Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Typical Tico Neighborhood

We ended a recent trip to Costa Rica walking the neighborhood near our hotel in Santo Domingo de Heredia, about 15 minutes north of San Jose, the capital city.  Most of the population of Costa Rica lives in an around San Jose in the Central Valley, which is surrounded by mountains. Water flows out of the mountains down into the valley, which is a major reason why most settlement occurred in this region. The suburbs outside of San Jose tend to be more desirable than San Jose itself -- they are less crowded and have less crime, though overall Costa Rica is probably the most stable and safe country in Central America.  

After riding around in a small bus for 12 days, visiting private preserves, gardens, farms, and national parks (all worthwhile mind you), it was nice to walk at our leisure and have a more intimate view of Tico homes.

Mid-century modern flair 
Immediately around the hotel is a pleasant residential area of well kept homes.  The architecture ranges from modest one-story bungalows to larger older homes with Spanish, even Victorian, flourishes, as well as a few more modern styles.  Several houses reminded  me of ones you'd see in New Orleans or older parts of Florida.  And just about everyone has a gate, wall, or fencing of some sort that separates them from the street, and decorative, sometimes elaborate, window grates.  It's debatable whether these barriers are for security or status, perhaps both.  We certainly felt perfectly safe as we walked.

Clever green wall hangings

The local super market

Quite a few locals are avid runners and walkers

Recognizable in many Tico front gardens are things we grow as house plants or tender perennials, such as these Dracenas, but they often get much bigger, like the Croton street tree you'll see below or shrubby Lantanas, which are often used as foundation plantings.

These two women sitting on their front porch are smack up against the sidewalk.  And despite the bars of the fence they were very happy to have their picture taken, quickly sitting up straighter and smiling.  Ticos are generally warm, friendly people.

The razor wire above the small orange wall is sort of amusing.  Why would anyone be concerned about someone jumping this wall when they can just walk around it?

That's a Pointsettia growing at the corner of the house 

This little guy brought out the whole team when I stuck my hand through the gate to photograph.  See below

The Croton tree

The local nursery

This handsome dog is sitting among the cuttings from the evergreen above him where his owner (I presume) is standing on a tall orchard ladder pruning his juniper with a machete.  Machetes seem to be common tools among gardeners and farm workers.  I was surprised how perfectly even the result was for such a big blade.

This woman was gathering up some cuttings to take home.  And I saw another woman walking her dog with a bag full; once I came upon the pruner I realized where they came from.  They smell good.  I guess they might use them in an arrangement or to perfume the house?  It was January, so past the time for Christmas decorating when Ticos use conifer cuttings as we do in North America.

This house had what I assume is some sort of water tank or cistern
A municipal building with an Art Deco flair

Tending to the plants in an alley

A nice purple-leaved Clerodendron in this front garden

We saw so many fabulous big Agaves throughout our trip
This tree is some sort of white-flowered Euphorbia.  And Bougainvillea is everywhere
All these photos were taken with my cell phone, which seems to default to a very shallow depth of field so many photos are fuzzy.  Maybe that's because I'm always hitting the screen to engage the focus?  I need to learn how to improve the phone photo quality.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Best of 2015: Photo Review

Les at A Tidewater Gardener  posted his best photographs of 2015 and invited others to do the same, so I'm taking him up on the suggestion.

Most of these photos didn't appear on this blog, because they didn't fit into any posting, or I never got around to doing the post.  So this is a good excuse to include anything I want.  Are they my favorite? Well they are today.  

These topiary pyramids at  Ladew Topiary Gardens north of Baltimore were looking a little shaggy, but it's still an impressive view as you look back toward the house from the middle of the garden.  I visited in October.

The bright red seeds of Magnolia virginiana bursting forth from the seed pod in my garden this fall.  I wish the lasted longer.  

You can't beat the broad Outer Beach of the Cape Cod National Seashore's Atlantic coast.  And this morning in September, as I walked along Ballston Beach in Truro, there was nary a soul.  

Next are some abstract images from the same walk along the beach on the Cape.

