Days seem to drift by so quickly. And while some days are filled with lots of productivity there are other days that are simply filled with productive relaxing. Hah! This is what’s going through my head this morning as I sit on the couch with a lazy, snoozing kitty next to me. Three dogs lay at my feet, also snoozing as I type this post. Scott is out in his workshop with our two employees working on making cabinets for the casita. The constant droning sound of his saws cutting wood is the backdrop of my days lately. Mixed in with the buzzing saw noise is gentle birdsong which has become one of my favorite sounds. As I consider what I want to write about today my focus drifts from my keyboard to the window and I wonder to myself, “what bird could be making that wonderful birdsong”. As you may have noticed, nothing of much consequence needs my attendance today. This is the case with most of my days. It occurs to me that I own my days and not the other way around. There was a time in the not so long ago past when I tumbled through the days not having had the freedom to just do whatever my heart desired. This reality makes me smile…
The most urgent thing on my list of to-do’s usually comes down to two or three things. Going into town to get cash for payroll on Fridays, making sure we have something to make for dinner and keeping some clean clothes on hand for Scott and I to wear. Well, and of course there’s also the important daily task of feeding all my animals! My hummingbirds , and all the other hundreds of colorful birds who come to my terrace for fruit throughout the day ,my dogs and the cat. Here’s a funny thing …As I feed the animals in the evenings my mind cant help but sing a little song sung to tune of (Everybody must get stoned) you know that one? Well my version goes like this…”Every body must get Fed!”…hahahaha! Shrug, I don’t know why, but it makes me chuckle!
I think one of my favorite times of the day is the early evening, when the sun is away from the front yard and I can pull a few weeds and water my plants. Misting the orchid garden in my entry is my favorite spot to putter at the close of each day. By trial and error I slowly but surely learn what each plant needs in terms of sun, shade, fertilizer and of course ,water. And when I get it right, boy is it evident! My plants let me know they’re happy with so much beauty. They grow, they flower, they spread and generally just look healthy and happy when all their various needs are met. I get so much joy from caring for these seemingly small tasks throughout my days.
I mentioned my birds! Yes, my precious birds! Can you tell I aspire to be a “birder”! But, alas, I know very little about the many birds who I love to feed. I have my hummingbird feeders and we also have regular bird feeders on our terrace. The hummers are a kick to watch all day long but particularly at night. Just before these playful birds retire for the night, they go on a wild eating frenzy at my feeders! Its like a swarm of the little guys! I keep two feeders stocked with sugar water and have to fill them up quite frequently throughout the day because of the quantity of hummers who depend on my contribution to their diet! They’re just amazing! I’ve identified at least four different species, but who knows how many there really are. Scott welded up two bird feeders that he has attached to the outside of the railing of our terrace. These metal perch-like feeders are always filled with different fruit for all the other colorful birds who enjoy munching on every type of fruit we can find. We have tons of banana trees so when we have huge bunches hanging up near the house they get ripe all at the same time and its impossible for us to eat them fast enough so we ask the birds to help us out and they are happy to oblige ! Often there are 10 or 12 different birds, various colors and sizes all enjoying the all you can eat buffet on our terrace. Its a delight to watch them and something I never tire of.
My garden is the other thing that can make a day fly by. I can work in the garden all day long and it often feels as though I’ve only been out there for a short time. I had a little yard at my house in Los Altos that I loved. I would plant flowers and I had a gardener who mowed the lawn. But, I never had the kind of time I have now to devote to working in the yard! I don’t even know how to begin to try to describe in the written word the pure joy I get from my garden. Its not something I ever really realized I would get so involved in!
I’m learning so much about this new gardening passion! I’m learning about fertilizer and compost, and how to propagate plants from cuttings, about what plants like the sun, what plants like the shade, where and how to plant different plants to make them happiest. I often plant something in one area only to notice that it’s a little too dry-looking so I dig it up and move it to a different area. I have some plants that I didn’t realize would get so big and I decide to move it to a different spot in the yard where the size will be okay. I like to call my style of gardening ,’organized chaos’. I don’t want it to be overly manicured but I do want to maintain some semblance of order and form. If Im not careful the garden will just take over. We are, after all in the middle of a jungle! Mostly I like creating a space where I can walk around and just marvel at the beauty of nature here in the tropics. I don’t want to force this property into being something it’s not, I just want it to be a tropical paradise where one can wonder around and soak up all the different colors and textures and feel close to the earth. So, I feel like I am a temporary guardian, here to care for it and love it for my brief stay.
