Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Warm thoughts and cool plants

Temperatures plunged back below zero overnight in Victoria.  It seemed like a good time to scroll back through the images from November in Merida. I swear that just daydreaming about the place makes it easier to get through the winter here.

Meeting Juanita in person was a highlight of the fall trip. We initially connected through a remarkable series of coincidences. Like us, she and husband Jan lived in Victoria before making the move to Merida. Their names came up while I was researching my recent article about Victorians making their homes in Mexico. That same day Juanita happened upon this blog and sent me a note. Things came together and we had a great chat over Skype. Her words stuck with me long after our conversation. I completely identified with her memories of layering up against the grey chill of Victoria winters. I admired their courage, letting go of the familiar life they had built here, and starting over in a new country.

When we got together, Juanita invited me to join her on a short jaunt to the charming village of Cholul, just beyond the city's northern edge. We made a stop at a vivero, or plant nursery. The plant selection is a nothing like the nurseries  in Canada. One plant's leaves were so enormous that Juanita looked like a pixie standing next to it.

I had been anticipating but also slightly dreading my first visit to one of these roadside tropical plant emporiums. I have been a slightly obsessed amateur gardener for years, always collecting new and strange things, with diversions into succulents and evergreens and groundcovers, grasses and bamboos. I've tried native plant gardening, xeriscaping, zonal denial, edible landscaping, gardening on pavement. Each spring I'd line up early outside the local "plantaholics" sales with friends, feeling the dizzy rush of adrenaline and craving as the gates opened.

In the past couple of years, in a concession to time constraints and sore joints, most of those plants were dug up and given away. Surprisingly, I haven't really missed them. I'm forgetting their Latin names. Househunting in Merida, I deliberately looked for a smallish lot to keep the garden maintenance to a minimum. I was thinking of an expanse of gravel and maybe a bougainvilla/bugambilia and one or two other tough specimens.

Our side trip to the vivero definitely shows this will be a hard resolution to keep.Juanita pointed out a particularly prized variety of palm in one of the crowded displays - and I immediately found myself wanting it, needing it.