by germinatrix | August 9th, 2009
Meet my new friend, AP!
She is one of the architect/designers from JPS (Jorge Pardo Sculpture), and she is my angel. It is through her that my old fashioned, colored pencil and plastic circle template style of garden design interfaces with the high tech stylings at the studio. She very patiently sits with me and enters all of my planting plans on CAD … and this is a HUGE project, so we spend LOTS of time together!
I recently joined the team in Merida, where they are busy working on the finishing details of the Pardo Hacienda project. There is lots to be done, as one might imagine, but AP took the time out to do some garden sleuthing with me at one of the most breathtaking places – a private estate that we were lucky enough to have access to for an afternoon!
I have been to several nurseries and a botanical garden in the area, but I haven’t been able to see examples of plants grown in a more traditional garden setting – there aren’t many of them available for public view outside of hotels, and hotel gardens aren’t really what I’m wanting to see. So when this opportunity presented itself – well – right on! Vamos!
This particular hacienda (which is, as I gather, what a small hotel or large home with grounds is called) has a vast collection of palms from all over the tropics, as well as tropical flowering trees and other plants that flourish in the area. We had the extreme pleasure of having the head groundsman accompany us on our walk, so any question I had was answered in detail, translated by AP – embarrassingly, my Spanish isn’t as good as it should be for a Mexi-Rican from San Antonio (AP, however, grew up in Mexico City – so she’s been at this speaking Spanish thing since she was born).
As we walked, we admired the huge trees – Ceibas, Delonix regias, and an amazing tree native to the area that the Mayans call ‘piitch’ – which has such an open, graceful form … I fell hard for this tree! It also has incredibly cool seedpods.
The eastern part of the Yucatan is considered a tropical deciduous forest, and the piitch (Enterolobum cyclocarpum) is typical of the acacia-like trees that dominate. I love these ferny-leaved (my way of saying bipinnate) trees, and I plan to use many in the new Pardo Hacienda garden.
There was so much to experience! Every kind of tropical tree you could ever want to see was represented. We walked and oggled and touched leaves and stroked bark. It was hot. Steamy. Luckily, there was no lack of places to take a cooling dip.
After loitering at the pool for a while, we wandered through the palm groves, where I met a fantastically thorny palm – I can’t imagine why this palm would need to protect itself so badly – and I got an immediate plant-crush. The palm is known to the Maya as ‘cocoyol’, and I found out later that it is an Acrocomia mexicana, native to Chiapas. It is a super cool feather palm ( and I am crazy for fan palms, so a feather has to be pretty special to make it onto my radar). Not only is the spiny trunk very ornamental, just check out the fruits!
It’s almost as if this is a hybrid between a date palm and a SPIDER! J’adore!
AP and I were deep into our plant fact-finding mission when we heard a loud rumbling. This is the rainy season in Central America, and it hasn’t rained enough, so that clap of thunder was a welcome harbinger. We looked up and saw an ominous, beautiful, rain swollen sky.
The main house wasn’t far away, so we ran back through the gardens, the wind blowing furiously, lightening zigzagging across the sky, and thunder booming dramatically. AP and I were totally caught up in the moment – we became twelve year old girls conjuring up a storm; our arms outstretched, our clothes billowing up around us, big, fat raindrops falling on our cheeks and in our eyes. It was FUN! I was almost sorry when we reached the refuge of the hacienda.
There was more to see, but nature new best – it was time for us to go. Our gracious hosts said we could return to make use of the wealth of information in their vast landscapes whenever we needed, so we waited for the rain to pass, toasting to the thunderstorm with a shot of tequila.
It was a perfect day