First walk of autumn

It was only on Sunday afternoon that I got to taking the dogs on a long exploratory walk. The mission: to determine what advances autumn had made during the month I was away. Already, on waking on Friday morning, I was surprised at how cool it was; especially after braving 36 degrees of heat in Cape Town only days before.


I maintain that the first subtle signs of changes in leaf colour happen by mid Feb, by mid March autumn gets going and mid April to mid May it is at its peak. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that the above sights greeted me on 17 March: a birch in full autumn glory!


It was not the only example of Look at Me Now! Here a dogwood struts its stuff as only a dogwood can. I think it is Cornus sanguinea, but I’ve always had my doubts about these small shrubby trees which I grew from seed I imported nearly 20 years ago. As it has never flowered for me, identification is difficult.

Cornus florida

The beautiful little pagoda-like buds identify Cornus florida, as do the bright colour of early leaves against the still fresh green of others.

Acer rubra

Quieter, but lovely, are two trees we bought together as Acer rubra; I have no reason to doubt this, except that they lack the autumn drama and staying power they are known for in other parts of the world. In addition the one tends to yellow rather than red autumn colour. They are planted meters apart.

Yellow leaved acer rubra

Oh (and I won’t say this too often) – one can see we’ve had a harsh summer with several hail storms and plenty of wind. Or is it just that the battered leaves are the first to give up on life?

Lovely leaves

I’m darned if I know what these lovely leaves belong to – a viburnum? It is one of a mix of seed-raised plants in what I call my hedgerow. Bit of thinking and research needed here…

Red Plane

We are back a little beyond where the very first photo was taken. One of my most interesting trees grows here, and soon I will again try cuttings for my friend Jo… It is a plane tree, but instead of turning yellow its leaves turn red. I found it amongst hundreds of other quite normal planes at a wholesale nursery at about this time of year. Last summer it took a bit of a knock when a huge old pine fell and caught some of its branches, but it has thrived this past summer…

Red plane detail

It is one of the first trees to show definite colour change in mid Feb; here it is in mid March and it has staying power till mid May – longer than any other tree!

There are other pics from this walk, and subsequent ones. More summery, less autumnal. But this pic from the end of the walk, warm light reflected after sunset from a bank of clouds to the south-east, is a good place to end off for now.

Reflected evening light

50 photos; and here endeth May

I use the Biblical language with care – the beauty of May has been an almost religious experience. And on one walk during these last days I took 177 photos, which I whittled down to 50 to choose from for the next two posts. And of them I guess 40 will make it onto the blog. Comments will be brief, or I will never get done…

1 Panorama ocross Makou Dam

I will start with a selection in which the gables of the big house are noticeable – note that here you can see both in the reflection, but only one through the foliage.

2 House from arboretum

Here is a similar angle but from up in the arboretum. Look at the mauve azaleas with profuse autumn flowers that are a wonderful addition  to the autumn reds and yellows.

3 Garden from arboretum

More autumn detail, more mauve – and if you look on the very edge in the middle of the right-hand side of the frame you can just see the left side of a gable through the foliage!

4 Panorama from arboretum

Another panorama, with a young beech in the centre – beeches are highly treasured rarities in South Africa, and I’ll never forget an Austrian friend describing the germinating beeches being like fleas on a dog’s back as the snows melted!

5 Panorama of house and garden from arboretum

Save the best for last – this photo gives a pretty clear indication of the state of things; despite there being flowers out, and plenty of autumn colour around still, the frosts have knocked the cannas and the lawns. The Upper Rosemary Border always looks good at this time, as autumn highlights the various shrubs growing there. More of that anon.

6 Mauve azaleas

The mauve azaleas – lightly scented and almost completely deciduous – are worthy of a close-up… and then some!

7 Mauve azaleas

‘Evergreen’ azaleas aren’t usually noted for their autumn colour, but many loose some leaves or have leaves which take on rich tones in the cold. They add immeasurably to the beauty of late autumn.

