Jack Holloway & Sequoia Gardens

Sequoia Gardens, Magoebaskloof

Sequoia Gardens, Magoebaskloof. Photographer: Jack Holloway.

Jack Holloway has a great love in his life: his large garden in Magoebaskloof, Limpopo Province. No-one could document the garden as lovingly, as assiduously, as insightfully as he does - and he does! He has even located the genius loci - or one of them, for his garden is large and lovely and lively - in a simple bridge. ‘‘This last shot, one I have treasured for years, captures the genius loci, the spirit of my garden, like no other. It is not chocolate boxy, or even pretty. It is above all serene and expansive. Which is how I’d like to think of my garden.’’

Jack studies his garden, season after season, and he propagates the shy beauties, endemic to Magoebaskloof, like the wild tibouchina: ‘‘We are moving from a local who hid away from visitors, to one of the stars of our show.’’ He understands the personality of plants, he gives each a role in which it will shine. And he has tiny red-striped frogs in his arum lilies.

The garden (with no neighbours to be seen or heard) is quite spectacular, due in part to the particularly bountiful climate of Magoebaskloof ('Magoeba' is an Afrikaansed version of the name of King Mampokhu Makgoba who was beheaded for his refusal to pay taxes to the old Boer republic in 1895; the tribe has since been re-awarded the area. ‘‘Lucky gardeners live in the mountain areas of the northern and eastern Transvaal [Limpopo and Mpumalanga] where summer rains are heavy and everything grows in abundance,’’ Sima Eliovson, The complete gardening book, 1960) and due to the ambitious endeavours of Jack and his parents. His father, for instance, planted a whole avenue of tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) - from seed!

‘‘When we first conceived it my dad jokingly suggested calling it the Avenida da Liberdade – Marques de Pombal after this impressive (and impressively named) avenue in Lisbon – the Marques having been the man responsible for rebuilding much of Lisbon after an earthquake in 1755. Our Avenue has developed into a very beautiful feature. The linear layout now melds happily with the organic paths through the arboretum, and the concept which we feared might jar is, if I may again modestly say, rather good,’’ Jack writes.

Jack's garden is a chronicle. He has laid out an anniversary garden to celebrate his parents' golden anniversary. He has been planning a rondel garden inspired by Sissinghurst Garden and the time he spent there.

It is also a botanical chronicle: Jack's garden has dawn redwood trees (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), descendents from the original seed collected in China's Sichuan province where the tree was discovered in 1941! Jack's father germinated the seed - Jack's father seems to able to make any tree grow, and shares my fondness for Hugh Johnson - and Jack tells the whole story on his website.

And, contrary to some garden writers whose gardens seem to have easily and magically sprung from one person's imagination, Jack pays tribute to two men who were stalwarts in the creation of Sequoia Gardens. ‘‘I want to pay tribute to two men who passed on to the great garden in the sky during 2009. Phineas Magwale was the foreman on the farm for over 25 years. [...] At the time my father was alarmed. “He is making the garden much too large,” he said, “I pay him to manage the plantations and all he wants to do is garden!” The story of how Phineas Magwale came to Sequoia Gardens is poignant >>