Saturday, July 29, 2006

Succulents from the Tianguis (street market)

I don't recognize this plant.
I think this photo was taken here in Chacala
Someone suggested this is a poinsettia.
When I enlarged the photo
the stems and leaves didn't look like Poinsettia,
but who knows.
Yesterday I was wide-awake before dawn, and ready to go. I had in mind going to the little Friday morning street market (tianguis) in Las Varas, the nearest "real" town. I lucked out with a collectivo coming by the end of driveway just as I got to the road. The combi was jammed packed, more hopping on as we drove through Chacala. During the ride into LV I got to hold 16 month old Guadalupe, a delicious little chubby armful with a wonderful smile. And a perky litte ponytail. She was my little flower for the day.

Did some errands and headed for the market. My neighbor, Jesus, was manning his wife's booth, where they sell used kid's clothing from the US. Nice affordable stuff. The plant lady waws set up was right across the way. And she had some plants I liked. And I liked the price too. One was a big plant with a yellow yellow margin on tall, deep green, smooth but textured- looking leaves (Sansierviera?). There were actually three plants in the plastic bag/pot A big one and two smaller ones. 30 pesos (2.70US). And then she has a little scrungy looking pot with a jade plant (which I never see in nursery here), and two other succulents. Pretty good sized plants for 10 pesos. Total. Plus I got five more buckets for pots. 10 pesos each.

This has been such a good week for my plant addiction. Two trips to the nursery, one to the tianguis, and one visit from the plant truck. The plant truck is coming again today, according to Maria Palila, but I have spent my plant and divertito (fun) pesos already for this month.

When I got home with my treasures the electrical contractors were at the house, hand digging eight foot deep holes for the huge cement power poles. It was very, very, hot and humid. The workers took numerous breaks, having Cokes and ice water on the front patio, and cooling off with the "town water" hose. Still, it was a back-breaking job.

Four workers dug 2 holes while the CFE (Federal Electric Commission electricans) sat on the patio and watched them. I watered plants, and pruned back the bouganvillea from where the new meter will go. The workers helped me get ride of some wasp nests in the ceiling. The wasps have been working hard to establish themsevles up there this year. I have to stand on a chair and sweep the new little nests down every morning. And I found some more baby vinca's and transplanted them closer to the steps. I am going to put some bouganvillea cuttings next to the new pole near the house. The good thing about hand-dug holes is they didn't make any mess at all. You can hardly tell the pole is new.

I made holes in the bottom of my new bucket-planters and filled the buckets with dirt. It's sort of fun to be an (old) women in Mexico. The machismo here means they think woman are too dumb and weak to fill buckets with dirt. So I got to watch while the electricans filled the buckets. Works for me. The conversation always turns to the questions of "Where is your husband?", "Do you live here alone?", "Who takes care of you?", etc etc etc. Sometimes I tell them I can drive big trucks and repairs cars and stuff like that. I can tell they don't believe me. I also tell them that in the US big companies hire women drivers because they are better drivers than men. It's not exactly truth, but I like to see the looks on their faces when I say that.

The electric guys finally left for lunch at 2pm, and when they came back they were working down at the road, so I could focus on my veranda garden. I have been reading my new plant book, and looking up plants on the various horticulture websites. And most of them say what the local lady gardeners have been telling me all along: that partial shade is best for almost every plant that grows here. So I am re-arranging my pots with that in mind. The veranda faces west, overlooking the locean. It's about 15 x 30feet, and the half closest to the house is covered. The sun doesn't get around to the west side until about 2pm, so the plants are getting afternoon sun, which isn't optimal, but I think it's okay.

I have been re-reading the sections on propagating succulents, and am reminded to let the wounds dry out. I am starting to understand that better. The new cut is an open wound, oozing fluids and attracting whatever. Slowly, slowly, I am learning about how to garden here.

It is a great veranda. The hammock is under the roof, so I can enjoy the shade, and the mosquites can enjoy me. Lately the mosquitoes are out in morning and evening. Ugh.
Right now the plants are loosely arranged into succulent and non-succulent. But I think evenutally they will be in order of sun requirements, with the bigger plants shading the little ones.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lost in (Tony Avent's) Space

It's a warm, humid day in Chacala. I spent the morning fashioning some pots for plants out of miscellaneous junk from around town. Mostly various plastic and metal throways. Made holes in the bottoms, and kind of wired some things together. I will probably transfer the plants to nicer containers when I get some, but these are okay for now.

