Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dead of the Dead, in Chacala

I don't think I had ever heard much about the"Day of the Dead" until I came to Chacala. It's not celebrated here as a tourist event or some kind of spectacle event, like in Patzcuaro and other Mexican towns. As far as I have noticed in four years, it's just the two days when families remember the children (on the 1st) and the adults in their families who have died (on the second).
Mainly they bring flowers to the cemetery where their family members are buried. Sometimes they are flowers they grew themselves, or bought in Las Varas, or from a truck.

More often the are huge bouquets of artificial flowers.
Some are in loose bunches.
Others are made especially for leaving at the cemetery. The flowers on mounted on circles made of styrofoam discs with green paper backing. Wrapped in plastic so they will stay "fresh" longer.This year I will really miss Palila, Maria, who died earlier this year. One of her many money making talents was making the circular wreathes for local people to buy for their Day of the Dead visits to the cemetery. I liked to watch her working, and to support her efforts. I saw Butcho, her husband, this morning, to make sure he has what he needs for whatever he wants to do on Friday. It's almost 9:20pm as I write this. And the giant trucks hauling lovely topsoil from a mango orchard to the gated development are still going up and down the road. Speeding and vomiting exhaust fumes and noise. Been at it for days again. Huge loads. Very annoying.
And seeing the mango orchard being destroyed so that rich people can have decorative foliage growing in the lovely topsoil. Planting plants for decorations, instead the food that dirt was used for previously. It's the ugliest sight, the orchard being dug away by huge machines. Killing lovely mango trees to get dirt to grow plants for decoration, inside of food for people to eat.

Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Portulacas Love Chacala, and Vice-Versa

One of my favorite things about gardening in Chacala is that I can grow succulents year-round here. Some of them go semi-dormant during the rainy season. Like my favorite, Adenium Obesum. But they live thru the rain and start blossoming as soon as it stops.I have always loved Portulacas, ever since the very first time I saw one. In one of the greenhouses at Manito Park, in Spokane WA. I love to able to grow them year around here in Chacala. Or, maybe I should say, I love it that I get to admire Portulacas growing year-around in Chacala. That's because I have almost nothing to do with how well they grow here.Local ladies come by for pieces, cuttings, of the plant all the time. If they see a new color blossom, it's time for a new cutting. I love it. It's so nice to have something to share. And they just stick the pieces in a pot and ingnore them. They almost aways take.

Bouganvilleas Gone Wild, in Chacala

I planted this Bouganvillea late last March I think. It was a one-gallon plant. 1.80US.
It's now about 10 feet tall, and growing about six inches a day.
And it has it's first blossoms. I never really noticed bouganvilleas until starting living here. I know they grow in Los Angeles, where was a child. And they plant them at most resorts in Mexico. Huatulco north. So I know I have seen the vines/plants, and adminred them. But I don't thing I ralized I could actually grow them until I had lived here for awhile.

I didn't have a clue about how tough they are, and how fast growing. You can whack the plant down to a three foot stub with a machete, and a month later it's heaving for the roof again.
Lovely plants, with big sharp thorns. At least the plants around here have big thorns.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Quick Trip Thru My Chacala Garden

The stores in Chacala, and all over Mexico, are filled with hand-made flowers this week. Families are preparing for the two Days of the Dead. One to honor adults and the other two honor children. They make wreaths from these flowers. And take them to the cemetery, or set them in a place of honor at home.

Chacala, and all of Mexico, returned to Standard time this morning. It was lovely to wake up at 6:20am and to find the sun shining in the window onto my pillow.

I got downstairs, to my garden space, awhile later. We haven't had any rain for a couple of weeks, and everything is blossoming out. I don't expect rain again until late June. Of course, you never know about rain. The humidity has dropped too.

It's a sunny, breezy, lovely Sunday morning. And I am happy with my garden.My landlady came up this morning. She knew I had some large pieces of oilcloth I wasn't using and she needed them for something. She told me she was buying paint for the house this week. We talked over colors, but it's really her decision. And since I don't have total control of the color choice, I don't much care. Fresh paint will be nice though.

The little archway I formed over the sidewalk is growing quickly. About three months ago I tied two tall morning glory tree stalks together over the sidewalk. And then twisted and tied vines onto the arch. One from each side. The right side is a jasmine vine, and the left side is a fast growing vine with small purple, trumpet shaped blossoms. I don't know what it's called, and it's not in my books. When in blossoms again, I'll take a photo. Someone will know what it is.

It's hard to see the jasmine because the Ixora, with the red blossoms is in front. On the right.

I love living upstairs. The view is great, and I usually get a nice breeze. But I have to go down the stairs (which are behind the house) to garden. And sometimes that's annoying. I don't want to have pots of plants on my patio, because they seem to draw scorpions. They like being under the pottery pots. I think.The pepper plants continue to produce. People pop some off most days, and the peppers keep on coming.And the yellow Lantana bush is growing really quickly.It's been in the ground since April. Started out in a gallon can, and now it's about 3x6 feet, maybe bigger.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Papaya Trees in Chacala

The two papaya trees in front of the house where I live are growing really quickly. They bear fruit year around in Chacala, and all over in this part of Mexico. I don't know if that's normal or not. Mangoes only bear fruit May and June around here.
These two papaya trees grew from seeds threw in the dirt in front of the house. I don't know how the fruit tastes because I have never tasted one. I like the blossoms on the tree trunk, but I don't really care for papaya. Strange after-taste.
The larger tree was about chest high, a bearing fruit, a year ago. Now it's about 14 feet tall. Amazing. From my patio I can see the lines of the trees in fruit orchards on the hills just south of Chacala. The trees are mostly Guayaba or Mango. The part of Mexico, on the Pacific coast, a few hours north of Puerto Vallarta is agricultural country. Fruits of all kinds. Vegetables. Corn. Tobacco, Cattle, pigs, turkeys, etc etc etc.

