Foliage Follow Up for July

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

I thought I would give you a look at the plants surrounding the hibiscus and shrimp plants from yesterday’s Bloom Day.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

First, I would be grateful if anyone could identify the tropical plant with the very large leaves in the center above — and below with clover poking up through the leaves.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

When we arrived in Kigali, it was in a big pot on an upstairs porch, where I felt it was not getting the attention it deserved.  It was also really in the way — it’s over 4′ across.

On its left above and in the photo below is a large burgundy-colored succulent — sedum? kalanchoe? — which I also haven’t yet identified.  Does anyone recognize it Euphorbia grantii (aka Synadenium grantii), possibly the Rubra variety.  It’s also called African milk bush and is native to East Africa.

[Thanks to Alison in Australia, who wrote me with the I.D. in November 2014.]

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

This one is about 5′ tall, but I have seen specimens in Rwanda the size of a small tree.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

The burgundy leaves (red, green, and pink when the backlit by the sun — above) look good almost everywhere, so I have cuttings spread throughout the garden.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

In the picture above, there’s one in the back of a pink section of the long flower border — or it will be pink if the small shrub roses planted there will oblige me by growing and blooming. They are supposed to push up through the beach spiderlilies (Hymenocallis littoralis).

Below is one of two original plants that were here when we moved in.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

In the same planting bed with my two mystery plants are burgundy cannas, variegated liriope, yellow daylilies, and some lamb’s ear that I grew from seed from my parent’s garden in Virginia.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

At the ends are shrimp plants, “Fairy” roses, a caladium, and a small cycad (not in the picture).

This planting bed is on the right in the photo below.
Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

I also wanted to show you one of the common mulleins (Verbascum thepus) that I grew from seed taken from my parent’s garden last year.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

This one (located not very artistically in the vegetable garden) is 3′ across. The other plants are only 12″.

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

The plant is something of a roadside weed in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., but it can send up a yellow flower stalk to 10′ tall. The garden writer, Henry Mitchell* liked tall mulleins so much that he wrote, “O for a lute of fire to sing their merits.”

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Follow Up for July, Kigali, Rwanda/enclos*ure

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Follow Up the 16th of every month.

*in The Essential Earthman.

Our garden: baskets in the trees

Your head is a living forest
full of song birds.

e.e. cummings

Weaver birds' nests in Rwanda/enclos*ure

During the last several months, a colony of weaver birds has been living in a pair of tall trees at the end of the front terrace.

Now I am not much of a birdwatcher, but I do love baskets.

Weaver birds' nests in Rwanda/enclos*ure

Attach some handles, and we have got the beginnings of a small income-producing cooperative.

I estimate that they built two to three dozen nests, mostly in the tree on the left below.

Weaver birds' nests in Rwanda/enclos*ure

I  haven’t seen the birds for a few weeks, so they may have moved on.  The ones I noticed earlier looked like large brown sparrows — which some experts put in the same bird family of Ploceidae.

Weaver birds' nests in Rwanda/enclos*ure

However, I may have been seeing only the females.  Most Ploceus weavers “display a strong sexual dimorphism,” according to the Bradt guide book for Rwanda: the females are brown, and the males are often predominately yellow and can have a black facial mask.  I have seen yellow birds like that around the garden, but I hadn’t connected them with the nest-building group.

Weaver birds' nests in Rwanda/enclos*ure

According to the guide book, 21 of the 101 African weaver species live in Rwanda.

Weaver birds' nest in Rwanda/enclos*ure

Several of the nests have fallen, so I’ve been able to get a better look at the weaving.  I found this one, in the photos above and below, just yesterday.

According to the Bradt* guide book,

[i]t can be fascinating to watch a male weaver at work. First, a nest site is chosen, usually at the end of a thin hanging branch or frond, which is immediately stripped of leaves to protect against snakes. The weaver then flies back and forth to the site, carrying the building material blade by blade in its heavy beak, first using a few thick strands to hang a skeletal nest from the end of a branch, then gradually completing the structure by interweaving numerous thinner blades of grass into the main frame. Once completed, the nest is subjected to the attention of his chosen partner, who will tear it apart if the result is less than satisfactory, and so the process starts all over again.

The first photo at the top of this post shows a part of a nest in the lower left side.  It may have been a victim of one episode of this “Nest Hunters Rwanda.”

Weaver birds' nest in Rwanda/enclos*ure

Above: a closer look at the weaving around the entrance hole — which I have seen placed anywhere along the side of the nest, from near the top to almost at the bottom.

Weaver birds' nest in Rwanda/enclos*ure

I took the photos of this fallen nest, above and below, a few weeks ago.

Weaver birds' nest in Rwanda/enclos*ure

Looking in the entrance hole above, it looks like there is a partial internal basket as well (you can see the top just right of center of the picture; the nest is on its side).

Weaver birds' nest in Rwanda/enclos*ure

Above: I pulled this one apart — which was not easy — to see how many of my garden plants I could identify.  I see pine needles, some acacia tree leaves, and lemongrass.  They may have also pulled strips off the leaves of the traveler’s palms and the heliconias.

About the same time, two hawk-like birds built a very large, but more conventional, nest in one of the same two trees.  The pair are brown and have an almost 3′ wingspan (and evidently don’t eat weaver birds).

Hawks' nest in Rwanda/enclos*ure

See the strip of white cloth woven through the side of the nest in the photo above?  For a couple of months, I’ve been finding all kinds of trash near the foot of this tree.  It was a really annoying mystery until I spotted the nest and realized that the birds must weave in bits of cloth, plastic, and paper.