8 autumn azalea

The paler the flower, the yellower the leaf; the darker, the redder…

10 White azalea 9 Magenta azalea

Many trees and shrubs have lost most leaves, but those that cling on often turn richer shades than earlier stars, which faded before the cold became more intense.

11 Last of the liquidamber

There is more sunlight reaching the remaining leaves too – here the five-fingered Liquidambar styraciflua.  And since counting fingers has become a bit of a pre-occupation, below is Croft Cottage against the three-fingered Liquidambar formosana, a late bloomer that with luck will glow into July, and a detail of the tree below that.

12 Croft Cottage

13 Mateczka exhausted

Well OK, not really a detail, but hopefully you can see the three-fingered leaves. And the fact that these trees along Park Lane, the motor road up the arboretum, are only just turning. And Mateczka who, having covered kilometres dashing away on the walk, is now parked off in the sun waiting for me to get a move-on!

14 Japanese maple

Continuing the fingered theme, the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) has seven – sometimes five – fingers; here is the tree on the edge of the lawn, which has an unusually uniform rich red colour.

16 Chinese maple detail 15 Chinese maple - end of Rosemary Terrace

Our three-fingered maple, by choice and sheer force of s/weedlings, is the Chinese maple or Acer buergeranum. Dare I say that its autumn colour can be even more impressive than the Japanese maple’s, although it never achieves the same grace of form. Below an avenue of Chinese maples cross the official entrance into the garden where Flora’s Path passes  by the end of the Rosemary Terrace.

17 Bottom end of Upper Rosemary Terrace

Rose heps – and the final roses – also add autumn colour to this last bit of the Upper Rosemary Border which forms part of the New Old Rose Garden. Below, hiding behind the greenery in the shade of the Chinese maples is a Japanese Maple of great beauty, tucked into much too small a space…

18 Japanese Maple lower end of Upper Rosemary Border

In fact, I think it is worthy of a close-up:


Let us step back now for a change of theme, to the furthest end of the Rosemary Terrace. No photo I’ve ever taken makes its name so abundantly clear as this one.

20 Rosemary Terrace

Have I mentioned? Mateczka does dash-dash-roll and Taubie, the old girl with the gammy leg, does plod? But loves the walk even more than do the other dogs!  What appears to be solid rosemary on the left is in fact interspersed with a  wide variety of shrubs, annuals and herbaceous perennials. (Go back to the photo of the house from the arboretum.)

21 Autumn in the Upper rosemary Terrace

Here, seen across some rosemary, is flax, oak-leaved hydrangea, berberis and abelia, with the Chinese maples in the background. Below is the marigold which featured in my previous post – now thoroughly snuffed, but still architectural.

22 Autumn in the Upper rosemary Terrace 2

And to end Part 1, a photo from the beginning of the walk – the upper side of the Upper Rosemary Border near the steps.

23 Upper Rosemary Border


Beech borders

The Beech Borders: so named because they lead down across the lily-pond, across the valley and up the cutting through the poplars where the blue hydrangeas are massed on the axis from the biggest of our beech trees. Under the beech there’s a bench looking down these borders, and behind the tree a semi-circle of what was envisaged as pleached limes. Currently they are sapling-like lime trees, not quite beyond pleaching, and interplanted with witch-hazels. Oops. Confusion in the nursery. And one of the random qualities I love about Sequoia’s gardens! (See the blue hydrangeas here and the bench under the beech here. And in the process see the garden in other seasons! )

maple avenue 2

At an angle to the axis, tapering down to a point, grow a line of Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, one of our earliest and most successful plantings. They were planted along the stream from the fountain from where we get our house-water. In the above photo you can see the pipe which takes the water from the collection tank near the fountain to the storage tank from where it is pumped up to the house tank.

Young maple avenue

When I laid out the Beech Borders I planted a second row of Japanese maples in exact symmetry with the the existing ones. They seemed impossibly far of to the left of the axis, and stuck out in the unwelcoming veldt. But they are beginning to make a statement in their own right, as can be seen in the above photo, even if they don’t yet relate – 8 or more years later – to the axis. We are looking back up the slope from the bottom here.

