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Hot, Wet, and Sticky

by germinatrix | August 26th, 2009

The last two times I was in the Yucatan, it was the dry season. This past time I was there, it was the much anticipated rainy season … and omigod it was so hot and humid, it was like walking through soup. But still, I couldn’t wait to see the site in its full, leafy glory!

oooooh, the lushness. can you feel how steamy it was?oooooh, the lushness. can you feel how steamy it was?

It’s funny, down in there in tropical Mexico the rain is so … natural. Here in Los Angeles we have developed a crazy relationship to rain –  we want it, but we dread it at the same time. When the rainy season starts in Los Angeles, everyone goes mad – we crash our cars, we hide in our homes and telecommute; we leave our sprinklers on because to us, rain is a mythical god/beast that we don’t really understand. In the Yucatan rain just happens. People take it in their stride. They WALK in the rain! I tried to be cool like everyone else and walk in the rain like it was no thing, but I felt like a crazy neurotic norte americana, wincing and ducking and acting like I was about to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. But soon enough, the moist, sticky air worked it’s magic on me, too – and I started holding my head up high when I felt the droplets begin – I just let it rain!

the slender trees volunteered themselves inside the ancient hacienda wallsthe slender trees volunteered themselves inside the ancient hacienda walls

The difference between the dry season and the rainy season is dramatic. The area around Merida is considered a Tropical Deciduous Jungle – so in the long dry season the forests are bare; there are only a few large evergreen trees like Ficus benjamina, and those are mostly in the ruins of old Haciendas (like this one I’m working on). When it’s dry, all the green you see in the picture above isn’t there – but I love the slender white trunks of these jungle trees … I’m keeping them in the design.

the jungle around the site - it's out of a dream, isn't it?the jungle around the site – it’s out of a dream, isn’t it?

All around the ruins of the Hacienda is the jungle. I know we aren’t going to be able to keep it out, so integrating the advancing jungle with the designed parts of the garden is going to be crucial. I’ve had to open up to really working with nature on this site –  mean REALLY. All gardeners work with nature, but working with a Jungle is like working with an ocean – the waves will come whether I plan for them or not! It would be foolish of me to think that my hand as the garden designer is going to be as focused and clear as it is on my usual urban project sites. Nothing I do is going to be as determined as The Jungle will be, so I have to accept it and work with it. What a unique and totally cool opportunity! Kind of primal, don’t you think? 

part of the ruins; the new construction is top secret!part of the ruins; the new construction is top secret!

I wish the technology to convey scent via the internet was available, because the smell … the soil, the rain, the mossy green-ness … and there was a tree blooming that smelled exactly like honey. It was heaven! I wish I could bottle that moment and wear it as perfume – but the crucial element is the heat. That sticky, heaviness makes smells bigger; more important. That moist heat is going to make this garden grow like a wild thing! A wild garden swaddled by a Jungle! HOT!

you can almost see it growingyou can almost see it growing

11 Responses to “Hot, Wet, and Sticky”

  1. Germi, what an amazing post! You jungle goddess you! Thanks so much, you really brought this place to life for us, and your imagery of the jungle being like the ocean was brilliant.

    I think I’ll go take a shower now!

  2. Fabulous pictures and story as always Germi!

  3. In that third picture, the jungle growth truly does look like waves rushing in. So how exactly DO you design a garden in a jungle, knowing that, like the ocean, it will want to rush in and knock down your sand castle?

  4. what transportive pictures! yes, i can imagine the smell. that tropical, sweaty but clean smell…

  5. I’d love to see the after photos on this design. And you completely captured the nutty relationship Southern Californians have with rain. (and now that I’m a Northern Californian, I’ve discovered we are only slightly less nutty.)

  6. Dear Germi,
    The ultimate post demanding that additional key element, not yet available in 2009, but with the way technology is zoooooming, can scent be far away?
    A personal note: After my visit to the Yucatan, I returned to my sculpture studio with sensory impressions that were nearly overwhelming. The jungle, the ruins, the atmosphere and the people, the history! All inspired the work I created for a long period of time. I can still recall being blown away all these years later.
    And the scorpion that visited my room!!!! Tendril… to you ;D

  7. What a great site! I’m sure you will do fabulous things with it, encroaching jungle and all. Your own garden is wonderfully spontaneous.

