Friday, March 30, 2007

Marta's Garden

This morning I visited Marta at her restaurant, Mars Tres. Marta had a beautiful bouquet from her garden on one of her tables. I thought she was not happy with me a few days ago, and asked her niece about it. Apparently she told Marta, and Marta came out on the street and dragged me into the restaurant. So that was nice. We walked back to her garden, and admired the yellow rose Carolina had given her. And the red rose from Lonnie. They went back to Alabama a few weeks ago, after their semi-annual visit to Chacala. And we all miss them.

Marta had a packet of seeds for me, from the red plant. It was really breezy and the blossom wouldn't stand still for me, so it's kind of fuzzy. I know the name, but don't know how to spell it. But I think she gave me the packet of seeds because yesterday I gave her a Kalanachoe (sp?) plant I gave her yesterday.
I was at the nursery yesterday and these plants were 10 pesos (90 cents) each. I got several of them. For Dona Lupe and for Gracia.One of Dona Lupe's Aloe Vera's is blooming today. It looks so beautiful. It looks like many of the Aloes around town are blooming this week. I am trying to writie down when each plant blooms so I can keep track. Of course, alot of plants here blossom all the time.

And the papaya plant in front of the house is really growing quickly. With lots of fruit. I am hoping it keeps growing and shades my second story room. But we'll see. I never know when my landlady's husband will go nuts with the machete, "cleaning" things up. The darker blue blossoms right in front of the papaya are blossoms from a water lily plant. They are very beautiful, and look a little like irises.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eight New Plants,Two Nights Away from Chacala

I felt really lucky on my bus trip to Tonala and San Juan de Los Lagos last week. I didn’t get to any plant nurseries, but I spotted a few in Guadalajara. Maybe I will get there on another trip. And I saw one in Tonala too, on the way back to the bus terminal.

I did get some plants though, at the tianguis, street market, in Tonala. Seven little succulents, and one bigger one. I brought them home wrapped in newspaper and tucked in a new little basket.

The most expensive plant was 5 pesos (45US cents). And the basket was 8 pesos. A very satisfying trip. I bought up every plant I liked, and wished there were more.

I got the plants home, undamaged. I planted the big one this morning, but I am enjoying the little ones sitting on the table. So maybe they will stay there for a bit.I am thinking I might borrow one of Bill and Mary’s nice pots (which I am babysitting) until next winter) and plant a little succulent pot for my patio. I like the idea a lot, and I think I still have enough dirt left to do it.

This morning I planted one of the little pocket gardens on the re-built wall at Dona Lupe’s. I had a small palm there, but Dona Lupe asked me to move it. She might have a concrete wall built there someday and doesn’t want a palm in the way. Makes sense.Apparently all the rocks we used to rework the wall had washed down the little slope during rainstorms over the past five years. So it makes sense to think about concrete. Of course, Fred’s wall may never fall down. It looks really nice. The part I built up looks really crummy compared to his section. But maybe my plants will cover up the mess.

I am going to plant bougainvillea plants to cover-up my part. I think that will look great. Of course, this is only an experiment.

I don’t know what four months of 95 degree weather, with high humidity and rain at night with will do to these plants. But they have two or three months to get established and I am crossing my fingers.

This plant was for sale at the tianguis in Tonala. I don't know what it's called, but it was out of my price range. 35 pesos. $3.15US.These two palms were growing in the plaza next to the Cathedral in San Juan de Los Lagos, about hour hours north of Guadalajara. They are almost the only trees I saw in that barren town. They do grow beautiful churches there. Just not much green stuff.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Little Bits of Gardening

These are photos from the last two nights, looking out from Playa Chacala. Then this morning was another beautiful Chacala sunrise. When I went to bed last night, I reminded myself to notice what time the sun hit my pillow this morning. It was 7:10am. The sky was clear and blue, and the sun felt great on my head. It’s a nice way to wake up, with the sun shining on the back of your head.

I wasn’t very hungry, so I went down to look over my little garden. And ended up moving eight biggish rocks into place. I was building in another space for some plants, about halfway down the rocky hillside. I added some dirt from the nursery. By the time I was finished moving things around, the town water was on, so I watered the new spot and all the other plants/dirt.

Then I planted the Portulacas I got yesterday. Tucking them in here and there.
My landlady’s husband came by, caring two plastic packets of cut-up Nopal. He needed a bucket to carry the Nopal, so I dug one out of my pile of buckets and pots. And rinsed it out. He was taking the Nopal up to a little restaurant, to sell if he could sell it. I don’t know if he was filling an order, or just hoping.

Euloaio and I puttered around for a few minutes, talking about when the next plants might go. On the other side of the sidewalk. Bill and Mary’s Gardenia plant is transplanted there (and doing well) and two Crinium plants and a bouganvillea and some other stuff are just kind of tucked in randomly.