It started raining about three hours ago, and I came in the house to check my email, and somehow ended up at the website of Plant Delights, a wonderful plant nursery owned by Tony Avent and located in North Carolina. And then I spent the last three hours lost in reading his expedition reports from South Africa and Thailand/Vietnam. The reports were wonderful, and the many, many photos were incredible. I could barely drag myself back to boring old Mexico. What a great read!

And, right at the end of the hours of reading, there were two photos of my very favorite plant here in Mexico. Of course it grows lots of places, but these photos were of the Desert Rose/Adenium /Rosa de el Desierto, taken in Thailand.

I hope I get to go to the plant markets and nurseries in Thailand before I die. Or getting to garden there would be fine too. One photo was taken at Mr. Jiew's Unyamanee Garden nursery, showing a variegated form. The other photo was a taken at a booth in the Chatuhak plant market in Bangkok, and shows about fifty Adenium plants waiting for sale.

I want to download and post these two great photos on this blog. I just emailed Plant Delights to see what their policy is about using two photos from the expedition reports for personal, not professional purposes, like this blog.

Have to wait and see. I am still unclear about when it's okay to use other peoples' from the web. And what the legal and customary practices are. Particularly when I can't find anything written on the website.
Later (\August 9 2006) Just received an email from Tony Avent, with permission to use his photos. Very nice, and much appreciated.
Above: Adeniums at a booth at the Bangkok Chatuchak Plant Market
Below: variagated Adenium at the Unyamanee Garden Nursery, in Bangkok

Photos used with permission of Plant Delights Nursery
Later that evening: I just want to mention that my introduction to the current plant expeditions (as opposed to those from the 1700, 1800, and 1900s) came from reading Daniel Hinkley's expedition reports in his (late and much lamented) Heronswood Nursery catalogue and website.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Transplanting in Chacala

Today in Chacala. 82 degrees, sunny, alternating with a little bit of overcast,and a perfect breeze. Perfect day for transplanting and starting cuttings.

But first, I got sidetracked by Butcho, who is planting melon seeds(could be squash or cantalupe, don't know) between the rocks in the field next to the driveway. Butcho, the 78 year old boyfriend, spouse, novio of my neighbor Maria was working away. He used a coconut shell hung from his neck with a hand-twisted piece of some kind of fiber to hold his seeds, and a long, fat stick to clear a little vegetation away and make planting holes. I puttered around outside as he worked, weeding the driveway and fooling with the water line. When he finished we had Cokes and popcorn. Then he took a sack of the leftover popcorn from the last few days back home for his chickens. And three pop cans for his recycling. And some old eggs, and some plastic bags.

Finally got back out to the veranda and started figuring out what to plant in what. And got sidetracked again, first rinsing out my white cotton tee-shirts and hanging them on the clothes line. Then sweeping another 40 milliion moth wings off the tile deck. And finally started fooling with the plants again. And got sidetracked again. Jehovah's Witnesses. Quick hello and goodbye.

Back to the veranda, collecting all the empty buckets and pots (only five-not enough) and took them out to the front patio and filled them with my nice, new, rich, delicious dirt from Benjamin's. When I saw him yesterday morning, he said he would save me four sacks. Until I could get someone with a truck to come get them. The dirt comes by the gunny sack full for 25 or 30 pesos. Under $3US.

Anyway, brought the pots and buckets back thru the house to the veranda. I used to drag the gunny sacks thru the house, but it's too messy and the sacks full of dirt look sort of crummy on this lovely patio. I just housesit this house, for the last three summers (April-November), so I always have to keep in mind what the owner's would want me to do. It's a great house, and I am luck to be here.

Then Chiquita, #1 dog in the world showed up, and we got sidetracked chasing the cangrudoes (land crabs) off the porch. Chiquita loves barking at them but is afraid of them, so it's pretty fun to watch. Actually, I am afraid of them too.

