‘‘Eventually he [Jack's father] decided to look for a gardener in Johannesburg who was a rural man disillusioned with city life. He asked Patrys, their Joh’burg neighbour’s gardener, to ask around. Within two days Patrys arrived with Phineas in tow: Grey Mists where he had learnt his trade is barely 5 km from Sequoia! He had been in the city only a few months.” Jack interviewed Magwale and a local paper published the story of his life.
Of the other man Jack writes: ‘‘Frans Seale helped me more than any other person to realise my garden dreams. And I must admit: if South Africa was not a country with cheap labour and poor job opportunities, much of what we have on Sequoia would not be possible.” And that candour, I love, for it is absolutely true.
[By the way, Jack says something else that is as true as a bell: ‘‘Buddleja salvifolia is one of the major affirmations that God exists, for the injection of promise of a brighter future that the scent carries is a truly religious experience.” My parents plucked a cutting from a wild sage growing wild near their garden and have since populated the sunny side of the garden with them. It flowers very early in spring and butterflies appear from nowhere - for the perfume is, as Jack says, ‘‘as potent as first love”. I gave some sprays to two friends recently and the reaction from both was most gratifying: the one exclaimed that it was her favourite perfume in the world, and the other said that she had coincidentally been thinking of it as her mother had one which marked early spring for her.
And that makes Jack Holloway's running account of his beloved Sequoia Gardens an exemplar for anyone interested in what it takes to garden, especially on a grand scale, in South Africa. (An aspect underplayed in Una van der Spuy's recently-published garden mémoirs. Read my review, in Afrikaans.)