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Ssshhh! A Secret Garden Tour!

by germinatrix | August 9th, 2009


meet AP, and follow us while we AP, and follow us while we explore…

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!


yes, I know ... paradiseyes, I know … paradise

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!


a platform in the treetops above a pond; a shady sanctuaryplatform in the treetops above a pond; a shady sanctuary

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).


plumeria - breathtaking!plumeria – breathtaking!


a ruin left intact and preserved - check out the intricate stoneworkruins left intact and preserved – check out the intricate stonework

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.


we stopped under the welcoming branches of a majestic piitchwe stopped under the welcoming branches of a majestic piitch


you know what a sucker I am for a sexy seedpod!you know what a sucker I am for a sexy seedpod!

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.


a luxurious carpet of multi-colored strappiness a luxurious carpet of multi-colored strappiness


I absolutely adore papaya trees - very Dr. Seuss-ishabsolutely adore papaya trees – very Dr. Seuss-ish


a ficus is melting into a wall - hello, Dali!ficus is melting into a wall – hello, Dali!

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.


a concrete pool up in the treetops proves too tempting to pass upconcrete pool up in the treetops proves too tempting to pass up

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!


the fruit and inflorescence of the cocoyon palmthe fruit and inflorescence of the cocoyon palm

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 clouds gathered and turned an inky blackthe clouds gathered and turned an inky black


AP and I find shelterAP and I find shelter

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.


the ruins of the old hacienda seen through the rainthe ruins of the old hacienda seen through the rain

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


the rain ... the rain …

14 Responses to “Ssshhh! A Secret Garden Tour!”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a papaya tree before. Or, for that matter, a cocoyon palm. Those are some bizarre looking fruit!

  2. Utterly stunning. I’ve been blown out of my chair this morning. So gorgeous – everything – the words, the photos, the feeling…

  3. Jean Prescott says:

    Oh, you little dickens, roaming Latin America, sopping up all that natural beauty and wonder. A million thanks for sharing. I particularly love the rain photos, perhaps because we desperately NEED rain, and I would love to nap away an afternoon…in a hammock on a porch in the rain.

  4. Hi Fern – aren’t the papaya trees SUPER cool? I’d never seen one either, until I started the Great Mexican Plant Hunt, and I am desperate to have them in my home garden! Not that I have room – but I’ll cram one in somewhere, to get that strange, Seussian vibe!

    Dearest Keith! Thanks for your lovely words, sweet friend/brother! The day was SO intoxicating, I was a little afraid that writing about it wouldn’t measure up or translate. I wish I could take everyone there with me! But a blog is the next best thing, isn’t it? XOXO!

    Hi Expat! Wouldn’t it be lovely – dozing in a hammock while the rain quenches our thirsty gardens? I want to do that, too! I felt SO lucky to have captured the rain in this magnificent place – they are some of my favorite pics I’ve ever taken!
    I’ve decided that I am going to make it my business to do more garden related travel – it thrills and inspires me! Now if I could just figure out how to PAY for it …
    And of course, I’ll take you ALL with me!

  5. ‘Hello, Dali’ Germi, you CRACK ME UP! What a fantastic post, you really captured that deep feeling of other-worldliness when you are completed out of your element, and yet completely in it as well! And it’s always great to end a post with a rousing thunderstorm, loved your description of running through it to shelter. Ahh. I feel like a made a little journey this morning myself, THANK YOU! xoxo

  6. Oh thank you for sharing this. Peeks into a private paradise not withstanding–I felt as if I was there with you. To be able to wander and dream–what an adventure.

  7. Happy to hear you’re immersed in yucateco gardening…have you been to the vivero at the Universidad de Chalpingo agricultural station, in Temozon Norte (comisaria just northeast of Merida, about 5 km from the Progreso highway)?
    Lots of local fruit trees, and other local plants, all well-adapted to the area (tropical scrub forest). The school and vivero are in the ex-hacienda Temozon Norte — vivero is open from around 6:30am to about noon or a bit later.
    You can also reach Temozon Norte the backway, through Cholul (in which case you’ll pass our quinta)…
    Hope you plan to post more from Yucatan, and good luck!