Looking into a mature maple

Thirty years on the original trees are majestic, every bit as lovely – nay, more so! – than those we admired at the neighbours, sometime in the mid-seventies when we still thought them crazy to have allowed the garden to take over the farm. (See my post on Cheerio Gardens.)


Here we are looking down that line of Japanese maples, the pipe again visible, with a snakebark maple (Acer davidii) blazing bright yellow in the foreground. But it is in the close-ups that the true beauty and grace of these trees can really be understood…

maple avenue


close-up 2

close-up 3

There. The peak of my year in the garden…

Change of pace now as we stand near the bottom of the Beech Borders and a little off the axis, looking across the water-lily pond to the original grove of swamp cypresses (Taxodium distichum). In the background my exclamation mark gum about which I recently posted.

swamp cypresses across the waterlily pond

And  we wind up our autumn walk looking across the lower terrace, with more swamp cypresses, Liquidamber formosana and cannas that look good surrounded by autumn colour. As does Mateczka.

Mateczka on the bottom terrace


A thought: I have always been irritated by puns and alliteration in headings to articles, especially in garden magazines. Why am I so intent  then on perpetrating this aberration? Perhaps because ‘Autumn gathers momentum’ is a little lame…? But to illustrate my theme, here are four near identical compositions taken on the 7th, 14th, 18th and 20th of this month.

Tulip trees in The Avenue

Autumn from the guest room

panorama on autumn

Lucas collecting seed

In the last photo Lucas Letsoalo, my foreman, is wondering through the garden at midday, collecting seed. Although right here I think he is proudly admiring a somewhat belated summer feature. We sowed a packet of striped zinnia seed I wanted to experiment with, together with eight or so bedraggled dahlia tubers  found in the back of a cupboard, and due to have been planted in October. This was in late January or even February…

Zinnias & dahlias 1

Three of the dahlias survived and are in flower. After feeling iffy about the zinnias when they started blooming, they have now grown on me. It must be six or eight years since we bought in zinnia seed, and our crop has gradually stood up less well to inspection; one of the reasons I bought the striped seeds. Meanwhile I have been marking local dahlias, most the descendants of ones planted 50 years ago in the village, for begging, stealing and propagating from next year. I want a dahlia wow. One of my staff brought me three plants last month of a wine-red pom-pom grown by the thousands in the local rural townships, all possibly descended from one plant. Talk about cottage gardening in the true sense of the word!  I had commented on how lovely they were when I took them home on a Friday afternoon. Besides – I remember peering over a garden wall on tip-toe (the wall must have been all of 80cm -2 1/2 feet – high) and standing enthralled before just such a pompom… I digress.

Zinnias & dahlias 2

In search of a late summer splash, I am looking at combining the dahlias and zinnias. This is what this little experiment is about. Jewel colours…

Zinnias & dahlias 3

Zinnias, of all flowers, have always to me had the most beautiful colours. Is it an aberration to stripe them?… I have yet to decide.

Zinnia 1

Rather lovely, this one…

Zinnia 3

Hmmm…. perhaps a bit busy?

Zinnia 6

Ho-hum… or no: I think I like it!

Zinnia 5

Oh come on. Nothing is quite as grey as a white zinnia. And you call those STRIPES!?!

Zinnia 4

Now that’s rather lovely! But hey – we’re talking stripes.Where are they? Or is that picotee? Wait a moment. This is an autumn post. Not a planning-late-summer-one…

Maples from the arboretum

On a walk through the arboretum the maples are magnificent; the red in the foreground is Acer palmatum, the yellow is A. saccharinum – Japanese and Silver maples. Below is A. rubrum – the Red maple, against a Japanese maple.

Acer Rubrum & palmatum

Under the pin-oaks in Oak Avenue, against a backdrop of hydrangeas and at this stage still towering over a young indigenous tree-fern (Cyathea gregii) stands a super-elegant Japanese maple. I’m pretty certain that composition is unique in the world!

