GB Bloom Day in May

in the pleatpetal purring of mouthweathered May.

Karen Volkman, from “May

The Chinese tree peonies are definitely the stars this month in the Speilhaus garden of the University of Hohenheim.

Bloom Day, 2016,enclos*ure

I took these photos yesterday evening.

The garden has around ten mature specimens.

Paeonia Suffruticosa Hybrid ‘Yoshinogawa’

Paeonia-Suffruticosa-Hybride 'Yoshinogawa'
Paeonia Suffruticosa Hybrid ‘Yoshinogawa’

Unfortunately, we had several days of rain last week, and the blooms were not at their best.

Paeonia tenuifolia 'Plena'
Paeonia tenuifolia ‘Plena’

The fern leaf peony shown above was new to me.

Looking across the garden to the Spielhaus.

Beyond the peony bed, I liked the combination, above and below, of light-purple geraniums and orange euphorbias.

Geranium tuberosum and
Geranium tuberosum and Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fire Glow’

Euphoribia griffithii 'Fire Glow'
Euphoribia griffithii ‘Fire Glow’
Iris Barbata-Media-Grpuppe 'Antarctique'
Iris Barbata-Media-Grpuppe ‘Antarctique’

Nearby was a planting of bearded iris.

In the photo above, the bright yellow at the top, just below the arbor, is mountain goldenbanner, which is native to the western United States.

Thermopsis montana
Thermopsis montana or mountain goldenbanner
Asphodelus albus
Asphodelus albus

White asphodel  — “that greeny flower” — was also blooming in the garden.

The pretty blue-violet flower above was close by, but I didn’t get a picture of its label.  I think it’s another Asphodelus. It’s a Camassia, a North American native in the asparagus family (see the comments below).

Looking south across the garden from behind the wisteria arbor, you can see the row of tree peonies.  In the lower right-hand corner is a planting of yellow asphodel or king’s spear.

Asphodelus lutea

Looking across the garden from the east to the west, a beautiful pink blooming Judas tree draws the eye.

The tree is native to Southern Europe and Western Asia.

The flowers are edible and are said to have a sweetish-acid taste.

At the other side of the garden a Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum or purple gromwell drapes over the steps. The flowers emerge purple reddish and then mature to deep blue.

A last look from the northeast. At mid-month, the wisteria on the arbor (right side) has only a few blooms.

To see what’s blooming today for other garden bloggers, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Follow Up: underplanting

First, let me give you a very quick, belated GB Bloom Day.  I was too wiped out to post yesterday.  I spend most of the day transplanting some shrubs and a bunch of Gerbera daisies and asters.  They needed dividing, and it was fiddily work pulling apart all the little roots.  And there seemed to be a battalion of ants everywhere I wanted to put them.

In the last month, as we’ve been renovating the garden, we’ve pulled out about 50 of these beach spiderlilies (Hymenocallis littoralis) from under old bushes and moved them to the front of the newly widened planting beds along the front lawn. They started blooming right away, although they’re a bit sad, since we cut off their leaves as we set them out.

Beach spiderlilies are native to southern Mexico, the west coast of Florida, and Central America, but somehow they made it to Rwanda, where they’re a common garden flower.

Now on to foliage:  the little creeping plant below is a real lifesaver here where you can’t buy that nice bagged mulch to cover all the bare dirt in a newly planted area. I don’t know its name, but we had it in Niger as well. It may be a sedum.

It’s very shallow-rooted, so it’s easy to scoop up a handful, tease it apart a little, and then press it into loose soil under taller plants that need some time to fill out.

It’s grow-your-own mulch. It spreads quickly and can actually get out of hand, but I’ll always be tearing off the overflow for another spot. Or just tossing it — grow-your-own compost too.

In Washington, D.C., I had a spreading stonecrop sedum that served much the same purpose.

This month, I’ve also been pulling various begonias out of pots and re-planting them in semi-shade as ground cover.  They won’t spread as fast as the sedum, but they should make a nice tapestry eventually.

I’m not going to try to name these varieties.

I think there as many different types of begonias as daylilies.

Below is great spreading plant for which I don’t yet have a name.  I found it behind the back parking area, hidden by the curb.  I’ve been dividing and planting it everywhere.

It has true blue flowers.

I’m not really a pots person.  In the last couple of months, I’ve mostly been removing the plants from a lot of the old pots that I’ve found all around the house and putting them in the ground. However, I did recently create this rather pitiful arrangement.

The tree — one of those big-leafed Ficus that you see in chic rooms in House Beautiful — was in another pot at the side of the house, baking in full sun. We pulled it out and pruned its roots and top.  Then, we put it in this prettier pot in the bright shade of the terrace, underplanted with the little round-leafed begonia shown above.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will eventually put out new leaves. [UPDATE: It recovered beautifully.]

To see what’s blooming in other garden bloggers’ gardens, check out May Dreams Gardens, and thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Follow Up the 16th of every month.

“By any other name . . .” would be wrong

Plant by plant, I am putting names to the flowering shrubs in our Rwanda garden. Here are two more, supplied by the readers of Fine Gardening’s Garden Photos of the Day, from my pictures on Monday and Wednesday.

Eranthemum nervosum (aka E.pulchellum) or blue sage or blue eranthemum has gentian blue flowers, as you can see.  In the family Acanthaceae, it is native to India.  It will grow 4′-6′ and likes light shade.  It will grow in the garden in (U.S.) zones 10b and 11. (I think all the shrubs in this post would be suitable for pots in colder climates.)

Brunfelsia latifolia (aka B. australis) or yesterday, today, and tomorrow plant is native to South America.  It is very fragrant at night.  Our largest specimen, which needs pruning, is about 5′ tall, 4′ wide.  It is in the same family as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and petunias — Solanaceae or nightshade.

Y.T.T. likes well drained, moist soil and full sun to part shade — its habitats are light woodlands and thickets — and grows in the garden in (U.S.) zones 9-11.  The flowers open purple, then go to lavender, and then white.  The genus was named for early German herbalist Otto Brunfels (1464-1534).

I’m just showing this off.  I already knew its name.

Brugmansia is native to tropical South America and, like the Brunfelsia, is also in the family Solanaceae. It is also called angel’s trumpet or datura (the name of a closely related genus).  The semi-woody shrub can branch off like a small tree and grow to 6′-20′.  It has a fragrance in the evening. It likes moist, well-drained, fertile soil, full sun to part shade, and grows in the garden in (U.S.) zones 9-11.