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

A CONSTANT JOY

Summer sunset

Misty rain

Much of my enjoyment of the garden has of late been ‘in passing’, but that has made it no less intense. It is looking magnificent, and we have had beautiful weather, the air clear so that the mountains are etched by day and the stars spangled by night. Though sunny it has not been too warm and the wind chimes, which have beautifully true notes, have constantly and gently tinkled. In high summer the sun sets down the valley rather than across it, and watching the side-lighting over drinks is always a joy. But since last night it has rained, and we are promised several wet days. I was out in the garden yesterday as the sun set and the clouds rolled in from the east. It made for stunning light…

Approaching storm

Rosemary Terrace - approaching storma

I also recently discovered the camera on my phone can be voice operated, which means no clumsy finding of the shutter with the camera held above your head to get the best composition. Result: some new and interesting angles along the Rosemary Terrace and across the Mothers’ Garden.

Across Mothers' Garden

Deloitte and Touche, the rose I chose for the Mothers’ Garden, is perfectly matched by the canna I was given by cousin Audrey growing in the New Old rose Garden across the hedge. In fact it is due to be planted in the Mothers’ Garden as well now – even if I might never see the result…

Deloitte and Touche Audrey's canna

I’ve just been out into a misty dusk to try to get detailed pics; far from perfect, but they tell the tale.

Along the Upper Rosemary Border

Back to yesterday’s pics. Rudbeckias are becoming ubiquitous self-sowers. I need to remove several from among the Deloitte and Touche, but on the whole I love the smiling in-your-face cheerfulness with which they deploy around the garden.

Sunset light behind house

I’m finding the gardens around the big lawn, with their various differing structures squaring it off, more and more satisfying. The tweaking of these spaces has been the major garden achievement of the last few years.

Big House across lawn

And so, with a look at last night’s storm racing towards the sun, I sign off on this Sunday evening.

The storm races in

SANCTUARY– OR SHRINE, CHAPEL, TEMPLE; EVEN CATHEDRAL

temple

Thirty odd years ago my father planted an avenue of pin oaks. Those next to the road I gardened under. The further row I worked around. It seemed rather meaningless to me to plant a double avenue next to a road as opposed to either side of it. But the oaks grew tall and straight and stately and then recently I walked there with a friend who said: why not remove from between them these dead and meaningless trees, compost heaps and (yes!) an ancient tennis court roller and open up this cathedral-like space?

temple 2

Immediately I pictured a glass roof on tall thin insubstantial art nouveau metal columns, a perfect wedding chapel under the oaks. And then imagined the logistics of cars and toilets messing it all up… But recently the dream was transformed. Not a wedding chapel, but a more private shrine. A place of meditation and retreat. Right next to my beloved totally natural grove of ouhout trees and wild grasses, which form a chancel at the end. (I’ve just looked up that word, dredged from the bottom of my memory; it is the right one and comes from the Latin meaning ‘lattice work’… Winking smile)

Abigail Monty

I have been there often of late, accompanied by my two remaining dogs, now much closer than they ever where in the days when there were other dogs. Abigail, although going on 6 1/2, remains slim and svelte and busy. Her father Montgomery is now nearly 12 and his dark face is greying and his body blockish, but his tail remains scorpion-tall; Keith Richards, and the alpha male (dog or human) of the Cheerio Valley.

The House that Jack Built

Today’s late afternoon light gave a strangely flattened effect, but my Samsung phone takes amazing low-light photographs and I loved the unfamiliar takes on familiar subjects.

cannas reflected

Entrance fountain

Rosemary Terrace

The public entrance to the garden on the Rosemary Terrace was every bit as green and romantic as I ever hoped it to be… Welcome to my garden!

Entrance fountain and Rosemary Terrace

I SING OF SUMMER AND A BRIGHT NEW YEAR

Powder blue hydrangea

‘Christmas Roses’ is the Afrikaans name for hydrangeas, and what could sing more of full summer than these beautiful blues – this one in particular, as pure a blue as you are likely to find in the plant kingdom. I photographed it in what is at the moment one of my favourite parts of the garden – the swathe of varied blue hydrangeas at the end of the Beech axis.

Blue hydrangeas

Christmas was a beautiful day, with the predicted rain all but staying away, although the day was bracketed by rain. In fact the week to New year was WET. But Old Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were lovely and we had 12 people to lunch on the first in absolutely perfect weather.

blue and pink

Over the first days of the year the garden grew in beauty, and we now again have magnificent roses, 10 weeks after the hail.