Now it's almost siesta time, and I am quickly writing this because I just got a response to my email to "Garden Voices", saying they would add this blog to their website. I was so excited I forgot the plants, and started writing this post.

I really, really want a camera. I wish I could take pictures to illustrate what I write about. Instead I ask my neighbors to take pictures for me, or tourists. It's okay, but.....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Plants in Chacala

Today I caught a ride down to the plant nurseries near La Penita, a small town about 15 miles south of here. I rode down with my friends Berta, the wonder-gardener, and Chicho, a taxi-driving, hog-farming, nightclub-owning, jack-of-a-trades. He had some business to take care of in La Penita, and I paid some gas money. And we had delicious lemonade from a stand.

Chicho drove Berta's nice 1986 Nissan crew-cab pickup and we headed out, looking for a couple of sacks of good potting soil and maybe some plants. At the first nursery, known among gringos in Chacala as the "fruit-stand nursery" (because of its location and lack of a formal name), I got a couple of sacks of dirt, some 12" desert roses for 10 pesos each (mainly as gifts, because they were so cheap and they are really popular in Chacala). And a large Bird of Paradise for 30 pesos/under $3 and a Copa de Ora in yellow. Big plant. 20 pesos (1.80US). And two succulent looking plants that I have to identify on the Web, and one echeveria (not spelled right) and some hens and chicks and, I think, an Autumn Joy plant. It was the first time I had seen any of either of them. 5 pesos each for big clumps.

I forgot I was going to get some large plastic pots, because Benjamin, the foreman wanted to close the gates for their two hour lunch break. He was polite about it, but it was clear he wanted lunch, and in the hurry I forgot about the pots. The 18" pots about about 35 pesos. Not very strong pots, but good enough. Oh well. I have a bunch of 10 pesos buckets still, so it'll be okay.

Got home and found some plastic things to make into little nursery beds for the cuttings from my new succulents. Heated up a fat nail on the gas stove and poked holes in the plastic bottoms for drainage. Then it started pouring and I quite for the day.
The sacks of dirt are still on the front patio, but I am too tired to worry about them right now.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Everyday Gardening in Chacala

I don't know who took this picture of a little papaya tree,
or even if it's in Chacala or not.
Can't remember where it came from.
I went to bed last night with big gardening and weeding plans for today. However, last night was one long, very intense, thunder, lightning, and rainstorm that went on for most of the night. It was so loud and local I couldn’t sleep until I remembered the earplugs Nancy gave me. Then, after 4am, I feel asleep. Didn’t wake up til after 10am. Amazing for me. '

I ended up spending the morning washing off the front patio and the veranda, sweeping up this mornings new collection of dead bugs, and starting to wash the inside floors. Along with a little interneting and some weeding. Then Juan showed up, coming to collect some money due him from the owner of the house where he housesits. He called me from outside. People here never knock of doors. When they come to your house, first, they make subtle noises, or talk to the dogs, or whatever, so you’ll know they are here. Then, if that doesn’t work, they call out your name or hoot or something.

Anyway, when I heard Juan, I went outside. He was weeding the tall grasses that had grown, up around the potted palms in front of the patio while I was in Morelia. He is a very good weeder. I told him to stop, that I was going to do in the morning. But he wouldn’t stop, so I joined in and we zipped through those weeds like human weeding machines. That area is gravel and the soil was wet from the rain, so it’s easy weeding. I found a bunch of vinca babies in the weeds and transplanted them into one of the big pots.

Juan wanted to check out my new plants out on the veranda that faces the ocean, which he can see when he walks about and forth to my nearest neighbor’s house. Berta is the housekeeper gardener over there, and Juan works there quite a bit, painting and spraying mainly.

We went out there to look, and he fell in love with this beautiful red blossomed vine. I bought it about a month ago, and it’s growing like crazy. It really needs to be in the ground, but I want to take it with me to my next living space. We tried to look it up in new book, “Ornamental Plants and Flowers in Tropical Mexico”, skimming thru quickly, but didn’t see it. (Later I checked "Tropical Gardening" from Fairchild, but no luck.) I think it is the same vine as the yellow vine that grows everywhere here, but the leaves look different. I am learing how to identify plants from photos on the internet, but it's still hard for me. Maria calls it "Preciosa", but I doubt it that's it's name.

