Wild hibiscus

Wild hibiscus 19810001

Diana Newton
Wild hibiscus, 1981
Watercolor
(7.8 x10 inches)
(20 x 25.5 cm)






The vibrant tropical flowers, like this wild hibiscus, that I saw on a daily basis in Botswana thrilled me. One of my favorite university courses had been landscaping. I could hardly believe my luck when I was given my first landscaping project. Where? I wanted to know. In Bobonong, was the answer. Bo-bo-nong! Those three delightful syllables got me up at dawn for an early Air Botswana flight from Gaborone to Selebi-Phikwe, followed by a car drive to the project site, located in the easternmost part of the country, inside what looks like a triangle poking into Rhodesia (it was 1979, the year before it became Zimbabwe). A botanist (yes, a real, live one) met me. Together, we surveyed the barren, treeless site of a secondary boarding school, discussing wind and sun, soil and drainage, imagining a green and brightly-colored future. Back at my drawing board at the Buildings Department, I happily drew dozens and dozens of small and large circles with my plastic template (no computer-aided design back then) on the vellum plan, before handwriting the names of each tree, shrub (including hibiscus and oleander), and climbing vine that would be planted to brighten the dormitories, classrooms, dining hall, kitchens, and staff residences. I haven't been back to Bobonong since that first visit, but a former colleague reported that the shrubs and trees were thriving. I hope they've grown, spread, and blossomed, bringing beauty, gentle fragrance, and welcome shade to students and staff alike.