butterflies after dark 1

Mid-summer is when the butterfly migration takes place. I posted on it some years back over here. When I went looking for my Monty dog one recent evening, I photographed them all asleep in the grasses, where they looked like flowers. (Monty not only visits anyone who is a guest in the valley, especially if there are children present – he also all but disappears for days at a time when the neighbours’ cross-German Shepherds are on heat… as they were again of late.)

Stacked beds

The snapshot taken with my phone which I showed in the previous post really got me obsessed about the view back across the garden, with its layers of stacked planting, and I took several more photos with my DSLR. That in turn has got me thinking about upgrading my blog theme to show bigger photographs. But as my current theme is discontinued, I dare not do anything in haste, as I won’t be able to return to the current format. So watch this space… perhaps come Feb there will be a change…

Stacked beds detail

Here meanwhile are a few details. Clicking on the pics of course shows them full size, or you could increase your screen view to around 125% so that the blog fills the full screen width.

Stacked beds reflected

Lastly I want to share a home-grown rose which has featured before, and impressed me. Now it has wowed me. A fresh shoot, grown since it was planted out last summer, has flowered, and the way in which the flowers on it are carried is most unusual. I  might just have a second worthwhile rose of my own breeding here! (‘Cascade’ being the first; you can read more about it in these posts.)

Guest room rose

The flowers are quite large, semi-double, frilly, lightly scented, and of a very pleasing pink with a touch of salmon, and lighter towards the centre.

Guest room rose detail

The last shot shows them with the Watsonias in the adjacent bed beneath the guest room window; I have always thought of them as being salmon-coloured, rather than pink…

Guest room rose with watsonias



By the time I publish this I will have been home a week – but there hasn’t been much time for my blog, or even for photography. So this will be a rather random photo-essay, impressions after two weeks away. The continuation of my story about my dad and Sequoia will have to wait. It needs time to prepare. But since we ended with the arrival of The Plett, let us start off there today.

Plett today

There was a rather similar angle of The Plett as it arrived. Last year I added the 2nd roof and pergola and expanded on the gardening around The Plett. It is looking lovely, as the following photos (almost) show.

Plett Garden developing

Creepers are making their way up the pillars and the paved area is surrounded by lush shrubs and perennials.

Plett Garden

Privacy between The Plett and the big house improves every week and this garden area is fast becoming THE place to explore. This path is a reminder of the route The Plett followed to get here.

Detail from Plett Garden

In addition there is plenty of scope for cuttings of new perennials from here… I wander down to inspect other parts of the garden. The big lawn is looking neat and finished, although not one plant from the past-their-sell-by-date seed packs we planted in the straightened lower edge of the top bed germinated. Good. Room for perennials then!

Looking across big lawn

The pale orange dahlias that were planted too late last summer have recovered fully and make a strong statement. My plan is to document and collect from the vast variety of old dahlias around the village and neighbouring gardens that have survived since the heyday of the dahlia half a century ago…

Summer greens with dahlias in foreground

This one (bought new though) will start the collection. One thing I did learn – not that one doesn’t know this of dahlias: beware which colours you plant where!

Dahlias towards Plett

The magenta-purple dahlia on the right is all wrong! Luckily it is also of very short stature; it will be moved. This soft orange is ideal. We have pure yellow pompoms (although there is already rather too much pure yellow around) and clear reds of an orange rather than purple shade will work here; also the many russets growing around my cousin’s staff house, survivors from the terraced gardens next door… One thing I learnt late last summer: dahlias can be moved when not quite dormant and still survive, and that is what I plan to do later in the summer!

My purples

Before moving on I admire my favourite plant combination in the whole garden, seen in the background of the last dahlia pic. It gives me pleasure for at least ten months of the year! Then I turn to the Upper Rosemary Border.

Upper Rosemary Border

It is looking lush and richly textured. Not for the first time my mind wonders to the impossibility of achieving such richness in time for the Spring Festival when much in my garden has yet to awake…

Mozart Rose

This is Mozart, a Hybrid Musk rose much like Ballerina (and my own Cascade Rose)  but larger and more inclined to sprawl. Each year it has looked better, spilling over other plants in this border.

Cardinal Hume

And here, finally, is a good shot of the cardinal red of Cardinal Hume which grows close by in this border. Below – a more general shot again of the varied plants in the Upper Rosemary Border.

