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

Dorothy Perkins survives

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

Louis and Taubie

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

New Dawn at the waterlily pond

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

Mothers' Garden from arboretum

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

Dreaming of a wet Christmas

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

Yellow seedling dahlia

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

Stephan's rose

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

Duet with Canna IMG_4829

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


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



Looking across Francois' stone

As I write this, the house is ready for the arrival of Louis: cupboards cleared, and space for his furniture. By the time I publish it, he will be here. Strange then that the Rondel Garden, tribute to and resting place of Francois, should feature so strongly at this moment. But then; in preparing for Louis’ arrival, I came across a photo album of the official unveiling of the Rondel Garden, when several of Francois’s friends attended, and Louis is there – as my partner. It was October 1996, 33  months after Francois’s  death. Louis knew Francois – quite well in fact, which made it easier to be successor to that larger than life personality. Sometime  in late 1995 I was laying out a garden for someone. He ‘introduced’ me to his neighbour – Louis, with whom I had lost contact, but knew had moved. The rest is history. (And history, and history – but we will not go into that here.)

Toasting the memory of Francois

Since there is a lot of nostalgia about these posts, here then are photos from that time; the top photo looks across the rock under which Francois’s ashes are buried; the photo above shows us all drinking a toast to Francois – and below is a unique photo, most likely the only ever taken, of the three of us together

Louis, Francois and I

The grey-haired lady in pink on the left of the second photo is Aunty May. She came up from Grahamstown for the unveiling, and for many years we holidayed with her at her house at the coast. From her Grahamstown garden comes the Aunty May Rose – one I have been trying to identify ever since (see the details of my attempts here) – but without success. Here it is again, photographed this spring. Can anyone help?

Aunty May Rose

Interestingly, I have a very similar unidentified rose – the Aunty Corrie Rose, this time from a biological aunt, and it comes from her garden only a few kilometres from Sequoia. Here it is, flowering in the New Old Rose Garden: sumptuous and scented, two glorious roses, and each with a very special story attached!

Aunty Corrie Rose


Black Prince

I begin this post with a picture from Gwen Fagan’s book Roses at the Cape of Good Hope. It is not a rose I have, but one I want; for Francois’s mother always remembered it fondly in her garden. And I dedicate it to my friend Diana of Elephants Eye, who grows it in her garden in Porterville, where I still hope one day to see it…

Across lawn to New Old rose garden

Let me now try to show you my roses with some sort of plan. Since I referred in the previous post to the roses from the Rondel Garden being moved to the New Old Rose Garden, this is perhaps a good place to start. We transplanted 125 roses from the Rondel and elsewhere into this garden, as well as 75 cuttings and seedlings from bags. I think no more than ten did not survive; of them several were pretty terminal to begin with… One rose I had thought dead, yesterday sported a shoot from near the base. I will not give up on the others just yet…

Mutabilis in New Old Rose garden

Star of the show is undoubtedly ‘Mutabilis’ which hardly knew it had been moved. Added to that, we  planted several cuttings as well. This easy and lovely rose, which is seldom without its butterfly blooms, combined with the mass of single roses we planted near it, will always be ready to welcome visitors as they enter the garden. The bubble fountain at the entrance can be seen to the left of the above picture.


The name – complete: Rosa chinensis mutabilis  – suits the rose admirably, for the apricot buds open and fade to straw, before become infused with red which grows darker as the flower ages. The mutation is amazing, and the mix of colours is at all stages pleasing.

Mutabilis 2

Mutabilis 3

I grouped most of the single flowering hybrid teas from the 1920s  which formed the hedge around the Rondel nearby. There were four roses, grouped in fours all the way around the Rondel Garden. I refer to them, and there are photos of all four, in the post I pointed you at in my previous entry. (Here it is again.) Of them my favourite, but also the least robust, was Mrs Oakley Fischer. She has not survived at all it seems, nor did Dainty Bess and I can only hope that I will be able to replace them: of the four only Dainty Bess with its unique dusty pink flower and maroon stamens and stigmas is still listed in Ludwig’s Gauteng catalogue.

Golden Wings

One bush at least of Golden Wings (above) survived and is looking robust. Although robust is a term that should be reserved for the Irish: almost all the survivors, and in rude good health they are too, turned out to be Irish Elegance.

Irish Elegance

These aptly named flowers are delicately and subtly infused with salmon  and pink on a lemon yellow base – the colours I recall Peace to have been before  it became so pale…

Morning dew on Irish Elegance

Let us stay with the single roses, although the next two featured previously as the first of the transplants to flower. They are the feathery-leaved species rose (eliciting comment long after the fleeting flowers have passed) Rosa hugonis, the first to flower with small and delicate lemon yellow blooms and Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’, with blooms of a unique glowing red.

