Before and after: the lower lawn

It has been two years since I made a number of significant changes to our Kigali, Rwanda, garden, and I thought this would be a good time to look back with a series of “before and after” pictures.

Today, I’ll focus on the “lower lawn” — the largest part of the garden, which is parallel to and just below the “upper lawn.”

(You can read about the upper lawn’s “before and after” in my July 25 post here).

Before

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Fall 2011 - lower lawnPhotos above and below:  late 2011.

Then and now, looking down on the lower lawn from the front of the house, you see grass and a clipped bougainvillea hedge along the front of the property — and then the view above.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, late 2011 - lower lawnThis is to the right of the previous photo; that’s Mt. Kigali over the front hedge — seen from the center steps that align with the middle of the house and terrace.

When you go down the center steps and stand on the lower lawn, the views of the city and hills are hidden and the flower/shrub borders are all you see.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Fall 2011 - lower lawn

Back in 2011, I thought it was all too straight, too wide (the grass), too dull.  And the bright white Victorian lampposts lined up out in the grass drove me crazy.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Fall 2011 - lower lawnThere is a slight slope to the lawn, toward the front hedge. Along that hedge (shown above, right) was a very narrow planting strip, into which a variety of nice shrubs were wedged.  I always had a feeling that they and the lawn could just slide down under the hedge.

The practical purpose of the lower lawn area is holding large events.  And from that standpoint, it was already working well.  The occasional need to put up tents meant that we could not remove a lot of the grass, but, as you can see in the picture just above, there was enough room to create a wider, much more interesting planting bed along the front hedge.

After

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2012 - lower lawnAbove is the same area of the previous photo in the summer of 2012, soon after we started making changes.  At this point, we had already painted the lampposts dark brown.

All the borders in the garden on the north side of the house (next post) and along the upper and lower lawns were re-cut in irregular curves — echoing the forms of the surrounding hills. The curves also provide a counterpoint to the long straight lines of the parallel lawns, borders, walls, and front hedge.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove:  the same section in late June 2014.

While I couldn’t remove a lot of grass in the center section of the lawn, the curvy borders can swing out a bit at the north and south ends.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove: the full lower lawn, looking from the north.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, April 2014 - lower lawnAbove: standing on the upper lawn, looking across to the front border in April 2014.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove: standing at the center steps, looking across — this is the same view as in the second photo in this post, above.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove: the full lower lawn, looking from the south.

Before

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Fall 2011 - lower lawnAbove: in late 2011, on the house side of the lawn, the old 9′ heliconias in the border between the two retaining walls loomed down. . .

11 2011. . . and were pretty tattered; I think we had had a hail storm not long before I took the photo above.

After

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove: the same section, in late June 2014.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove: the grass-level planting bed was extended out to contain the lampposts.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, Summer 2014 - lower lawnAbove: from the center of the lawn, looking at the south side of the retaining walls.

enclos*ure: our Kigali garden, April 2014 - lower lawnAbove: looking north in April 2014.

Continue reading “Before and after: the lower lawn”

Our garden: blue hills, yellow flowers

The landscape in the distance can provide one of the colors in a planting bed combination.

That’s come home to me this week as I’ve noticed how great the yellow daylilies in front of our terrace look against our view of the blue Kigali hills and sky.

Classic blue and yellow are working really well in this open, bright area.  (The columns of the terrace are pale yellow too.)

Below are yellow abutilon and yellow foliage in the same area. I need to bring some cream into the mix.


 
As the garden comes back from our  all the changes we made this summer, I’m starting to think more comprehensively about structure/color combinations in the planting beds. In June, as my two temporary helpers were fast digging up swathes of shrubs and flowers, there wasn’t a lot of time to get too prissy about perennial placement — I knew where I wanted the shrubs and grass, my main concerns for Phase One.

Quickly, I tried to direct the placement of the other plants into something like the ever-advised drifts, but as things fill in, I’m not getting the overall “clarity” (the word that most comes to my mind) that I want. So I need to get the shovel back out. (But these daylilies are good.)

I’m thinking about this observation on the relationship between plant color and form by Piet Oudolf:

Different shapes + different colours
There is a danger that there will be too much contrast. The eye may be overstimulated, and there may be no common ground.

He goes on, however, to say that “this is only a suggestion to be cautious. . . as even outrageous contrasts may work!”

He indicates that easier approaches may be:

  • Related shapes + related colours
  • Different shapes + related colours [Think Nori and Sandra Pope — I am.]
  • Related shapes + different colours

(from Designing with Plants.)

In September, we visited Chicago, and I spent some time in the Oudolf-designed* Lurie Garden.  In the large section in the photo below, fading shades of purple predominated.

Seed heads in dark brown, below, provided contrast.

OK, that works.


Above, in a yellow section of the garden, an ornamental grass is a transparent curtain across the city buildings.

*with Gustafson, Guthrie, Nichol, Ltd., and Robert Israel.