Jack Holloway
Passionate Gardener
User avatar
SEQUOIA FARM Haenertsburg South Africa

A walk around my garden

22 May '06 9:33 pm
What I’ve shared so far has tended to be ‘best of’ stuff, but this is different. I am going to take you on a walk through the garden and show you things warts and all: the hosepipe left lying from last week, and the reed from last month, the edges untrimmed, paving stones awaiting their future, autumn leaves left lying after two windy late autumn days (liar: many have been there for weeks). In addition I have not waited for the right light to photograph by, but have set off late morning on this nippy but sunny day, nursing the tail end of a cold, and enjoying the renewed energy one has after being ill.

My purpose is to give you an idea of the layout of the garden. In 1995 I spent more than 3 months traveling through the UK in a camper, intensively studying gardens and garden design. (When I returned to South Africa I started designing and installing gardens in Johannesburg whilst further developing the nursery and garden on the farm. Eventually I realized that two one-man businesses 400km apart could never work and decided to give up my city life.) One of the many lessons I learn in England was that often the unexpected combination of formal and informal have delightful results, and whilst still there started wondering how I would achieve this on the farm...

I knew that it was out of the question near my cottage. It was intrinsic that it stood ‘in the veldt’ as we say in South Africa – in other words in a meadow. I had already compromised when I started developing the cottage garden outside the front door... It made sense that the formal gardens related to my parents’ house, altogether a grander and more conventional structure: but how?

The answer was already there: the house sits on a terrace retained by a waist high wall which slopes down parallel with the valley. Directly in line with the front door and the entrance steps, a set of steps cuts into this terrace. The line from the front door down these steps would determine my main axis. To the left of the line would be the expanse of the open garden, over which one would look from the verandah (‘stoep’ in South Africa) across the dam to the Arboritum. To the right would be a series of garden rooms of different scale and mood. Up and down I wondered, planting pegs and staring, making cryptic notes to myself that even I sometimes couldn’t interpret. Up to the mid 50s this area had been potato lands, ploughed by a mule-drawn single-share plough. It had become veldt over the years since then, but it was still vaguely terraced; not level, simply less steep than the natural contour had been. I felt it important that this topography was respected – besides: the cost and effort involved in substantial regrading was out of the question, and many trees had already been planted over a 15 year period.

And so things developed: the Ellensgate Garden was on the first level below the stairs. Work started quite soon on it and on the main axis. As this axis dropped down each of the old terraces, a flight of stairs was called for; the bottom ones are yet to be built ten years later!

The Ellensgate Garden started with just that: Ellensgate. My paternal grandfather carpented the gate himself in the early twenties. It was the front gate to their house in Pretoria. Ellen was my father’s eldest sister, and her favourite spot in the garden was near this gate. She died in a typhoid epidemic in 1928; my father was born early the next year, the only son. I don’t know whether it was before or after her death that the house was officially christened Ellensgate. When the house was sold in 1954 my father himself removed the brass plaque from the gate. I remember it from my boyhood, lying in the bottom of his bedside drawer. For 40 years the house was used as a boarding house, growing progressively seedier, until it was bought by Pieter and Willem, who started renovating it. My father drove past on one of his occasional pilgrimages and saw the improvement. He stopped and within 20 minutes all three were in tears around the dining room table. Pieter and Willem have since become our friends and visit us on the farm. (See their website: www.ellensgate.co.za )

My father had always spoken of someday buying the gate – I knew now that it would happen, and it was part of my planning for that first garden from the very beginning: it was for my parents’ 70th birthdays and 45th wedding anniversary, and it was to be a tribute to four generations who had sought to beautify their surroundings: the sandstone of the gate pillar cappings and the fountain comes from the Orange Free State Province, near where my great grandparents built a home of similar sandstone in the early 1900s after the devastation of the Anglo Boer War. The black slate pathways are in tribute to the thick slabs of black slate of which Ellensgate itself is built. The wooden walls and ‘windows’ are of Sequoia sempervirens – Californian Redwood – grown and harvested on this farm, after which we have named it Sequoia Farm.

One of my earliest gardening lessons I learnt from a neighbour who, when building her house on a nearby hilltop with a spectacular 300 degree view, designed her garden on such a small scale that one stooped to pass through the rose arches. The contrast between the greater and the closer space was breathtaking. I wanted something similar: a small, totally contained and introverted space. Also I wished to pay tribute to the ultimate formal gardens: the enclosed courtyard gardens of Islam, divided into four quadrants by rills and a central fountain. Except here the rills were replaced with paths!