    It’s monsoon season here in Houston, too. June and most of July were bone-dry. Uff! I love the rain, I just don’t love that it gets 100F the day after it rains.

  8. The jungle, the ruins, the rain–all the antithesis of southern California where everything is manicured, new and dry. What an sublime opportunity for you as a designer–to work with and around something so completely different. I, for one, look forward to the project unfolding.

  9. Quite a magical spot, and the moisture, lushness and the idea of that warm, balmy scent really comes across. My hair is frizzing as I write! How to work with the encroaching jungle. I’m dying to see what you accomplish here.

    On a side note, Toronto Gardens blog was dubbed in a MeMe award, and we would like to pass the honour on to you. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to visit our blog to retrieve it.

  10. Quite the adventure. I’m totally jealous!

  11. ooooo… right now Los Angeles is Hot, Dry, and on Fire – we need the quenching moisture of the Yucatan! The fires are fairly close … I can see the flames at night – but (knock on wood) I can’t imagine the fire jumping two freeways and making it’s way here.

    Laura! I LOVE being called a Jungle Goddess! If I could reasonable rock a leopard skin toga (faux, of course) I would!

    Thanks for the sweet comment, Loree – in upcoming Yucatan posts, we’ll be exploring the agave fields! Now THERE’S something we can sink our spiky teeth into, right? I am planning a small agave farm on the site – I just need to cross my fingers that we can find the different varieties I want!

    What a great question, Pam! While getting to know the site, I’ve identified the ‘wet’ areas and the ‘dry’ areas. When raining, the wet sites don’t drain very well and there are loads of jungle tree volunteers – the dry sites are rockier and fairly free of volunteers. I’m planning to allow the wet areas to be more ‘permeable’ – it would be foolish not to plan for the incursions that are definitely going to happen anyway. The dry areas will be where the maintenance can more easily monitor the ‘unwelcome guests’ and remove any unwanted seedlings – these areas will be very open and planted sparely and sculpturally with agaves, cleistocactus, desert euphorbias, plumerias … so the garden is planned around balancing the incursions.
    Conceptually, I think this is a really interesting underpinning to a garden in Mexico designed by a gardener from the United States, considering our issues with ‘keeping out the unwanted’. That’s one of the reasons I love working with artists – the layers of thought that go into the work is deep, and even though the result is a visual experience I believe the ideas built in to the process read through. And so fun to ponder!
    XOXO!

    Chanchow my neighbor! Are you suffering as much as I am? Don’t you wish that clean tropical smell was bottled so that we could get a whiff of something other than smoke? I hope you can breathe! It’s so good to hear from you – we should just stare at the wet Yucatan photos and dream ourselves into a fire-free zone! Be well and STAY INDOORS if you can!

    Hey Susan! This is going to be a long process, as you can imagine – but I’ll bet we’ll have cool images of good growth by next year, if we plant in late November. This IS the tropics, afterall! And right now, I’ll take ANY rain – even if it causes a car crash or two (as long as no one is injured, of course!)XOXO!

    Tendril, of course you would know the magic of the Yucatan! I think all of that fecundity inspires on so many levels … if I weren’t making a garden in it, I could see being inspired to write a book or make a film; I love it that much. I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship with this amazing part of the world! XO!

    Why Thank You for that vote of confidence, Summer! Believe me – I need all the confidence and thumbs ups I can get! by the way, my home garden is getting more eclectic by the minute … I realized that I haven’t posted about the goings on here for a while! Got to do that right away!
    I hear you about the hot rain – steam heat! But with the fires burning a few miles away, I think I’d go with the wet heat right now – gimme a monsoon!

    Hello Susan! This is SUCH a great opportunity – and the best part is working with people I admire and sharing ideas with them. I am in heaven! To work in such a different climate is always an enormous opportunity for a designer like me, who focuses primarily on plantings, to revel in an entirely new palette. I am learning SO MUCH!

    Sarah Dear! You should see MY curly hair when I’m down in Merida – total FRO! I love it … I wish it would get as wild at home!
    Thank you thank you for thinking of me! Off I go to pick up my award and to move it forward! You are a DOLL!

    Why Wicked! It’s ben a while! I am jealous of myself – I totally get it. But at the same time … it’s HARD! But I’m not complaining! It is a DREAM, which is why I am so happy to be able to bring everyone with me, virtually. Sharing the dream is the ONLY way to go, in my book!

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