Maple under Oak Ave

 And talking hydrangeas – take a look at these beautifully bleached blue ones, from the mass at the end of the Beech axis, seen against the Silver Maples we saw in an earlier photo.

Hydrangeas against Silver Maples

Beautiful, no?

Hydrangeas against Silver Maples2

And very good with red – Cornus florida in this case…

Cornus florida

Well, I could carry on – falling (as it were) into an ever more colourful autumn adulation. Perhaps it is time to stop and head for bed Winking smile


Metasequoia glyptostroboides

We’re back with an advertising break: above is the Dawn Redwood, which goes by the cumbersome name of Metasequoia glyptostroboides; “next to sequoia, like a glyptostrobus’, a name about which the inimitable Hugh Johnson has the following to say: “…an indication perhaps of (the Japanese taxonomist’s) state of scholarly indecision, rather than of his barbaric ear.” (p113, Hugh Johnson’s Encyclopaedia of Trees, ISBN 0 85533 546 7) Only four Glyptostrobus are known in cultivation, none in the wild. It is a deciduous member of the Swamp Cypress family.

Here starts the advertisement – for this very book and author, at his best when telling the tale of the Dawn Redwood, discovered in 1941 in eastern Szechwan, China. It was 1948 before the first seeds germinated at Kew and in Boston.  The newcomers grew away happily though, and some young plants of the first Kew germination were sent to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, then one of the important cities of the British Empire. (The subsequent history of these gardens is a sad tale of third world neglect however…) My neighbour and gardening guru was a friend of the curator – and thus some of the earliest seed from a cultivated tree was germinated by Gub Turner (whose sister created Cheerio Gardens which is today run by Gub’s daughter and granddaughter…) and my dad in turn germinated seed from Gub’s tree… we have several growing in the arboretum. It is distinguished from the Swamp Cypress (Taxodium)  by having branchlets and needles which are opposite, whereas the Swamp Cypress’s are alternate. But the easiest way, says Hugh Johnson, to recognise the Dawn Redwood is by the unique habit of having the next year’s buds underneath the branchlets – clearly noticeable here.

Swamp Cypress Here is a Swamp Cypress, photographed two days earlier, for comparison. Both colour a lovely cinnamony colour with the fresh green showing to the very end. A good example  of either is one of the loveliest trees imaginable!

Big House The way the Big House suddenly appears in a gap from the arboretum is lovely – and the fact that it happens so seldom these days is an indication that some ruthless opening up of vistas through the arboretum is due. It is difficult to believe that it is only 12 years ago that this area was planted. The white horizontal to the right of the yellow tree top left (a golden Melaleuca) is all that can be seen of my current home, Trailertrash Cottage. It is a trailer home which we erected in 1981 when my father inherited the part of the farm that did not have a house; in those days, believe it or not, this valley was mostly grassland with a few self-sown pines; until the late 50s seed potatoes were grown here, and the mule-drawn plough is now installed as a focal point in my garden. The eelworms remain to plague us… Oh: until I moved in in January of this year with all the paraphernalia to feed and sleep six dogs on the deck, plus assorted gumboots, buckets and brooms, the trailer home went by the much more elegant name of The Plett.

Acer palmatum detail A detail of the Acer palmatum in the above view; the most elegant of all our trees!

Croft Cottage From near my previous vantage, a view to the right; neither the huge stems of the two big gum trees, nor the Japanese maple and azaleas are the subject of this photo, but rather the red gable sticking out to the left of the gum tree. That is Croft Cottage, now nearing completion. With The House that Jack Built, its function is to help increase the income off the farm…

Hydrangea close-up A teaser for a post to come: over 80 of yesterday’s pics – and an equal number at least over the last weeks – are for a post on the wonderful pearlescent colours that my hydrangeas take on as the season progresses… watch this space!

Mateczka Taubie

 The dogs however were not impressed with the hydrangeas – the walk was well into its second hour – and Mateczka decided a snooze was a good cure for boredom!

