original plants.

Mme  Ernest Calvat

The next two I truly believe I grew from seed. The first I named ‘Mothertjie’, my pet name for my mom, adding the Afrikaans diminutive. It is a slightly remontant rambler and I grow it through a tree at the water lily pond. It featured in a recent post – here the photo is again.


And here the close-up – a pretty rose with textured pink on white colour and a creamy-yellow towards the centre.


The other seed raised rose intrigues me no end – especially as I can only assume it was seed-raised. It looks as though it will be a tall many stemmed shrub, although it might prefer to be a climber; it has reddish pink flowers and the new growth is beautifully dark. I will be watching it carefully for it might be a winner.

seedling at guestroom seedling at guestroom 2

‘Penelope’ possibly the best of the Pemberton Musk roses, is another I have raised successfully from cuttings. Then I decided some years ago to plant The Mothers’ Garden with only ‘Penelope’ – and over two years struck not one cutting successfully! So now we have other plans there.


Growing away lustily in the New Old Rose Garden (read more here if you want to know how we came to move the roses) is Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ – in fact I wish a few more of these roses would grow as well… this is their first full summer in their new site and we lost several more roses over winter, as well as seen several to be slow to get going after the winter.

Rosa Geranium

Rosa geranium 2

Lastly we have one of the great curiosities of the rose world: Rosa moschata, the Musk Rose or Common Moss Rose, growing alongside Freddie’s Dam. Those are not thorns on the bud, but glands which when stroked release a musk-like fragrance. The flowers are beautifully and typically scented though.

Common Moss

Whilst in Johannesburg we spent many happy hours in my cousin’s garden where there are more beautiful and interesting roses than I’ve seen anywhere in South Africa. When we left she gave us 6 roses waiting to be planted. And when Louis refused to let me buy petrol I bought him 3 more at Ludwig’s. A double bargain for me, I’d say! Here they await planting, which happened today.

Waiting to be planted

Oh – and I bought Rosa rubrifolia (syn R. glauca) for myself, having managed to get one I raised from imported seed to not die over 15 years… and I bought my cousin one too, as well as a Cardinal Hume which I consider to be one of the loveliest of roses. Rosa rubrifolia is my all-time favourite foliage plant – it stands in the foreground with its steel-blue leaves and wine-red stems and young growth.

Ellensgate with roses

This photo of the Ellensgate Garden with the mauve-pink rambler on the opposite side – another of my mystery plants – somehow didn’t make it into the story. And lastly, my little storm story. I add it in sympathy for the millions who suffered under Sandy, not just at the time, but who face the heart-  and back-breaking task of clearing up… we lost just two major branches off one of our oldest trees in a storm earlier this week and it was a mission to clear. How much worse is the process for all these people!

After the storm



What better way to overcome my mid-holiday inertia – after meeting deadlines at school and with our first edition of the magazine, before welcoming visitors staying in the cottages over Christmas – than with my on-going saga: Part 4 of THE ROSE AND I. More specifically: with this photograph of a rose reviving when I had come to think that there was little chance of this happening.

Dorothy Perkins survives

The rose in question is Cecile Brunner, ‘the sweetheart rose’, which bears its tiny hybrid tea shaped blooms on a tall and robust (in fact, it seems, indestructible) bush. At nearly 3m after being cut back for the transplanting in the New Old Rose Garden, this was the giant amongst the transplants. But I watched the green recede from its twigs as they shrivelled… all but two of them. Then one. And suddenly yesterday whilst inspecting the roses after a week of continuous rain, I found this twig covered in new leaves. Not only that –six or more young shoots had sprung from the thick grey main stem! Cecile Brunner had become the third rose to recover from what seemed certain death!

Louis and Taubie

Rejuvenated by that discovery, I paged through the meagre pickings of the last weeks’ photos. There had simply been no time to indulge in photography. And here follows what I came up with for my final post for 2011. Above – Louis and Taubie, of whose relationship I am both jealous and proud, under the water oak at The House that Jack Built, with the last of Felicite et Perpetue’s blooms behind them. This was taken during the week he arrived in late November, when a quick afternoon walk was all he could savour of the new life on the farm. For the rest we were heads down in the office, working on the magazine. Soon you will be able to see the results – I will post on the magazine early in the new year.