Rosa hugonis,- first to flower Rosa moyesii 'Geranium'

One last comment for this post: under the Mutabilis I planted a selection of Phygelius hybrids, as their colours mirror exactly the colours of this rose. I still need to contort myself to get both into a frame – but I remember the days when we had to do that to get two trees to give the effect of autumn, so I believe in time to come the effect will be spectacular!

Phygelius and mutabilis



Spring 1957

Let me introduce you: Yours Truly – aged one year and possibly some days, posed with my birthday presents: one of those pyramids of ever smaller brightly-coloured do-nuts you pack onto a shaft and Lorna, the teddy-bear. I named him after one of my aunts. My mom is no longer there to ask how long after getting him this happened. I was not yet talking on my birthday. Notice, however, that it is ‘Peace’ I am holding, not the presents. I wonder if that was posed. If Lorna and the colourful do-nuts are vivid in my memory, that rose is seared. In fact, so is every flower in that garden. I still dream of them as they were then, especially ‘Peace’, meeting me squarely eye to eye. No wonder I find ‘Peace’ a little pale today…  If I think of being in the garden with my mom, she is busy with the roses. Dead-heading, it must be, for the nasturtiums are in full flower beneath the roses. And pruning in winter, dressed in red-brown crimplene slacks (to be worn at home only) and an old green jersey which kept getting caught on the thorns, causing her to curse gently to herself.

Spring 1957, front garden

Fifteen years later, during our last summer in this garden before we moved to a larger house, I sat with a bud of ‘Peace’ in a vase before me as I studied for my 9th grade exam and watched it swell and unfurl, marvelling for the first time with adult eyes at the complexity and delicacy of its structure and the way soft pinks, yellows and creams flowed through its colouring. That is about the time Lorna was finally pensioned from the family store of ‘toys for visiting kids’ – He was bald, earless and – I guess – unloved. But a fine bear in his day.

Compston 93 -0008

The next house never had the garden of the first, although there were over thirty fruit trees and vines and the greater part of the garden was an orchid rather than a garden. But I remember choosing several roses with my mother, some bare-rooted from the supermarket  – which means I just-just remember the pre-plastic era in gardening! We have to skip twenty years though to get to the above photo. It was only once Francois and I had moved back to Johannesburg that I started gardening seriously. My biggest project was the rose garden at our house in Greenside, where we started almost from scratch in a badly neglected garden. Next to the red gate in the back wall  I planted ‘Peace’. At this point Francois was already losing his final battle against cancer, which took his life four months later.

Gwen Fagan  Roses at the Cape of Good Hope

Some two years earlier he gave me this book: Gwen Fagan’s Roses at the Cape of Good Hope, and thus started our last great shared passion: the Old Roses. I tell the story, and how it led to the Rondel Garden where his ashes lie, in my post from July 2010: MY RONDEL GARDEN – or: To let go or To hold on?

Fagan on General Galieni

Here is a page from the book, and below is the ‘General Gallieni’ rose referred to on the page – grown from a cutting taken from the original planted in the Rondel Garden. The original is one of about 10% of the roses which did not survive being transplanted into The New Old Rose Garden, which I have mentioned often over the past three months. (Which in turn should indicate to you that the decision taken after the post referred to in the above link was to let go…) So taking further cuttings becomes a necessity.

General Gallieni

There then is an introduction. During the next few posts I will often refer to my roses, and especially the Old Roses, which are scarce in South Africa, but a great passion of mine!


The Rose and I – part 2

The Rose and I – part 3

The Rose and I – part 4

In need of TLC

I awake in the middle of the night, without reason, and gradually descend into an anxiety attack, something which happens to me much less often than it ought to. So I get up and write this.

The water spout 

A visitor to my garden, someone I know and would have thought to  – literally and figuratively – understand the bigger picture, told me during the week that my garden was in need of TLC. I looked at her blankly. “There are pots with nothing in them,” she explained. I looked her in the eye, struck her off my list, and said flatly before moving on: “What you see is what you get.”

in need of TLC

The pots do not have nothing in them. They have weeds. Which ironically makes them a lot emptier. And the dustbin lid which for eight years covered the dustbin reservoir beneath the water spout, still lingers longingly from a prime position. At the end of the festival week it is still there, although she did not mention it. What you see, lady, is what you get.

The Italian Pot and Rosemary Terrace

What I see is the opposite of her statement. When I popped home from school unexpectedly midweek I saw four people sitting on the bottom end of the big lawn, weeding out my beloved yellow gazanias from the turf. Lucas, my foreman, is a much neater person than I am, and clearly he is working towards having a perfect lawn. The fact that I would consider strimming the grass up against the wall on  the Rosemary Terrace of higher priority is not important. Truth be told, there is a whole team giving the garden TLC. And when one considers that no matter how you argue things, most of them earn a pittance and are pleased for a job, their TLC is to be very highly prized.