1 2

Then on again (flowering cherries give the main colour) followed by yet another wait. Read my lips, says Mateczka.

3 Flowering cherry 4 Chinese maple
5 Pride of India 6 Q velutina

I, meanwhile, get more and more caught up in the leaves. Clockwise from top left: Flowering Cherry Prunus ‘Tai Haku’ ; Chinese maple Acer buergeranum ; Quercus velutina has the largest leaves of all our oaks and Pride of India or Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), usually best known for its lovely mottled, pale and smooth bark and its crepe flowers, also turns beautifully in our climate; in the following picture the ones at the bottom of the front door axis can be seen from the arboretum.

Lagerstroemia indica Darkest red Japanese maple The darkest of our Japanese maples has lost most of its leaves. I love its beautiful bark and shape where it leans across the stream, its beauty slim and ethereal after the heavy dark velvets of its summer clothing.

Liquodamber avenue We’ve reached the furthest edge of our 6 ha (15 acres) of garden – the avenue of Liquidambars which marches up from the stream to the Sequoia grove which gave the farm its name. My father germinated all these trees about 30 years ago from the seed of a single tree. It is amazing how they differ, and how each tree – in fact each limb – colours in the same way and in the same order year after year. It was his success with these Liquidambars that lead to the birth of the arboretum idea.

Liquidambar detail The five-fingered leaves of Liquidambar  styraciflua often lead to them being mistaken for maples – the corky ridges on the twigs are diagnostic though, as are the alternate leaves, whereas maples are opposite.

Cornus florida A young dogwood (Cornus florida) in the Dell, a rather unsuccessful development next to the Liquidambar avenue. The soil here is sandy, less fertile and moisture retentive than elsewhere, and the original planting was followed by several years of lacklustre rainfall. However I am looking at the area with new eyes… there is room here for consolidation. Drat! More work! 😉

Cornus florida detail Besides of the most beautiful autumn foliage, C. florida has a graceful shape, and leaves which curl back, revealing a softer, more silvery shade of both the summer and the autumn leaf colour. And soon this tree will start producing its abundant spring bracts, either in white or if I am very lucky, in reddish pink. Truly a tree for all seasons – for most of the winter one can watch the flower buds swell and the bracts slowly open before the leaves appear. It is called anticipation!

Hydrangeas and maple As we make our way back I again photograph hydrangeas (my best ones are here under Oak Avenue near The House that Jack Built, and under the Tulip Trees in The Avenue in the arboretum… a little seed-grown Japanese maple is slow but lovely. And as we slowly make our way home, sunset comes closer, and I am pleased I took my tripod along…

Sunset Sunset in the lily pond



IMG_5765 Immediately behind this point a rustic set of steps goes down to where the overflow pipe for the Makou dam empties into a pool and then gurgles down a furrow against the ridge before spilling over a waterfall and down into the bottom of the valley. It is a shaded spot, always with the sound of running water; one of the special spots in the garden, and one which we too seldom visit, and could do more with. Mateczka definitely thinks so! She stormed up and down on the crackling leaves, leapt in and out of the water and let the other dogs understand: this is FUN!

IMG_5742 IMG_5744
IMG_5750 IMG_5754
IMG_5747 IMG_5753
IMG_5759 IMG_5760

And I too found it fun to take my camera down there in mid afternoon, knowing that the walk might continue till sunset… I love the way the dogs at times are only blurs in these slow-shutter photos, taken with a tripod. And as you can see, Stompie tottered along gamely, but stood still to enjoy the ambience… she stayed with us for most of the walk, but eventually came home on her own to lie down on a soft blanket and await our return.

Autumn azalea This autumn’s clocks are out of line; some things are late, even very late, others are early. There are trees not turning because they think it is still summer, and flowers blooming because they think it is already spring… This azalea flowering against the russet leaves of a Prunus sargentii is a case in point.

