INDULGING IN AUTUMN

Acer palmatum - possibly Bloodgood

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

Pieter in Bloodgood

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

Favourite trees

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

Layers of autumn colour

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

Light through Japanese maple leaves

Detail Japanese maple leaf

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

Fairies' apartment block

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

View from the bridge

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

Stream at favourite trees

Self-portrait

A close-up of you-know-what…

Jack's Red Japanese Maple

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

THOUGHTS OF AUTUMNS PAST

I am, for the next two weeks, away from home. Autumn is developing by the day there. The sudden cold which descended on the country two days ago can only help promote a beautiful autumn at Sequoia Gardens. And so, as I wonder what is happening back home, I raid my Sequoia Gardens facebook page at www.facebook.com/sequoiastay for pictures that remind me of past autumns…

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A visit to the Fairest Cape – and a frosty welcome back home

panorama of Table Mountain

OK, fine. This is a gardening blog with a ‘come stay in my cottages’ slant. The fact that I’ve just spent several days in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, staying in an apartment overlooking that city’s icon, really is not important. So forgive me if it keeps creeping in to my conversation. The above panorama I took leaning out of the sliding doors soon after waking on my first morning there, in order to get the full 180 degrees in-your-face of Table Mountain…

Stellenbosch - Jonkershoek Valley

On a visit to a beautiful tea-garden in the Jonkershoek Valley above Stellenbosch I took this photograph… but to what extent was it the similarities with home that inspired me? Although this opposite view is very different to anything OUR mountain can offer!

Jonkershoek mountains

We went up Table Mountain on a perfect day. I deliberately avoided taking too many pics. And the one I choose to share with you I took back down in the road, right next to where our car was parked. It is one of the many beautiful proteas that grow on Table Mountain.

We returned home after dark on Thursday. And woke to a surprise. I had forgotten that our neighbour’s gum plantation was being cut down… We had dreaded the day, but our row of big gums now breaks the sheer expanse of the devastation beyond. This was the surprise as I opened the front door on Friday morning…

Gums down

I mark the end of autumn on 15 May. Anything after that is a bonus. And so it should not surprise me that the composition is suddenly wintery on the morning of 18 May… But winter has its flowers too and the early aloes usually get to flower before the frosts get too heavy.

First aloes

The Japanese Maple on the edge of the lawn was originally chosen for its rich colour which lasts well beyond most others. As it has grown it has not disappointed, and it ensures that autumn lingers.

Autumn maples and beech

The bare ground to the right is the top end of the Mothers’ Garden, which has lain fallow all summer. Come spring we need to at least plant the hedges…

Japanese maple

This morning there was a light frost. And as I set off on this afternoon’s walk I suddenly realised: that frost had been the first. The striped zinnias (about which I posted here) which yesterday were still flowering bravely were now browned. And from there on I kept seeing more signs of frost damage. Then whilst photographing the damage to the canna below there was a crash and a huge branch broke out of the biggest gum across the Makou Dam and fell to the ground. I have only known such things to happen on hot, still afternoons following on either heavy rain or great swings in temperature. When I got there I saw it was – before shattering – over 8m (yards) long and as thick as my thigh at its thick end. I was pleased to not have started my walk 10 minutes earlier…

Flesh coloured canna after frost

Strange how I set off to photograph the end of autumn, but kept feeling I was capturing the beginning of winter… Here is the view from the Makou Dam’s wall.

Makoudam

On Thursday whilst we were on our way back from Cape Town the local garden club paid a visit. I’ve received many compliments, but I do hope they experienced something slightly more like autumn! This is the view this afternoon from the bridge across Freddie’s Dam.

Freddie's Dam

As I walked I regretted not being here for the end of autumn, and thought of the Fairest Cape where I had been instead. The cable-way climbs from the station in this picture, taken from our window, to the pimple up on the top of the mountain. The elevation there is just over 1000m – and the see at its closest point can not be much more than 1000m away!

I thought of the trawler which in a bizarre accident was stranded last week at Clifton, one of the world’s most exclusive stretches of beach, and the words of one of the men involved in successfully towing it back to sea yesterday without any environmental mishaps… “that is the most beautiful empty space I have ever seen!” (Watch the video as the ship comes free here.)

I stood at the Cottage Garden at The house that Jack Built and I thought of the flight home across our vast and rugged country; of endless mountain ranges and valleys; of empty plains where there was hardly a homestead to be seen in the semi-desert; of rivers and huge circular patterns of irrigated lands, and of not reading one paragraph between take-off and landing as I stared out the window … and then I turned to my own piece of  paradise, and was pleased to be home.

At THtJB

COME ON IN–THIS IS OPEN HOUSE!

