More Garden Additions

Yesterday (Saturday) I took a taxi to La Garita to visit Vivero Central, my favorite plant nursery (largest in the country). Just walking through the place motivates you to work on your garden!

Kevin Hunter at Vivero Central in March, making a photo of course!

My new garden art is on a tree stump with a hole in a root near bottom that just needed a plant

coming out of it! Pequeño (small) of course! This is what I came up with:
Garrobo en español, like a small stateside philodendron or caladium.
Kind of snuggled into a crack of the tree base, like it would in the jungle!
I was afraid a vine might get out of control or take over the garden.

You just barely notice it at base of tree stump,
but I like the use of that hole for a plant and
think it makes the garden more interesting.
Its an ongoing, creative process that is fun!
And notice how my ground-cover has spread!
It is pilea depressa or helxine soleirolii – wonderful!
Next photo is up close of it:

pilea depressa or helxine soleirolii ground-cover in my main garden

I also got this small planter for my patio/balcony with a red flower that blooms
year-around! Plus it attracts colibri (hummingbirds)! Didn’t get the name of it.
You also see the crotons around one of my front yard palms and barely the
ground cover I added there. Next photo of it:
I haven’t even tried to get the name of this flowering ground-cover – love it!
Got a few cuttings from the apartment manager and it now covers the ground
around three different trees in my front yard. The crotons were already there.

The aloe vera was getting too big for the narrow bed it was in,
so it got a new home of its own in this pot at the end of walk by palma roja
(red palm) and you can see I added some free coleus around the palm.
Not sure that’s a good match, we’ll see. May move it. Had to plant it somewhere.
This pot might later go on the balcony/patio, my medicine cabinet for burns! 🙂
And it had two babies, so I have plenty of aloe around.

I also added two ferns in two bare spots which is another texture this tropical garden needed. And I got a new ceramic pot for my dining room plant which was in a plastic pot. Accomplished at lot!

And if you have wondered about the concrete wall behind my new garden, well, my house is built into the side of a hill. It is a retainer wall above which is the landlord’s driveway on one side (below photo) and a neighbor on the other side (above photo). I have planted Triquetraque or Mexican Flame Vine at top of the wall which will soon cascade down with beautiful orange flowers and cover the ugly concrete. I’m trying to be patient while it grows!  🙂   Photo below (22-July-2015 growth):

Triquitraque or Mexican Flame Vine will someday cover my back wall.
The advantage of being the first one in a new house is I get to help design it!

One of my “regular” taxistas (taxi drivers) is Nelson. He is learning English and helps me with my Spanish and I help him with his English. This is his second time to take me to La Garita and he is patient waiting on me shopping. In fact he walks around with me and seems to enjoy it. I pay him above the going rate for this trip to make it fair for an hour and half+ of his time. And I now have a favorite helper at Vivero Central named Francisco (who gave me the coleus). He is so good at helping me and does pretty fair English and puts up with my Spanish, so more good local friends/helpers. And a tip will assure good service next time. Its my second time with Francisco and he has already remembered me! La Garita is halfway between Atenas and Alajuela and is the plant nursery “capital” of Costa Rica, 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) east of Atenas through the mountains and over the Rio Grande. 

It is always exciting to open the door and go out 
into the garden for the first time on any day.
– Marion Cran

Hummingbirds & Butterflies!

This is one reason I made my garden. Glad they like it!
Male Cinnamon Hummingbird on a Plumbago plant
Atenas, Costa Rica
Yellow & Black Swallowtail Butterfly on a Plumbago plant.
Atenas, Costa Rica
Crescent Butterfly or maybe a Peck’s Skipper on Tutti Frutti Lantana
Atenas, Costa Rica

Peck’s Skipper on Tutti Frutti Lantana
Atenas, Costa Rica
Mustard White on Tutti Frutti Lantana
Atenas, Costa Rica

I’ve seen two other hummingbirds in the garden but without a camera. Also some other butterflies.

Today my boxes were delivered – mostly scrapbooks and artwork that I shipped from states before leaving in December. More about that tomorrow! And here is tonight’s sunset:

A different view tonight! I walked up driveway and shot over my roof looking west instead of usual north.
Also it is a 5-shot panorama. 