While we were out on veranda I noticed that all the desert rose plants had lost their flowers over the last five or six days. I thought, “That’s strange, what’s different?” Then I remembered I had pulled all the potted plants in under the varanda roof, so that they wouldn’t dry out while I went to Morelia and Patzcuaro last week, or drown in the runoff from the roof. Berta watered while I was gone. I was just being cautious. But I forgot to move them back out in the half-sun when I got back to Chacala, and all the blossoms dropped off. Not very observant of me.

Anyway, while I was giving Juan the money, and having him sign a little receipt (another little Spanish lesson for me), he noticed the really aggressive vine that is coming up all the bouganvillea vines along the south side of the house.

He insisted on going down and ripping the vines out. I have been afraid to walk around in the now knee-high weeds and grasses because of the creepy little creatures, cangrudos (six inch- across land crabs) that are everywhere these days. Especially hiding under plants. But together we cleaned everything up. He loved the small pruners belonging to the owner of this house. If I ever want to give Juan a gift, it will be some pruners. He really liked them. I did give him the first lime (called lemon here) off the planted lemon tree that by former landlady at this house bought for the house. There are about fiften lemons on a six foot, potted tree. I will taste the next ripe one, but not today.

Then we got into an laughing-type argument around using Round-up on the weeds. I absolutely don’t want to use toxic chemicals except (sometimes) when I am invaded by scorpions, and he thinks I’m nuts. He speaks a little English and we argued in English and Spanish until we both gave up. I am going to look for some Spanish language sites about environmental issues and get him to look at them sometime. Or find a magazine on the subject of garden chemicals.

After Juan left, another neighbor, Maria came back over, looking for starts from the red vine. She had a new name for it, but she can't write, and I couldn't understand what she was saying. After she left I fixed up a new pot for starting plant babies and took cuttings from the Desert Rose (adenum obesum), a jasmine, and from both yellow, red centered hibiscus plants.

Then I divided some portulaca's. Those are big favorities here, and people always are interested in a small plant. The colors of the portucala blossom seem to be fading. I mean the new plants I start from cutting or division. Which fits in with an article I just read about plants changing as you make cuttings, and even divide them. But it might be bad soil nutrition too. Or my general gardening incompetence.

Anyway, other storm is brewing and I want to more some of the plants away from the roof run-off.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Gardener Prayers Are Answered

A bouganvillea on a walking street in Morelia
Today I had to go into Puerto Vallarta, via the bus, collectivo, and taxi, to do some errands. One of which was to find books, magazines, and newpapers in English. Usually I go by the airport for newspapers and some magazines, and then The Book Store, which carries new books in English, and then to La Pagina en el Sol which offers trading-in for paperbacks.

Today was the first day I went to the new, second location, of The Book Store, at Plaza Caracol. The first thing I saw when I walked in the book was a new book, a big format paperback entitled "Ornamental Plants and Flowers in Tropical Mexico" Written by Linda Abbott Trapp. Nice photos and succinct sections on each plant for use, flowers, cultivation, and propagation. 128 large pages with color photos on every page except the index. I haven't had a chance to carefully read each section, so I won't know for sure for awhile how how helpful the book will really be, but right now it looks wonderful.

I have been complaining about not having any local resources, and here is a very nice book, right in front of me. Luckily, today is the start of my financial month, and I had enough pesos, (285), about 25US dollars to buy it right then. I tried to read it on the bus on the way home, but got kind of sick to my stomach, and set it aside. I have been reading it while I am waiting for photos to load, and I love it.

I am so happy. I have a new book, and maybe a way to access some other gardeners here, with similar interests. I finally signed up on the PV Writer's Group website, so I will start seeing meeting notices, etc automatically. The woman that wrote the new book is a member, and maybe there are other gardeners there too.