Upper Rosemary Border 2

And yes – if the plant dead centre looks suspiciously like a weed – it is! One of my favourite weeds. With great anticipation I turn to investigate the Lower Rosemary Border where the scatterpacks of annual seeds were just beginning to flower when last I was here…

Meadow planting

Mmm… at first glance, disappointment. A little selene which we already have, dominates, followed by gypsophila and a few yellow daisies. But there are signs of more to come, although I don’t think we can expect the exuberance of the last sowing, some 5 years ago. This morning I returned with my camera for a few close-ups…

Dominant selene Selene close-up

Here are the selenes. Like so many flowers, there is just too much of magenta and too little of pink about them. Below are a pair of blue flowers.

A tiny blue daisy Blue weed

On the left a blue daisy which could be one of any number of ‘blue daisies’; on the right something I know as a weed of sandy riverbeds, but a flower I’ve always admired. Rather like a morning glory in appearance, it is carried on a fleshy shrub-like plant with spiky leaves, and if I’m not mistaken forms a large spiky seed capsule. I shall have to identify it and check how weedy it will be in our climate; in fact I wonder how a lone plant ended up in my seed mix… 

Wine red cosmos Nemesias and gypsophilla

A wine-red cosmos hints at the rich colours to come, and a variety of nemesias and gypsophila show that all is not magenta…

Nemesia red and yellow Nemesia blue & white 

In fact, it is worth seeking out the nemesias and coming in close to see their delicious colours.

Colour contrast

Searching through the bed I start to find the startling clashes and serendipitous blends that so enchanted me during the last incarnation of this garden. I believe it will be a success after all…


Satiated, I turn to the next bed down – the groupings of cannas. And am enchanted by the sinuous lines that characterise this part of the garden.

canna bed

On I go, crossing the wall of the Makou Dam.

Makou Dam

Stopping to look back across the garden I think – I know not for the last time – ‘How I would love Dad to be standing beside me looking back at what we have achieved!’

Across Makou Dam

And on, up into the arboretum.

Mothers'  Garden

The Mothers’ Garden still awaits its roses, but over the next days I will clip its hedges. I took the big Toyota Condor seen in front of the garages – a 4×4 based on a Malaysian commercial vehicle, simple, cavernous and ideal for transporting both goods and people, and even for sleeping in when camping (and of course now off the market, leaving a gaping void waiting to be filled) – to Johannesburg in late November, intending to buy the roses. But life took over…

Double Rugosa Rose

In the arboretum I find the double  Rugosa flowering. I must propagate this intriguing rose. Grown from species seed, like all my Rosa rugosas, this one is double instead of single. Whether it is a mutation or in fact a cross I suppose I will never know. But I suspect it to be a mutation as the colour, growth and leaf is stock-standard.

Beech Border axis hydrangeas

Onwards I go, enjoying being on the farm again with my dogs, finding the new sights of the season, and listening to the rush of summer waters…

Freddie's Dam overflow


1 Roses across the lily pond

Following on from last week’s post, ‘Mothertjie’ by the lily pond is going over but ‘New Dawn’ is on the ascendant. A most unusual sport in that it differs from its parent (from which it ‘sported’) by being repeat flowering, ‘New Dawn’ dates from 1930 and was the first plant ever to be patented. I should not have added that, for my next statement is that it is easily raised from cuttings and my original specimen was a gift from a friend.

New Dawn after the rain

It is a large, robust and easy climber which I have both growing into trees and twirling through a shrub border. A friend very successfully trained one I gave her into a well ordered trellis which it shares with a jasmine.

2 Cottage Garden

Outside The House that Jack Built the Hybrid Musk ‘Penelope’ and Portland ‘Jacques Cartier’ are all going fortissimo, backed by Clematis Montana. These too were grown from cuttings.

3THtJB and Felicite et Perpetue

If we step back a little we notice not just how green everything has become, but also the two climbers in the fence below the water oak. They are ‘Felicite et Perpetue’ with accents on the 1st, 2nd and 5th e, very French… It was introduced in 1827 by the gardener to the Duke of Orleans. One more accented e there!

4 THtJB and Felicite et Perpetue 2

It too sported interestingly, although some sources claim it to be a seedling: ‘Little White Pet’ (which I’ve not found in South Africa) is a small repeat flowering shrub, whiter than the delicious red bud through pink to white of this beautiful rambler.