Yellow deciduous azalea And this poor deciduous azalea thinks it is both autumn and spring! I can’t remember this ever happening before – but how lovely, even if the flowers are rather feeble.

Berkheya setifera Berkheya setifera is listed as flowering  Sep-Feb, and yet today I chanced across this colony growing wild in the arboretum, and looking even happier than I’ve ever seen this cheerful flower look before!

Berkheya setifera 2 The autumn of the azaleas

Here you can see its robust, hairy leaves as well; and then I couldn’t resist yet another shot of the autumn of the azaleas.

IMG_5791 IMG_5793

Frustrated attempts at photographing a VERY tiny flower… mainly because a certain puppy kept thinking that it was a great opportunity to lick my ears whilst I was down on my knees…

IMG_5792 …in the process all but sitting on the flowers… but after some harsh words…

Lobelia erinus …success!!! In fact, brilliant success, two of the best macros I’ve ever taken…

Lobelia erinus 2

And so here in all its minute glory I present to you…the wild form of the garden lobelia – Lobelia erinus! And although the walk is far from over, it is after one in the morning now – and so I think the post must end and the walk continue tomorrow!


1 about to cross the Makou Dam

“Come on, what’s keeping you?!” Mateczka seems to be saying, and well she might, because never have I been this tardy with a post: yesterday these photos were a fortnight old. A very different world is out there – but, surprisingly, still damp and still no real cold – i.e. I don’t think night temps have been below 5 degrees Celsius. Here we are setting off on our walk and about to cross the wall of the Makou Dam below the Big House.

2 view across Makou Dam

Here we look upstream; the rounded yellow tree in the centre is the Water Oak (Quercus nigra) outside The House that Jack Built. Most of the colour in the above two photos is from Pin Oaks (Q. palustris) and Swamp Cypresses (Taxodium distichum).

3 Always a good spot to reconnect...

The bench under the Pin Oak is always a good spot to stop and stare. And the dogs cavort on the lawn or snuffle in the undergrowth when I sit here. As good as a walk, they say.

4 looking across to Big House through Acer forrestii

As we climb the slope to the Arboretum, the Big House and its gardens are framed by an Acer forrestii.

5 Camelia sassanqua and Doubly taking a rest

We climb still higher and Doubly takes a rest whilst I photograph the double pink Camellia Sasanqua.

6 Stompie is also getting very old but still enjoys a walk

Here it is again on the right; the red is mainly Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) and the yellows far left are the Pin Oaks and Liquidambars which one sees from The House that Jack Built. Tomorrow morning I must decide if my dad’s little Fox Terrier, Stompie, must be taken to the vet and be put down. I think not yet; despite pain and discomfort, yesterday she again accompanied us on a walk after a few days of not being interested. I used to fold her ears over her head and call her the Duchess of Windsor. She has always eaten like a horse but remained perfectly thin. Besides looking like the Duchess with her ears on top of her head (remember her odd squared-off hair style?) she always reminded me of the Duchess’ infamous words: one can never be too rich or too thin. Well, too rich we never quite managed…

7Acer rubrum I

Here is a close-up of, I think, Acer rubrum, the Red Maple, which featured last week with mauve azaleas…

8 Red flowers and red autumn leaves on an azalea

Many of the’evergreen’ azaleas feature the odd bright red or yellow leaves, forming a lovely chorus line for the main autumn characters. This one has some unseasonal red flowers to boot.  (or is that ‘to dancing shoe’?)

9 Autumn from the arboritum

Here we look out again across the autumn garden, the two tall Eucalyptus trees dominating, even with just their trunks…

10 a close-up

And here you see it again in a little more detail.

11 Looking across the Tulip Trees in The Avenue and up the valley

Here we look a little more to the left and up the valley. The yellow in the centre is the double avenue of Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera). Before the neighbour’s house, a tree from the avenue of Sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) on our border can be seen  behind an avenue of Pin Oaks.

12 Pointilism as practiced by nature

In a close-up from the same spot – who says Seurat invented pointillism?!

