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.

 

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.