November Bloom Day: early summer

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Technically, because Kigali is a few degrees south of the equator, it is early summer here.

But  — given that the temperature is almost always in the 70ºs or low 80ºs — it is more relevant that we are almost three months into the end-of-the-year rainy season.

In late October, I came back from five weeks in the U.S. to rampant growth in all the planting beds.  Now, I need to wade in and do some serious cutting back all over.

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

(Not very) Wordless Wednesday: rain

Our Rwanda garden after rain, August 2014Raindrops on the Graptopetalum leaves yesterday morning.

It had rained the night before, for the third time in two weeks. Maybe the summer dry season is ending early?

(I would normally look for consistent heavy showers to start in early to mid September and last until late December.)

I have been hoping for an early fall rainy season, since we only have a few more months in the country, and I would like to see the garden in high growth mode one more time.

ADDENDUM: 6:27 p.m. — raining.

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.


More Bloom Day in March

The borders along the upper lawn in our Kigali garden are blooming particularly well this month. I took these pictures yesterday.

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(You can control the slideshow by hovering the cursor over it. Or you can scroll through larger versions of the photos by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.)

Our front garden is a rather formal arrangement of two long lawns that run parallel to each other and to the length of the house and its terrace. The narrow upper one is separated from the much wider lower one by two sets of 3′ retaining walls, which are joined in the center by a flight of steps. Irregularly curving planting beds border both sides of the lower lawn and one side of the upper.

I’ve tried to balance the formal layout with an informal, sort of “country garden” planting plan. The beds contain a closely planted mix of tropical and temperate plants and shrubs. Most are cultivated, but the “wild” plants and vines that work their self-seeding way up through the jumble can stay if they they add nice textures or colors.

The beds between the retaining walls and the one along the far side of the lower lawn are anchored by several large, often flowering, shrubs and lianas, and even some small trees.

Because of the vigorous plants and the constant warm weather, I’m always pruning or chopping something back.

Almost every plant repeats in the garden, often in several places.  But each 7′ to 15′ section of border has its own primary and secondary colors and then a bit of a third color trailing through the middle or around the edges.

The border along the upper lawn starts out orange and white (with a little pink) at its south end, then becomes yellow and blue/purple with some orange to the center steps. On the north side of the steps, it is yellow and blue/purple again with a stronger trail of orange (red hot poker, lantana, tropical hibiscus). At the north end, it is red and pink with blue around the edges.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is the 15th of every month. To see what’s blooming today in other bloggers’ gardens, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

My earlier March Bloom Day post today is here.
Continue reading “More Bloom Day in March”

After some rain

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain. . . .

— Robert Creeley, from “The Rain

Our garden on August 31, at the end of the dry season:Our garden in the dry season/enclos*ure

And on September 11, after several days of rain:Our September garden in Rwanda/enclos*ure

Much better. After the first rain or two, everything seemed almost sparkly.

Below (click on any of the thumbnails in the gallery) is a little tour of the borders along the upper and lower lawns, taken on September 11 — just before sunset — and yesterday afternoon.

I think this will be my slightly early Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up submission for September. Please go to May Dreams Gardens (Bloom Day on September 15) and Digging (Foliage Follow-Up on September 16) to see what’s happening in other Garden Bloggers’ gardens.