Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Plant on Playa Chacala

Yesterday morning I walked over to the home of one of my favorite landladies in Chacala. I love the new palapa and grass turf at Mirador. The palapa, and two of the unit units overlook the ocean, with a short staircase and a 50 foot walk to the big beach.As I was walking home along the beach, I noticed a plant I didn't recognize, and don't remember seeing before. On a talk stalk, behind a fence, just off the beach.
It was growing just inside the fenced off area of a small home. Actually kind of a dumping area from the beach. The soil seems to be basically sand. I tried taking photos from different distances, and angles. And with the light shining from different directions. I read about doing that in a "Gardener Gone Wild" post a few days ago.
But, of course, my photos didn't look anything like the author's, . But it was fun trying. I looked thru my books, but haven't looked on the internet, to see what this place it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Moving Plants Around in Chacala

Here is a hibiscus cutting and four Kalanchoes and three Aloe Veras are sharing a space.
Probably not a good plan.

I have been gardening in this space where I live in Chacala for about eight or nine months now. It was hard for me to get started here. I had lots of plants from my old place. Still in pots. But I couldn't figure out how to plant them. How to arrange the gardening space.

The space was a strange mess, with no topsoil and several levels plus two small hillsides. It was hard to figure out how to get started.But my gardening consultant(works for frozen lime cheesecake pie), Sherry Merciari, from Oakland, California, came over from next door (she's here for a month each winter), and scoped on the situation in two seconds. She basically said to make planting areas tucked in the five different flat spots. And that's what I did. With the help of her son Freddie, the famous stone worker.

I worked on things for about three months. Making beds with low stone walls to hold the dirt in. And a little bit of terracing off the hillside. Freddie did most of that. You can see from these photos that the different types of plants are all mixed together: succulents and regular flowering plants, shrubs and Criniums, a papaya, a Noni, Desert roses and cacti and Bird of Paradise, a rose, and Gardenia, etc etc. Succulents in soil that was too rich and wet. But they mostly grew anyway. Some rotted.

But I kind of got discouraged the day I came home and found that my landlady's boyfriend hauled off all the 105 large rocks I had collected from across the road. To finish terracing the hillside. And he used them to make a wall......never mind. it's too annoying to talk about. Anyway.I kind of lost interest for two or three months. Partly because of the trouble I was having protecting my plants. From the malicious anti-plant behavior on the part of the male members of landlady's annoying family.But I am really back in gardening mode. Two trips to buy plants, three sacks of good dirt, and three containers of cuttings from plants I already have or that someone gave me. And lots of little pots of rooted cuttings. And some plants started from seed.
This past year I have been treating my three main (small) gardening beds like places to stash plants, rather than a "garden" with a plan and some thought about how would look. I was trying to figure out what the different plants need for sun/shade, poor soil/rich soil, water/not much water, etc. And being kind of lazy.
My first three years in Chacala I had gardened almost entirely in pots. And you can just drag them to another spot if they don't look happy, or even change to soil. So gardening in the ground in Zone 11 or 12 has been a learning experience.I am starting to move things around. It looks like I am going to have a larger (still very small) bed and some hillside for the succulents, including cacti, And three other area for lush flowering and and non-flowering plants. There is room for both sun lovers and shade lovers I think. For shade and privacy. And because some of them were already planted, from when I lived in this place three years ago.
Those beds are out closer to the road. Then there are two other beds right up near the house. They have been mostly nursery beds. For transplanting cuttings to after they root. And for sticking plants I don't know much about. There are two bouganvilleas, three plumbagos, and an oleander, payapa, rose, another Gardenia and four huge flowering Criniums, and some other flowering plants along one side of that area.

I think I am going to use two smaller bed areas just for young plants from seed and cuttings. I moved most everything out of those two beds today. Except for the oleander, plumbagos, and bougainvilleas, which are kind of big to move. And they look nice from from on the road.
(Above)This is a photo of a bunch of Desert Rose (Adenium Obesum) cuttings I put in a bucket of soil last spring and forgot about. Their roots are so tangled together, I just planted them as one big plant.

So the next time I go out there to garden, I am going to continue shifting plants around. And plant my last large purchase. Another Desert Rose that I am going to use as a cutting plant.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Seeing Chacala

