The new beginning

For anyone wishing to continue following my blogging – here is my new site address:¬† ūüėē‚ėļ



Four months have passed since my last post; although it was not intended as a final chapter, it made an appropriate one. This is my 401st post, written after six years and some days of blogging. Officially it will be my last, although with the new owners of Sequoia Gardens we are planning a joint blog to cross-refer and edit from this blog, so I will in due course post a link; they have decided to continue letting the cottages, and so a marketing tool makes sense.

Late autumn at The House that Jack Built

Soon this will again be my ‘home’ on Sequoia, for I shall stay here as a visitor. It is three years since I put Sequoia Gardens on the market, nine months since the buyers appeared on the scene, but only now have we finalised the sale. Much has happened in the meantime.

My silence for so long was mainly due to my return to teaching. I helped out at Stanford Lake College, my old school 10 minutes away, for a term. Here are a few of the many shots I took as autumn turned to winter in this beautiful setting.

SLC autumn

SLC winter

slc MORNING SLC sillouettes¬†As I started at SLC, I learnt that I would teach from¬† July at Mitchell House, a very different but very lovely private school in Polokwane, 65km (40 miles) away. At that stage I was well on my way to purchasing a house in our local village,¬†which I consider my home town, and the plan was to commute. I bought a Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion and twice have managed to achieve 4l/100km (58.8mpg) on my 65km run to work! I don’t mind the commute, but any teacher knows that there is always grading to be done at home – and I am losing 10 hours per week to travelling. Almost on a whim last Friday afternoon I popped into an estate agent in Polokwane. On Monday I saw my new home and by the time we returned to Sequoia late on Tuesday, my offer had been accepted. Next¬†Sunday I prepare to start camping out in my new home during the week. After fixing this home, it ¬†will have cost me 25% less than the Haenertsburg home fixed, and will be a much more saleable asset. Thus three years of limbo start drawing to a close…

What are the gardening implications of this move? Small¬†courtyard gardens in a much less kind climate; all very low maintenance but¬†attractive within¬†the limitations. Few of my plants in the greenhouse¬†will make the transition to the new home.¬†There is a borehole and a sophisticated automatic irrigation system, which adds to the lock-up-and-go quality of the property, and the front courtyard and pavement are well loved and beautifully shady¬†– in fact on one side the pavement garden extends three meters across the neighbours’ property. Here it is, with my dirt-road-dirty Polo in the driveway.

New home

Street and entrance courtyard planting

As you can see, the front courtyard is well treed. Excessively so, and we will thin out the palms and unfortunately one of the best white-barked leopard trees, as the 4×4 and caravan need to be parked here. However thinning is needed, and only the one tree will be mourned. Most rooms open out onto the inner courtyard, where there is a small pool, some paving and planting boxes, and a small lawn for the dogs’ pleasure. I see fuchsias in hanging baskets in the side alleyway that the kitchen and living rooms look back onto, some roses¬†added and¬†a rather formal Moorish inspired tinkling ¬†fountain, but the bulk of¬†the planting needs to be hot-climate shade-lovers under the existing canopies.

And what about the future of Sequoia Gardens? Way back in December last year I posted the following:

Amaya's Rose

Take note of the windowsill just showing in the¬†above picture. It is¬†of ‚ÄėSequoia Rose‚Äô growing outside the guest room. I have often written about it. I dedicate this picture to a young lady, turned one this week, whose bedroom this will hopefully one-day become. She crawled purposefully towards the open window, pulled herself up against the burglar bars and tried to pick a bloom. I helped her, then put it in her hair. A real picture moment, but a camera was not handy.

Cuttings of the Sequoia Rose will go with us to Polokwane…







How appropriate, these three together!

Moraea spathulata

In 35 years I have never seen the most iris-like of all South African irises, Moraea spathulata on Sequoia. I have seen it 300m away on my neighbours’ property. I have often seen it on The Mountain, but never here. And then last week – there it was, flowering right next to a road on the farm. At last!