Breath deeply.

Ouhout forest

The Ouhout Forest is the most natural and possibly the most beautiful part of the garden. Self-sown trees and grasses, all in their natural environment. But even here a judicious pruning out (again) of dead branches and twigs will be an improvement. We will get there.

garden at Croft Cottage

During autumn Lucas planted up a corner of raw earth at the recently completed Croft Cottage. I wondered if it would survive the winter. Last week the first ever visitors were greeted by a charming display of red, blue and lilac annuals and perennials. There’s TLC for you.

First rose in New Old Rose Garden to bloom - Pink Grootendorst Rosa hugonis,- first to flower


The first roses are blooming in the New Old Rose Garden, to where my staff transplanted 125 out-of-ground roses and some 75 bagged seedlings and cuttings in late winter. There’s TLC for you. (They are, for the record and the curious, ‘Pink Grootendorst’, a rugosa as the thorny twigs show, and Rosa hugonis, always the first to bloom.)

Bench which will overlook the Mothers' Garden

Whilst we installed and fine-tuned the irrigation system, they watered all these roses daily with a hand-held hose. At least 90% will survive the move. There’s TLC for you.

Freddy's Dam

They have managed the edge of the Makou Dam – so unobtrusively that I barely notice a difference, so well that for the first time in several years I saw not one, but five Iris sibirica in bloom this spring. I thought we had lost them! There’s TLC for you…

Iris sibirica and Cyathea dregei

And so it is  to my staff  I dedicate this photo of Mateczka, my closest garden-walk companion, an unfurling tree fern, Cyathea dregei, and a Siberian Iris. And to you, lady, with all my love (take a deep breath): a basket of raspberries !


Taubie in the new Old Rose Garden

In winter one works on your roses –right? So progress in the new Old Rose Garden – about which I’ve warbled on (as opposed to Twittered) in my last two posts – deserves to take centre stage this week. Today I marked out the paths with sand and we used the sods lifted from the lawn where the Mothers’ Garden will go to start on the paths. Being of indigenous tufted grasses, and tough as can be, rather than a runner, it should work well. Problem: we are going to be short of grass to complete the paths. Solution: go back to the post on The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe –here is a link – and see what I say about a series of reflective water surfaces on the lower terrace. These were long term plans. But the grass will be needed here. Ergo, the series of ponds become short term plans. Ouch. Or as we say in South Africa, expressing a little more of shock, horror, surprise or even excitement: eisch!!!

The string on the right of the picture marks the outside edge of the hedge enclosing the Mothers’ Garden. Sandy markings indicate where paths hive off. Taubie says “Something is happening, but I’m not certain what!”

Fixing the Italian pot's base

Meanwhile work has stopped on the greenhouse, about which I can’t wait to post, as we await the delivery of the polycarb sheeting that will form the roof and walls. Anyway, next week my builder goes up to Samaria, the game farm on the Limpopo River,with us. There he will again help my cousins to build their new camp; this is my investment in future holidays in paradise! So to mark time this project fits perfectly. I mentioned in my previous post that some rebuilding – and especially realigning – of the plinth on which the Italian pot stands was needed. He is busy doing this. Also worth an upcoming post1

In the parking lot

Lastly: when you need to move thirty odd mature azaleas, each 2m high, and 20m of hypericum hedge in order to prepare for the new Old rose Garden… you don’t just dump these plants. You re-use them. And that too takes time. Luckily the defining of the parking area, adjacent to the new garden, made sense. And so the move was not as strenuous as it might have been…


Two new gardens are busy happening, in adjoining spaces. The first is the Mothers’ Garden, commemorating my partner, Louis, and my mothers. I first conceived the idea when my father built the retaining walls and steps at the Rosemary Terrace, quite coincidentally aligning the sole surviving yew, the staircase and the big gum tree, which my mother claimed as her own on their honeymoon. I wrote about it at Mooseys back in 2006, on 30 July if you care to wade through the post. When two years ago I saw the pic below, taken at Churchill’s country home, Chartwell, I immediately had my inspiration: treat the garden as no more than a symmetrical enclosed path.

Chartwell border

Besides focusing on the tree, the garden also serves as a squared off edge to the big lawn. Now only the garden along the top edge needs remodelling to create a rectangular lawn. Beyond the Mothers’ Garden is a large space that was never more than a grow-on area. As one of the first parts of the garden one sees on approaching from the new visitors entrance, it is seriously in need of attention. 