New Dawn at the waterlily pond

At the waterlily pond New Dawn was spectacular this year, flowering fortissimo for weeks on end. She will flower all summer, although  not with such force. It must be six years since I planted a cutting to grow up into a young tree, and this year we saw a mature display. One of the decisions of the summer, a spectacular year for roses on the mountain, was that we should plant climbing roses in many more places.

Mothers' Garden from arboretum

Probably the biggest projectfor 2012 will be the Mothers’ Garden above the steps in the above photo, taken on another of our November walks. I first posted about that garden here, but it seems as though the design is changing from the original. Louis and I are looking forward to spending time working on the design together during the coming days. Oh, and if the stoep (verandah) is looking a little cluttered: it is. Superimposing two households does not happen overnight, especially when there are magazine deadlines to be met! Winking smile

Dreaming of a wet Christmas

Christmas Eve – and with the deadlines met and guests in the cottages, we were dealing with set-in rain which left the bark of the big gum tree shining orange. Christmas lunch was supposed to be a picnic for 23 plus a tiny baby by the river. It was moved in plan B to The House that Jack Built where my cousin and her clan are staying… and then mercifully a plan C came into effect when some of the guests could not even reach the farm, and another cousin felt that the remnants of his flu should not be inflicted in an enclosed space on a six-month old. As the arrangement was that each family catered for themselves, it was quite simple for the party to break into three – and so there were only ‘us four oldies’ for Christmas…

Yellow seedling dahlia

On the whole we’ve not had good weather for visitors, although everyone who has stayed has enjoyed chilling and no-one has complained of the weather. Our most constant sunshine has been this soft (for a dahlia) yellow plant right in front of the stoep. It is one of several that survived from a tray of ‘annual dahlias’ some ten years ago, gradually taking on more typically dahlia qualities as their bulbs matured. I assume that the originals had been hormone treated to get them to flower as tiny tiny plants… any comments or further info, anyone?

Stephan's rose

But this is a rose post. Steph’s Rose is a seedling, one of two I grew myself and named and planted in honour of a very dear friend and colleague who died of a brain tumour several years ago. They too were moved to the New Old Rose Garden, as they are slight little plants, but just like Steph did, they put up a brave fight and flower enthusiastically and seem to appreciate their new home.

Duet with Canna IMG_4829

This is Duet, looking even gawkier than she normally does on a bush that nearly didn’t survive the transplant, but a beautiful pink none the less. With her is a canna which survived from remnants when the ground was cleared, and which, unlike most cannas, makes an excellent foil for the roses with its soft colouring and bronzy foliage. It will be encouraged and divided, the first conscious (if accidental!) underplanting in the New Old Rose Garden…


In looking for an archive pic ( having run out of recent pics with which to end the year) the word ‘underplanted’ reminded me of this one from the heyday of the Rondel Garden. I published it to Mooseys with the following caption back in 2006: The garden was not designed to be looked at through the fence but this shot works! Mutabilis centre back, Genl Gallieni to its right. Rugosas and Hydrangya serrata underplanted with Tradescantia virginiana and the self-sown spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) However I would like to end on something more festive and so – here is a bouquet to the change-over of the years. May 2012 be a good one for us all! Cheers!



Mrs Oakley Fisher

I walked into the office an hour late this morning. I decided that tidying-up would be a priority – but only after I had posted to my blog. I fired up my computer and the internet instantly came alive. Life is good.

You see – on Monday, at some expense to install it, we went onto wireless broadbandish internet, which we need to run the business. And yesterday we signed off the first edition of the magazine, which is looking good. And of course it is already a week since my teaching career was over.

But the joy to share on my blog this morning was the realisation during the week that one of the sturdy roses that survived transplanting was my beloved Mrs Oakley Fisher. And I took this picture on Wednesday to share with you.