I haven’t seen the couple in a few days, but yesterday, I saw a smaller version of them on another tree in the garden. [August addendum:  They’re still there, but no sign of young ones.]

April 17, 2014:  The weaver birds are back; more here.

Birds were the original architects, creating fantastic and extreme examples of blobitecture and parametric design long before any architecture critic labeled these styles. They are also summa cum laude engineers, able to transform cheap, insubstantial building materials into the most durable and cozy of homes.

— Chee Pearlman, in “Twigitecture,” The New York Times

*Rwanda, The Bradt Travel Guide, by Philip Briggs and Janice Booth.  And I have decided that I really need to order the Princeton Field Guides’ The Birds of East Africa.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: June 2013

Here are some of the flowers that are blooming in my garden today.

GBBD — the 15th of every month — is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Click here to see other garden bloggers’ mid-June flowers.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ and then on any thumbnail to scroll through larger images.

Miriam had allowed her interest in gardening, which had gradually grown to a full-fledged hobby, to consume and define her. . . . She didn’t care for clothes anymore, just equipment; knee pads, trowels, a little bench to carry about and kneel on. To pray to her god, the garden.

— William H. Gass, from Middle C

(In the novel, the main character’s mother discovers her love for gardening after he gives her a stolen packet of annual seeds.)


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: Evolvulus ‘Blue Sapphire’

The green of life requires blue. . .*

Entrance to our garden/enclos*ure

At the front of our house, in two curvy planting beds, the Evolvulus ‘Blue Sapphire’ is thick and blooming heavily — in the morning.

By early afternoon, the flowers close up, and I’m left with just a small-leaved, grey-green ground cover — which is still pretty nice.

(Above:  that’s a pink-blooming crape myrtle tree to the left, doing so-so — I’m going to give it a light pruning pretty soon and see if it will fill out a bit.)

Front entrance and Evolvulus 'Blue Sapphire' blooming/enclos*ure

I planted out little sprigs of the evolvulus last July. This open area used to be occupied by a large Norfolk pine.  However, it was dying (see here; sixth photo) and had to be cut down.

I’m not very happy with the grass and stone arrangement on the left side of the center planting area (below).  It looks rather ragged.   One of these days, I plan to remove the turf grass (I really like to have a wee bit of Round-Up) and plant mondo grass between the stones — as well as take up a few stones and add a two or three mounding plants.

Entrance and Evolvulus blooming/enclos*ure

Below, the blooms of Evolvulus ‘Blue Sapphire’ are a true blue.  It is a tropical plant, hardy to U.S. zones 8-11.

(Click on any of the photos to enlarge them or on ‘Continue reading’ below to scroll through all the bigger images.)

Evolvulus for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day in March/enclos*ure

Below, I’ve also used it to edge the planting border along the upper lawn in front of the terrace. (A plan of our garden is here.)

Front border edged with Evolvulus/enclos*ure

Below is the same border from the other direction, standing at the center steps.  (The red-flowering shrub/vine at the end is a Mussaenda erythrophylla.)

Border with Evolvulus 'Blue Sapphire' and yellow daylilies

Below, the border continues on the left side of the steps. The tall yellow flowers are double Rudbeckia laciniata.

Our front border/enclos*ure

Below, the zinnias in our cutting garden (from last month’s GBBD) continue to be beautiful.  The tall grass in the back is lemongrass.

Zinnias in our cutting garden in Rwanda/enclos*ure

To see what’s blooming in other garden bloggers’ gardens today, check out May Dreams Gardens.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is the 15th of every month.

*by Robert L. Jones, from “Blue.”

Just another day in paradise

What if we just let it all go?

A path in the early morning fog.
Virunga Safari Lodge in early morning fog.

Just cut paths through the brush and then beautifully paved them?

path - Virunga Safari Lodge

Pushed out a few garden rooms with low walls and columns built of local stone?

Sunflowers at the entrance to a garden room.

The central path crosses a garden room.

Mowed the grass only in those small spaces? Gardened (sometimes) with a machete, not hoes and shovels?

wildflowers beyond wall
A terrace overlooking the wild hillside, the roofs of cabins in the background.

That’s what I kept thinking during our overnight stay at the Virunga Safari Lodge in northern Rwanda a couple of weeks ago.

The path to the local village.
Path to the local village beyond a wall.

The hotel consists of a main dining/lounge building and eight very private cabins.

The stone terrace of our cabin in morning fog.
The stone terrace and bench of our cabin in morning fog.

A central path through the hotel grounds runs along the top of a hill, and the cabins are sited on both sides on a level below.

roof of our cabin
The roof of our cabin.

In the brush, wild natives and naturalized exotics grow together in a jumble.  They were noisy with birds and insects.

plants over wall

Perennial sunflowers.

As we took a walk through the neighboring community, I realized that the light-touch landscaping of the hotel grounds created, in a sense, the least artificial environment in the area. Rwanda’s country land is highly cultivated — almost every square foot is part of a vegetable garden or field or wooded plot for timber.  A steep slope is rarely an obstacle.

Fields on a nearby hillside.
Fields on a nearby hillside.

At the end of a relaxing stay, we had lunch at a table overlooking Lake Burera and its little islands. Then we were off on the 2-hour drive back to Kigali.

The view at lunch.

It’s sad to leave Eden.

View from our table at lunch.
View of sunflowers and the lake from our table at lunch.

To scroll through larger versions of these images (and several more), click ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.

To see more photos of Virunga Safari Lodge from a brief visit last year, click here.

Continue reading “Just another day in paradise”