Our garden in November

It has rained almost every day this month, and everything in the garden has been growing accordingly. Here’s a little tour — from some photos I’ve taken in the last few days.

November garden tour:enclos*ureAbove: Looking across the upper lawn from the north side. The front terrace of the house is to the left.

Looking to the south. At the top of the retaining walls, there are daylilies, evolvulus, and kniphofia. . .Above:  Looking across the upper lawn and the planting beds of the two retaining walls.  In the narrow border at the top, there are yellow daylilies, the bright blue-flowering (in the morning) groundcover evolvulus, and orange Kniphofia uvaria (red hot pokers).  At the right is an orange tropical hibicus.

There is a cluster of the bronze-tinged succulent graptopelum in a pot, and steel-blue Kalanchoe daigremontiana (mother of millions) thread their way throughout.

This whole area is mostly yellow, with some blue and orange at the edges.  The yellow works well with the blue hills and the sky in the distant view (see below).  It also picks up the pale yellow of the exterior house paint and the yellow/gold/beige tones of the living room immediately behind the terrace.

and graptopelum in a pot.  To the right of the hibicus is a Clerodendron thomsoniae var. delectum.Above:  To the right of the orange hibicus is a Clerondendron thomsoniae var. delectum.

Across the lower lawn, the new (well, from a year and a half ago) border is filling out well and beginning to have more flowers.  In the hedge above it, I have let various vines, shrubs, and the crowns of little self-seeded acacia trees emerge to provide additional form and texture.  We clip the bougainvillea flat behind them.

November garden tour:enclos*ureAbove: A view of the middle border between the two retaining walls that divide the upper and lower lawns.  On either side of the step railings, the flower colors are mostly blue/purple, with yellow as a secondary color.

In the border between the two retaining walls are blue eranthemum bushes (at the far right side). . .Above:  In this section of the middle border are Russelia equisetiformis lutea and an orange Lantana camera (both at the edge), bright blue eranthemum bushes (at the far right), a  lemongrass (beside the railing), and. . .

and this perennial -- possibly a salvia.  Does anyone know its name?Above:  this blue-purple-flowering perennial — possibly a salvia. Does anyone know its name?  It’s about 3′ to 4′ tall and almost a weed, but I use it all over the garden for the color and its quick, robust growth.

Looking back towards the north, our big acacia tree is blooming. . .Above: Looking back towards the north, our big acacia tree was blooming last week, looking very impressive with the bright red Mussaenda erythrophylla vine.

in white puffballs.Above:  Its flowers are small white puffballs.

A tall croton in the center, with Kalanchoe daigremontiana, kniphofia, and variegated groundcover irises in the border.Above: There’s a tall variegated croton in the center, with  more kalanchoe, kniphofia, and variegated groundcover irises along the border.  Behind the croton, Heliconia rostrata (lobster claws) are peeking out.

Behind the pot is a pink lantana and the stems of a shrub that looks like a privet and has heavily scented white flowers.  I limbed it up like a small multi-trunk tree, but some brown birds (they look like small parrots, but they aren’t) keep eating off the leaves.  I think I will have to give up on it soon.  Behind it are some old scarlet hybrid tea roses and coral pink zonal geraniums.  This area is about 50/50 red and pink with a little blue around the edges.

Looking back from the south side of the upper lawn.  There are Rudbeckia laciniata in the foreground.Above:  Walking to the south end of the upper lawn and then looking back. There are double Rudbeckia laciniata in the foreground and more graptopelum in the pots.  At the left, is a clipped yellow-foliage shrub that I don’t have the name for yet.  It’s really a liana, but it is extremely popular in Kigali for shearing into hedges and various balls because it grows so fast. (You just have to clip it back about every month.)

Behind the tall pot, you can also glimpse a few low-pruned  light blue cape plumbago and some shasta daisies.

There are graptopetalums in the pots, among daylilies and more kalanchoe.Above:  Turning around and looking back to the south.  At the far end of this border are light pink  Abutilon x hybridum or Chinese lantern bush.  The cactus-like plant is a euphorbia.  There’s a huge traveller’s palm behind that.

November garden tour/enclos*ureAbove: Our view of Mt. Kigali, from the steps in the center of both lawns.  Just beyond our hedge, the land dips down into a valley and then up again — so the brick buildings that you see at the top of the hedge are on the other side of the valley, maybe a half mile away, as the crow flies.