Jacques Cartier

At ‘The Plett’ a swooning mass of over 20 Jacques Cartier roses we grew from cuttings is coming into full flower, but from just a few meters away a single gardenia bush gives them heady competition. And nearby the roses in Trudi’s Garden add their various interpretations of the scent of a rose…

Jacques Cartier close up

The Anniversary Garden, commemorating my parents’ golden anniversary, is looking lovely, if very different from the way I pictured it 10 years ago…

Golden Anniversary Garden

South Africa

And around the garden the cannas, against expectations a few weeks ago, are close to as good as they were last year.

Cannas

One of the two self-seeded roses growing through Alfred’s Arches is in bud; in fact it looks as though it might be quite floriferous. But, puzzlingly and tantalisingly, it seems as though the buds – tiny and at best only semi-double – won’t open. For days I’ve been admiring these greenish pinkish whitish virgins. They aren’t aging and they aren’t opening…

 

Self-seeded rose

Cardinal Hume

When I planted the aptly named Cardinal Hume in the Upper Rosemary Border I was expecting him to be temperamental. He’s been slow, but each year he has improved and right now he is making a most impressive show. What is more Lychnis coronaria, about the only plant whose colour could more rightly be described as cardinal red, chose to self-seed right next to him. Not for the first time in my garden a quite mystical colour bond made plants chose to be companions…

Cardinal Hume and Lychnis coronaria

Desmond Tutu In case you don’t know Lychnis – it is the flower in the left foreground with grey leaves and stalks – quite a startlingly bright flower. But not quite as startlingly bright as our amazing octogenarian, the man who  warmed my heart most of all at Nelson Mandela’s funeral and himself a Nobel Peace Laureate: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. So why not include a picture of him? And what better way to wish us all: may 2014 be a blessed year of peace, joy, colour and energy!

MID SUMMER

midsummer shadows

After plenty of cloud cover, the sun has been shining a lot more of late, and on yesterday’s walk I was photographing in the golden light when I suddenly realised: our dinner guests were due in 5 minutes and I was  still on the opposite side of the valley… Today it was the midday shadows in the plantations that caught my eye. But then 12.07 noon on 21 December and 51km south of the Tropic of Capricorn (I know, I’ve just measured it on Google Earth) is about as close to the sun directly overhead as one is likely to get. Thus the above photo. And the one below.

Golden hour

Sunday morning – and last night was the shortest night of the year. Another perfect day today, as was yesterday, with a lingering sunset from friends’ west-facing terrace followed by a starry starry night. All of which is represented by this orange dahlia:

Orange dahlia

Seen here against my favourite foliage combination which has featured so often over the years…

Orange dahlia against my favourite foliage

Everywhere there are signs of the garden recovering after the hail, with the first roses in Trudi’s Garden starting to flower again, covered in buds and healthy foliage.

Trudi's Garden

The bank of hydrangeas in front of the old barn, knocked to bits by the hail, is flowering, although the flowers are not the huge heads of a really good year.

Hydrangeas  after the hail 10 Nov Hydrangeas recovering

Plants I considered discarding are recovering and soon will be ready for reconstructive surgery.

stripy accent plant

But the poor tree ferns will continue to look like well-used feather dusters this summer, although a little judicious pruning won’t do any harm!

Battered tree fern

High summer is the time of green. After plenty of gentle rain and lots of TLC from my wonderful staff, the last few walks were ripe with  the fullness of summer.

Beech Borders

Willow at the Lily pond

Freddie's dam panorama from wall

Almost natural - ouhout and grass and a few planted shrubs

Vitis vinifera

Vitis vinifera detail

The House that Jack Built reflected

Blue window, blue hydrangeas

THtJB

Big House across dam

Most beautiful of all the greens is a particularly green Gladiolus dalenii, our local wild gladiolus which tends to greenishness; I have over the years selected plants which stress the green, or are more brightly mottled red.

Green Gladiolus dalenii Green Gladiolus dalenii 2

I just love the limey greens of this plant, and the subtle contrast with the flower stalk.

Green Gladiolus dalenii 3

Here is one of the redder plants.

gladiolus dalenii  redder Redder gladiolus dalenii 3

Redder gladiolus dalenii 2

I can’t resist one last detail from this plant. Then I post, and go off on my Sunday afternoon walk. There are plenty more pics from the last days clamouring for a post…

Redder gladiolus dalenii 4

 

 

SPRING SENDS ITS STANDARD WELCOME

For 12 years I taught at Stanford Lake College down the road. Only one of those years did the children not shiver in their skimpy clothes on Spring Day, when they dressed up in ‘civvies’. Guess what.  2013 followed the pattern.  After a balmy August and a mild winter, there was serious frost over the weekend.  And so the first azaleas got frosted.  And recovered…

4

I, meanwhile, have been busy busy busy for tomorrow the magazine goes to press and the day after the map we publish annually. I should not even be writing this right now. But jaded by work, I called the boys and the dogs and we went for a delightful walk amongst the blossoms and flowers. Blossoms featured here recently, and besides photos were not part of this walk..