With those words a radio program from my youth called ‘Open House’ started week after week. I remember nothing of it, I guess there was a visitor who then shared stories and favourite music. Anyway – we’ve had open house at Sequoia!

1 New visitors entrance

The week-long Haenertsburg Spring Festival started on Saturday. We were ready – for the first time we were officially open to day visitors and we had three cottages to let. The signage went up last week, and all three cottages were fully booked for the weekend.

2 Visitors entance and notice board

The post box next to the information board is made of thick solid copper plate. When Louis bought his house ten years ago and threw it out, painted with peeling black and white paint, I claimed it. It has finally been put to (more or less) the use I envisaged for it: I don’t charge an entrance fee, but the pictures top left on the board are of our Rotary Club’s projects, and I request that a donation to the club be put in the box. Count after two days: just on 200 rand, which is only about half of what I would have got if I’d charged an entrance fee… Come on people – give! On the information board there also are maps and information sheets, and a pouch with business cards.

3 Boiling pot - final form

The ‘Boiling Pot’ in its final incarnation. The pots I bought for the four arms of the cross looked hopelessly small and out of scale. So we constructed the bench you see in the above photos for them and the four corners became merely textural changes, contained by painted galvanised plate. As so often happens, simplicity was the answer!

4 Visitors to the garden - incl DG

On Saturday the dogs and I got to take a proper walk for the first time in days. I HAD to photograph visitors to the garden… moments later I discovered that the couple behind this lady were good friends from Johannesburg – last year’s Rotary District Governor (like the annual regional president) and his wife. What a lovely surprise!

But it is spring, and I guess I owe you a few wow pictures of spring on the mountain – so here goes!

5 Mateczka among the azaleas

Up in the arboretum some azaleas demonstrate why we are most famous, despite all the other joys we offer throughout the year, for our spring display of azaleas and blossoms. Mateczka’s joy was entirely related to our walk, and had little to do with aesthetic appreciation  (I think…)

6 Mateczka among the azaleas2

More subtle, but infinitely more precious are moments like this…

7 Mateczka at the changing maple

This Japanese maple by the water’s edge has the most delicate of red leaves in spring. Within less than a month they are green like those of its neighbour. But for now, fleetingly, the delicacy of their colour is the most beautiful sight on Sequoia!

8 Changing Maple - detail

Let us return to the arboretum, where the view over the garden includes the wisteria in the Anniversary Garden, going fortissimo now, and an ever expanding number of trees whose  leaves are showing their first sparkling green.

9 House from arboretum

Postscript; This was written on Monday evening. By now it is Wednesday evening. I have completely lost the ability to get onto the internet on the computer on which my blog-writer is installed Sad smile So I had to come in to school where I can connect it to the school’s network in order to post. And Tuesday and Wednesday just sped past… My new life will include new internet at whatever price. I better start investigating!

A CLOSER LOOK AT LIGHTING–AND AT AUTUMN TOO

I set off this morning – a perfect sunny Saturday – with the intention of focusing on the close-up or macro picture I need for Gardening Gone Wild’s May ‘Picture This’ competition.

3 Cotoneaster horizontalis

The brief is to specifically look at the effect of effective lighting in close-ups and macros. I took 172 shots; I have processed 23 to share. Not all are for the competition; and some I took for the competition didn’t even make it to the shortlist. Above: Cotoneaster horizontalis. Verdict: not competition worthy.

a Makoudam with swamp cypresses

From about the same position as the cotoneaster, I took the above shot down the Long Border towards one of the Swamp Cypresses on the Makou Dam. They will feature in the following shots as well.

a Makoudam from under swamp cypresses

The Swamp Cypress or Taxodium distichum is a deciduous conifer from the eastern USA. Its leaves turn a lovely cinnamon colour. but none of my close-ups qualify…

a Makoudam and  swamp cypress

The interesting thing about them is that each tree marches to its own drum. Some turn early, some late. But year after year they are consistent.

a Makoudam with swamp cypress reflection

As we make our way around the Makou Dam, there is the opportunity to photograph the progress at the site of The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe. Don’t know about it? Find out more here.

a Site of the new garden

The Bugle I bought on auction from which the water will spill – the Celestial Trumpet – has arrived, and I’ve discovered that the dogs’ water-bowl, a flat, rectangular copper vase that was demoted when I tired of having a plastic bowl in the middle of everything, has the proportions of the Golden Rectangle (1:1.618)… I do think that the trumpet should rise from it…(besides anything else, I like the progression: vase>water- bowl>symbol of perfection)

a Site of the new garden 2

But I set out to take close-ups…

b Liquidambar avenue

Here is The Avenue – the Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) which make their way up through the Arboretum in a double avenue with azaleas between them and hydrangeas beneath them. (I took several hydrangea photos, but they don’t feature today.) The fallen leaves, in various stages of decay and catching the light, proved very photogenic.

b liquodambar detail

A detail from the previous photo, this does not quite qualify for the competition.

