Monday, July 25, 2016

LXXVI. Vecinos


Last night my lovely wife and I had our customary margaritas on the patio and a smoke. It was time to clean up for dinner—still a little light outside, around 8 pm is my guess—and we’d been hearing good-natured and loud laughter from out front. I investigated, opened the gate and was greeted by a half dozen guys, including my neighbor Francisco, gathered in the cobblestone street around a dark green pickup truck I had never seen before. Francisco’s wife sitting on the narrow sidewalk, against the wall, their kids floating around with smiles. A few other wives. More smiles. “ Hola Señor. Buenos tardes. ¿Es demasiado ruidoso [is it too noisy] ?” Laughter. “¡No, nos gusta [we love it]! Buenas tardes, amigos. ¿Como están ustedes?”—my response. Francisco and I end up shaking hands, sharing a beer, and vowing to always invite each other to our respective fiestas. ¡Vecinos! Neighbors!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

LXXV. Nuestro Jardín

Our Garden

The original patio was paved wall-to-wall and featured mostly
thorny or spiny plants in pots. You can see part of what will
become the edge-line for the larger planting bed slanting
across the bottom center of the picture.
On the very first visit to what would become our nueva casa, we decided—as we trailed the realtor around the place—that if we ended up buying it, we would for sure do something about the all-stone patio edged with planters of spiny looking succulents and cacti. The bare flagstone floor and surrounding brick walls made a heat sink, and all the potted desert plants amplified that fact to create an environment we did not find comfortable. We like warm weather but we also value shade and green fecundity. To this end we daylighted much of the patio’s rock paving, and brought in a lot of plants that do well in this sunny micro-environment AND that will create shade. Eventually we can put in an understory of shade-tolerant plants to give us more of a jungly—not desert-y—feel. At least that’s the plan.

The patio as it exists today. The two bamboo poles now support a palm tree
that fell over in a rare and recent heavy wind. In the very center of the picture
a thin stick is visible rising into the flagstone. This failing-to-thrive Flame
Tree is being replaced by a more vigorous one.
Back in March, when we were still having new kitchen tiles installed and leaking areas of the roof sealed, we also contracted to have flagstones removed from parts of the patio to define two large areas that would be filled with a good mix of soil. One defining line was already visible in the existing paving; few changes were necessary to follow it. I drew up a complementary line beyond which would be another planting bed, with a large, curving stone path between the two.

After we moved into our house the beginning of June, after unpacking, organizing and having a few small electricity and plumbing repairs done, I began work on the garden by calling Señor Delgado at Lakeside Gardening. He sent Luis for a consultation. Considering sun and water factors, Luis gave me ideas for what to plant and where. 

The herb, bee and butterfly garden features rosemary, oregano, basil, anise,
cilantro, garlic chives, lavender, grasses and flowers, plus a fragrant, climbing
jasmine and lime tree
Four times I made the long walk to the vivero, or nursery, across from where the libremiento, or by-pass, meets Walmart. The folks there were incredibly helpful; they escorted me up and down and all around the rows of plants as I described what I wanted in caveman-syntax español, mostly using the three esses: Seco…sombra…sol. Dry. Shade. Sun. When they’d find a plant that met my specifications, I’d either accept or reject it, and we would continue on until I felt like I had all I needed.

After Rosario toted up the bill and I paid, I’d walk home to meet the delivery hombre who’d load the plants into our cochera (think “place for your coach, a garage”). Next came the weird experience of moving the african iris, bird of paradise, hibiscus, palm, etc., through the dining and living rooms by wheelbarrow to the patio’s waiting beds. 

It’s been almost three weeks since planting (plus a few removals) began, and—after a number of careful esthetic considerations, and subsequent moderations—we just realized we are now finished with the garden installation. We’re happy with the result, especially since we know many of the plants will be much larger when mature, and some have yet to flower. 

A 20' and 10' palm, 12' lime tree, and 15' Flame Tree will be providing most of the shade, climbing fragrant jasmine, orange and blue trumpet vines will green and color the brick walls and tile roof. The latter two plants, plus hibiscus will attract hummingbirds, or colibris. A variety of cooking herbs are also planted.

At night with the fountain gurgling and accent lights at just the right level, the garden is especially inviting. Looking from
the left is an Areca palm (blurred in the time exposure) that will reach the light fixture above it at maturity. African
irises are behind the palm, on either side. Both vines--either side of the fountain--will cover the wall, having quadrupled
in size in three weeks. They have deep blue, trumpet-like flowers. The plant with paddle-shaped leaves just to the left of
the fountain is a Bird of Paradise which will rise to the shelf of the fountain's first level; Canna lilies and papyrus next to
the pool will double in size. The Flame Tree, whose stick-like trunk is barely visible near the right front edge of the planting
bed, will eventually provide a 15' tall shade-giving umbrella filled with intricate bright yellow flowers. At the base of the
bamboo-supported Kerpis palm to the right is a hibiscus that will fill out with peach-colored, colibri-attracting flowers.
The potted plant, far right at the rear, is a heavily scented jasmine bush.
The fountain is a bonus. We mostly turn it on while we take our evening libations under the tile roof that overhangs the patio from the main house. The sound of the water is relaxing, and—much more than that—life-giving to the canna lilies and papyrus that border the pool. The water also draws birds—so far many sparrows, a canyon wren and several colibris. The flowers that are out now bring in bees and butterflies. We enjoy watching all this, including the plants, of course, and anticipate many more happy years in our garden. As my appreciative spouse says, "Watching it grow, is what a garden is for; that's one of the joys of life!"