5 Felicite et Perpetue

Moving on we pass the spot where I planted a number of Yuccas – I think Y.gloriosa, gathered as truncheons from a friend’s garden. Like magnolias, the flowers are fleshy and bruise easily and must be captured at just the right moment to display their full beauty.

6 Yucca flower

I picked one from the huge candelabra and laid it down on the mown grass to photograph.

7 Yucca flower 2

We turn up the Beech Borders where several pink roses, including huge arching bushes of ‘Isphahan’,  are gorgeously scented and appealing, although not at their best after days of soft rain. Details on this rose will have to follow.

Beech Borders

Two roses I did manage to take detailed shots of – the first is ‘Mme Ernest Calvat’ who also featured in the previous post.

Mme Ernest Calvat

The second is one of the most beautiful of the striped roses, ‘Variegata di Bologna’, a Bourbon  which sported in 1909 from a rose called ‘Victor Emmanuel’; I can’t help wondering if there is a logical link between the Italian King and the Italian city  which these two roses are named after… Apparently it sometimes reverts to the solid dark violet of the old king. I shall keep an eye out.

Variegata di Bologna

I visit ‘Cardinal Hume’ which I have been meaning to photograph for days after telling about giving him to my cousin. He is rather squashed for such a high ranking cleric, by both the heavenly ‘Angels’ Fishing Rod’ (Diarama) and the rather more earthy, not to say brazen, Rose Campion or Lychnis Coronaria.  However she wears her glad rags with no less dignity than he his ecclesiastical purple, and they make a fine couple despite what ‘some people’ might say…

Cardinal Hume & Co.

At the end of the walk I sat down on the seat below the spreading branches of the pin oak overlooking the Makou Dam and whilst I was on the phone I kept an eye on the fish rising and the dogs cavorting all around me.

8 From under the oak

Often these last days it has rained and photo opportunities were quick dashes out the door – or even through the windows. In the process The Ellensgate Garden – close to the house – received special attention.

Ellensgate roses

10 Ellensgate from steps

In the foreground is ‘Maria Callas’, after nearly 50 years still one of the great pink Hybrid Teas, with ‘Bewitched’ growing inside the Ellensgate Garden. A rose with a cast iron constitution, it inherited much from  its parent, ‘Queen Elizabeth’, including its towering stature. Also growing  here, now in its second summer, is what I suspect to be the 1840s rambler ‘Russeliana’ which gives some repeat flowering. If it has a weakness it is a tendency for the flowers to age and die in the truss to a dull grey. I much prefer its more romantic name: ‘Souvenir de la Bataille de Marengo’, but I am pleased I don’t have to remember it by that name! The Nicotiana elata in the garden are, with the exception of one packet of ‘Limelight’ bought from Thompson & Morgan in the 90s, all descended from plants grown by a dear old friend, many years departed, in her garden in the 40s-70s; my mother always referred to them as ‘Mrs Swartses’ and they are by far the most valuable self-seeders in my gardens: easy, willing, and manageable with a colour range through white to deep plums, purples, reds and pinks, and an ability to chose their colours serendipitously to match or support nearby flowers…

9 Ellensgate from livingroom

It is too long since I photographed the Ellensgate Garden from the formal lounge, especially as it was designed to reflect the proportions of that room, with its windows as wide as the bay, and its width identical to the room’s, all aligned exactly. This photo proves yet again that the junipers which flank the start of the axis from the front door have grown too large, but I am scared of losing their graceful naturalness to hard pruning. Sooner or later I will have to take the plunge.

One last pic: the living room is flooded with scent from the roses on the roll-top desk Louis picked this morning: Harmonie, Maria Callas, Bewitched and Oklahoma.

Roses in the house


‘Tis the season of the rose… Many of mine are once flowering old-fashioned types, others are so tatty by the end of summer that they hardly have a leaf left. Mine is not the perfect climate for roses, and my adapt or die attitude does not make it easy for them. But after months in which I doubted the sanity of growing roses by the hundred, propagating them from seed and cuttings, owning shelves of books on them and generally being more than a little obsessive about them, I am once again overwhelmed…

Jacques Cartier
Jacques Cartier by the dozen

Intoxicated by their scent, I am pleased I planted a dozen cutting grown Jacques Cartiers outside The Plett – a typically high-shouldered Portland which does brilliantly with me.

