Our garden: after two years

It has been two years since I made a number of significant changes to this garden, and I thought this would be a good time to look back with a series of “before and after” pictures.

I’ll start today with the area I call the “upper lawn” — just in front of the terrace off the front door.

Before

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden 2011 - upper lawnThis space – photographed in the fall of 2011 — used to be composed of (left to right) 3′ to 4′ high sheared shrubs, a grass path, and a second border of shrubs and perennials.  Further to the right was/is a stone retaining wall (just visible in the foreground above), another planting bed about 3′ below, and then another stone retaining wall.

Bright green 8′ to 9′ Heliconia rostrata  or  lobster claws were growing in the lower planting bed between the two walls, on either side of the center steps that lead to the “lower lawn.”

It was all very pretty, but with some problems.

The tall Heliconia created a wall of large foliage right in front of what should have been a wide view from the front door.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden 2011 - upper lawnThe grass path was not really wide enough to be a good seating area, as you can see from this picture of the aftermath of a rather messy large lunch event.  The chairs had to be lined up, and the large bushes on either side created a tunnel effect.

After

The primary practical goals for the upper lawn were to expand our room for entertaining and open up the very good views of the city and hills on the west side of the property (the house is near the top of a ridge).

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnNow, two years later, the lawn is an extension of the terrace and is wide enough for groups of tables and chairs.  Most of the plants in the border are low.

The pictures above and below were taken at the end of last month.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnAs soon as we* removed the old shrubs and the Heliconia, I was thrilled with the increased sense of light and air.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnI still feel happy every time I walk out the front door.

Before

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden 2011 - upper lawnI did consider leaving the rather romantic vines on the columns — shown above in the fall of 2011.  But they only gave us a few flowers at a time, and, on the terrace side, they were mostly a tangle of brown stems.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden 2011 - upper lawnThe effect was a little grubby and very claustrophobic.

After

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnNow, more light, air,  and space.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawn

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnWe have very wide, beautiful views .  (Unfortunately, when I took these photos last month, they were somewhat obscured by the light of the setting sun.)

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawn

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnBright orange red hot pokers punctuate all the borders at regular intervals.

The transition:

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden 2011 - upper lawnThis, above, was the starting point in the spring of 2011.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, summer 2012 - upper lawnAbout May 2012, above, we first cleared out the shrubs and vines on the terrace side.  Most of them were temporarily planted in a newly dug flower garden at the side of the house.

We had also just cut out a long border on the lower lawn (next post), so we brought that grass up and almost instantly made a wider lawn area.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, summer 2012 - upper lawnThen, we cleared out most of the shrubs on the other side, as well as in the planting beds between the retaining walls. (We moved most of them, as well as the bushes stored in the side garden, to the new lower lawn border).

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnAbove and below are the mature results,  at the end of June 2014.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnThis border is full of little sunbirds and butterflies.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnI planted the same coral and grey Graptopetalum in all the pots.  The terra-cotta tones of the clay and of the edges of the succulent’s leaves repeat those of the roof tiles in the view.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnI planted yellow-blooming day lilies, Rudbeckia laciniata, and roses in the narrow border along the top of the stone retaining wall — and mainly blue and purple-blue flowering plants in the bed just below. 

The yellow holds up well to the bright sun in this exposed spot and echoes the pale yellow paint on the house exterior (and on the living room walls just behind the front door).

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, June 2014 - upper lawnThe blues pick up the same tones in the hills on the other side – particularly in late afternoon.

You can scroll through larger versions of these and some additional photos by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.

*The “we” is me, the gardener, and, briefly, three extra helpers.

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Life in gardens: geography lesson

Life in gardens/enclos*ure: geography lesson, ca. 1920, State Library of New South Wales“[S]chool yard, Jindalee Primary School, [Cootamundra, Australia,] c. 1920s,” photographer unknown; via State Library of New South Wales Commons on flickr.

The children have made a map of the world in dirt. It includes cut-out ships and animals.

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The Sunday porch: Airlie, N.C.

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“Miss Lula Thorne’s house,” Oakland Plantation, Airlie in Halifax County, North Carolina, between 1935 and 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Beautiful vines and interesting columns.  And I really like the four small sconces – one on each side of the door and one at each corner.

There were similar vines and sconces on this other North Carolina house here.

Oakland house was probably built between 1823 and 1828 for Elizabeth Williams Thorne Drake and either her first or second husband. It still stands, but, at some point after the 1930s, the porch was rebuilt to match the late Federal “temple form” style of the rest of the house. You can see it about 2012 here and here.

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Vintage landscape: Yorktown, Va.

More big (boxwood) love.  .  .

#1, Nelson Hse. garden, ca. 1930, FBJohnston, LoC“‘York Hall,’ Captain George Preston Blow house, . . . Main Street, Yorktown, Virginia. Table in boxwood garden,” 1929, by Frances Benjamin Johnston.*

The house is more often called the Nelson House for the family that built it in the 1740s and owned it throughout the 19th century.  George and Adele Blow purchased it and began to restore it in 1914.  In 1968, it became a National Park Service site.

#2, Nelson hse., 1903, WHJackson, LoCThe front of the house and Main Street as it appeared about 1902. Photo by William Henry Jackson for Detroit Photographic Co.

#4, Nelson Hse., c. 1915, HABS, LoC The front of Nelson House in 1915. This photo is part of an Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

(There’s a photo of the front of the house and the younger boxwoods in 1862 here.)

#5, Nelson Hse., c. 1915, HABS, LoCThe front door, inside the boxwood hedge, 1915, HABS.

#9, view from hall, Nelson house, ca. 1915, LoCThe center hall, looking out the front door, 1915, HABS (photo cropped by me).

#6, Nelson Hse., c. 1915, HABS, LoCThe side view of the house, ca. 1915 (I think it may be later), HABS.  The front boxwood hedge is on the left.

#16, Nelson Hse, ca. 1930s, FBJohnston, LoCThe side garden in the 1930s by Frances Benjamin Johnston.

The garden during the Blow’s ownership was designed by Charles Freeman Gillette, a landscape architect known for working in the Colonial Revival style. Today, little remains.  The giant boxwoods at the front of the house are gone.

#19, Nelson Hse, ca. 1930s, FBJohnston, LoCAnother view of the side garden in the 1930s by  Frances Benjamin Johnston.

More big boxwood photos here and here and here and here.

*All photos here via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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Life in gardens: the backdrop path

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrPaul Trutat at Cornusson, France, by his father, Eugène Trutat. All photos here via Bibliothèque de Toulouse Commons on flickr.

Do you have a favorite outdoor spot for taking family photographs?

For early French photographer Eugène Trutat (1840 – 1910), it seems to have been this garden path, which was in Cornusson, a village in the Parisot commune in the Midi-Pyrénées.

The property may have been part of the family home of his wife, Caroline Cambe. The couple were married in Cornusson in 1864.  Paul (above) was born in 1865 and Henri in 1868.

(There’s a sweet picture of the two little boys together here.)

Eugène was from Toulouse.  In addition to being a photographer, he was a naturalist, geologist, mountaineer of the Pyrénées, and a curator of the Museum of Toulouse.

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrCaroline (née Cambe) in a man’s suit.  I believe this was taken between 1859 and 1870.

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrCaroline and her mother, ca. 1864- ca. 1875.

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrExtended family group. If the boys in the picture are Paul and Henri, then the date is probably about 1871-75.

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrDetail of above photo.

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrJeanne and Henriette, (household servants?), between 1859-1910.

Trutat family on path, E. Trutat, Library of Toulouse, flickrWomen’s headdress, Jeanne and Clémence, between 1859-1910.

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