  8. How amazing! So many intriguing plants in this world! So many that we’d never see without you as our guide. I can’t tell you how often I go to the nursery with my fingers crossed that I’ll be amazed by a plant species that is really atypical and how many times it doesn’t happen. Not to say that I expect the kinds of plants you are showing here to be sold in Central California, just saying I don’t want my yard to look just like everyone elses.

    Thought of your lovely yard today from a long ago Domino post of party lights in the backyard when we strung some up in ours.

  9. Hi Ivette.
    What a great adventure, in such a great place!
    I could almost feel the humidity and smell the tropical aromas looking at all of your stunning pictures. I bet that tree-top pool felt good!
    The Hacienda has a surprise round every corner it seems! What were the “carpet of strappiness” plants? That photograph broke a few teeth as my jaw hit my table, then the skin-like ficus…then the cocoyon palm…then the..etc etc.

    That sky looked very ominous, and what a great mental picture you created with your run in the rain description. I can just about remember what rain feels like! If we ever get any, ever again in Texas, I will be toasting it until I keel over!

    I really enjoyed the journey.

    I am curious, what type of CAD program are you inputting to? Is it 2D or 3D?


  10. Great pictures and wonderful story-telling. You are so good at making us feel like we are there with you. Thanks for another min-vaca!

    I had a friend come back from Hawaii with a picture much like the one you shared of the fruit of the cocoyon palm, she had the same reaction.

  11. Wow, these are some amazing pictures. I absolutely love Mexico and feel like you just transported me there. How lucky you are to be down there so much! Please, more photos.

    Anyway, I was a reader of your Domino blog… happy to have found you again!

  12. awh such beauty captured in this post. it’s dripping in wonder!

    have fun on your garden adventures and best of luck learning cad… shortcuts are your best friends!!

  13. Starlilygazing says:

    I could feel the rain on my face, just as you described, dear Ivette. Thank you for sharing your wonderful garden experiences with us!

  14. Laura! I laughed my ass of writing the caption ‘Hello Dali’ – thinking that everyone would roll their eyes. I’m so glad you laughed, too! And it was such a pleasure to share this beautiful day … when the rain started, I was so thrilled! Partly because it was so gorgeous, and partly because I never thought I’d ever see rain AGAIN!

    Hello Susan – believe me, I feel so lucky to have access to places like this – I pinch myself! Writing about it makes it even better, because sharing magnifies happiness, in my opinion!

    mcm – I have still not been to all of the vivieros in the area – there are alot! I’ll return in mid Sept, and I’m taking your advice. I’m also hoping that I’ll have time to explore the plant growers in Veracruz, but I might just be dreaming. I have a great new friend that is helping me with plant aquisitions – his name is Cara de Papa. That translates to ‘Potato Head’, right? It isn’t a joke, either – he has Cara de Papa written on his cards.
    I LOVE the Yucatan! Every day, every person, is a story!

    CoCo dear! I’m with you – I like my garden to have a certain something nobody else has. So I’m planting PAPAYA! I just saw one today, not far from my house, doing beautifully! I wonder if they’ll work for you… they ARE unusual! And I’ll be showing more unusual tropical gems in the future … there is more Yucatan to come!

    Hi ESP! The Rain!!! The Rain!!! It was SO INCREDIBLE! We in Southern California have also not had rain in an eternity, so to have that dramatic thunderstorm break right over us was – okay I KNOW I over-use the word magic … but it WAS! Magic!
    This Hacienda is an incredible place. They even set up a little table for AP and I to have lunch under a hug Floss Silk Tree. It was out of control – it felt like a date! Like I should propose or something. And then more plant discovery … it was quite a day!
    … followed by a night of tequila, of course. I haven’t had that much tequila since I lived in your corner of the world!
    As for the CAD program, it’s a 2D program, but the architects use the 3D stuff when they are modeling buildings and furniture. They are crazy high-tech! And then there’s me – with my colored pencils. THAT has to change!

    Blake, I promise you more photos! in a couple of days, in fact! Get ready…
    And I am SO HAPPY you found me! Welcome to the new party – as you can see, we go on field trips! You are ALWAYS welcome!

    I need that good CAD Karma, Vanessa, ‘cuz I am a little spazzy when it comes to anything slightly complicated. But I am determined – I will live through this and kick ass at CAD – eventually!

    Lovely Starlily (gazing) – I am glad you came along on this adventure with me … and there’s more! And it includes rain! Let’s all walk in the Yucatan rain together one more time!