This Artemesia and grass were growing out of the steep cliffs that border the back of the beach. 

Fall blooming crocus in my garden.  I need to plant more. 

And some pictures from a trip I took with my sister to the Netherlands and Belgium at the end of April into early May.  I liked the mix of architecture in this spot along the canal in Bruges, though the image is a bit washed out.  The glass doors are very elegant.  

Tulips for sale at the flower market in Amsterdam.  8 Euro, or about $8.60 US, for 50 tulips seems pretty good to me.  If only I could have taken them home.  I like how the vendor interspersed pots of boxwood among the squares of tulips -- it creates a kind of checkerboard.

This home in Delft had a lovely display of potted plants out front.  Note the variety of religious icons above the front door -- a menorah, christ figure and I think I see some sort of buddhist figure.  I also like the color scheme of the house.   

We had a nice view of a sweet garden behind the family-run hotel where we stayed in Bruges.  If you notice some graininess it's because I shot through the window screen.  A cherry tree and Fatsia were blooming; I can't remember what else.  

That's it.  Go check out Les's photographs; he's a good photographer.  Join in -- post your 10 best and leave on link on Les's blog.    Happy New Year!  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In a Vase on Monday (Okay, it's now Tuesday): My Blog Meme Discovery and My Cat's Sink Discovery

I recently discovered Linda's blog, Each Little World, which led me to this blog meme, "In a Vase On Monday," started by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, a British blogger.  It is pretty straight forward: compose a bouquet from things growing in your garden (or, at this time of year, things you've acquired, been given or found since some of us have little blooming at this time of year) and place them in an receptacle (a vase being the most obvious)  that will set them off for display.  It's interesting to see how bloggers pair flowers and containers -- sometimes there's a whole vignette -- and  to see what's growing in other people's gardens.  

I've only seen a few posts, but it seemed like a fun exercise, so I decided to give it a whirl. A quick one because it was already Monday evening when I started out.   

And then it became Tuesday.....  Computer misadventures is my excuse.

Part of the motivation for doing this at all was that, coincidentally, I just bought a vase as a gift (and I liked it well enough and it was cheap enough that I bought one for myself)  at the National Building Museum Shop in Washington, DC, which has a cool selection of stuff.  (A surprisingly good selection of gardening and landscape design books, by the way.) 

It's called a  ReFORMS Convertible Bud Vase made by Infusion Living and cost $17.00. I think they also carried a larger version.     

Front of the package 
Back of the package

The "6 in 1" claim on the back of the box is the convertible aspect -- it's made of malleable rubber-like material, so you can compress it, fold down the top like a collar and make it into a stubby vase or a taller, leaner shape.  6 different configurations in all.   I thought it was pretty clever.  

Here's what I came up with using Begonia leaves from one of my few house plants, dried Hakone grass leaves, a couple tassel fern fronds and a Christmas fern frond, the dried remains of Black-Eyed-Susans, and a piece of fir from free greens I got from a local nursery's Christmas tree trimmings.  No blooms.  But there was actually plenty to choose from in the garden without flowers.  

The red veins of  the Begonia are nice with the vase.  

You can see what I mean about the rubbery quality. You can easily give it a squeeze.   

My cat, Tommy, likes to eat plants, or at least try them out until they make him sick. (No, I'm not trying to poison him.)   Since he has been known to knock over an arrangement or two or three or more.... an unbreakable vase is very appealing.  Funny thing is my husband found Tommy in the utility sink late last night when he came back from his regular Monday night jam. I had left the unused cuttings from the bouquet in the sink and Tommy decided to sample them.  

Handsome Devil, don't you think?  

He has never gotten in the sink before, but he will jump up on the kitchen counter and pull down pieces of lettuce, or, better yet, spinach.  He likes dark greens especially.  He doesn't eat a lot of them, but likes to get a taste now and then.  He must have smelled the cuttings.   The nose knows.  

My little arrangement ended up on the powder room sink.  I like finding a little bouquet in the bathroom.  And, maybe Tommy will be less likely to find it there.  We'll see.  

Happy Holidays!