Cynthia Goodson created this beautiful garden in Niamey, Nigeria. Here’s her story.
We arrived in Niamey, Niger, in August 2006 and left in August 2008. The pictures I sent were mostly from 2008. My husband worked at the U.S. Embassy there, and this house had been assigned to Embassy families for many years. It was much appreciated for its nice patio, flat rooftop (reached by spiral staircase), and large lawn for outside entertaining, but the design and plantings were rather minimal by the time we arrived.
When I saw pictures of it before we arrived, the best feature was the billowing bougainvillea covering all the walls and the front of the house. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found that it had all been cut down. The housing manager had thought we would find it messy and was worried about bees.
There was a nice big lawn, but there was a scraggly little hedge edging all the sidewalks. You actually had to step over it to get onto the lawn. There were some cannas at the base of the front wall and a small circular rose bed in the lawn, but that was it for flowers. But there were some great trees — a baobab, mangoes, some palms.
After a couple months of playing with various ideas for better organization and more drama (or any drama), I came up with the idea of using overlapping circles or loops (inspired by the loops of razor wire at the top of the garden walls) as planting beds throughout the property.
In the smaller front area, which was really just for viewing from the front patio, the loops were smaller and edged in short hedges in two shades of green. As you moved onto the lawn, the loops were bigger with no hedge borders. I positioned the overlapping loops/planting beds so that there was one large main opening to the lawn in the front (where I wanted guests to enter) and two smaller openings by the car port and in the back for practical purposes.
When you entered the garden, to your right was a small area in front of the house’s patio. This was really an area for viewing from the patio and appreciating (I hoped) the flowers that filled in the sort of parterre of loops edged by short hedges. To your left was a gravel path leading to a covered area for the car and a couple of larger planting “loops”. Early on, I had thought that one of the large beds would be used for vegetables, but frankly I lost interest since the local growers supplied a good variety of produce.
There was a large lawn along the left side of the house, which we used for parties (we hosted the Peace Corps a couple times a year, as well as holiday parties for the American community). In the back of the lawn was a fenced area with a med.-sized pool. At the back of the house, off the kitchen, was a small paved work area.
There were some beautiful mature palm trees, three mango trees and the planting beds. I also planted some bananas and papayas, but they only started to produce fruit as we were leaving. I was able to get a few wonderful banana plants with burgundy streaked leaves from the Ambassador’s residence, and they were quite large by the time we left.