When we first spotted the property we eventually bought, I was taken by the Garden of Eden out back. It was a jungle thicket, nearly impenetrable. Aside from the low wall that divided the length of the yard, trees and bushes were growing wild. Dragon fruit, wild papaya, and bougainvillea twisted together into almost a knot. It was a hazard just to explore, but a walk down a narrow path revealed a tranquil and verdant space, if just slightly littered.
We’d have to clear it somewhat for a small casita and a pool, but couldn’t we design around the trees? An informal survey of salvageable trees was taken, and we ended up with a single cactus tree and three fruit-bearing trees. The large caimito/star apple tree was cut down, however, when it appeared the trunks were rotten and bearing fruit only on the branches that hung over our neighbor’s patio, dropping unwanted mushy fruit. That left two much smaller trees, misshapen from years of crowded conditions, now struggling to survive dust and vibrations from the hammers. A mandarin orange and a sour orange tree, and the nopal cactus that spilled over a five-foot-tall stone wall which was to be doubled in height for our privacy and security.
Then one day, poring over a Friday Foto report, we noticed the cactus was gone. Another casualty of our construction? And the mandarine orange didn’t appear in any of the photos, either. Just the leaning sour orange. The cactus had been moved to where the mandarin tree was, held in a bucket and almost lost in construction rubble. Maybe the mandarin tree was sent to recover in a tree hospital, some sort of clinic, hooked up to IV tubes and a heart-rate monitor? I didn’t dare ask.
Last week’s photo report also revealed holes that were cut into our rocky ground. Spaces for new trees, trees of our choosing, not what we’ve inherited. And a landscape plan that’s, well, planned. Trees for shade where the sun is too bright. Trees for screening when we want to create a visual barrier. Trees for fruit when we need to garnish a gin and tonic.
Another photo showed a small stump between the rock wall and our pool. Right where there was practically a cactus grove. I know stuff tends to shoot up in Yucatán, and I’m remembering how even in Connecticut, we’d buy mature rhododendrons by catalog. They had been cut to the nub and roots so they could be sent UPS. They looked dead, but there was plenty of life in them. We even had cactus growing for a while in Connecticut, some small prickly pears we bought at a garage sale in Westchester County just over the New York border. We figured if they could grow cactus in Armonk, we could grow them in Black Rock, so we planted some at the top of a slope along the side yard. They lasted for years, although they and stayed low to the ground. Things do grow, sometimes.
The bare exterior chukum walls of our casita anticipate lots of green to frame it. I understand that my bigger challenge will be to hold back green, not encourage it. Our next trip to Mérida will include a visit to a vivero, or garden center. We haven’t been to one, yet. Up here, some of the garden centers are so much fun, you’d visit whether or not you had a landscaping project. By May, after a long winter, we all love to go and browse the garden centers. A late autumn visit to a tropical garden center will be a welcome treat!