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


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


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…


Two reasons for this post title: firstly I aught to be getting my marking done, but am drawn to my computer to write a post – hastily. (You get the pun? ;)…) Secondly that hasty post will be about the Rondel Garden, currently all but barren, in need of a complete rethink, but the first of my ‘grand idea’ gardens, and at its best a glorious space. And most of this material will be lifted directly from my postings over the years at where a search for ‘Rondel Garden’ will take you to the originals and many more pics – should you wish to explore the Rondel Garden further.

Frans in the Rondel I’ve not clarified the second link to my title. Think of Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, on Turning up her Nest with the Plough. He apologises to her in a lovely poem for disturbing her carefully prepared winter safety, and says near the end (paraphrased into more modern English) ‘The best made plans of mice and men often go wrong and bring us nothing but pain and grief where joy was anticipated.’ This is of course also the title of John Steinbeck’s famous novella and yes – I do teach it some years! Above, in a scanned photo from the late 90s, my stalwart, Frans Seale,  stands in the Rondel in its prime. Below, from the same summer, Mme Isaac Pereire grows into the entrance arch.

Rondel entrance I told the story of how the Rondel Garden came to be in an earlier post – click here for it. And I‘ve agonised about its future. But I have decided. I am moving the roses out of the Rondel and into an informal planting between the new entrance to the garden and the planned Mothers’ Garden – shown on the map as the “Mothers’ axis”. You will find the map by clicking on ‘Garden Maps’ above the masthead at the top of the page.  I wrote about the map here , where you will also find a copy. Now all I need to contextualise these stores is a post on the planned Mothers’ Garden. But that will have to wait for another day. Back to my marking. I leave you with one last pic of the Rondel in its 2003 heyday!

Rondel Garden 2003


14 New Dawn & waterlilies

Continuing on  Friday’s blog on my Old Roses in the Beech Borders, let us now move down to the bottom end of this area and look down on the waterlily pond.

15New Dawn

New Dawn grows into a Rhamnus prinoides, one of our loveliest small shrub-like trees endemic to the farm – slightly to the left the rose I call Mothertjie (read all about her!) grows into another Rhamnus; the Afrikaans name of this tree, Blinkblaar, means ‘shiny leaf’. I photographed her a month ago (below) – her season is over now. This was her first year of maturity, and how she had grown in a year!

Mothertjie We move on towards The House that Jack Built. From the cottage the view of the bridge across two examples of Felicite et Perpetue is beautiful. Around the bridge white hydrangeas start their season.

16 Felicite et Perpetue from the Cottage 17 Felicite et Perpetue

Felicite et Perpetue, raised in 1827 by the gardener to the Duke of Orleans, commemorated his, by the sound of things, very virginal daughters. So I thought – checking my facts I find it commemorates a pair of virgin martyrs. But virginal it is. Tiny red buds open to perfect palest pink pompoms which fade to white. It is considered one of the great ramblers.

Catching tadpoles A slight deviation to a wonderful day spent in the garden with friends yesterday. Their daughter entertained my dogs endlessly – here they are catching tadpoles. And here is a fascinating example of a more-frog-than-tadpole. As always, by the children we are taught…

tadpole Other roses are also doing well in this part of the garden.

18 Penelope in the Cottage Garden Several bushes of Penelope (cream) and Jacques Cartier (pink) scent the air around the cottage. Also grown from cuttings. (Although every one of my 30 plus cuttings of  Penelope taken in July 2010 was unsuccessful. I shall try again in summer. I need many bushes for the planned Mothers’ Garden, due for construction in 2011… I shall still write about that – but it is marked on the plan I included last week.)

24 Cottage across the water A little further down, at the jetty, you will find one of the great classics of the rose world, the Common Moss Rose or Rosa centifolia muscosa. In this serendipitous composition the hairy moss glands can be seen on the bud to the right of the pale pink flower.

19 Rosa centifolia muscosa The Rondel Garden (click on the name for more info on this garden) might not warrant a post of its own this year, but there are still some lovely roses there.

20 Rosa moyesii 'Geranium' Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ is a beaute, even though its season is short and it has yet to form the beautiful flagon-shaped heps for me. It was one of the most exciting cutting-grown discoveries amongst the grasses next to the Beech Borders!

21 Souvenir de la MalmaisonSouvenir de la Malmaison is one of the most delicately lovely of the Bourbons, especially when the buds are not balled by excessive rain. In fact we can thank the dry October for our beautiful display of roses this year! Raised in 1843 this wonderful repeat-flowering rose is a fitting tribute to the Empress Josephine and her important collection of roses in the garden at Malmaison.

