I like rock gardens, and good thing I do because it looks like we certainly have the rocks for it. When we first encountered the backyard, covered with trees and vines, that we were walking on such a thin veneer of soil. Today, the backyard looks like a lunar colony exploded, and to restore our concrete jungle’s former lush and verdant qualities, it’s going to take some strategic thinking.
On one drizzly morning, we went to Casa Nana to meet the person in charge of designing our landscape. She called over the foreman to tell him we wanted to have stakes banged into the ground. The look on the foreman’s face was priceless. Shock, annoyance, and then resignation. I couldn’t understand his reluctance until I saw what a young albañil, who bore a slight familial resemblance to the foreman, struggle to drive those metal spikes into the rocky terrain. In one case, he gave up and leaned a rock there instead (which disappeared the next day). Maybe more plants will be in pots than we originally thought. I love container gardens, so that’s not such a compromise. A lot of backyard landscaping leans heavily on gravel and concrete. I always assumed that was because the homeowner wanted something easy to maintain. Maybe it was just too hard to stick baby shrubs into the ground. This also explains why so many backyard pools are built over the ground.
I’ve already written about our tree-murdering spree. The towering, aging caimito tree, the fruit of which vexed our neighbors, came down with the rest of the jungle thicket that comprised our backyard. The crime was then compounded. The crew strips bark of the scrubby chukum tree and boils it to draw out that resin that makes our plaster luminous and water resistant. But now we learn that this doesn’t make the chukum tree very happy. (Psst: It actually kills the tree.) How many trees must die for Casa Nana? All the wood in the original house is being reserved, I hasten to add. We are recycling as much existing wood as is possible, mainly the timber from all the door and window frames. Still, we want to atone for our sins, to plant new trees in solemn memory of the trees that were felled in service to Casa Nana. But somehow, getting new plants in the ground is harder than we thought. It’s even amazing that that jungle thicket came to be to begin with.
Then there’s our cactus tree, the nopal, that was growing along the stone wall. It had to be temporarily relocated to make room for construction. So it’s on the opposite side of the yard, looking as shopworn as a gringo tourist sight-seeing in the heat. To think we used to have tons of cactus growing over the old septic system. I am assured that it will recover and thrive again in its original location.
Things do, indeed, grow quickly in Yucatán, so I tend to believe the cactus will be OK. It’s just a weird conundrum that planting is such a challenge.
We’re also keeping the sour orange tree, which a year ago was crowded in the thicket. Now it looks like a survivor of the apocalypse. Because it competed with other foliage for light, its skinny trunk permanently leans toward the southern sky. We’ll be planting another tree (indio lime?) next to it to keep it company. There’s yet another fruit tree, mandarin I think, that the workers are trying to salvage, but it’s a little bit worse for wear.
The main thing is that, just as 2013 was the year for demolition and construction, 2014 will be the year for growing things and decorating. Something to look forward to!