The garden is six meters square. When standing in the bay window of the living room, one looks through a ‘window’ into the garden with its central fountain aligned to the centre of the living room. The three paths all contain benches set between low pillars (tea tables!) which echo the gate posts of the fourth path. A hedge of myrtle (Myrtus communis) flanks the paths. This replaced a sowing of Nicotiana alata which proved much too exuberant and sticky! The centre of the quadrants were originally grass: impossible to mow as they are less than 2m square, and cutting the lawn with nail scissors has never been my idea of therapeutic activity. They are now paved with large terracotta squares interplanted with wonderfully scented pink pinks (Dianthus whatever; never figured that one out; the blue-grey grassy leaved tussocky ones that smell so deliciously of cloves.) There are L-shaped raised boxes between the pillars, planted with pink roses, catmint and an unusual jasmine in each corner. The importance of scent in this garden was always paramount. The roses are ‘Bewitched’, a very tall and prolific, slightly mottled mid pink HT and ‘Bella Rosa’, a shortish darker pink floribunda. “People’s Princess” planted in the four corners, like their namesake, all died spectacularly at an early age. Yet it is still in the catalogues, and highly praised...

One day I looked across from the gate and the White Garden was born – it was all there already, it only needed editing.

But now I have run out of time , and the tour has only just started. We will have to continue on another occasion, when today’s pics will feature as I promised in the beginning of this post, instead of these I went foraging for ...

I see half my captions are too long :( So here they are in total: I'll try to stick to 255 characters in future!

Captions:

Perfect symmetry from the living room window. Beyond the incomplete pergola in the Anniversary Garden can be seen.

The gate and its garden with the white garden beyond. One day the white garden was there : the viburnum opulus was in flower and there were some self-sown white nicotianas (tobacco flowers) in the foreground; all it needed was some fine-tuning. Coloured nicotianas are removed and promptly, on pain of death, presented to my mother for putting into vases.

The White Garden is gradually being developed further, with ‘Iceberg’ roses, white hydrangeas, gaura, ox-eyes, and Rose ‘Purezza’ (just visible against the red azalea). This is a repeat-flowering white banksias for which Ludwig’s Roses provide no varietal name – a mystery rose! I have recently scattered seed of Nicotiana sylvestris. The pot in the distance is due to be moved elsewhere and a sundial set more to the centre will replace it. It will mark the crossing of the white Garden and the Yew Walk axes.

The Ellensgate Garden and its entrance are the only perfectly level areas in the entire garden. Pinks flank the brick path on this side and bergenias on the outside.

The awkward brickwork triangle on the side facing the lawn is hidden by an Abelia ‘Francis Mason’ hedge – here very much in need of a trim! To the left of the gate is a “Paul’s Scarlet Climber”; one of my aunts remembered it when reminiscing about the garden at Ellensgate and I planted it for her.

In theory the Ellensgate Garden is perfectly manicured, with only the occasional self-seeders allowed. The reality is somewhat different, and it is often messier than this. The catmints are just showing colour but two plants which are ubiquitous in my garden are making their presence felt: Erigeron karvinskianus (the little white daisy) and Verbena bonariensis (the highly fashionable, tall ‘see-through’ purple verbena - a weed in South Africa!)
Ellensgate Garden from the living room.JPG
Perfect symmetry from the living room window. Beyond the incomplete pergola in the Anniversary Garden can be seen.
05Oct9 Ellensgate gate.JPG
The gate and its garden with the white garden beyond. One day the white garden was there : the viburnum opulus was in flower and there were some self-sown white nicotianas (tobacco flowers) in the foreground; all it needed was some fine-tuning. Coloured n
White Garden.JPG
The White Garden is gradually being developed further, with ‘Iceberg’ roses, white hydrangeas, gaura, ox-eyes, and Rose ‘Purezza’ (just visible against the red azalea). This is a repeat-flowering white banksias for which Ludwig’s Roses provide no varietal
Outside the gate.JPG
The Ellensgate Garden and its entrance are the only perfectly level areas in the entire garden. Pinks flank the brick path on this side and bergenias on the outside.
Ellensgate Garden across lawn.JPG
The awkward brickwork triangle on the side facing the lawn is hidden by an Abelia ‘Francis Mason’ hedge – here very much in need of a trim! To the left of the gate is a “Paul’s Scarlet Climber”; one of my aunts remembered it when reminiscing about the gar
05Oct29 Ellensgate gdn 3.JPG
In theory the Ellensgate Garden is perfectly manicured, with only the occasional self-seeders allowed. The reality is somewhat different, and it is often messier than this. The catmints are just showing colour but two plants which are ubiquitous in my gar

Liza
gardening consultant
User avatar
Waterloo, Belgium

Lovely Garden Story!