It's very difficult for me to get to their meeting, at 10:30am Saturday morning. Even if I leave Chacala on the first collectivo of the day, at 6:30am, the one-hour time difference plus taking three or different buses, make it hard to get to PV before 11am. But maybe it would be worth the effort to try again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lush and Green (almost) in the Rainy Season

It rained in Chacala several times right before I left on my bus trip to Morelia and Patzcuaro, and the landscape was starting to green up a little. But mostly the decidious shrubs and trees were still leafless. Then, in just seven days later, everything had turned leafy and green, and grass in growing everyway. The gravel driveway near this house is a carpet of green right now.

Yesterday morning I rode the collectivo into the nearest town to go to the Post Office and the ATM at the bank. The sun was so bright, the sky so blue, and everything else was soo soo green. Every color of green you can imagine. Nothing much is blossoming right now, but I know very soon there will be flowers everywhere, on every tree and shrub and vine. I can't wait.
This photo is taken from some very old indigenious ruins over looking Lago de Patzcuaro, in Michoacan, Mexico. It's probably zone 7 here. It's 7,400 feet and about three hours from the Pacific Ocean. (courtesy of DD)

I am getting ready to divide some very large foliage plants that have been in big pots for two years. All my gardening neighbors are prompting me to divide the roots, and have offered to help. Of course, the expectation is I will share. Which I will. Ladies come around two or three times a week, seeing if I have anything interesting. And they offer me cuttings and seedling when I come by their houses.

I am hoping to get a truck ride down to La Penita, the nearest town with a nursery, this week, so I can get some good dirt. And to go to the tianguis (street market) to buy some pots for my new cutting babies.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Being a Novice Gardener, All Over Again

I am starting to feel very discouraged about ever learning how to garden well in Chacala, in this climate, with this soil, and all these new plants. I only know the vernacular name of most of the plants here. And no varieties. The nurseries don't label things, and people have very odd nicknames for plants.

Of course, local people in Chacala may not know the botanical names of the plants they grow and use, but they do know how, and when, and where, to collect the plants. And how to dry and store them, and their medicinal uses. Herbs are used here constantly, all day long. If I have a symptom, like the sniffles or a headache, or someone thinks I look sick, various plant cures are offered (really, forced) on me.

I used to ask people in Chacala to write down the name of the plant they gave me. But I finally realized that very few of the older people can write more than a few words. Or maybe just their name and "addresss". So I don't ask anymore. But I do take out my little plant tablet and start writing. Usually if the person can write, they will take my tablet and write a name for me.
It is amazing how many different ways there are to spell bouganvillea.
Right now I am kind of discouraged about how slow and low my learning curve is here in Mexico. Learning about soil, and climate, and plant culture, and possibly growing some food plants is not like learning something new in the US. The only gardening magazines here are from Spain, in Spanish of course. Wrong climate,wrong plants. My only gardening book for Mexico is in Spanish, and it focused on gardening in Mexico City. I did bring down two gardening books,

"Tropical Gardening" by David Bar-Zva at the Fairchild Tropical Garden

"Cacti and Succulents" by Hans Hecht

And Daniel Hinkley's Plant Explorer book published about 4 years ago.

The first two have been very helpful for identifying some plants. And Dan Hinkley's book is just plain inspirational. So have the horticultural sites on the web. But it's still hard and sometimes I feel like I will never learn enough.

And I miss having gardening-addicted friends, and garden clubs, and garden tours. I have started searching for other people who would like to get together sometimes. I have met two women in the next town, one Spanish speaking, one English speaking who are interested. So many something will happen. Plus there are a couple of really good (in my opinion) gardeners here, who have been teaching me alot. But still.......

But!!! When I remember it took years and years to feel competent in growing vegetables (organically) in the US. And to build the soil, and manage irrigation, and deal with soil in insect problems successfully. And marketing. So maybe I'll stop sulking and start focusing on what I DO know about gardening, and just fake the rest.

Back Home to Chacala and My Plants

My trip to Morelia and Patzcuaro, in the mountains about five hours south of Guadalajara and about 2 hours from the ocean, lasted seven days. I got home to healthy, happy, watered plants, thanks to my neighbor Berta, queen of the plant world.

Berta, plus the heavy rainstorm right before I left Chacala, and two more while I was gone, have worked their magic. Everything that was dry, and brown, and dead looking is now green and lush and starting to blossom. The hummingbirds are going crazy. It's like a different town again.
In Aurora's garden.
Aurora has three rentals, part of the Techo de Mexico program.