At the bottom of the steps, on the north side.Above:  Standing at the bottom of the steps, looking at the north side.  The orange lantana from the photo above hangs over the lower retaining wall.  Below it are rudbeckia (not blooming), yellow daylilies, some calla lilies, and some shasta daisies.  Beside the railing is a Brunfelsia latifolia (aka B. australis) or yesterday, today, tomorrow shrub, more russelia with cream blooms, and a vine/shrub that looks like jasmine, but has unscented yellow blooms.

There are Russelia equisetiformis in red and cream, Rudbeckia laciniata, dayllilies, and shasta daisies in this border.Above:  This red and yellow section is going strong at the moment. There are lots of Russelia equisetiformis in red, as well as cream, more double Rudbeckia laciniata, dayllilies, and shasta daisies in this border.  At the end are more kniphofia, which I use throughout the garden.  I love orange, so I put them in every color-themed section, regarding them as a sort of  repeating “neutral.”

Looking down the lower lawn from the north side.Above:  Standing at the north end of the lower lawn, looking to the south.  At the far end are two pots setting off a group of pine trees.

In the center on the retaining wall is a huge white-blooming rose that is about to get pruned.  Lamb's ear edges the lower border.Above:  Standing back at the bottom of the center steps looking south.  In the center on the retaining wall is a huge white-blooming rose that is soon to be pruned. Below it are orange bird of paradise, variegated ginger, lamb’s ear, Verbena bonariensis and some small purple alliums.  A little further down are more double rudbeckia, yellow daylilies, Missouri primrose, and dill.

At the very end is a mix of red and yellow-flowering plants to match the north end of the retaining walls (above), but they are not so well established yet.

Looking down the lower lawn from the south side.Above: Looking at the lower lawn from the south end. At the left, is a red section, with pink as a second color and blue around the edges.  There are red-blooming cannas and cannas with burgundy leaves, red ornamental sage, shrimp plants, and red roses.  The pink comes from gerbera daisies and an azalea bush.

After it, are sections with light purple, then yellow, then pink flowers predominating — finishing in the center, across from the steps, with yellow flowers and foliage (and beyond that is a section with light orange, light purple, coral pink and a bit of red).  But this long, newer border is not yet as colorful as the other side of the lawn.

Our garden: March going out

I’m going to be traveling for the next few weeks, so I wanted to leave you with some snapshots that I took this morning of the lower lawn area.

(Pictures of the upper lawn are here).

The long lower lawn from the south end.

The borders are filling out, and I’m starting to see more blooms.  Most of the plants were put in in the last eight months — many of them in the last couple of months, including some purple coneflowers that I started from seed.

(To see a garden plan and some “before” photos, click here and here.)

Above and below, on the right side:  the flowers will be — in about 6′ to 12′ sections — 1) red with some pink; 2) purple with some pink and white; 3) yellow and blue; 4) pink and some burgundy; 5) yellow and some burgundy; then a section of green, burgundy, and yellow foliage; 6) (way down there) pink, orange, and white.

Our Kigali garden/ enclos*ure

Next month, I’ll show the borders closer up, section by section.

There are also a number of plants with variegated or burgundy or bronze foliage interspersed throughout.  Everything just needs a little more growing time, but it’s been raining almost daily this month (we never really had much of a winter dry season), so I’ll see a lot of change when I get back.

Below is the lawn from the other end.

From the other end of the lawn.

Below are the borders on the other side of the lawn.  The photo just below shows what will be a mostly yellow section at the base of the retaining wall and a yellow and blue section above (with a little white, pink and purple).

A yellow section of border in front of the retaining walls.

Below, the goldenrod is blooming.

Goldenrod in bloom.

Below:  the steps and retaining wall borders from the other direction.

The steps and retaining walls.

Above: in the lower border, on the far side of the steps, you can just glimpse a little of the lamb’s ear that I grew from seeds from my parents’ garden.

Below: yellow lantana, pink gerbera daisies, blue evolvulus, yellow crown of thorns, ginger with yellow striped leaves, and a giant white rosebush.

Lantana, gerbera daisies, yellow crown of thorns, and a giant white rosebush.

