Mistlea, Hogsback – by Dave Pledger

Mistlea, Hogsback – by Dave Pledger
A magnificent display of roses at Mistlea – Photo David Pledger

Jane has a long association with Hogsback, having spent 13 of her childhood Christmas holidays with her parents at the Hogsback Inn. To commemorate these happy years, we decided to spend Christmas at the Inn on one of our “off” Christmas’s (Our children would be with their in-laws).

One day after prolonged mist for days, we got cabin fever and decided to drive around the village.Down Orchard Lane, we saw that Mistlea was for sale. The gate was open, so we walked in and just wandered down a central, rough path to the ponds. The garden was completely overgrown, but Jane saw that it had once been a grand garden. It turned out that the owners, of some 30 years, had both passed away and their 2 children were divided about selling the property. The result was that it was let to many dubious characters for 10 years without any maintenance of the garden.

Jane later realised that she had never seen Hogsback in Spring and we resolved to come back for her birthday, the 26th October the next year. On this visit, Jane was interested to see what Mistlea looked like in Spring. Lo and behold – it was up for sale again and with gates locked this time. We contacted the estate agent and said we were “interested” (pretend, pretend!) He told us that a retired lady had bought the property but for health and other reasons, decided not to settle at Hogsback. Jane was forced to view the derelict house and cottage, while I sneaked off to the garden, much to her chagrin! There was one path open around the outside of the Yellow Wood forest (the garden is about 2 ha in size) We thanked the estate agent and then went back to the hotel. About 3 hours later, I said to Jane “We have to buy Mistlea”. She said “I know “, and so began the adventure of our lives…

Jane worked as a landscape gardener in Port Elizabeth and we have a large country garden there. My job was keeping the garden equipment in shape and a bit of pruning and tree cutting (never trusted our staff with a chainsaw!) Coming to Mistlea was like starting over again – 90% of the plants and trees in the garden were new to us but common to northern hemisphere gardens, so I was happily dragged into the project. Mistlea was established in the 1950’s and contained beautifully mature Rhododendrons, Azaleas and other shrubs as well as trees like Chestnut, Copper Beech, Dogwood, Crab Apple, Liquid Amber, Maple, Red Oak, Pin Oak, Silver Birch etc but the rest of the property was waist high in grass and brambles and overrun with Black Wattle, Blackwood and a nasty invader called Bird Cherry (a Prunus varietal from South America).

My first job was clear – get rid of the invader trees and start clearing the rubbish! Bearing in mind that we were coming to Hogsback for 4 days per month, I generated enough rubbish to keep our one gardener busy carting and burning for the rest of the month.

Jane wandered around the garden for the first 6 months, not knowing where to start and defaulted to keeping an eye on the renovation of the house and the installation of watering points. We started clearing the areas closest to the house and having cut the undergrowth to the ground, we noticed a single daffodil flower appear. Jane figured that this must have been a flower bed and then shaped a bed with a hose as she would have done. Our gardener removed all the grass and by the next month, seemingly by magic, up came alstroemeria, dahlias, Chinese anemones, nerine, Michaelmas daisies, foxgloves, daylillies and many more. They had all been dormant under the grass and brambles!

Now Jane was on a roll and started the reconstruction of the garden – the house is at the highest point of the plot and faces the Hogsback mountain. The whole garden and forest slopes downwards to the ponds. Rough terraces had been previously made, but with loose rocks that had been rearranged over the years by the large baboon troops in the area. We kept a stonemason busy for more than 2 years and my new brief was collecting enough stones all around Hogsback to keep him busy!

At the same time, Jane had fond memories of her Mom showing her roses in the Hogsback gardens as a child but noticed that there were hardly any roses at Hogsback when we arrived at Mistlea. Having been voted in as chairlady of the Hogsback Garden Club within about 3 years, she made it her mission to bring roses back to Hogsback. We had 2 roses bushes at Mistlea at that stage, both General Gallieni. Jane bought in roses every spring for resale at a low mark up to local gardeners. What she did not sell, went straight into our garden! So, after about 10 years, we had used more than a thousand bags of cement and endless stones and sand for the stone terracing, paths and steps and had planted about 3, 500 roses. Many other gardens in the area now contained roses and Jane had achieved her mission with the help of some very special people, like the late Heather Leppan, who once arrived at our home in PE with 92 heritage roses in a VW Golf!