I often sit on the sand of Playa Chacala early in the morning. I love to watch the sunlight move across the water toward me. I usually remember how grateful I am that I live in such a beautiful place. And that I can see something new every day. Well, really, I can see something new every second, if I stop to take the time to look.But this morning I was triply thankful for my good fortune. I was watching three little kids, maybe 5-6 years old. They were into the water as soon as the sunlight crept up onto the beach.
A woman, their mother I assume, sat on a little low bluff about 50 feet from them. Watching over them and smiling.Several times I noticed on of the girls holding the boy's hand. I thought they looked sweet together. It look me a awhile to realize the little boy couldn't see. And that she was guiding him. I never would have guessed until I saw him up close. And then it was obvious.He was running in and out of the water, on the the smooth sand, enjoying the little waves rushing in and receding. They sat in the water, waist deep and dug little holes in the wet sand. These children were so full of life. Enjoying the ocean and the sand and the sunshine.I walked home in a much different space than I was in when I arrived at the beach. I felt overwhelmed with how much there was to see.I kept looking at all the plants in buckets and containers, in front of every house and restaurant. Every one is different. And many are filled what I still think of as houseplants.
But they grow out in the open here, year around. And often under difficult conditions. Sea spray, not enough water, blasting sunshine, and drowning in the rainy season.The containers in front of the yellow wall are set on the little landing to the restrooms at Chico's. The plants on the staircase are on the step's up to Socorro's daughters little home. These plants filled this little empty restaurant. It's only open during Semana Santa and Feliz Navidad/Ano Neuvo, when Chacala is packed to the gills with visitors from the inland states of Mexico.This container was in front of Augustine and Ana's house. And almost every yard has a chili plant. This huge one is also in front of Ana and Augustine's .It was a nice walk home. And I really enjoyed looking at my new plants as I walked up there steps to my place.Somehow I had never noticed this little papaya tree up against a fence. A very usual sight in Chacala. A wooden fence. Wood is rarely used in building in this part of Mexico. Too many voracious wood-eating insects. But here's a little fence section I never noticed before.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bringing New Cacti Home to Chacala

This is a piece of thread art created by a Huitchol Indian, who live in Nayarit and Jalisco.
They were being sold at the market today.

I left Chacala early this morning. I went to the street market in the neighboring town, La Penita, this morning. It's about 12 miles away, but it's a two-taxi/collectivo ride each way. I wanted to be home by 10:30am because I was expecting some company.

So I left home at 7:15am and caught the collectivo that takes the private school kids to Las Varas. And got out at the highway. And stood there for about two minutes, when another taxi that does the Las Varas-La Penita run, came by. It took 22 minutes to get from Chacala to La Penita, for 25mx/2.25us.
I was shopping mainly for plants and for a couple of new shirts and some shorts. I don't have a lot of clothes. So they get worn and washed a lot and only last a year or two. Found a couple of shirts I liked, tropical cotton shirts, and a pair of shorts. All recognizable brands from the US. But the price has risen because gringo season has started around here. Instead of being 40 pesos a piece, they were 50 pesos each (formerly 3.60us, now 4.50us). Still pretty good.

Then I moved on the plaza where there are vendors who come especially for the gringo season. About late November thru late March. I was looking for plants, maybe succulents. And my neighbors from last summer, Juan and Zule.

Found two of the three vendors right off. My favorite plant seller, a middle-aged woman, was nowhere in sight. She has her own little plant nursery and I really enjoy being around here. But the two guys who buy plants from wholesalers were there. They don't know the names, but they do know the prices. This time they were all 10-12 pesos. 90 cents to 1.10us each.
They had the strangest looking succulents I have seen.
Peculiar blossoms. Very odd.

Finally a nasty mouthed woman, said to her friend, in English, "Those idiots (the vendors) put fake blossoms on those cactus." In a very loud voice. So I put my glasses on, and sure enough, there were fake blossoms.After the lovely ladies left, the vendor told me the decorated plants were for Christmas and were very popular.Then we removed the "blossoms" from my plants so he would use them on some other plants.I found Zule and Juan hanging out with their musician and jewelry making friends. They lived downstairs from me for a couple of months this past summer. That was their "vacation". Meaning they sold pineapple "salads" from 10am to 7pm on the beach. From a rolling cart.When they are not on vacation, they sell pineapples at a beach closer to home. About 7 miles from Chacala. At the Playa de Naranjo. The beach area was just sold off to the highest bidder and all the restaurants and cuestos (shops in shacks) were bulldozed.So Zule and Juan are looking for another location. Right now they are back in Chacala on weekends.

I looked around for a few other things. Some coloring books and crayons for visiting kids. And some bright colored handtowels, and headed home. was home by 10:15am. Not a bad trip. I got 15 new little succulents,. some of them cacti for 15omx/$15us. No more spending money this month. Th spending spree is over for now.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Planting my New Plants in My Chacala Garden

Here is one of a about 8 Kalanchoe plants, from last spring. I guess these are blossoms. The little gobules are empty, mostly. A few seem to have seeds.
When I woke up this morning, I wasn't the least bit surprised to see another sunny, blue sky, day in Chacala. I got busy doing anything but gardening. Like taking photos of a newly painted house, to send to the homeowner, as requested by the painter. And cooking a big double chicken breast, and a pan of cornbread. And eating up half of everything.These photos are the plants I got yesterday, waiting to hit the dirt.
But, finally, by 3pm, the hottest and sunniest time of day, I decided it was time to plant my nurseries purchases from yesterday. It very hot, but not terribly humid. But I worked as fast as I could. I made new planting spots for the Kalanchoes. It turned out by the six pots held 16 plants. So I dug out more little nests in the rocky hillside. I watered the hose every three minutes, hoping to keep the scorpions at bay. They don't like wet, so I made thee whole are very wet. I planted all the little plants, and then planted three of the bougainvilleas.