Farewell Gub

There are two people I consider to be my gardening mentors. One was our first foreman, Phineas Magwale. The other was our neighbour, creator of a beautiful garden and Wegraakbosch Nursery РGub Turner. We would arrive on the farm, 30 years ago, and at least twice fill the car with plants from her nursery; the first loads for the farm, the last for the garden in Johannesburg. Copious cups of tea, and much talk of plants and gardening, and I would leave with my head spinning. We said farewell to her on Monday. She passed 3 days before her 91st birthday. Her family spent hours lovingly creating the flower arrangement on the altar, with a photo of her in her youth, and the stick with which she took her daily walk till the last weeks of her life. Fare ye well, Gub!


Sequoia Gardens is all but sold, and the next home bought. This coming week we will sign the documents to set the processes in motion. Officially my gardening days are over. The new house has no garden, only some lawn cut by the local gardening contractor. In theory I intend to keep it much like that, focusing my energies elsewhere. But the reality is that for the past 18 months we have been striking cuttings in preparation for the next garden, and my greenhouse is filled to overflowing. This is the sight I looked out on this morning… To garden or not to garden; that is the question.

A full greenhouse


My oldest friend, almost my twin, and her family spent a weekend recently with us on Sequoia Gardens. They had come to spread her mom’s ashes where they had spread her dad’s two years earlier, but also for her sons to be reacquainted with the farm and many childhood memories, and their families to¬†get to know¬†it. No greater tribute to my father and my dedication – not to mention that of our staff – over 35 years can be paid than to see the experience through her lens…

Thank you, Lynette!

And now I must pick a pic to add to this post…

Ons loop die pad tesame.


Or perhaps this one – The Mothers’ Garden, to commemorate Louis’ and my mother. I didn’t even tell you of that. And now it will commemorate yours too.



As the next stage of my life inches closer – or, as it sometimes feels, speeds down upon me – I realise that it is well over a month since my last post. Here is a fleeting report on the state of the nation. It is less chaotic here than in the South African parliament. ūüôā

mid-summer lushness

Thus Endeth the Holiday Season


There was the promise of rain in thar cloud,  but depending on one’s point of view, none was forthcoming. I could hear it, I could smell it. I could even see it fall and see it on the water 80m away. But here where I sat on the veranda – nothing. As near a miss as you can find.:)


To my amusement a google image search of the above title – in Afrikaans as “Studie in Blou” – led me first to my own blog post from 2012. But so ingrained in me¬†is the image of Pierneef’s painting by this name, that I had to link it to today’s post…

A field of irises

A strange iris, that seems to form its flowers from the leaves, is suddenly in flower. They tend to do this – nothing for weeks, and then a flood together, as though they have discussed it in advance.

Iris detail

Blogging about it has forced me to identify it – and the miracle of google (“blue iris flowers on leaves”) led me in no time to Neomarica caerulea¬† – the blue Walking Iris; it is described as a subtropical species from Paraguay and¬†Brazil. However Davesgarden contains several comments from people who attest to its hardiness – and that indeed is a necessity here, for it flowers in a cold area near the water with regular¬†heavy frosts on winter¬†nights.

Iris closer detail 21

It is one of the most spectacular flowers in our garden…

But a Study in Green is fast becoming a more typical description for the gardens at Sequoia.¬† After a dry November, we have measured over 130mm in December, with half the days to date recording over 10mm. When this morning dawned sunny I was there with my camera, capturing the weight of green on the thankful trees, shrubs and lawn. The morning mist rising off the water delineates the layers of planting and¬†accentuate my father’s avenue of Sequoias at the top of the arboretum – not to mention the¬†impressive gums which already¬†towered over the felled pine forest when the rest of the hill was but a dream back in 1997.