Halfway through our project, we visited various English gardens and also bought an entire library of books from the RHS book shop at Wisley but were most influenced by 2 gardens – Sissinghurst and Great Dixter, the former giving inspiration for our rose arbour and white garden – well, almost white – some of the daylillies turned out to be yellow!

In her capacity as chairlady, Jane purchased many Azaleas from a local nursery for planting in various public areas. After one of these buying missions, she came home and proudly announced that we were the new owners of an Azalea nursery, as the current owner was leaving the mountain! I won’t reveal my exact response, but I eventually conceded defeat and started clearing the area now occupied by our nursery.

Mistlea continues to challenge, energise and inspire us (often beyond our ailing physical capabilities !!!) and we are as excited each spring as we were in our first year.

Mistlea is an open garden for the month of October as part of the Hogsback Garden Club fund raising for care of public areas, but as our first flush of roses is mid-November, we are happy to accommodate visitors by arrangement with Jane at that time when there are still some Azaleas and Rhododendrons in flower.

Post-tour to “A Fairytale of Roses” – By Sheenagh Harris

Text and photographs, Sheenagh Harris

After a very hectic and most enjoyable convention in Copenhagen, 9 of the 22 South African delegates, joined the post- convention tour of about 70 people to Sweden.  The Heritage Rose Society members were Monika van Heerden and her husband Colin, Claire Meyer and her husband William and Sheenagh Harris. Henny Johansson, President of the Swedish Rose Society gave us a great welcome and travelled with us for the 4 days of this well organised and most pleasurable finale to our time in Scandinavia.

From Denmark to Sweden the route took us over the Øresund Bridge which is nearly 8 Km long and includes a tunnel under the water to Skåne and on to the Rose Garden and open-air museum of Fredriksdal in Helsingborg. Lars-Ake Gustavsson, well known in the rose world, was our guide among the collection of 280-300 genotypes of the most valuable old Swedish garden roses, two of which are depicted below…sorry no names!  The formal garden with old roses tumbling over arches was particularly beautiful.

After tea and coffee with delicious eats made by the Rose Society members, we boarded our comfortable bus to Gothenburg Rosarium on the West Coast of Sweden.

After a night in a comfortable hotel and a delicious dinner we were ready and eager for the 2 private gardens to be visited on Day Two.  The first garden overlooks the sea at Dramsvik, near Ljungskile.  Our generous host from the Swedish Rose Society had the tea table groaning with homemade eats including Eggoost which could have been mistaken for pudding. It is a traditional dish served in this part of Sweden.

Over another long bridge to the island of Orust for the next private garden at Lunna.  It was hot with unusually high temperatures and our host had glasses of cold elderberry cordial to quench our thirst. We were given a picnic lunch that we enjoyed with rose friends in this pretty garden.    

The afternoon was spent at the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens which were planned by the local municipality and opened in 1923.   I did’t find any roses but enjoyed the many orchids and disas in the glass  house, including plants found in South Africa.  We had a special dinner lasting 2 hours at the Gothenburg Opera Restaurant that night.

Each day in Sweden we traveled through agricultural countryside with atractive farm houses, mostly wooden, painted in pastel colours and as we hopped from island to island there was often a view of the sea.  Many fields were brown due to the lack of rain and high temperatures. Our first stop on day 3 was an 18th Century estate – Gunnabo House with a formal garden surrounding the mansion and a productive and interesting vegetable garden.

Pre-tour to “A Fairytale of Roses” by Claire Meyer



Text and photos by Claire Meyer

On the 21st June 2018, my husband and I had the great privilege, together with 20 other South Africans to attend the World Rose Convention in Denmark.


There was a pre and post tour option offered before and after the rose conference.  We jumped at this ‘once in a life time’ opportunity. The tours certainly exceeded our highest expectations.  As we experienced and saw so much during this week, I can only touch on some of the highlights for this article.


