PLACES

At Fresh Woods we have had to learn to strike a balance without destroying the romantic atmosphere of the garden. On the one hand, we cherish the garden’s naturalism so beloved by visitors, but behind the scenes we are always fighting the regrowth, and the decisions are harder each year, as is the work and the height of the ladders. Sometimes there is no choice but to start again, especially where a climbing rose has brought a tree down. Occasionally nature lends a hand with spectacular results, as when, after a terrifying night, we woke to find the willow gone over. Luckily it fell with such grace as to create a magnificent arch with a wonderful - unplanned - vista beyond. There is no doubt that over the years the roses have had to yield some space to less sun-demanding plants such as the beautiful deutzias, relatives of the mock-oranges. However, the garden took a whole new direction after an even more vicious storm, the notorious hurricane of 1984, brought down nine huge pines in the rooikrans-infested plantation adjoining the garden. When, during a visit to Knightshayes in Devon, the possibilities of woodland gardening were revealed in all their splendour, we decided to fell a further area of woodland ourselves and create a new garden within it. It is a fallacy held dear by many South Africans that one cannot grow anything under a pine. Pines are, in fact, remarkably tolerant of undergrowth, especially when they are mature, and in any case most forest plants are shallow rooted, thriving in the rich upper layer. The critical factor is light, without which only ferns will thrive, and of all the problems we’ve struck in the woodland, the pines have been the least.

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