High summer dawn


Only one day so far in December with more than 40 views, and no-one to blame but myself. Rule number one is ‘Blog regularly’ and it is more than three weeks since my last post. And that with my material waiting to be used…

Self-sown rose

First up is the great fascination Рand disappointment Рof this summer: not one but three self-sown roses, all of which have buds that never opened. I  posted on this rose, growing over a rosemary bush in the Rosemary Borders, at the end of last autumn, but ascribed its unwillingness to open to the lateness of the season. I was wrong.

Self-sown rose aging

Here it is a week later. The little flower-spider (did you notice it?) long gone and some of the buds chewed by goggos (bugs) – and one bud making a concerted effort to open… It got no further. I find it interesting that three self-sown roses are near identical, some lighter, some darker,¬†and all have flowers that don’t open. Never heard of this before.

New Dawn buds

Next up is the easiest of roses from cuttings, the vigorous climber¬†‘New Dawn’. It’s pale pink buds fade to near white, and growing into a thicket next to the water lily pond, it carried literally hundreds of blooms, and will continue to flower all summer. It is followed below by some shots of the neighbours.¬†New Dawn at the Waterlily Pond

Yellow and pink water lilies.

Yellow water liles.

One of the great modern classics, and named after the man who dominated the National Trust gardens during the 80s and 90s РGraham Stuart Thomas, bred by David Austin. He has proved a stalwart in my garden!

Graham stuart Thomas

Down in The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe two ‘Tausendschons’ grow into trees – a Prunus purpurea is the perfect foil to the slightly mauvey pink flowers, and on the other side of the garden the beautiful stems of Pride-of-India play host to the blooms. But as the leaves become denser, the repeat flowering – if indeed it happens – tends to go unnoticed. Which makes the surprise in spring so delightful. But perhaps someday, as has happened in other parts of the garden, the roses will grow through the trees and drape themselves happily on the outsides instead of skulking in the shadows.

Tausendschon in a Prunus purpurea

Tausendschon in a Pride of India

Tausendschon in a Pride of India 3

We move back to near the waterlilies – that is them just visible below at the end of the axis. We are looking down the Beech Borders where for a few weeks in November and into December the old¬†pink Damask rose, ‘Ispahan’ (from which I believe¬†Attar of Roses is made in Bulgaria), scents the air. The paler rose near the centre is again ‘New Dawn’. In the next photo we are looking up from right near the waterlilies.The Beech BordersThe Beech Borders from below

And here¬† is ‘Ispahan’ in all its rich dishevelment!


So far ‘Graham Stuart Thomas’ is the only rose here we did not grow from cuttings or seed. Here is one more – and the last: the magnificent Hybrid Tea ‘Just Joey’.

Just Joey

‘Jacques Cartier’ one year struck beautifully from cuttings – there are over 30 plants massed outside ‘The Plett’ and their scent often wafts all the way to the big house, for this mid-19th century¬†Portland rose is a repeat flowerer. Below that, a detail shot.

Jacques Cartier at the Plett

Jacques Cartier at the Plett 2

Struck from a cutting by a friend, ‘Veilchenblau’ the first ‘blue’ rose, was introduced over a century ago. A rambler, it strikes easily and I must take cuttings to take into my new life.


Aunty Corrie’s Rose is propagated from runners rather than cuttings. Its scent and colour and general robustness are magnificent, but unfortunately it flowers for only a few weeks. I have never been able to identify it and name it for my aunt from whose garden nearby here it first came. It is almost certainly¬†an old rose, predating 20th century Hybrid Teas and Floribundas.

Aunty Corrie Rose

Take note of the windowsill just showing in the last picture. It is¬†of ‘Sequoia Rose’ growing outside the guest room. I have often written about it. I dedicate this picture to a young lady, turned one this week, whose bedroom this will hopefully one-day become. She crawled purposefully towards the open window, pulled herself up against the burglar bars and tried to pick a bloom. I helped her, then put it in her hair. A real picture moment, but a camera was not handy…

Amaya's Rose