3

But I taught the boys to smell the flowers, so they tend to rush up to a camellia, crush their noses into it, look disappointed and announce: ‘no smell!’ Most of the flowers at this time of the year, winter flowers, are scented, and they became our theme today.

5

In these photos we have two scented viburnums, one pink, one white. The white I should know but don’t now have the time to research, the pink is V. x bodnantiensis; both are rough, scraggly shrubs whose chief glory is their scented winter flowers. The dirty blue is our harbinger of heat, Buddleja salvifolia, an endemic shrubs which fills the air on warm days at this time of year with the  honey scent typical of buddleias from around the world.

1 2

Meanwhile the exuberant boys decided when the phone-camera came out that it was time for funny faces… Oh.  And Taubie, my x Bull Terrier who was with me for 14 years last month, has refused the last four invitations to a walk. Today it was warm and sunny, and I could see she was tempted, but her ears drew back apologetically and she turned back at the front steps…  I read that my gardening friend Mark’s beautiful Fletcher dog now takes his walks in San Francisco  from the comfort of a wheelbarrow. Taubie would panic if I were to suggest that. SmileTwice a day now I thank her for coming into my life.

I FEEL LIKE WINTER

Life seems drab. But scratch a little, look a little more carefully, and the little things will tell you: there are things happening, and change is upon us…

Winter at Freddie's Dam

Freddie’s Dam, with The House that Jack Built – THtJB – just over to the right. All these pics were taken with my new phone: a Samsung S4 with a camera whose specs make my Canon SLR look like something from the ark.

Everlastings seem quite bright against the colours of winter

Considering that I’m still getting to know the instrument and its camera,  I’m pretty happy. (Actually ‘device’ seems to be the fashionable word for an object that does many divergent things, including making phone calls.)

Oak avenue

Happy, that is, with the pics but also with how instinctive its use is. I think it is the first time in over 10 years that I’ve liked a new phone from the day I got it. And as for my last phone, the not yet late but unlamented bbb (bloody blackberry) – I never took to it!

Alfred's Arches, the Japanese Walk, the entrance to the Anniversary Garden and the Ellensgate Garden in winter

I’m particularly enjoying the camera’s wider format (and lens), best illustrated with this shot, a composition I’ve walked past a million times and never noticed, and looking great in the low afternoon light. To the right the Abelia ‘Francis Mason’ hedge in front of the Ellensgate Garden, to the left Alfred’s Arches add a new dimension to the concept ‘shabby-chic’ and  beyond them lies the Anniversary Garden with its wisteria pergola and reed fence reached along the Japanese Walk.

Primulas in pot

Finally, lets play out on the vibrant winter colour from the primulas outside the front door – a huge success, I think!

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

HOME AGAIN

After two weeks on Samaria, my cousins’ farm which is today part of the Mapungubwe Nature Reserve and World Heritage Site, the (very excited) dogs and I took a late afternoon walk when we arrived home.

Aloes after the frost

Observation no 1: there has been frost, and it has done damage… (collapsed aloes x 3  in foreground, returned 4×4 with borrowed caravan in background)

Observation no 2: there are still signs of autumn about: Cornus florida with a bud promising new life in spring. Most photos were taken on auto, with flash, although it was not yet 6 pm; the  winter solstice is upon us…

Cornus florida in June

Observation no 3: it is easy to say it is winter, and I’m told last night the frost was HEAVY, although I was comfortable in short sleeves still at 5pm.

Red plane in June

For my friend Jo, whom I owe a letter: the red plane, with a waxing moon behind it and below, a fallen leaf.

Red plane leaves in June

The walk was about the dogs; below Monty – growing white in the whiskers – tries for once to blend in unobtrusively in a patch of fallen leaves.

Monty among the leaves

The rear approach to the Beech Borders, below, with a  semi-circle of lime trees planted as a hedge, and accidentally interspersed with witchazel (an amusing mistake) forming a backdrop to the beech tree.  This is a picture which needs near winter conditions and flash lighting to differentiate the elements. It is one of the most self-consciously contrived and classical effects in the garden and I love it.

Beech Borders from rear entrance

But I think I must end with a picture from my vacation – a sight as far from a contrived garden as can possibly be imagined: a pair of giraffe passing in front of a baobab tree.

Giraffe on Samaria