Anniversary Garden

Despite having lost well over half the roses planted in the Anniversary Garden, it is still possible to take an impressive picture there – the deep gold is ‘South Africa’ (KORberbeni, marketed in other countries as ‘Golden Beauty’) The pale one is the David Austin rose ‘Molineaux’.

Aunty Corrie

Then there are the two nameless roses I received from two favourite aunts who live 1400km apart. They are very similar, but definitely different. Both are heavily perfumed, tend to suckering and long whippy growth and are once-flowering. I would describe them as Centifolias of obvious Gallica parentage, but can do no better. Aunty Corrie, pictured above and below, is a rich fuchsia pink with a silvery sheen to the reverse of the petals, and it darkens to a lovely rich pink. In fact, the colour ‘old rose’ seems to have been invented for this rose.

Aunty Corrie 2

Any help in identifying them will be hugely appreciated! Aunty May is a slightly smaller rose,  a little paler, with narrower petals and  less robust in growth, but she also darkens with age. Here she is below.

Aunty May Aunty May 2

The next rose I can identify with certainty. She is Mme Ernest Carvat and was introduced to the world by the widow Schwartz in 1888 after sporting from Mme Isaac Pereire. Bourbon climbers, they are two of the most beautifully scented roses in the world. I have several of the darker pink Mme Isaac Pereires, having grown them from cuttings, but I lost my two original plants.

Mme  Ernest Calvat

The next two I truly believe I grew from seed. The first I named ‘Mothertjie’, my pet name for my mom, adding the Afrikaans diminutive. It is a slightly remontant rambler and I grow it through a tree at the water lily pond. It featured in a recent post – here the photo is again.


And here the close-up – a pretty rose with textured pink on white colour and a creamy-yellow towards the centre.


The other seed raised rose intrigues me no end – especially as I can only assume it was seed-raised. It looks as though it will be a tall many stemmed shrub, although it might prefer to be a climber; it has reddish pink flowers and the new growth is beautifully dark. I will be watching it carefully for it might be a winner.

seedling at guestroom seedling at guestroom 2

‘Penelope’ possibly the best of the Pemberton Musk roses, is another I have raised successfully from cuttings. Then I decided some years ago to plant The Mothers’ Garden with only ‘Penelope’ – and over two years struck not one cutting successfully! So now we have other plans there.


Growing away lustily in the New Old Rose Garden (read more here if you want to know how we came to move the roses) is Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ – in fact I wish a few more of these roses would grow as well… this is their first full summer in their new site and we lost several more roses over winter, as well as seen several to be slow to get going after the winter.

Rosa Geranium

Rosa geranium 2

Lastly we have one of the great curiosities of the rose world: Rosa moschata, the Musk Rose or Common Moss Rose, growing alongside Freddie’s Dam. Those are not thorns on the bud, but glands which when stroked release a musk-like fragrance. The flowers are beautifully and typically scented though.

Common Moss

Whilst in Johannesburg we spent many happy hours in my cousin’s garden where there are more beautiful and interesting roses than I’ve seen anywhere in South Africa. When we left she gave us 6 roses waiting to be planted. And when Louis refused to let me buy petrol I bought him 3 more at Ludwig’s. A double bargain for me, I’d say! Here they await planting, which happened today.

Waiting to be planted

Oh – and I bought Rosa rubrifolia (syn R. glauca) for myself, having managed to get one I raised from imported seed to not die over 15 years… and I bought my cousin one too, as well as a Cardinal Hume which I consider to be one of the loveliest of roses. Rosa rubrifolia is my all-time favourite foliage plant – it stands in the foreground with its steel-blue leaves and wine-red stems and young growth.

Ellensgate with roses

This photo of the Ellensgate Garden with the mauve-pink rambler on the opposite side – another of my mystery plants – somehow didn’t make it into the story. And lastly, my little storm story. I add it in sympathy for the millions who suffered under Sandy, not just at the time, but who face the heart-  and back-breaking task of clearing up… we lost just two major branches off one of our oldest trees in a storm earlier this week and it was a mission to clear. How much worse is the process for all these people!

After the storm



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!



“Die Rooi Gevaar”: Afrikaans for ‘The Red Danger’, the threat of communism taking over our beloved country, the refrain I grew up with. In fact, it was really ‘Die Swart Gevaar’ – the black danger – that they had in mind, but they cleverly turned the fight against dark-hued South Africans into the fight against Soviet and Chinese imperialism.