My books say that this area is semi-tropical because more than some percentage (can't remember the number) of the plants are decidious in this area. More decidious, less tropical. Well, it took me a year to realize how much greener and flowery Chacala is in July, August and September, even October. Then it starts drying out and many shrubs and trees lose their leaves. For quite awhile I thought the decidious plants were just old dead plants no one had macheted out yet. Then I started scraping the stems with my fingernail, and finding green flesh.
The poor visitors to Chacala during the tourist season (Christmas to Easter) never know what the "real" Chacala looks like.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Searching for Succulents in Patzcuaro Michoacan Mexico

I have been in Patzcuaro for three days now. I am staying at a wonderful little hotel, called Posada de al Salud. It has that name because it's right across a plaza from the Basilica de la Salud. A very old and beautiful Cathedral where once a month the sick and infirm come from special prayers and healing.
The patios here are filled with lots of more tropical plants, including a hibiscus and bouganvilleas. But my search here is for succulent plants. The 10 year old taxi driver (he wasn't really ten but he was small and very young looking) told me where some nurseries are in town, and said he knew because his mother is a teacher and loves to garden.

I don't think I would be comfortable living and gardening in the coastal mountains of Mexico. It's too cold and too high (5,000-7,000 feet) around Morelia and Patzcuaro, and I like the tropical plants much better than the plants here. Although they seem to be able to grow alot of tender plants within the protected climate of the patios that are part of each house (and most hotels and restaurants and stores). Succulents too.

I haven't seem to be able to get it together to look for nurseries around Patzcuaro. Everytime I started thinking about finding a taxi and heading out it started raining. So I ended up window shopping, and somehow ended up in a patio surrounded by gift-y shops. The patio was full of orchids and a few succulents. The owner, Felipe, showed me almost all his plants. One of the two succulents was a lovely plant with wide flat leaves and a beautiful pink blossom growing out of the center. Felipe said the fuzzy furry looking blossom would grow to about six or eight inches. He wanted alot of money for it. Instead I took the other succulent, which I am going to find the name for on the Web.
Orchid in a tree or orchid tree in Patzcuaro
(courtesy of Ann C.)
(Later) During my last afternoon in Patzcuaro I returned to the tiny orchid nursery off the grand plaza, to pass on a lovely Spanish gardening magazine, to Felipe, the owner. And guess, what? He had a some succulent starts for me, that he had gotten from home. He said he was going to bring them up to the hotele after he closed up. Pretty neat.

Then I went back to the internet place to wait out another rainstorm. When I asked if they had a restroom, the young man sent me upstairs to a kind of open area where there were a whole bunch of different succulent plants growing. I went back downstairs, and asked the young man whose plants they were. I said I wished I could take a couple of little pieces of some of the plants. He went upstairs with me, and helped me take a few pieces. I don't know who the plants actually belong to.

I managed to bring home 10 succulent starts and one large plant. On the bus. Overnight.
Everything looks good so far, but it's too soon to tell, really. At least I was forced to let the starts heal over a little. Usually I am so anxious to get the cuttings in the ground I don't wait long enough, and they rot.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Gardens in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico

The tree the pinata is hanging from is in the Chacala churchyard.
The tree in the picture provides shade for all the church events, for fisherman knitting nets, and for kids playing, and men visiting and talking. The large church bell hangs from the tree, announcing when the priest has arrived in town to offer a Mass, a Novena, a Baptism, wedding, funeral, Confirmation, or a special Saint's day celebration. Everyone seems to have a different name for the tree. It is huge, and takes many children's arms to encircle it. It's hard to see from the photo just how big it is.

I am taking a week trip to Morelia and Patzcuaro, in the state of Michoacan. The climate is really different than in Chacala, even though we are quite a ways south of where I live. Both of these towns are high in the mountains, I think around 5,000 feet for Morelia and 7,200 feet for Patzcuarto. The cool weather, with sunny days and some early evening rain, are really a nice change from hot, humid Chacala.