After the work, I was hungry enough for breakfast, finally, and went up to cook something. I love cutting my grapefruit every morning, standing at the waist high cement wall around the patio. The view is wonderful, and the birds are always watching me from the power pole across the road. Most mornings they land on the wall, and look for goodies to eat. I have to make sure my peanuts are put away. They are on the crows' favorites. At least I Think they’re crows.

This is the view from my neighbor Aurora's upstairs patio. I have the same view, but a little higher. We are still seeing whale right in the bay, heading north. This whale came thru a couple of nights ago. It looked like she had babies with here, but I couldn't photograph them quickly enough.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Emergency Trip to the Nursery

,I woke up with the sun shining on my face and pillow. It was coming thru the east window. The sun is now rising far enough to the north to come directly in the window. Kind of a mixed blessing. I didn't notice what time it was, but I am going to notice tomorrow, I think. And keep track of how far north the sun rises as we move toward the summer solstice.I am trying to figure out how to make sun shades for both windows. It seems sort of complicated to me, but I will figure something out I hope. Before it gets really hot.

Anyway, I woke up with another undeniable craving to go to the other nursery near La Penita, down the highway. So I got up and ate and took off. The whole trip went perfectly. The collectivo was ready to go to Las Varas when I got down to Juan's tienda. I got out where the Chacala road mets the north-south highway, and waited for a collectivo headed to La Penita. A friend, Checho, was the driver of the first collectivo to come along. He dropped me off at the nursery, and asked if I wanted him to come back for me. But I said "No", since I didn't know how long I would be there.I was looking for succulents, and the only thing they had was what I think of as "fake" portulaca. I think they are really a sedum, but I don't know. They were nice plants, 15 pesos (1.35US) each, so I took five. Four for me and one for my neighbor, Lupita. She helped me out last night when some drunk was harassing me. First time that's happened to me in Mexico.

So I was walking across the highway to head back home, and here comes Checho. He swung around for me, and we headed toward Las Varas. I was the only passenger. He said we could stop at the other nursery if I wanted, and so we did.So I found one plant that looks sort of like a Jade plant, but it's not. It looked like I could easily divide it into four or five plants, so I took it. 20 pesos (1.80US). Checho pointed out they had more sacks of dirt at the nursery, and said he could bring them out to Chacala in a day or two. So I got two sacks, and we headed north.I got out at the collectivo stop in Las Varas, and zipped over to the tienda to get a kilo of peanunts in the shell. My favorite snack these days. I was back at the collectivo stop and about 10 minutes later, Checho came back by with the van full of passengers, heading for Chacala. So me, my plants, and the sacks of dirt made it home in record time. The whole trip took less than 2 hours. A record for a nursery trip. It cost 50 pesos for all four collectivo rides, plus I tipped Checho for his help and the extra stop.

I divided up the "Jade" look-a-like plant when I got home, and am letting them heal over a bit. Then I took Lupita's plant over to her place. Nice day.Later Gracia, a good gardener who grows all her plants in the shade, came by to check out my new garden. She kept telling me she has some little tree starts I can have to get some more shade over my little garden. I'll go over to her house tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Working in the Garden, in Chacala

I guess I’m really back in the gardening mode again. I wonder if somehow I am still on the Zone 5 gardening schedule. In Zone 5, right now, I would be starting plants from seeds and cuttings, and cleaning up the garden. At least I would be working outside a little, unless there was snow on the ground or the earth was frozen.

Maybe I just needed a break. The nice thing about this part of Mexico, 22 degrees north latitude and on the Pacific Ocean, is you can grow things year around. The hard thing is learning a whole new plant world. I am still learning what grows when. And when particular plants blossoms. And so on. I guess I will be learning for years. I haven’t found any gardening magazines, in Spanish or in English, that address this climate.The Phoenix Home and Garden magazine is sort of helpful for some plants, like succulents. I am thinking a Southern Florida gardening magazine might suit my gardening needs. I am going to do a search for such a magazine. Maybe I could subscribe and then have someone re-mail it for me. Or whatever.

This morning I moved a bunch of my plants that have been in growing in pots out into the earth. Using imported dirt in planting areas, mostly. The plants are almost all cuttings from my “mother plants”. I am going to leave my biggest Desert Rose (Adenium Obesium) in it’s pot, and keep hacking away at it. Taking cuttings.

This morning I took cuttings from the unusual (for me) Portulaca plant Sheri and Nicole gave me a few weeks ago. I think I will keep it in a pot too, at least thru the rainy season (late June thru early October-sort of). Just to see how it does.