Red azalea 

Cynical as I was about the apartheid government’s real motives, I was still deeply indoctrinated against the evil of communism. I will never forget my horror when in London at the age of eighteen – and a sophisticated eighteen by anyone’s standards at that – I discovered that Great Britain actually allowed a Soviet embassy in their country. I crossed to the opposite pavement when passing it.

Glorious red azalea

This no-no is possibly why the flirtation of many a Thirties intellectual with communism has  fascinated me ever since. The youngsters who lived through the Great Depression were looking for a system which was fair and which made sense. Communism seemed to be the answer.

Red rose 2

One such was the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, who was a member of the British Communist Party from 1935-1938. He wrote this poem in 1935, obviously deeply under the impression of the irony of how far-fetched Marlowe’s rural idyll had become.

Come, live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of peace and plenty, bed and board,
That chance employment may afford.

I’ll handle dainties on the docks
And thou shalt read of summer frocks:
At evening by the sour canals
We’ll hope to hear some madrigals.

Care on thy maiden brow shall put
A wreath of wrinkles, and thy foot
Be shod with pain: not silken dress
But toil shall tire thy loveliness.

Hunger shall make thy modest zone
And cheat fond death of all but bone –
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love

Hose-in-hose red

Thankfully the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signalled the end of Soviet  power and the (red) corner the South African Government had painted itself into. By February 1990 the ANC had been unbanned and the intricate journey to the first multi-racial elections in 1994 could begin.

Rosa moyesii 'Geranium'

There is a parallel story. After decades of apologies for capitalism, Margaret Thatcher, ‘the best man for the job’, burst upon the scene in the late Seventies, followed soon after by Bill Gates (how’s that for simplification Winking smile?) and the world embarked on forty years of unprecedented economic growth.

Small-flowered red azalea

Capitalism was not only celebrated, but communism was trounced, and soon billion-dollar decisions were being taken by people who never knew anything other than prosperity. The glory of the system was taken for granted, and like (we now know) the universe would continue to expand, not only in our lifetimes, but for millions of years to come, so would economies continue to grow and the world would become more and more prosperous.

Berberis thunbergii atropurperea nana detail

With precious little understanding of economics, I was one of the sceptics who felt that something would sooner or later prick the bubble, and the whole late-twentieth-century economic edifice would come tumbling down.  It seems, I am sad to say, to be happening.

Photinia Red Robin

And as philosophers debate, and protestors protest the graspingness of it all, I sense that we return to the fundamental questions that led a century and a half ago to the various economic theories our modern world was based on, and amid the confusion humanity tries to rebuild its  systems.

General Gallieni

So far we have been relatively lucky in South Africa. A third world economy where mining, agriculture and basic production, rather than services and sophisticated consumer demands are the order, we have not felt the extremes of the meltdown. Yet.

Red Lettuce

But I am beginning to wonder if the science-fiction possibility I have considered often in the past – of the world becoming an inhospitable and unmanageable place – is  not perhaps becoming true. If being on this farm, in this climate, with these people, is not perhaps going to make it possible to survive on the chickens we keep and the vegetables we grow.

Vegetable Garden

Then I laugh and shrug it off. No. I shrug and laugh it off, and think ‘Why, yes, it might be ten percent true in the years to come, or even twenty. The world economy is going to have to become simpler, and self-sufficiency more desirable, and every man and woman on this planet is going to have to adapt to the changes in some way. And whatever those changes are, I’d rather face them here than anywhere else in the world. With him who is going to live with me and be my love.”

Prunus cerasifera nigra

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 !


Here is an update on my very own rose, which I first blogged about last December with follow-ups on 16 and 23 January . Last time I was waiting expectantly for the second bloom to open, and wondering if, like ‘Ballerina’, the blooms would fade from a brightish pink to near white. Well, what happened just left me in suspense for what the next buds would bring, seven of which are developing quite nicely on the next sprig as we speak…

A second rose 26 JanThree days after the first, another bloom opened: slightly smaller, but very much paler than the first, which had kept its colour perfectly; in fact it might even have deepened very slightly with age…

three roses 30 Jan Then two days later the third bloom opened. It was even paler, showing only some pink in the bud, the open rose quite white. It was as though this plucky little rose had spent its all on producing that first perfect pink bloom…

Delicate buds 5 Feb

But it took a deep breath, gained heart and started pushing forth its next flowering stem – which by this morning was beginning to look really promising. Meanwhile the first bloom will be three weeks old tomorrow, and still looks quite good. The little rose with the big heart continues to thrill me, and soon we will learn a bit more of what we can expect from it as it grows up…

Promising buds and 3 week old blooms 12 Feb




It is now just over a month since I wrote on the discovery and recovery of my very own rose which I christened ‘Cascade’; read about it here. It has been growing away merrily and last week, after not looking at the plant for 4 days, I discovered 3 tiny buds on the stem which was no more than an expanding eye when last I photographed it. Talk of a willing little rose! Now I check on it daily… expect a bloom pic soon!