There doesn´t seem to be any special public gardens around here, but I have been to a couple of plant nurseries, just to see what they grow here. There are many plazas in Morelia with plants and trees, but nothing has really caught my eye. It sure is not tropical here.

Yesterday, as I took the bus from the bus station closest to Chacala, which is in Las Varas, up thru the mountains and farmlands (mainly agave plants) thru to Guadalajara, and then further south to Morelia. Over the day's travel there was a big change in the tree situation.
First, palms, and some gorgeous decidious trees around home, then a number of trees if don't know the names of, or if I do I don't know how to spell them. There were still a few palms heading up to Tepic, then no trees at all, just agave farms. The spikey, blue agave plants, marching across the landscape in straight rows are really eye-catching, and beautiful. Very, few trees during that three hour drive. And then, when we left Guadalajara, there were no trees, just tall shrubs, until the last half hour before Morelia, when there were fir trees. I am just starting to get the names of the trees around the outskirts of town.

I know one thing, and that´s that even though I love the buildings in Morelia, I don´t especially enjoy the urban environment. I´m not sure I could live in a big city again. There are 500,000 people here. It doesn't seem that big. I guess there are some taller buildings somewhere in this town, but I haven't seen them yet. Except for the cathredal and some of the churches.

I am really missing the bouganvilleas and hibiscus and palms, and all the beautiful plants and birds and butterflys at home in Chacala. And it's only been a couple of days.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Water For My Plants in Chacala

I had town water coming to the pipe at the house today for about three hours . The pipe was really full of water, and it just kept coming. I felt rich!

After I topped off both of my water storage tanks (tinachos) I had a great times watering everything. Everything, even baby palms growing on their own out to the south of the house. And some shrubs on the east side, near the driveway.

But mostly I watered the big pots on both the sunny and shady terraces until I was sure they were watered all the way down. And I watered the little garden downstairs, outside the water storage area. I even hosed off the stairs and both patios and hosed off the outside walls, home to millions of insects and spiders. Sorry, guys.

Photo thanks to Scott Parks at
A little guy just like this iguana lives on my front patio, hiding in the plants and around the pots.
I don't think he's afraid of me, because as long as I'm not watering, he just hangs around watching me.

The spring my landlady started a nice little garden next to the tiny porch near one of the water waters, but the soil is really hard and rocky there and I am not really too optimistic. I really watered them all today: four new small bouganvilleas, two crotons, two hibiscuses and another greenery-type plant I don't know the name of.

These plants are all in the full sun, for maybe ten hours a day, and I think it is just too hot for them. Except for the bouganvilleas. They seem to love the sun and heat and humidity. The hibiscus plants are looking pretty good, but no blossoms yet. They have been in the ground for about six months, so who knows.
Then I did some cuttings, hoping to grow some new baby plants. I have been having some trouble the last couple of weeks with my Desert Rose (adenium obesum?) cuttings. Usually I just hack a branch off and stick it in a pot of nice soil, but lately they have been dying. So I am being more careful about letting them callus over before I plant them, and making sure they are way out of the sun. Maybe it's make a difference. The next thing might be to try some new dirt, if I can find some.

My jasmine and hisbiscus cuttings are all looking pretty good. I started a new bunch of hisbiscus cutting today. I am trying to keep track of which plant the cfuttings came from so I can tell people what color the blossoms might be. But I am not good at keeping labels straight, so who knows. I'm hoping to have lots of plants to share soon. And to take with me when I move back to the beach or where ever I am going when my landlords come back, maybe in late November.

I am watching for the "plastico" truck to come by so I can buy a couple of shallower plastic pans for my cuttings. The "plastico" truck sells everything you can think of made of plastic, except Legos, I guess. He turns his musical horn off before he gets to this end of town, so I have to keep an eye out for him.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Holding My Breath for Rain in Chacala

I think this is a poinciana tree, in full bloom, but it might not be.
Someone else took the photo.

Everyone in town is holding their breath, waiting for the rainy season to start. We had a tiny little rainful right around the Solstice, and one little bitty shower a few nights later, and that's it since early October.

The leaves on the mango trees outside my window are looking very droopy and thirsty. This is the third summer without much water, and the plants must be suffering.