I am going to make my second trip to the new (three years old) P.V. Botanical Garden pretty soon. It’s a slightly complicated bus ride from here. Six buses each way. On my first visit the owner, Bob Price, told me you can’t grow succulents in this area. He’s an orchid man, so maybe he’s never tried succulents. But I hope he has been converted and that he is selling some. They have really good pizza there. I am looking forward to the trip. It’s a beautiful place, and worth the trip.

Some house painters from Guadalajara, a father, son, and another guy, have been staying in the downstairs room while Dona Lupe are her family stay at the restaurant, Fonda Lupita, full time now.

Anyway, the workers leave, in the back of a friend’s pickup, on Saturday afternoon, and then come back early Monday morning, ready for work. They eat at one of the working man’s restaurants. It’s 50 pesos a day for two big meals, breakfast and mid-day. They seem to snack for dinner.This morning I was fooling around, dragging one of three sacks of dirt up the staircase. Paul, a neighbor up the road, brought me the dirt from the plant nursery in La Penita. I was hoping I would get five bags, but they ran out. Rats!!!

Anyway, one of the painter guys, the father, came to the house to drop his stuff off, after his weekend in Guadalajara. He was very complimentary about my gardening efforts. It made me feel good. It’s fun to be working in front of the house and talk to people as they come by. This morning there have hardly been any giant trucks. A nice change.
I am going back down to the garden to water. I just saw the water guy, Julio, go by on his bike. That usually means he just turned the town water on. I love all the water we have this year. I feel rich. Dirt and water and plants, what more could I want? Well, a Coke, for one thing. And some semi-tropical gardening magazines would be good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

New Little Palms in My Chacala Garden

I woke up this morning with an uncontrollable urge to go to the other nursery in La Penita to see what plants they have today. I know I am having a little extra cash coming, so I was thinking I could spend it ahead. And I had another 100 peso($9US) budget in mindSo I got dressed, showered, ate, and tidied up and took off for the beach road. I could hear the collectivo horn tooting as the van made it’s way down from the upper part of town. So I hurried and caught it as it came to Juan’s tienda.

Halfway into Las Varas I realized I didn’t have my house key. I have been trying to remember to get an extra key made ever since I got back from Tonala. Right before I left I hid my extra key someone and I can’t find it. And I have been really afraid I would lock myself out.And last night I did. Lock myself out. Luckily, I had stashed a little tool outside. It lets me pry a window open enough to unlatch it and get inside. But that scared me enough be nervous when I couldn’t remember where my key was.

I was afraid I had locked myself out again. Plus, without my key and couldn’t get a duplicate made. So I just went back to Chacala on the same collectivo. And found my regular key where it belonged, in it's regular hiding place.The nursery on the east side of the highway, north of La Penita
So no trip to La Penita. But that’s good I think. Because I still have lots of plants to plant, and lots of starts to start, and seeds to plant. And my cash supply will last longer if I stay at home. So here I am. Taking my siesta. But I couldn’t relax so I am writing this.

When I got back from my aborted planting hunting trip, I started working on my wall. I wanted to make two places for the palms I bought yesterday. I did it, but the stone wall part I did looks really ugly compared to what Fred did yesterday.Oh well. I am happy with the little palms. I am trying to figure out what kind they are. I am going to have to look at the plants with my books in hand. According to the nursery guy, they are only supposed to grow 3 meters, and to stay leafy, providing semi-shade for my succulents. Another experiment.Tomorrow is going to be a garden day, at least until it’s too sunny. I am going to plant more seeds, and transplant as much as I can. And maybe keep working on the rock wall.

But now I am going swimming and then computing via wireless. Sitting outside, overlooking the beach and the breeze. What a nice life I have.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Building the Great (mini)Wall of Chacala

I spent alot of time this past week looking at all the stone retaining walls around Chacala. I have been trying to find a wall in a location similar to the garden wall a friend of mine, a stone-worker friend has been describing to me. He was making suggestions for a retaining wall below my succulent garden at Dona Lupe’s garden. There are many heavy downpours in Chacala during the summer nights, and I wanted to figure out how the excess water is handled here.He, Fred worked on the wall for three hours yesterday. A local friend helped him, and they worked for about three hours, and I like it alot. I can't believe they got so much done in just a few hours. They focused on the main section. I will keep working on the wall, piece by piece, but it surely won't look as good as what they did. I think the wall looks great. I don’t know how the water will move during the rainy season, but my wall-builder is confident it will be okay. There another section to do, but it’s much shorter, and I think I can handle it myself. If it’s okay with Dona Lupe.This morning I went to the Vivero / plant nursery near La Penita. It’s about ten miles or 12 miles from Chacala, I think. My budget was 100 pesos. I wanted to get some small palm trees to shade the succulents in the summer and then some portulaca type plants for the wall.He didn’t have any succulents, but he was really excited about the photos I showed him, so maybe he’ll order some. There were some palms I liked though. Not coco-palms, but another, shorter palm with a lot of foliage that I hope will shade the succulents this summer. He said they grow quickly, but outward inside of up. I hope I understood him, and that he’s right.They were $30 pesos ($2.70US) each, and I got two. I would have gotten three, and still been under budget, but I was worried about carrying them, and about how I was going to fit them in a combi van.