ROSA ‘CASCADE’ (SEQfirstfind)

Rose in stream detail

OK, so this is not a registered rose and Sequoia Gardens is not a registered rose breeding establishment. (The first three letters of the breeders name, written in capitals, traditionally start the registered name of any rose, so that regardless of the name it is sold under, the same code is used to ID it anywhere in the world.) But my heading tells my story…

Rose in stream 20 November: I was walking along the stream, the overflow of Freddy’s Dam, when something pink caught my eye. Something completely unusual was growing in the stream. Or lodged there. I bent down to investigate. It was, clearly and unmistakeably, a rose. It seemed to have four petals, not five as most roses do. And it seemed to be growing in the stream. It was early evening and growing dark. I did not have my camera with me.

Rose in stream detail I went home and checked my books. Most roses, and most brambles too, have five petals. I went back the next day and took these photos. Top flower, four. Bottom flower, five – apparently; but each flower was less than 25mm/1in. across, shining brightly against the black stone and a good step below my feet. Clearly though, it WAS a rose, not a bramble. I stood there on hands and knees, biting my lips. (Those who know me will tell you I do this annoyingly often.) I fiddled. ‘Vroetel’ is the Afrikaans word, and I‘ve heard it used twice by British English speakers, both in a gardening context: ‘I fruitled in the garden’, meaning to dig around vaguely. Entomology, anyone? (Later: Thank you to Diana of Elephant’s Eye for pointing me at the right word. I’ve added a full explanation at the bottom of this post.) (Still later: OOPS! The English teacher is on holiday, when he becomes a bit of a naturalist.  Sufficient explanation? It is one of my favourite quiz questions – the difference between an entomologist and an etymologist. An entomologist studies insects, an etymologist studies the origins of words. Mea culpa!)

IN a vase I vroeteled and discovered that it was rooted in a narrow fissure, growing through  one cm of fast flowing water and trailing downstream. It should never have happened. Yet here it was, barely more than a twig, growing in running water and heavy shade, and flowering.  But it could never survive here… Carefully, lovingly, I tugged, I vroeteled, I removed it from its tenuous toehold.

Rose from behind Despite my care it came away with disappointingly little root. I put it in a vase and studied it from all angles. It had five sepals – which meant five petals; that at least was normal! It must have grown from seed washed down from higher up. I have several roses higher up, the neighbours a great many more. It looks most of all like ‘Ballerina’, an extremely vigorous Hybrid Musk which is very popular in our area. Below it is pictured on the flysheet of Stirling Macaboy’s excellent and useful standby, The World of Roses.

Stirling Macoboy - The World of Roses After studying it, I planted it in a pot with a selection of special plants being propagated right outside my dining-room door. It seemed to die almost immediately.

Rose in a pot There my story might have ended – in fact, might it shame-facedly never have been told. But daily I drenched the dead looking plant, treating it almost like an aquatic. And then I realised that the green was not withdrawing completely. What is more, it was reviving. Two and a half weeks later I took this photo. It has not pulled through yet, but clearly it has no intention of quitting either…Look at the little shoot parallel to the edge of the pot!

Rose a-growingTo be continued…

With a bit of help from my friends: vroetel, fruitle and footle

Thanks to Diana of Elephant’s Eye who pointed me towards ‘footle’ as the English word I had mistaken for the Afrikaans ‘vroetel’; the Concise Oxford says the following of footle: “(usu. foll. by about) esp. Brit. colloq. behave foolishly or trivially [19th c.: perhaps from dialect footer ‘idle’]” Merriam-Webster adds “to waste time” and gives the example “spent the morning footling about whilst others were working”.  HAT, the standard Afrikaans dictionary unfortunately gives no entomology, but defines vroetel (in translation) as ‘burrowing in the ground; seeking something with your hands; or, to move restlessly’

OK – I believe I was vroeteling and not footling! As I said: to be continued!