5 Dappled light on fallen leaves

But this one does…

6 Dappled light on fallen leaves

…As does this one.

d Mateczka

But this one doesn’t!

Autumn azaleas

Many azaleas are blooming. As always in autumn, the semi-deciduous mauve ones are putting on a spectacular show… perhaps there is a competition entry here…

1 azalea filaments

However I do anticipate my entry being an autumn shot…

d Off camera

This photo is exactly as it came off the camera. I’m not at all certain if it is an accident or was planned!

7 Japanese maple against the light

The Japanese Maples  are an obvious choice, though. This one and the next are Acer palmatum ‘Tricolor’ and the pink/cream/green variegation results in interesting autumn shades as well.

8 Japanese maple against the light

Hmmm – those two are more similar than I realised. The next is almost not recognizably a Japanese maple.

10 Mutated Japanese maple

I grew it from seed. It is a mutation, slow growing, actually rather messy in appearance, but fascinating. Instead of having hand-shaped leaves, they are reduced to just the central finger or, as in the leaf pointing upwards, separated into three leaves. In addition they are congested and appear at the end of twigs only, on a narrow, upright tree. It is now about 2.5m tall, and becoming more and more interesting. Although truth be told – it is more interesting in concept than in reality…

c View across freddy's Dam

This glimpse, stolen across Freddy’s Dam towards a Parrotia persica coming into its own, is rather romantic, I think. And forms a modulation between possible entries.

9 Red Plane

One of my proudest possessions is this plane tree. Instead of having yellow autumn leaves, they are red. What is more, they start turning in mid February and last till mid May. That is three months of spectacular autumn colour. I found it in a rural nursery in KwaZulu-Natal amongst yellowing plane saplings, and sneaked it away nonchalantly…This photo was taken up into the light, with some leaves showing their backs and others their upper surface, I liked this so much I cropped it closer:

9 Red Plane detail

I like this photo. It might be called an elegant composition. Sparse. Simple. To the point: this IS what the red plane is all about.

d Japanese Maple avenue

One last photo, of the Japanese Maple avenue on my way home, before – well, before the very first photo I took. The one I believe might well be my entry. And literally the first of the day. There were several more of this subject, but the first, impulsive and unconsidered, was the best. Interesting…

2 Elephant Ears

These Elephant Ears , or Alocasia, came to me from England, of all places. I bought the seeds, from Thompson & Morgan, as I recall, because they were said to repel moles. I doubt that they have done so, but in the process I obtained a wonderful foliage plant of a family that does not cope – usually – with our cold winters. These grow dramatically outside the staff’s house as one enters Sequoia Gardens – thus the pinkish background – and I intend introducing it into a few of my borders in spring. For simplicity and effectiveness of composition, for textural detail as a result of the lighting, I think this is the best of my attempts to date. Think of the theme: Lighting: look closer.

STOP! FROM THE BEGINNING PLEASE!

Autumn is not getting it right this year. Could we please try again. Not next year – NOW!

No, Jack. YOU stop. Stop finding fault. Stop expecting perfection. Stop that irritating gardener thing of “You should have seen it last week”. Or last year, in this case. Or, in fact, the year before. Because THAT autumn was ravishing. Last year was good and this year… well, so you are disappointed… Get over it. Enjoy it whilst it lasts; it is still far from over.

Looking up the Beech borders

But yesterday this was the view. And today, when the garden club was visiting, I brought them along here… and the effect had lessened. It should not yet have peaked, but leaves were browning and falling.

freddy's dam panorama

Yesterday morning before I went to work (a little later than usual, so there was time for a quick walk), this was what I saw. But this afternoon all of that side of the valley was already in shadow, and they looked across at it with the sun in their eyes. Yes. For once the sun was shining –  and  I moan about it.

Morning mist from the stoep

I must NOT complain. This is the view that made me set off with my camera yesterday. Not many people start their day like this. And one and all in the garden club told me today how lovely my garden is, and how blessed I am. They are right. So I should not complain. But please: may I KNOW? Know that this autumn is not the greatest. Know that both nature and I can – have – done better. One compliment, though, stands out above all the other: a dear friend who visits the garden regularly, whose photos in fact adorn my cards that I use with gifts and to welcome visitors, told me she had never seen the gardens look so cared for. Not manicured, because like me she likes gardens a little dishevelled: cared for. That compliment I must carry over to my staff tomorrow. They are the ones who achieved it, and every walk I take, I feel it too, and that makes me eternally thankful to them. I have told them so, but when I report back to them tomorrow I will make it abundantly clear how much her comment says of the success of their task.

mothertjie 2

This month the theme for Gardening Gone Wild’s “Picture This” photo competition is: “Light – look closely”; all about light in close-up and macro photography. I’m doing just that. This is my first study – the last rose of summer, an unexpected blossom on ‘Mothertjie’ where she grows into a tree at the waterlily pond. Study is the wrong word. It was really a snapshot to record the event, which I then prepared as though it was a competition entry. We are not there yet. But ‘Mothertjie’ is rather lovely, none the less.