I carried the palms out to the highway (20 feet), and waited. The first combi was crammed full of people and I waved him on. The driver was laughing, about the trees, I guess. I was standing by the side of the road in the shade, reading and watching for the next combi, when one of the fruit stand owners walked over. He told me he didn’t think any of the combi drivers would let me take my trees on the van with me. I wasn’t worried about it because someone always says okay. One time a friend and I brought 45 plants on a combi. But that was different, because we offered to pay him extra to drive us onto Chacala after Las Varas.Anyway, he, Ramon, offered to take me to Las Varas for 40pesos ($3.60) and I went for it. He had some kind of hatchback and the palms fit in perfectly. Ramon was a nice careful driver and he made fun of the cars that were passing us. That was great. My kind of driver.
When we to Las Varas the Las Varas-Chacala combi was at the stop. The driver let me load the palms in the back. I promised to sit under the foliage if he got a full load. When we waited about 10 more minutes, while I visited with Aurora’s aunt (and Chico’s sister) for awhile. She was born in Chacala about 75 years ago. She said Chico was 2 when they moved there. She said there was no town or road. Just the beach, some other families, and fruit growing wild. At least I think that’s what she said.

The driver had to drop a worker off at the Marina gate, so I got a ride right to my steps. Now I need to finish the rest of the wall, so I can plant the two palms on the south west side of the garden. I hope this plan will work. That there will be enough shade so the succulents won’t melt in the sun.

I have been reading a Phoenix home and garden magazine I found at the Guadalajara Airport, and it sounds as though Phoenix is too hot for some succulents without protection. That kind of worries me, but life is just one great big experiment anyway, whether I like it or not.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Working on the Garden Wall, in Chacala

Frederick has been visiting in Chacala for the past month or so. He builds stone structures in garden landscapes professionally.He gave me some advice and suggestions for my new little garden this evening. He has just finished a lovely little wall for Aurora, and was willing to take a look at what I have been doing.
It’s kind of embarrassing to compare my crude stone “walls” to the nice stonework he did for Aurora, but, after all, he’s a professional. And he didn’t he sneer at what I had done. He was very polite about my messy little rock piles.Fred had a some really good suggestions. When I get someone to help me move the bigger rocks around the place, he says hecan direct the placement of the rocks in the new little section of wall. That would be great.
Euloia, my landlady’s husband came by when Fred and I were looking of the rock pile next to my new wall. He has been clearing a patio in the gated development. Using his machete. He looked tired and proud of having worked for money all week. He looked very exhausted when he walked up. He’s 74 years old and puts in a full days work. On occasion.

Fred speaks Spanish with his crew at home, and he and Euloia really hit it off. I love seeing Euloia’s expressions when he feels respected and valued for his skills. Fred was very man-to-man with him, and Euloia had the sweetest smile on his face. He drives me crazy sometimes, but sometimes he’s very lovable. Atleast when he isn’t killing my plants with his machete, or drowning them with water.

I have been wanting to go back to the plant nursery, but I think I will have to wait a few weeks, until I get some more money. So meanwhile, I am going to scout around for some palms and other plants that are growing around Chacala. In the streambed and here and there. Plants I can dig up and transplant. I have a my own shovel now, so I am ready to go. And I am using my trusty Target trowel I brought from the U.S. more than three years ago.I almost didn’t bring any garden tools with me when I came to Chacala. And I really glad I have my trowel and small pruners. And my son brought my bigger pruners down last time he visited, so I am pretty set.

I need some plants that will shade my succulents in the hot, sunny summer months. Or at least partially shade them during the middle of the day. And I am planting the seeds I have been collecting from plants and from the tienda. So soon I will have some more coleus and portulaca and some other plants to put out.
Yesterday I planted some of my remaining Bird of Paradise plants in the little garden area above my succulent garden. They didn’t look too happy this afternoon, but maybe by tomorrow they will have revived.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Garden in Chacala

One of my favorite families in Chacala is Isreal and Chata's family. And their six unit rental (Mirador) is one of my favorite rentals in Chacala.And their staircase garden, from their property down to the ocean walkway, is my favorite garden in Chacala.Isreal gardens for some of the families in gated development next to Chacala, in addition to other enterprises, and Chata managed the families rentals and gardens at home.This staircase is just beautiful. It is in bloom for about three months at a time. I don't have my plant book with me, but I will add name of the vine later. It's called Flame Vine here, but I don't think that's the real name.