One thing I’ve learned is that the plants here in the tropics behave differently than they did in the states. Like, for instance, some plants that I always thought of as shade plants seem to like the sun just fine here in Panama. I always laugh to myself when I am at a vireo (a nursery) and I ask the person if a particular plant likes shade or sun, they sorta look at me like I’m asking a stupid question and tell me it does not matter. Hah! Because that’s not really something they spend much time considering. We live in a place where plants are happy to be just about anyplace you put them! Simply plop it in the dirt and it will usually thrive!
Oh the varieties of plants here is simply overwhelming ! I’ve got orchids, bromeliads, succulents, trees, ferns, ground covers, vines, shrubs, flowers, Heliconia , costas, tropical gingers…..just to name a few! Gasp! I tell ya, it’s a literal paradise! No kidding! We have just over three acres up here and we have been concentrating on sort of taming different sections with each year. We’re slowly trying to create hiking trails and bridges to connect all the different areas and make the property accessible without ruining what nature has created. So far I have about four different and very distinct areas with hiking trails running through them. I have my jungle trail, which is a system of winding trails that leads down below the casita. This area is the most wild and there are tons of trees and native plants that I am in love with. I have added a few other tropical plants here and there in this area and my hope is that they will add even more color when they mature. We have found a nice little spot down there where I have dreamed up the idea of someday building a little roofed platform or gazebo where I can sit and read or paint or just daydream. Down at the very bottom of this jungle area we’ve started to build a bridge that will lead to another area which we have not quite gotten to yet. And there is a seasonal creek that runs through this area which just roars with the sound of rushing water during the rainy season. I love my jungle trail.
Then, across from the casita we have the shade garden. This area was a solid wall of jungle before we got in there and made it accessible with lovely winding trails through the trees. We could barely see what was in there. But, after cutting down some of the brush we discovered a bunch of banana trees and lots of Cecropia trees, just tons of gorgeous plants and trees in this area. Lots of native Heliconia as well as wild begonias and just endless beauties. We had to put in some steps to access the upper area of the shade garden and then cut in some switch back trails that lead up to the main house. There were lots of fallen trees in this area which I have left because I find them so pretty. I have planted many shade loving plants here. Four or Five different varieties of begonias. Other shade loving Heliconia, and Costas’s as well as ferns and I still have so many areas in this shade garden where I need to plant more color! It’s a work in progress but has great potential! I plan to put a nice bench in this area so that one can relax and gaze around at the glory of mother nature in the shade of all the trees. When you get to the tippy top of this shade area it leads to another bridge which crosses the upper part of the seasonal creek, near the house. I have spotted a very special bird in this area called a Mot-mot. This is a large bird , it has a bright blue head and a long tail with a pendulum like feather that hangs down. I’ve learned that this bird lives in the hillsides and not in trees. I get very excited when I spot one and can stand and watch it with endless enthusiasm !
Then, after crossing this upper bridge you have reached my front yard, which I call, my propagation and experimentation garden. In this nice flat spot out in the front of the house I’ve created small rock planters which are now filled to the rim with different plants. I’m learning more and more with time just what works and what needs to be moved to a different area. I spent some time digging up tons of wild bulbs from different areas on the property. Not knowing exactly what I had found I planted them all over my front area. Now I’ve gotten rewarded with lots of surprises! Some of these bulbs are this amazing bright orange flower, others are a pretty dainty yellow flower, I have peach colored gladiolas and yellow ones too! There is a crazy, bright pink flower too! As you can tell by my humble descriptions of these flowers, I have no idea what they are! But I love them! Off to the side of my front yard garden I made a hanging succulent garden off the railing. I sure do love the succulents!
Another area of the front yard that’s very special to me is the covered courtyard to our entryway. This area provides the perfect shady area for my orchid collection! I really enjoy puttering in the early evening time of the day when the sun has drifted off to the back side of the house and Its cool and peaceful out there. The hum of the saws in Scotts workshop have stopped and the birdsong is once again the main sounds I hear as I walk around delighting in the colors of all the plants. I often find myself wondering out there to pull a few weeds and do a bit of watering. Misting the orchid garden in my entry is my favorite spot to putter at the close of each day. By trial and error I slowly learn what each plant needs in terms of sun, shade, fertilizer and of course ,water. And when I get it right, boy is it evident! My plants let me know they’re happy with so much beauty. They grow, they flower, they spread and generally just look healthy and happy when all their various needs are met.