And then there is the Rondel Garden. In its heyday it looked like this:


…and this:

Rondel entrance in 1999

Now it looks like this:

Rondel Garden entrance these days

Rondel Garden centre these days

In a way it never really worked: the roses were too big for the beds and had to be trussed up instead of flopping in a carefree way. Then towards the end of old Frans Seale’s time, when he spent most of his days sleeping somewhere under a tree, the irrigation packed up in a hot, dry summer and half my roses were dead before I even realised it. After all he had done for me, I could not be angry, but I sped up his retirement; he lived for less than a year after that. I can only think that cancer hastened his end, for he was not much over sixty, and he aged quickly.

Part of the problem with the Rondel is that as the other gardens developed, the Rondel, highly seasonal at the best of times, was forgotten for long stretches. Only the toughest survived, although many of the roses now gone survive elsewhere, grown from cuttings. At the height of the (supposed) old rose season last summer I made the decision: the remaining roses were to be moved out of the Rondel – and into the space near the new entrance. That is what we are now working at, and they will be transplanted whilst dormant. All in all there are some forty roses left, plus some suckers which I will encourage to establish and replace my once glorious Gallicas. On my shopping list of 42 new roses there is only one replacement: the highly scented stunner that grew across the entrance, Madame Isaac Pereire. For the rest we shall see how things go: I might add replacements and even some more new old roses I’ve not grown before. But whereas the Rondel was ordered and precise, the new Old Rose Garden will be the most organic of all my garden spaces. Here is a plan:

Plan - Mothers'Garden & new Old Rose garden

Bottom left is the Upper Rosemary Border with the staircase going up. On that axis, the Mothers’ Garden with the yew clipped into a cube in the centre and box edged beds on either side of the path. I am proud to say that we have grown over one hundred perfect young box plants from cuttings! At the top there is a semi-circle which will contain a bench. Below the bench the axis cuts through on the horizontal from the Japanese Walk above the Anniversary Garden. The oval bed, empty on the plan, will contain the seventeen  surviving single HT roses which once formed the hedge around the Rondel: they are: ‘Dainty Bess’, ‘Irish Elegance’, ‘Golden Wings’ and my favourite ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’. I hope all four are represented, as only ‘Dainty Bess’ is still available in the market… It will also contain some fifty unidentified roses languishing in black bags. Some were grown from cuttings and some from seed. This is the best way I can think of to make sense of them.

Existing plants being retained are labelled on the plan. Others I identified  on a grid key. On Monday we will be transplanting several large azaleas that have been moved. On Tuesday the digging of holes can start. The paths will be marked for now with lime or pale sand. We will put down landscaping fabric and a bark mulch for the paths.

Here is the colour key to the planting of the roses in the Mother’s Garden. Two copper planters that have been in the Rondel from the beginning, originally planted with Rosa chinensis viridiflora, the Green Rose, will now get an updated look with  the  rose ‘Green Ice’; the second rose will grow across the arches over the two entrances below the semi-circle. Then follow the roses in the four beds:



2   2
3   3
4   4
34   3
5   5
4   4
5   5
6   6
7   7
6   6
7   7
5   5

Notice the ladybird in every pic? That is to show that each is an eco-friendly rose, needing no – or very little – spraying. I only look at eco-friendly roses these days, and my second criteria is scent. As you can see, colours range through various shades of peachy-pink and apricot. Once the roses are established, I will interplant them with apricot snapdragons and foxgloves, and  pale blue irises, geraniums and aquilegias and for later in the season, pale lilies and pale blue delphiniums. and possibly some achillea…

Mothers' Garden from arboretum

On this morning’s walk we looked down past the big gum – on the right – towards where the Mothers’ Garden will be. The clearing for the new Old Rose Garden can be seen to the right, with the leafless beech tree at the top end of the garden against the sequoias of the avenue, and the Japanese maple that will flank the seat below the garages. And here it all is from a little closer! (Use your imagination to see the string marking the left hand hedge.) 

View up Mothers' Garden

View down Mothers' Garden


Here it is again, looking down the axis. Oh, the hedges on the outside: they will be small-leaved myrtle, which I have used successfully before for hedging. To my annoyance I discovered I have only sixteen potbound cuttings. So we shall take fresh ones and put up temporary fences. It will be eighteen months at least before they can be planted.

Rosemary Terrace with new work being done

Meanwhile I might just do what I did with the rosemary hedge along the Rosemary Terrace – above, on the very left – and plant  some cuttings in situ… If it worked with rosemary, it might just work with myrtle. Winking smileOh yes, there are other projects hanging. That pot is yet to become a fountain – I’ve decided the plinth must be three bricks lower – and at the furthest point the hedge is yet to be levelled and the Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe off to the left of it is awaiting the Big Bang…