22 May '06 11:11 pm
Jack! A trully interesting garden story! I love the red bricks and natural wood in all the beautiful garden pictures! They give such a warmness to the whole flowering presentation! But I think I adored the White Garden most of all! Such a tenderness!
"..So,perhaps, it is easiest, through awareness of flowers in particular, of their radiant beauty and purity, their vibrant colour, to come to the excellence of the One and be uplifted beyond thought to our divine selves".Dorothy Maclean

Sjoerd
member
Hoorn, the Netherlands

22 May '06 11:51 pm
What a nice historical explanation and attractive pictures. I can sometimes miss not having a garden just outside my home. There are some really charming corners aren't there? Your gardens just exude a luxurant beauty. You must have quite decent weather there. Having the acreage divided-up this way is a nice touch. The arabesque garden intrigues me. The fountain is very lovely. The use of fragrences in your spaces are also a great idea...so nice, and adds to the overall stimulation of the senses.
Thank you for letting us see and understand your lay-out there. You have done a supurb and remarkable job, Petje af.

Dixie
garden enthusiast
User avatar
Waikato-New Zealand

Beautiful

23 May '06 5:20 am
A Wonderful story Jack .I love the atmospheric sensitivity of belonging to somewhere as special as this .Does that make sense ? I mean you have created a painting that I can step into .
Dixie

goose
Weekend Gardener
User avatar
Coatesville , New Zealand

Beautiful

23 May '06 9:10 am
What more can I say, the others have said it all and I totally agree. Thankyou Jack. You say the tour has only just started so I look forward to seeing what other wonderful pics and stories you have in store for us.
Goose

janbay
distinguished helper

thru your garden

23 May '06 10:15 am
jack i am soooo jealous!! i think your terribly untidy garden is like a beautiful film star trying to say "i'm ugly" my goodness even your scruffy bits are realy something to look at.now mine on the other hand, if its untidy, it is!! no amount of coverup can hid the weeds,which my other half pulls out even if its not a weed ,no more freesias, no more black boys no more babianas if it looks like a weed it's gone, i just have'nt had the time for the garden ,with every thing else going on here

jacqueline
Thankful Gardener
User avatar
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A lovely garden tale!

24 May '06 6:39 pm
Thanks Jack, for the lovely detailed narration of your beautiful garden accompanied with attractive photos. Dixie worded it so beautifully "You have created a painting that I can step into" and falling backwards nearly a century ago! :)

Jack Holloway
Passionate Gardener
User avatar
SEQUOIA FARM Haenertsburg South Africa

artificial lighting?

26 May '06 6:22 pm
Thanks, All, for the comments. With the weekend coming up I will hopefully find time to post the pictures taken last week and continue the walk. Meanwhile here is a shot I took during the week... it was about 7.15 and somehow loose rays of sun were finding a way through the mist. I promise there is no impressive artificial illumination in my garden!!! It was every bit as ethereal is it looks in the pic - this is now my current desktop photo!
artificial lighting.JPG

Liza
gardening consultant
User avatar
Waterloo, Belgium

My "in love" photos!

26 May '06 8:22 pm
Dear Jack! I decided to call all these dear photos, with my favorite bridge and pond, "My in love photos"!! Cause I'm in love with them (and that's how they are called in "My Pictures" File)! Fairy tail stories should be filmed (by a romantic film director, maybe??) in this magically beautiful Natural spot of Earth...
"..So,perhaps, it is easiest, through awareness of flowers in particular, of their radiant beauty and purity, their vibrant colour, to come to the excellence of the One and be uplifted beyond thought to our divine selves".Dorothy Maclean

Jack Holloway
Passionate Gardener
User avatar
SEQUOIA FARM Haenertsburg South Africa

A walk around my garden, part one

27 May '06 2:51 am
This time we’ll really set off on that walk...

As I said last week: what I’ve shared so far has tended to be ‘best of’ stuff, but this is different. I am going to take you on a walk through the garden and show you things warts and all: the hosepipe left lying from last week, etc. In addition I have not waited for the right light to photograph by, but have set off late morning on a nippy but sunny day, the dogs expecting a walk but spending most of their time waiting expectantly for me to get a move on. That too shows in the photos.