Did I mention what a dream it is to live here if you like orchids! One can go for a hike after a storm and simply collect orchids that have fallen from the trees. And, as we’ve been working around this property we are careful to keep our eyes peeled for fallen orchids, especially after a storm. I’m not very knowledgeable about orchids yet , boy do I have a lot to learn. But I’m working on it and hope to become much better at caring for them. In the meantime I enjoy them and slowly hope to see them bloom. My courtyard is also a fantastic spot for plants that love shade but not so much heavy rain. I have a crazy beautiful Blue Ginger here in the courtyard that has really gotten big! There are other leafy shrubs that have different colors and textures and I’m quickly running out of dirt to plant things out here! I tell ya, I just walk out my front door in the mornings and there’s no way to stop myself from smiling!
So, I have my wild jungle trail, my shade garden trail, my front propagation area and then there’s the area to the left of the house. This is the area where we have the most mature plants of all the garden. Most of the plants over here are plants we’ve purchased from Carla Black. I may have mentioned this amazing women in other blog posts. She is the President of the International Heliconia society. Carla owns an unbelievable Heliconia farm in Volcan, which is a town on the other side of the volcano from us. She opens up her farm once a year in July to the public and sells plants. Sigh…this woman’s garden is my inspiration! It’s quite unbelievable. This last 4 years or so we’ve been slowly collecting plants from her. We have purchased very nearly a hundred different species of tropical plants. The ones we planted about three or four years ago are all in this side garden and they are just unbelievable. The tallest one must be about 15-20 feet tall now and many of the other ones aren’t much smaller than that. This entire area has really become my biggest flower producing area in all my garden! I wonder around this side area with so much glee as I gaze upon these incredible tropical beauties! But…
I must tell you though, that I am having a very big problem at the moment with critters who have been eating the roots of my cherished plants! Ugh! I’m not sure what type of animals are tunneling under my plants, most likely gophers, but whatever it is , it has to go GO! It’s a terribly heartbreaking problem because these aweful critters can kill a perfectly healthy plant overnight! I kid you not! I had this one spectacular plant, a red tipped fan, nearly eight feet tall! And over night it was dead! My heart hurts just thinking about it. So, it’s an all out war at the moment ….I know some of you will not be happy with me when I tell you how we are attempting to kill them, but there’s just no way around it. Scott ordered a product from Amazon that attaches to the tail pipe of my car and then to a garden hose, we have it running into the holes of the dreaded critters and are attempting to kill them with the carbon dioxide from the car running. As killing goes, it’s a fairly humane way to go, no pain, just peacefully drifting off to critter heaven. As I type this my car is running and I am hopeful that my enemy will soon be dead. We also have a couple of traps that we will put in the holes, I would use poison if I did not have dogs. Sorry, to all you peaceful, nature loving folks who are now appalled by my disrespect for this aspect of nature but my plants are my priority in this situation, so you’ll have to get over it.
Currently we are in the process of cutting in brand new trails just below the house. These new trails will eventually lead to the casita down below us. I’m anxiously awaiting the rainy season to begin so that I can start to plant new plants down there. Yesterday my friend Maryellen gave me about eight bags of a wonderful boarder plant that she has pruned from her garden. Me and Federico have been working hard planting them all along the edges of the new trails. This is how I get a lot of my plants. When we trim our gardens we try to save the cuttings because one can simply put a cutting into the dirt and viola! A new plant grows! No need for buying plants at a nursery! (well, aside from the special tropical plants I buy from Carla!). Most of the plants in my front yard have come from friends who kindly give me plants all the time! We all love to visit each others gardens with pruning sheers in hand and take cuttings or dig up things to share with one another. I have so many great plants that I have gotten from my friends gardens. Of course not all my plants come from cuttings, we do have some pretty nice little Vivero’s (nurseries) up here in Boquete and surrounding areas. As a matter of fact a few of us gals have planned a “Vivero crawl” for next week! We will spend an entire day cruising around and visiting different virero’s and seeing if we can find any treasures! I’ll have to report back and let you know how that little adventure goes.
These are a few of my favorite things. The birds, my pets and my garden. While Im typing this I am realizing there’s more to my list of things I have come to deeply enjoy about my life here. I guess this gives me other things to tell you about in a different post! I have been told on many occasions by many good friends that my blog posts can be on the ‘long winded’ side. But, Hey, I gotta be me! I have a lot to say when I sit down to write. Each post can often be like a mini novel! All I know is, I enjoy writing and if someone enjoys reading then, hey! It’s a match made in blogging heaven! haha! 🙂 Life is good and its fun to discover so many things to love about each new day.