Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Green Season

The “green” (rainy) season is here this month. Most days have been clear and sunny in the morning, with rain in the afternoons. So far this month, we’ve had 19.48 inches of rain, bringing the total for the year to 51.06 inches. It doesn’t seem like that much rain. In the Pacific Northwest, we got about 36 inches a year, but in was cloudy and rainy all winter. Seemed like we never saw the sun for weeks on end. Here, we have sun almost every morning, so we can usually be outside every morning. And when it rains, it RAINS! Yesterday afternoon, for example, it was beautiful all morning we got 3.72 inches in about 2 ½ hours, then it cleared up for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

In the green season the views are sharper. The Nicoya Peninsula and the Islands in the Gulf of Nicoya are much more defined. At night, the lights along the Coast and East towards San Jose are much brighter.

This is the perfect time to transplant new plants, and we’ve been taking advantage of that. So far, we’ve been on three buying trips. And have come home with about 350 plants and trees. That is a lot of plants and has made a big difference. We probably could easily put that many more in the ground though!

Our neighbor Eric has planted over 10,000 trees on his properties to restore them to native landscapes. Much of the property that we purchased from him has benefited from his work. He introduced us to a nursery man who specializes in native plants for reforestation and conservation. He is very knowledgeable regarding the altitude, moisture, and light requirements for the trees he sells. We bought over 100 small trees from him. 50 are similar to the Benjamin Figs we know as indoor trees. We have planted them as a windbreak because of the dense foliage. We also bought 20 Eucalyptus deglupta for the gorgeous green, khaki, brown and orange peeling (“rainbow”) bark. The remaining trees are aquacatillo (mountain avocado), soapberry, bottlebrush and others all for attracting birds.

We filled the pickup with over 200 plants from one of the big nurseries, mostly for ground cover. We have some Flax, a variegated Iris like plant, Society chives, Mexican heather, a maroon grass, and lantana.

We made another visit to the Else Kientzler gardens this past week. I brought them banana bread to thank them for the Elephant ears they gave me last trip. Of course they offered more and who could refuse. They had 5 or 6 varieties of ipomoea or sweet potato vine for sale. We bought over 40. They are beautiful shades of bright green and maroons. They make a great ground cover.

Besides planting the new purchases, we’ve been re-arranging many of the plants we have. We can see what has thrived and what needs a new spot with less sun or more moisture. I have one bank of yellow walking iris, a variegated ground cover and some yellow lantana that are doing well in very bad soil. I have just finished adding more of the iris starts to fill it in. No sense in trying to make something else work there! I continue to stick cuttings of anything and everything in the ground to see what takes. I have lots of coleus and impatiens. I have also tried rooting some tree and bushes with some success.

Mario, the man who helps us with our gardening one day a week, has been coming with his cousin for about 12 hours each per week (rains permitting). They’ve prepared the ground and done all the planting. Part of the ground prep included working in chicken manure. We bought 80 huge bags a couple of months ago. Much of the ground is hard and clay like, so working the manure in has made a big difference. Of course the weeds love it!

We got a new Toro lawnmower from the states. It’s self propelled, so Norm has been using it to get our grass in shape. Most folks here use string trimmers to cut their grass, and that’s how Mario’s been cutting ours. But the string trimmers throw debris everywhere and really scalp the grass; short and ugly. With the mower, our grass is starting to look like a lawn.

A couple of months ago I was walking by an area along our trail. I see that spot every morning while walking the dog. Well it was covered with orchids. They opened overnight. With the end of the dry season, many orchids bloomed. We continue to find a few in bloom.

One of the trees between the house and the casita has been home to several nesting birds. At least one pair of Tropical Kingbirds and a pair of Blue-grey tanagers have nests. We have seen some predator birds hanging around too. A few emerald toucanets have been stalking. And one day we were surprised to see a Swallow tailed kite land next to the tanager nest. Wish we had a photo of the huge wing sticking out of the branches. It didn’t get anything, but we do see them cruising over the trees on the hunt.

We are continuing our Spanish lessons, although separately.
Norm is much better than me! We love our teacher; she is a delight and tailors the lessons to our needs.