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 important 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, and now our guests can really appreciate them while sitting on the terrace.  (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.


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

 

25 thoughts on “Our garden: after two years

  1. This is one of the best ‘before and after’ posts I’ve ever read. Your photos illustrate the need for change and how effective the changes have been. I look forward to seeing more ‘two years later’ posts. Congratulations!

  2. Very thorough photo/description of the before and after. Once plants are mature, we see them in a different light and function and your changes are dramatic and eye pleasing. This inspires me to redo an area.

  3. Well done! I,too, appreciate being able to see so clearly the comparison between ‘before’ and ‘after.’ You have quite a dramatic view and it looks like you now have some taller things in the border closest to the house, which could be useful in “holding back” some of that spectacular view and not giving it all away at once. Obscuring a bit of the view can make visitors want to continue on into the garden to find the view. Maybe you could try growing some new vines on the columns?

    1. There are some taller shrubs at each end of the border, which screen the full view somewhat as guests walk up to front area. There are also a couple of bushes near the center that send up some nice wavy long stems. Occasionally, they get out of hand and I cut them back, which is the case in these photos.

      Even though I really wanted to ditch those Heliconia and open up the view, good views really aren’t that special in Kigali — almost everyone has one — this is the “land of a thousand hills.” What I really appreciate now is the light and air that makes it into the terrace and to the front door. I think I will keep the columns clean, although it does occur to me now that they would probably be beautiful covered with creeping fig (Ficus pumila, I think), which would not have such a shaggy dog look as before.

  4. I do hope your skilled improvements are appreciated by the powers that be. You must have made such a difference to the use of the garden for large scale entertaining.
    And it looks glorious!

    1. I knew I needed to do a before and after. In the last several months, my pictures of the garden have pretty much looked the same. We don’t have interesting seasonal changes to report.

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