The vine Cleodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum growing on plant supports in a bed between the retaining walls.

Above and below is a Clerodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum vine growing on plant supports in the upper bed between the two retaining walls.  You can also see the top of one of four burgundy-flowered sunflowers that are coming up in this mostly red (with some pink) section.

One of four burgundy sunflowers coming up in a mostly red-flowing area.

Finally, below is a baby wild mullein coming up from seed from my parents’ Virginia garden.

Wild mullein from seeds from my parents' Virginia garden.

The bright blue flowers are Evolulus ‘Blue Sapphire.’

I’m looking forward seeing the garden with fresh eyes when I return.

New York City is on my schedule.  Of course, I will walk through the High Line, and there’s a show on Impressionism and 19th c. fashion at MOMA that I want to see.  Any other recommendations for NYC in April?

To scroll through larger images, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.
Continue reading “Our garden: March going out”

Thomsoniae who?

In a comment, Diana of Elephant’s Eye asked me about Rwandan native plants. I had to say that I wasn’t sure how many, if any, of the plants in my garden are native to this country or region. It’s amazing how many common ornamental plants in East African gardens are of South American or Asian origin, brought here by colonists or other travelers.

Other plants originate from north, west, or southern Africa, but may have traveled to Rwanda via sojourns in European collectors’ conservatories.

To help me work it all out, I just bought The Illustrated Field Guide to the Plants of Nyungwe National Park  which covers, with color photos, 650 species native to Rwanda.

It has already helped me identify two flowering vines in the garden that were unfamiliar to me, Clerodendron thomsoniae and Clerodendron thomsoniae var. delectum. They also go by the common names of Beauty Bush, Bleeding Glory-Bower, or Bleeding Heart Vine.

Cleodendron thomsoniae with white calyx and red flowers. Photo via Wikipedia, taken at the U.S. Botanic Garden.
C. thomsoniae var. delectum with mauve calyx and dark rosy pink flowers.

I found that the species is native to tropical West Africa, from Cameroon to Senegal. But a very similar-looking cousin, Clerodendron fuscum, is native to Rwanda and other parts of East Africa — as are two much less showy species, C. johnstonii and C. bukobense.

They are all lianas — long-stemmed, woody vines that use trees as a means of vertical support to reach the light.

A photo of C. fuscum, a Rwandan native, in my book. The flowers are white, blotched with red.

Clerodendron thomsoniae has just the sort of exotic, showy blooms that would have been very desirable to the Victorians. Wikipedia said its 19th century popularity eventually declined, however, because “its root system must be partially submerged in water most of the time and it wants very good light.” Other sources did not indicate that it needs to grow in particularly damp ground. Mine does not. But in the U.S., it probably will not be hardy outside of Florida or California.

Wikipedia also said the species was named in honor of “Rev. William Cooper Thomson (fl. 1820’s-1880’s), a missionary and physician in Nigeria.” However, a further Google search turned up a Rev. Thomson who was a linguist, not a doctor, with the Church Missionary Society in Sierra Leone.   He was a man of zeal in the propagation of the gospel and the crusade against slavery.  In 1841, he led an ultimately fruitless expedition to make treaties with the Muslim Fulani people in what is now Guinea. He died during the journey in 1843.

That much is confirmed by other articles and a copy of his journal posted on the internet. There is no indication, however, of how this William Cooper Thomson might have come to have a popular hothouse plant named after him.

A French website said that the species was named for surgeon-botanist Thomas Thomson (1817-1878), co-author of the first volume of Flora Indica and eventually Superintendent of the botanical garden in Calcutta, India.  Swedish Wikipedia also says that Thomas T. is origin of the name. But Thomas T. never served in Africa.

The source for the English Wikipedia entry is the CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names by Umberto Quattrocchi, which unfortunately is not on-line and costs £204. If any reader does have access to this book, maybe you could let us know what it says. Other sites also give a William Cooper Thomson. as the origin of the name, but they are obviously just quoting Wikipedia.

Regardless of the source of its name,  it is really a lovely African plant.

ADDENDUM: Please see KAMCDONALD’s comment below for more about the source of the name, which was given in honor of the first wife of William Cooper Thomson, a missionary in Nigeria and son of the William Cooper T. discussed above.