13 Tulip trees

I always thought the Tulip Tree was named thus because the unusual leaves look like a child’s drawing of a tulip. Not so; it is the vague resemblance of its flowers that gave the name!

14 The last hydrangea of summer

‘The last hydrangea of summer’ doesn’t quite have the ring of ‘the last rose’, but this one from the planting under the tulip trees sure shows why I love the long season of interest the mopheads give me…

15 Framed 

From under a Tulip Tree – the middle ground colour is from the flowering cherry Prunus ‘Kanzan’ and a Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum.

16 Louis' Liquodamber and others

Most of this colour is from Liquidambars; those in the middle are near The House that Jack Built and the furthest ones are the avenue marching up the hill on our border towards the stand of Sequoia trees (Sequoia sempervirens) which break the horizon and which gave the farm its name.

17 Looking down on Freddy's Dam

Here is a closer view of the same subject, focusing on the crescendo of our autumn compositions: the trees on Freddy’s Dam near The House hat Jack Built. In the centre, the smaller, brighter flame is an orangeTupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) planted right on top of a yellow Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) which seemed to be dying but revived the moment there was competition. To their left Liquidambars provide red, orange , yellow and purple; they in turn are backed by an avenue of Pin Oaks. To the right of the flame the rounded shape of a Japanese Maple is in the early stages of turning. Behind them pink and white Dogwoods (Cornus florida) and several different flowering cherries (Prunus sp.) also provide  magnificent autumn colour, as do several different Berberis, Spiraea, Viburnum and an Amelanchier. For now you’ll have to believe me when I mention all this profusion!

18 The road from which many people first see The House that Jack Built

Now we’ve dropped down to the road below the arboretum; here we are in the area across the dam from The House that Jack Built, with maples and flowering cherries providing most of the colour.

18b Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Nearby the Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) has the unusual distinction of autumn leaves which smell of burnt sugar… candyfloss comes to mind for most people!

19 The road upstream from Freddy's Dam 

As we move upstream along the road, we see a magnificent Prunus subhirtella pendula surrounded by several fine examples of Acer palmatum atropurpureum group which show various levels of red in their leaves through the seasons, and all turn in different ways in autumn.

20 Close-up of Nyssa leaves

Near here is a fine example of Nyssa sylvatica which I grew from seed – one of the most mouth-watering of all autumn trees.

21 Dogs exploring

The stream is just visible beneath the weeping cherry, the dogs explore, waiting for me to speed up, and my favourite red-leaved plane is showing further down the road.

22 And Doubly following at his own pace

And Doubly follows at his own pace…

23 Red plane leaves

The autumn leaves of a Plane ( Platanus x hispanica)  are usually yellowish. This strong red leaf I found amongst hundreds of typical trees in a nursery  far from Sequoia one autumn. I picked it up nonchalantly, hoping no-one would notice what a treasure I had just collected… it starts to turn in mid-Feb and still has a few leaves at the end of May… nowhere in the literature is a red-leaved plane that grows so strongly recorded…

24 Heading back towards Freddy's Dam

Now we double back to capture the view across the dam…

25 View from the bridge

And eventually I capture the piece de resistance from the bridge, whilst the thirsty dogs create ripples on the water… to see the view from The House that Jack built, go back to my post from two weeks ago.


first maple of autumn

One hundred frames exactly from this afternoons walk. None wonderful and the subject I set out to photograph  for this first week in April rather lacking in context… so the question was (which is what it should be every week anyway)… : which pic best shows what is happening currently in the garden? This one. Undoubtedly. It is the first maple to colour purposefully across the dam from The House that Jack Built. I bought it (as well as another to the right of the pin oak) as Acer pseudoplatanus. Which both ain’t. But they aint the same either – I think. Their autumn timing and colour differ too much, yet they come from the same source. My guess is A. cappadocicum, but guess is the operative word. No-one seems to know much about acers in Africa… Anyway – the strong reds combined with rich greens marks the start of autumn proper in my book. Till now it has been voice exercises and warm-ups. This is a melody!