My purpose is to give you an idea of the layout of the garden. One of the many lessons I learn during my tour of England is how often the unexpected combination of formal and informal have delightful results, and whilst still there I started wondering how I would achieve this on the farm. It made sense that the formal gardens related to my parents’ house, altogether a grander and more conventional structure than mine: the existing steps directly in line with the front door gave me a starting point...

That then is the first pic – the view from the front door. We gave the pots to my parents as a house warming presents and planted them with miniature roses. Every two or three years they are replaced. However we don’t throw them out: they are planted as a border to the bed outside the living room, where they flourish and provide many more blooms than they ever do in the small pots. Only when my mom wants to prune them – she approaches all roses as if they were hybrid teas – is there a problem; and when I say ‘just shear them’, she is always horrified!

Next we stand at the top of the stairs, Stompie patiently waiting for me to get going. To the right is the Ellensgate garden. At the end of the vista, through the archway, there should be a tall jet of water sparkling in the afternoon light. That fountain is only half-completed and a bit like Versailles is only switched on under very special conditions when royalty (e.g. Moosey) is walking through the garden.

Now we are standing outside the gate of Ellensgate. I learnt about bergenia edging paving at Hestercombe in Somerset – possible the greatest lesson in economy of planting I ever learnt. Usually the bergenia is in need of weeding. The grass-like plant is an indigenous diarama which I have removed regularly… The top of the Abelia ‘Francis Mason’ hedge is at paving height.

Looking right into the Ellensgate Garden: the fountain drained and in need of fixing, the hedges horribly in need of pruning…

Alfred’s Arches are one of the big success stories of the garden. I planted Salix caprea (* willow) as a plentiful and quick growing edging to narrow the focus, then tied them across the tops. They are now grafted and are cut twice a season, and create a delightful tunnel. They are called after Alfred, a remarkable young man, a creative and enthusiastic gardener, who used to take perfect care of my hedges; I had to fire him because of consistent theft, the last time of the neighbour’s camera, which gave him a criminal record. I do miss him though, and his enthusiastic understanding of what we were working towards. On the left the willows are underplanted with a variety of herbaceous and annual flowers in a very narrow bed, which make for a delightful stroll down the outside of the arches: yellow and brown Rudbeckia hirta varieties, deep blue indigenous Agapanthus inapertus, and other odd flowers, survivors of a long gone scatter pack, are great conversation pieces when my mom and I take to the garden. Perhaps for this summer it is time to re-sow though, as the variety is getting less. On the right there is a low hedge of chaenomeles (flowering quince) which helps to keep the deer away from the roses in the adjoining Anniversary Garden. Some shade loving self-seeders – also from a scatterpack – surprise us here from time to time. In the heat of summer this is a truly delightful area, even though I never anticipated its potential. Here is a summer photo of my parents at the walk; cornflowers and Queen Anne’s Lace in the background.

Just before the start of Alfred’s Arches we look to the right down the Japanese Walk. This is parallel with the view across the Ellensgate Garden. It is the most recently completed of my projects. Imagine the space between the slate paving and the various rocks filled with green moss… The path is designed to be wheelchair friendly, should it in time to come be needed. The path goes as far as the entrance to the Anniversary Garden, then up a step to a less obviously ‘paved’ area which is still incomplete. It is known as the Japanese walk, because of the three Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) flanking the path. Once that concept was established, other japanesque elements came into play; the bed to the right (the edge in fact of the Ellensgate Garden) is planted thickly with beautiful specimens of Japanese bamboo (Nandina domestica); there are now two cut-leaf Japanese maples as well beyond the nandina. There is the bamboo infill in the pergola wall. And there is of course the future, when the pergola will be positively dripping with deep mauve wisteria flowers… I must slip in another photo here: not one of last weeks walk-arounds: this is the plinth containing home made beer pots acquired from the home of one of our farm workers; our best bit of ‘garden ornament’, I think! Again, imagine it on a sea of thick, lush green moss…

And that is enough of the tour for now. So we'll take a last look up towards the front door from the steps below the bottom of Alfred's Arches, there were Moosey's Fountain aught to be...
1 View from the front door.JPG
3 View down steps.JPG
4 Outside Ellensgate Garden.JPG
5 Looking across Ellensgate Gdn.JPG
6 Alfred's Arches.JPG
05Nov7 folks at Alfreds Arches.JPG
7 Japanese Walk.JPG
06Mar10 pots & reeds.JPG
22 view back to front door.JPG

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