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Germinatrix, Plant Hunter

by germinatrix | May 15th, 2009


a tropical jumblea tropical jumble

 I have been in Mexico, looking for plants. I felt a little Indiana Jones-y crossed with Dan Hinkley – lurking in ruins, beating my way through giant palm fronds, delving into tangled jungles of lushness. Nevermind that I was either in nurseries or botanical gardens while doing this – it felt adventurous nonetheless. 

dracenas stand guard against an nursery walldracenas stand guard against a nursery wall

 The garden I am doing is near Merida, the capitol of the Yucatan, and this is where the nurseries are. No nursery centers, nothing specialized – just lots of plants. Green, big, leafy plants. And then the color – when it’s there, it is THERE … crazily variegated crotons, manihots, ti plants, and bromeliads. The word of the day is definitely LUSH.

philodendrons love to climb treesphilodendrons love to climb trees


mmm... pretty...mmm… pretty…

 Imagine looking at these beauties in the sweltering heat, the humidity making everything seem like it’s breathing on you. WAIT! Plants ARE breathing on you!

and suddenly, jungleand suddenly, jungle

 In one nursery, I turned a corner and found myself in a jungle. Tarzan could’ve walked by in a loincloth and it wouldn’t have seemed odd. Hmmm… Tarzan. Me Jane… 

It seemed obvious to me that someone had designed this palm planting and then just let it run amok – and it was GLORIOUS! The photos don’t do it justice. Huge fan palms and feather palms, thickets of understory palms like Chamaedorea sefritzii, bigger than I’ve ever imagined. And I’m no stranger to the tropics – I was born in Puerto Rico … but this was something altogether different. These are the plants I am going to get to play with!

this fan was 6ft across!this fan was 6ft across!

 One of the most incredible sights was the palm Sabal yapa, or Thatch Palm, which seems to grow nearly trunkless here, so that enormous fans 6 -8ft across grow almost directly from the ground! They are called ‘Huano’ in the Yucatan – I can’t wait to use them! They are so dramatic… but there is no lack of plants with drama around here.  

jungles don't stop for buldingsjungles don’t stop for buildings

These are still nursery spaces! Here is a ruin that is used for plant propagation. How magical is THAT? As you can see, they just let their leaves fall in place. No blowers here. The only sound you hear is birds and an occasional person singing in the local dialect.

laura mercier, please make a lipstick this color!laura mercier, please make a lipstick this color!

 If only my camera could capture the color of this plumeria. It was raspberry, burgundy, pink, and apricot all at once, with a slight iridescence thrown in just in case it wasn’t beautiful enough already. Of course, I grabbed a flower and put it in my hair. I immediately felt more fetching!

a raised water feature stops my hearta a raised water feature stops my heart

And just when I thought I couldn’t take one more drop of loveliness, a clearing opened up and a raised water feature made of stone and filled with blooming water plants nearly killed me with beauty. It was almost too much – but not really. I DREAM of creating outdoor spaces that move people, that affect them and change them, so being in spaces like the ones I was in while in Mexico serve to inspire and reinforce my goals.

And these were just nurseries. JUST nurseries indeed!

11 Responses to “Germinatrix, Plant Hunter”

  1. Sounds like you had a great trip. Welcome home.

    Crotons and bromeliads: ornamentals I’d grow if the climate allowed. Of course, some of the bromeliads would be pineapples. I love the plumeria in your photo. It has a bit of a rhododendron feel to it. Have you visited the gardens at Capistrano? Your shots reminded me of my visit there in 2007.

  2. Hey Indie! What a beautiful way to sell plants. The plants seem like they are truly performing and saying
    “Buy me”
    “Look at what I can do”
    “You know you HAVE to have me”.
    Good Luck finding the agaves you want to use.

  3. Fabulous pix. What a wonderful adventure.

  4. Hey there Daniel-city! it is good to be home, even though it was awesome down there.
    I am with you about those colorful tropicals – and bromeliads are SUCH a wonder! I can’t believe how beautiful they are en masse. I am planning one are of the new garden to be a bromeliad/epiphyte garden, with these plants growing in trees and in tree stumps. I can’t WAIT! Cross your fingers for me that I can get ahold of all the plants I need!
    Isn’t that plumeria FAB? Love!
    No, I have never been to Capistrano, do tell! I am very eager to check out tropical gardens right now, during the design phase – and if it isn’t horribly far away … shall I book a ticket?
    Thanks for the comment, new pal!

    Theory, my dear! YES! You hit it on the nose – these are theatrical plants. They DO perform; they open up to you and draw you in. And you can also project your story into their spaces – they accept dreaming. Does that make sense or did I accidentally eat peyote while I was down there?
    Thanks for the Agave luck! I need it!

    Hi Sarah in Toronto! I’m so glad you stopped by! Yes, this is a really magical time for me, but also stressful. This is without a doubt the biggest garden I’ve ever done, and I have a very short time to get it designed and installed. But hey, I’m plucky! At least, I hope I am…
    Thanks for the nice words…

  5. What a life!

  6. ChuckB! I must admit, it IS awesome to be doing this, but, just between you and me, I have a knot in my stomach constantly. This is a HUGE garden on the most extreme fast track in a foreign country – nobody uses botanical latin and most think a garden is trees and lawn.

    But nobody said doing amazing projects was supposed to be easy, right?

    I am so grateful to have this opportunity … and to have a circle of online garden friends to share it all with! How cool, right?

  7. Germi–
    The steamy big leaved magic! The plants in follies! From me– a twinge of jealousy from my plant lust side….but I’m really really happy you are having these adventures and can share them with us…

    And since you have, I realize that I need more ruins, and another pond. Must do something about that. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Very beautiful! Do the plants have prices on them in these nurseries or do you just point and not ask the price? How do you even wrap your head around the sheer qty of plants that you are going to need? Ya…my stomach has a knot in it for you!

  9. Laura! Sweet Friend! If anyone has room for more ruins and another pond, it’s you and Nick! And I know you would do it with your customary garden magic … making it so beautiful people freak out.

    No worries about the jealousy, darling! I TOTALLY understand! I’m jealous of myself at the same time that I feel completely over my head! Just wait until you see the buildings Jorge made. You are going to die.

    Hey Loree! Oh, wouldn’t it be easy if the plants were labeled and priced and people would tell you things directly. Everything seems to be done with innuendoes – I don’t quite understand, people seem taken aback when I ask for something in a straightforward manner. Or maybe it’s my Spanish, which is a Tex/Mex/Puerto Rican/ Valley Girl style of pigeon dialect.
    As for wrapping my head around the quantities – that is the big question. I’ll tell you how I do it when I figure it out!
    Thank you for sharing my knot! Now THAT is a pal!

  10. I LOVE the combination of ruins and gorgeous plants. That’s kind of what I’m picturing from the photos you had posted of the space you’re working in. I’m sure it’s very normal to have knots in your stomach over this, but I am really excited to see what you do. I know it’ll be amazing and beautiful. The epiphyte garden sounds like magic.

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