One of the bougainvilleas is tucked into the hillside bed that I never got planted last spring. Then I cleaned off the rest of the bed and added gravel to fill in the holes between the rock. I got the gravel off the paved road. Well., next to the road, where there is a lot of gravel for some reason. And then added some topsoil. Tomorrow (as in "manana", as in "sometime in the future") I will plant the last two bougainvilleas in that bed. They are the long branched variety, and I hope they will covered the hillside with blossoms. That leaves the two Desert Roses. I am planning to harvest a bunch of cuttings off them in a couple of weeks, so I don't know if I will plant them right now, or where. I am feeling sort of satisfied with the planting stuff. Nothing like having sacks of nice topsoil to inspire me to get to work. I am hoping to go to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden next week, and to a few nurseries in PV, just to look around, and maybe spend what's left of my life savings, ($35us) on plants. Hopefully succulents.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Morning, at the Vivero, Near Chacala

I woke up this morning, to another glorious Chacala day. It ended up the high was in the mid-80'sF. Clear and sunny with a light breeze. Cloudy in the late afternoon.
I decided it was a good day for a trip to the plant nurseries, located about 10 miles down the highway from Las Varas. That's the big city (12,000 pop.) where Chacala folks go to medical care, bank, ATM, paint, high school, the dentist, cell phones, long-distance buses, 3rd class buses and so on.

I got a ride with a taxi driver who had just dropped someone off in Chacala. He offered to take me to the two nurseries and wait while I chose my plants. For $150mx ($13.50us). since that included hauling 4 burlap sacks of nice soil, I accepted the offer. Taking the collectivo's etc would have been about $60mx ($5.40us), and I couldn't have brought home the dirt. So it seemed like a fair deal.

Besides, when I was getting dressed this morning, I found 2 -$ 200 peso bills folded in a tight little square in the pocket of some shorts I had washed last week. I can't imagine me folding money into a little square, so I don't know where it came from. Those bills are about $36US.
So I convinced myself it was okay to spend the money. And I did. On plants, dirt and the taxi.
The bags of dirt were $75 mx, ($6.25) and the plants were 260mx ($23.40). Plus a tip for the driver. Who kept me company while I selected the plants, and carried them out to the taxi.
First we went to Benjamin's vivero, just north of a row of fruit stands, on the east side of the highway just north of La Penita. I got 4 vine-type bouganvilleas and one bush type, 2 large Rosas del Desertio/Adenium Obesum/Desert Rose plants, and 6 Kalanchoe plants (in three colors). For about $19us. Actually I got a discount. I heard Benjamin telling the young guy who helped me say "discounto". My guess is I got the Mexican/locals prices. The plants are cheap anyway, but it's nice to get a deal. I took a bunch of photos of the place to have printed up for him, for a little thank you.
I actually prefer to go with the nurseries without a taxi guy waiting for me. Because then I can hang around and visit and watch how Benjamin's workers take cuttings, pot, and transplant things. He always has some guys doing that kind of work, and I love sitting there watching them. But when I am hauling dirt, I need some help. I can't seem to load big sacks of dirt into the collectivos very efficiently. Although I have done it before.
Then we went down the road a mile or so to the "Pemex" vivero. "Pemex" is the name for all the gas stations in Mexico. State-owned. And this vivero next door to "Pemex" station on the north side of La Penita.
I was hoping for some Portulaca's or some other succulents, but the lady said "Manana" and we laughed and laughed. She always says that, and they are never there on any of the mananas in the last year or so.
They did have these Kalanchoes. 25 pesos instead of the 12 pesos I paid at Benjamin's. Slightly bigger, but otherwise the same colors, etc. The woman on the right, the red hat, is the main customer service person at this nursery. And she's really fun to walk around the place with. She sometimes looks for some really ugly, half dead plant and offers it to me for a bargain price. Like 1 peso off. It's a joke. And she has given me cuttings from some plants. So that's nice.

We headed home. The taxi guy played a great CD and sang along with it. He was a much better singer than the CD singer. When we got back to Chacala, we put the plants on the stairway up to the garden at home. Along with the sacks of dirt.

Nice trip. Quick and easy. No waiting by the side of the highway for a taxi-van to come by. Some of the drivers have no interest in picking up a woman with 13 (some very large) plants surrounding her. Especially thorny bouganvilleas. Whatever.