22 Aunty Corry's rose Any help in identifying the sumptuous deep pink rose in the next two photos will be greatly appreciated!!! I call it Aunty Corrie’s Rose, because it came from her garden. One of the most gloriously scented roses I know, it suckers freely, grows long wands reminiscent of some Gallicas, and is once-flowering. The flowers make me suspect it is a Centifolia. Ironically I have a near identical rose from another aunt, over 1000km away, which I call Aunty May’s Rose. It is much more of a climber, and less inclined to sucker. Only when I pulled apart two perfect blooms together was I certain that they were not the same rose. But none of my reading has thrown any light on their identity. Both appear to have been in their respective gardens  for a very long time. And both are the epitome of a rose!

Highly scented, deep rose pink with a silver sheen to the reverse of the petal? Any ideas?? PLEASE!?!?

PS, later: see the comments for some fascinating further developments. And the following for a more detailed post at Mooseys by me on these roses:

23 Aunty Corry's rose 2


1 Old roses in the Beech Borders

The Beech Borders are going fortissimo. In the foreground Spiraea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’, an excellent companion to pink roses is starting its long season. Behind it on the very left is Mme Ernest Calvat. To the right of it pale pink New Dawn cascades into  Berberis thunbergii var. atropurpurea, a wonderful foil for it. To the right of the spiraea Belle de Crecy is a perfect colour-match. In the background Ispahan, past its prime, still puts on an amazing show; below it is still in its prime.

2 Mainly Ispahan

3 Perfect Ispahan Ispahan  seen in close-p above is a Damask Rose from the Middle East which has been grown for nearly 200 years. It is closely related to Rosa damascena  from which Attar of Roses is distilled. Belle de Crecy, below, is a  mid 19th century Gallica.  The way its quartered blooms seem to have neon highlights and become overlaid with grey shadows make it one of the most desirable of all old roses.

4 Belle de Crecy 5 Belle de Crecy and spiraea I cheated and picked the umbel of Anthony Waterer  to show how well these two plants blend. One of the bought roses, Gertrude Jekyll, a David Austin English Roses and thus a recent introduction, is there as much for the associations with her name as for the way she blends in – and continues flowering once the Old Roses are just a memory!

6 English Rose Gertrude Jekyll Duet is a bit of an oddity here. A 1960 Hybrid Tea rose, it is everything the Old Roses are not – including scentless. But I love it. And so it lives rather uncomfortably, surrounded by the lush profusion of this part of the garden.

7 Duet Several years back I planted  many cuttings I had grown from my collection of Old Roses in the Rondel Garden ( now sadly depleted) in the area around the Beech Borders. Many are obvious as they form part of the actual border. Others were planted amongst wild grasses nearby and left to cope as best they could. This summer I was surprised to see how many had survived – and well enough that I know with a little more attention they will thrive. Even more heartening was the fact that several were varieties I had lost in the Rondel Garden and forgotten I had successfully propagated!

8 Chestnut rose or R. roxburghii Rosa roxburghii or the Chestnut Rose, called thus because of its prickly calyxes, also has a pale, flaky bark. There are some authorities who believe it isn’t even a species of Rosa. But I couldn’t agree with them!

9 Variegata di Bologna 2 10 Variegata di Bologna

One of the most exciting discoveries was Variegata di Bologna; I had completely forgotten my success with this Bourbon Rose. Bred in 1909 it is beautiful, but needs complex tying in to flower to its maximum potential. The mother-plant in the Rondel is surviving – just…

11 Pink Grootendorst Pink Grootendorst looks more like a carnation than a rose. It is a Rugosa hybrid from 1923 and a very easy rose with which to succeed. Like all rugosas its stems are immensely prickly – in fact it is the only rugosa I have succeeded in growing from cuttings and I (rather randomly I guess) blame the prickles!

12 Rose de Rescht I need to get on with my day, so I will leave my remaining pics for a further post. But let’s end with another of my joys,  one of which I have three examples but have lost the mother plant. It is rather a curious rose, thrust at an unsuspecting world between the wars by Nancy Lindsey, the gushy daughter of Norah, the talented and fascinating Edwardian society gardener, and the heir to Lawrence Johnson (of Hidcote Manor)’s French Riviera property, La Serre de la Madone. It seems to be agreed that it is old, although it repeat flowers quite well. It is compact and gloriosly scented. It is not a Damask and not a Portland. To me it seems most like a Gallica. And Miss Lindsey’s purple prose (for which she was famous) for once describes the rose rather well, even if it is a bit of a red herring as to where she got it. Oh yes: it is called Rose de Rescht.