On the 22nd June, we left Copenhagen for Torben Thim’s nursery located on Løve Mark.  The nursery was founded in 1930 by Valdemar Pedersen.  Torben Thim took over the nursery in 1979 and has since developed and refined this unique collection of roses. Thim’s nursery is truly worth a visit and not only for the roses but the entire, park-like grounds. We spent the morning enjoying Thim’s vast knowledge of plants and roses.


After lunch we headed for the small island of Als, where we visited Hyldebjerggård – a truly magnificent garden. Ejnar Jorgensen, the owner is meticulous with no shortage of attention to detail. Walking around this garden was a totally mesmerizing experience. All the roses were in full bloom – combinations of Hybrid Tea’s, Old Garden Roses, modern roses and climbers. This garden has 775 roses of 440 different varieties.  It was here that I realised how important heritage roses are and how they complement all the other roses.  It was amazing to see how Mr Jorgensen, in his small garden, with careful planning, had incorporated so much, especially the old roses on the outskirts.  It was truly a memorable visit. This was the first day of many beautiful outings.



As we continued our way, the gardens seem to become more and more spectacular. Another outstanding garden was ‘Rudolph’s Place’ also on the island of Als. Marianne, the owner, is living her dream of a big and luxuriant romantic garden filled with the most beautiful flowering roses, perennials, bushes, trees and annuals.  A place of harmony with

small lakes and streams.  Today she has over 700 old garden roses, ramblers, climbers, David Austin and other modern roses in all scents and colours. Here I noticed how she had grown old roses into old pear and apple trees giving a most striking visual effect.


Another interesting and old garden is the Geographical Garden in Kolding.  This is an educational park and botanical garden.  The gardens have thousands of roses, many being old varieties.  After spending a short time viewing the modern roses, I was drawn to the magnificent and expansive old rose collection.  All the roses have name plates which made

identification easy as many of the rose bushes had finished blooming. The number of different varieties was mind-boggling.


I cannot describe how marvelous this tour was.  I learnt so much, especially about old roses and how to incorporate them into garden design.  To top it all, the weather was unbelievable – very unusual and according to the Danes, the best summer in 100 years!



Back at Garlington

Back at Garlington
Jackie Kalley owner/editor at Otterley Press,
Jackie Kalley owner/editor at Otterley Press,

Jackie Kalley, recent recipient of the Zoë Gilbert Award for outstanding service to world of roses, gives her eloquent and often humorous account of the development of the Garlington Heritage Rose garden.  Follow her blogs over the next few months to stay in touch with the progress of this incredible project to conserve the old roses of the KZN Midlands. You can join in the fun by contacting Gail Birss (see the Midlands Rose Society Page) or contact us via http://rosesocietysa.co.za/contact/



20170704_100319_resized (002)The Bobcat smudged the borders of our carefully calculated beds so tape measures at the ready, we met on site. The real allure of the morning was the prospect of a  vision coming to fruition. The arches and their side struts were piled in the centre of the garden – an innocuous pile of metal with the potential to transform the garden. We sorted out the paths into the garden (once again!) while Gill and Gail talked earnestly on the tactics of arch construction; there was more measuring and with the capable help of Voyo, holes were dug, the side struts erected and suddenly nuts and bolts were called for and the arch was fixed in place.


No concrete was used as roses don’t care for concrete. Excitingly our entrance tunnel of six arches followed the master plan; the side arches went up quickly as our tactics were by now perfected but the three-arched exit caused consternation. The two  entrance/exit gates were not identically opposite each other ! In fact there was a 90 cm difference made all the more acute as the centre of the gate was then not the centre of the arch and the long run of string from one gate to the other revealed just how badly out of sync it was. Eventually we decided the arches had to be exactly opposite each other and to call in the fencing firm to move the gate…  otherwise they would have been forever out of kilter and spoilt the whole design. The bad gremlin continued to wreak havoc.

The ground on that side was so hard  the bottom horizontal on the strut was bent ; Gail was wheezing from her bout of flu and shouldn’t have been there at all so we gazed in awe at our twelve arches standing proud and left the last three in the dust for next time.

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Ludwig’s driver (from Ludwig’s Roses – one of our sponsors) offloaded a treasure trove of roses,  now in safe custody until we can plant them but we can’t do that until the irrigation pipes have been installed. When will that be? Why is one thing always contingent on yet another??