Right now I am computing out on the patio. Ahead of me the sun is setting and the rain (I hope) clouds are reflecting red all over the sky. To the south, there are very, very dark rain clouds and there is loud thunder. No lightning yet, but I am going in the house. I have to unplug everything and pull furniture away from the windows. The windows just have screens, so if it gets windy, the rain comes in and helps me wash the floors.

I just dragged all the potted plants on the patio under the dripline from the roof, so they will get some water. I have about 25 pots out on the sunny patio, some of them mine, and some of them my landlords.

I figure I I act like it's going to rain, maybe it will. I can hear the thunder getting closer and I have to get upplugged.
This is a friend of mine standing next to a tree
I planted from seed last year.
Just kidding!
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Plants Delivered to Your House in Chacala

My morning walk at sunrise on Playa Chacala
Yesterday afternoon I walked down to the road from my house, to check to see if the man who takes orders for the big Coke truck had come by yet.... Anyway, this is about gardening, not Cokes.

As I walked down the driveway my neighbor lady, Maria Pelila (sort of like Granny Maria) came running up the driveway, talking rapidly and loudly. She's tiny and looks really old (no teeth), but she's only in her 50's. Anyway, it took a minute for me to understand she was saying that the vivero (nursery) truck was here. That's a truck that comes around to really small towns like Chacala selling plants. They are more expensive than the plants at the nurseries, but cheaper than if you have to take the bus and taxi to the nursery.

Anyway, I ran back up to the house for some money and to change out of the very thin tee-shirt I wear when it's this hot. Then we trotted over to the Maria's, where the nursery truck was parked under a tree. It was very hot and humid and everyone standing around the truck was dripping with sweat. Prespiration.

At first it looked like the usual selection of plants: lately it's been hydrangeas, roses, plain geraniums, vinca, and some kind of greenery plants. Like for decorating offices.

But this time she also had five succulent plants that I think of as portulaca, but I don't think that's their real name. These ones had kind of pointy ends on the little segments, and all different colors of blossoms. Very nice. 10 pesos, 90 cents each. And a big stonecrop for the same, and then two Desert Roses (adenium obesum), which I always buy when I see them.

They are a big favorite around here. They are new to most of the ladies in town, and anytime someone wants one, I offer a cutting/start or a plant. So I am always wanting more. This time she has two big ones, very big, for 30 pesos, maybe 2.70USD each. I am planning to leave one big and take cuttings off the other one. I just love that plant.

Maria and I seem to have silently, without discussion, struck a deal. If the plant truck comes down the street she runs up to the house and tells me. Otherwise I probaby wouldn't see the truck because it turns around before it gets to this end of town. It's about a block between our houses, and it's hot, and I feel as though she does me a big favor. And sometimes, when I'm not home, it's a wasted trip for her. Then, in return, I buy her a plant, of her choice, sort of.

I used to give her 20 pesos or so for helping me, but now we kind of pick out a plant for her together. But this time it got a little more expensive. The last time Maria was at my place she fell in love with this beautiful vine. It's got large coral blossoms. The same vine with yellow flowerrs is called Flora de Oro around here , but I know that's not the real name. I am going to start looking at on the photos at Garden Web and try to identify some of these plants. Anyway, Maria fell in the love with the red/coral blossoms and took a bunch of cuttings, which did not do well. So when she saw that same vine in the plant truck she was practically drooling. It's a beautiful plants, blossoms constantly, and grows like crazy.

But it was 60 pesos (maybe 5.40USD) which is more than I wanted to pay. Maria looked so disappointed, I couldn't stand it. So I went ahead and got it for her. Then all us plant-loving ladies in the neighborhood stood around under the tree for a few minutes, admiring other peoples' new plants.

The husband of the plant lady, who is also the truck driver, insisted on carrying my plants home, over my objections. When we got up to the house I realized there were two extra little plants, a mint and malva (which is what they call what we used to call geraniums).
So I walked back down to the truck with him, intending to give back the plants, assuming it was a mistake.

And the lady did the nicest thing. She said, "No, those are for you because you get all those plants for Maria". It made me feel really good and sort of embarrassed. Also, I understood her Spanish, mas or menos, and that always feels good.
Chacala sunset