It's nice living in farming country.Lots of good food.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mundo en Flor, Flowers of Oaxaca

These cacti are just ordinary photos that I took this summer at the Oaxaca Ethno-botanical Garden.If you want to see some really good photos of plants in Oaxaca, go to

Mundo en Flor.

This is a wonderful collection of beautiful photos of the blossoms and vegetation around Oaxaca, Mexico.

With identification of each plant.

The photos are wonderful and a great resource.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Loveliest Path/Stairway in Chacala

In response to Gardening Gone Wild (GGW), a blog I just started reading yesterday, I am posting photos of a staircase in Chacala. The suggestion from GGW is to post garden "path" photos during the month of November. For purposes of this Post, I am thinking of staircases as paths with abrupt changes in elevation. I don't know if that concept will fly with the GGW people or not.The stone wall on the uphill side of the staircase is covered with "Flame Vine", Pyrostegia Venusta". It blossoms for about three months a year.This staircase starts at the Malecon in Chacala. The Malecon is a four wide dirt walkway that skirts the ocean between the two beaches in Chacala. Shots the oceanfront in front of the staircase.
The staircase rises to Mirador, a small (6 unit) family-owned rental place at the top of the small bluff.
Isreal, the owner, has planted this pryrostegria vine on the rock wall above the stairs.
He and his his three handsome sons (Hector, below) built the wall and staircase. One rock and one bucket of hand-mixed cement. I love it.
This photo was taken prior to the Flame vine taking over the staircase.

"Garden" Paths Around Chacala

It's a perfectly lovely, sunny day in Chacala. And so, of course, I have been sitting inside, reading a blog that's new to me. It's called Gardening Gone Wild ( It's a group blog, including one of my favorite garden photographs Saxon Holt.

The blog is having a monthly opportunity to show garden photos on various themes. November's theme is "Garden Paths".

My garden paths aren't particularly photograph-able at the moment. One skirts a small swamp created an over-full septic tank, and the other was just blocked by my neighbor doing "cleaning". Which is using a machete to chop down and gather un-wanted vegetation. The plant material is burned a few weeks later, whenever it dries out enought to burn. But right now the pile is blocking the path to the neighbors. It wasn't deliberate, just a handy clearing to pile brush in.

So instead, I am going to post two photos of local paths. One natural, the other human-made.
This is the path Chacala residents use to go down thru a little draw/arroyo that divides the town. The first four years I lived here it was a trail, not a path. It required careful negotiation in the daytime and was difficult at night. Then about two months ago someone doing the construction job on the east side (my side) of the gully used his bobcat to clear the rocks/boulders away. Slightly. At first I was annoyed. I don't do well with change. Any change. But over time I got used ot the new smooth, walkable without hanging onto the rocks, path. And love it.This path wanders thru Majahua, a lovely, very small resort (five units, gourmet restaurant, and spa) at the south end of the beach in Chacals. The entire resort is gently set down in the jungle right above the ocean. You can't see one part of the resort from any other part. It's very beautiful. and all the planting are natural growth. The only imported plants are in pots.
It's very lovely.

Morning Glories All over Chacala

Chacala is covered with flowering, blossoming plants this time of year. Especially morning Glories. Or, at least that's what I call them. Or maybe Opeoma, but I not sure about the names of these plants. They can be vines, shrubs, or trees. And they come in different colors.There are very invasive and aggressive. They cover phone poles, buildings, or shrubs. They grow on roadsides, fields, buildings, everywhere.I don't understand much about the succession of plants growing in the wild. I know some plants are the first to grow in newly disturbed soil.I would like to know more about what plants like to grow together naturally. I have so many questions about plants in a year-around growing climate.I know people in Chacala see the ever-encroaching vegetation as a problem. And it is. A building can become buried in vegetation in less that a year. I guess I will just keep watching and listening.

"Wild" Flowers in Chacalal

Chacala is bursting into bloom right now. The rainy season (late June thru yesterday) is almost over, and the eight month dry seasons is about to begin.For two of my four winters in Chacala there was a short rainy period ( a day or two I think) sometime during the winter. Otherwise, it's very dry, and not very humid late October thru late June.There are "wild" flowers everywhere. I doubt if some of them, or even most of them, are really "wild". But they grow all over, usually in dense patches. And what grows where changes over the weeks and years, so you never know what you will see this week.

I love the intense yellow blossoms all around town this week.It's really beautiful.Hillsides are covered with flowers.Banana's grow in places where it's unlikely they would have been planted there.I walk around town a lot, doing errands, visiting, and looking at what's new in the flower world. I feel so lucky to surrounded by an every changing palate of plants, shrubs, trees and vines.