WEEKLY PIC: MAY11 WEEK 1

Acer palmatum avenue 4

Acer palmatum avenue 2

Acer palmatum avenue 3

Acer palmatum avenue 1

The  avenue of seven Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) along the house-water stream in autumn is possibly the highlight of my  gardening year. In my previous post – April week 5 – you got to see the whole avenue. These photos were also taken yesterday, in less than ideal, breezy conditions. There is a chance that it will grow more  spectacular, but I was not going to risk waiting…,

Over the years I posted some rather impressive autumn shots at Mooseys, and as this is my second autumn on my own blog, you might even find a few here. But for those wishing to see my best, here are a few links to my postings at Mooseys:

http://forums.mooseyscountrygarden.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1587&start=20

http://forums.mooseyscountrygarden.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1587&start=30

http://forums.mooseyscountrygarden.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1264&start=70

http://forums.mooseyscountrygarden.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1264&p=9079&hilit=+first+frost+#p9079

LIGHT, CAMERA, ACTION!

Playing with light 1

Gardening Gone Wild’s theme for the April photo contest is light. I consciously set out to play with it today, but I was too late – the sun disappeared after my first shot, although the later light was still lovely. Interestingly, I preferred this shot with its flare to the one I took with the lens protected – but it still far from a competition entry.

Cornus florida in autumn

Next up, playing with the camera. I had the tripod with me,  so depth of field and slow shots were possible, and I  had a lot of fun with subjects I might not otherwise have attempted. This is a Cornus florida, well on its way to autumn.

Jade hydrangea

Especially where they are well shaded, the hydrangeas still have lovely colour. A darker blue has taken on a jade green patina, whereas paler blues are a soft lime green now.

Green hydrangea

With a thin layer of pink clouds providing indirect and filtered light, it was the sculpted quality of the leaves that I really enjoyed. What other plant has such perfect leaves so late in the summer? And how beautifully the subtle shades of green in the flowers compliment the leaves.

Pinoak - a little manipulated

The Pin Oak at the bottom end of Quercus Corner was looking lovely in this light, but I had a bit of fun in photoshop, exploring the drama posterization can add to a pic.

Purple Japanese maple and Weeping Cherry

The way the stream flows below the darkest of our purple Japanese maples and the weeping cherry is always lovely, even if it is difficult to capture on camera.

Looking across the work in progress - universe garden

That was light then, and camera; time for the action. We have not been idle in The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe. (If you are lost, I wrote about this new project last week; you will find it here.)  After some contemplating  of the site I decided that the change in levels had to be accentuated. (Note: the valley was tilled using a mule-drawn single plough until the late fifties and seed potatoes were planted. The steep terrain was vaguely terraced into narrow, less steep areas, and these lines still run across my garden. The Rosemary Terrace is one of those terraces, and the Imperfect Universe lies on the next terrace down.) We did some digging and removed a pick-up plus trailer load of soil – about 1 1/2 tons. Then we went and cut some invader wattles down  on my cousin’s boundary line. They will be used to create a woven retaining wall, so that the flowers are looked down on from the upper level as well as from the ‘stepping stones’. The wall is being prepared and pictures will follow. The remaining smaller rounds from the eucalyptus trunks have been brought on site.

Progress report - the Universe garden

I  have also been planning the details of constructing the fountain. Instead of copper plate (horrendously expensive), I will use galvanised sheeting painted with copper-coloured hammertone paint. Lovely, but hellishly expensive too. I have bought a meter length of eighty mm galvanised irrigation pipe (also not cheap) and the necessary fittings to mount it on two standpipes. This will be the jig on which the chute is shaped. And I have been onto bidorbuy looking for the decrepit remains of a brass musical instrument for the water to well up through at the centre of the garden. The Celestial Trumpet, so to speak…

Oh, and looking at the photos – we have started cutting back the hedge which must form the perfect backdrop to the Rosemary Border. It is amazing how much it has outgrown its space: the pillar from which I took  picture as well as its mate with the pot on it just before the ‘ dustbin’, were completely  grown over. Next year we will cut back the opposite side of the hedge. And next week we will run a horizontal line along the top to see if we can get away with not having any steps along both this elevation and the bottom end of the Anniversary Garden. I can not tell you how much that simple line will mark the divide between the old order and the new in my gardening life!

I LOVE WEEKEND WALKS IN AUTUMN! Part 2

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!

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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