House Tour – Outside Today

Here’s a few views of the outside of my house and some of the new plants I got today. Tomorrow I will show the inside rooms.

My favorite room in the house is actually outside, my balcony, deck, patio.
This tile floor is throughout the house and outside walkways around three sides.
Nice! Plus the wooden ceiling is throughout the house.

105 Calle Roca Verde, one of the few houses in Atenas with a house number!
I’m the house on right behind trees, Don & Linda to left with carport and
our landlord lives on top of the hill behind us. I guard the gate, ha, ha!
There is also a gate to get inside the development with a real guard 24/7.

View of my house from street. The three little decorative palms in front were
added today to replace the three that died from lack of water in dry season.
I plan to make watering plants a major dry season activity!
You can barely see the Red Palm planted at end of balcony &
a tall, skinny Guarumo Tree in front of balcony.

You have already seen my new entry garden, but
we planted ground cover today that should spread fast.

Three Fishtail Palms and a Banana Plant (on right) were planted today as a screen
in front of my bedroom window (right) and guest room (left) for privacy
on this street side. They will fill in and spread in a month or two.
And maybe I’ll be eating the bananas by Christmas!  🙂
The driveway and entry side. The entry hall is to left by garden, but I mainly
use the balcony at right as my main entrance. This may be the least interesting
side of house, but my new entry garden is going to change that! Pot plants on
this wall would block the tile walkway, except maybe at that corner on patio.
I’m making it my home and so for love it inside and out! It is just right for me.

Tomorrow I’ll show you around inside the house as it is now decorated. My art may arrive this week, but I will probably add only a few pieces around a well decorated house! Buenas Noches!

Tonight’s sunset colored the clouds in the north. Beautiful! Each evening a new surprise!
How did I ever live without a balcony? This is my cathedral!

Garden Almost Finished

Seen from driveway

Seen from house door

Looking from garden back to driveway and Don & Linda’s house
The back sidewalk with red palm at end
Pot plant in Living Room

One pot on patio/balcony

The other patio pot to help screen neighbors
It will get much larger

Sorry, I took most of these photos before sweeping and mopping the tile walkways because I was in a hurry to go shopping in Alajuela. And note that the vines are planted at top of walls but will take a few months to trail down, maybe looking good in August. Still to come next Saturday:

  1. I have been debating whether to use mulch or ground cover and think I have decided on ground cover. He said he would give me two choices, so we will see what happens with that. 
  2. Plus the Maraca or Shampoo Ginger plant is still coming next week. A prize plant!
  3. I’m adding a Guarumo Tree in the front yard, a member of the Cecropia family that has a fruit toucans love, so you know why I am planting it. Sloths like to eat the leaves too, so who knows, it might even attract a sloth. 
  4. Also we are adding another red palm to hide the balcony post and give more balcony foilage. 
  5. In front of my bedroom window he will put some fish-tail palms to add to my privacy from the street and also . . . 
  6. banana plant for my breakfast fruit as well as a screen! 

This is fun! And the landlord is paying for some of the above additions as I improve his property. I plan to stay here a long time! 🙂 I love the house and yard, my neighbors, and a great landlord who also a good neighbor! (And reads my blog some!) Pura Vida! This is more what I envisioned in Costa Rica than the apartments, though there were some good things about them and I enjoyed my time there as a good place to start.

I highly recommend J&C Gardens if you live anywhere near Atenas or La Garita. You can email Cristian (who speaks English) at or call him at 8873-7483 cellular. Tell him Charlie sent you!

Happy, Hard-working Garden Crew

Fun for me to watch it quickly take shape

A large Heliconia will be the centerpiece of this garden
Planting the Triquitraque vines at top which will take time to grow and
hang down, covering the walls, maybe by August or certainly by December

We got along fine and I really like Cristian, the crew leader and owner, and each of the 4 workers just as well. All were so friendly, and trying hard to please me. I’m not used to that! Of course I tipped them! And I provided agua frio, iced water, before their morning break when they shared a loaf of bread together. Just a neat group of guys! They came at 7:20 or so and finished at about 10:30. They did in 3 hours what would have taken me months to complete

I’ve also talked to Cristian about coming back with another Red Palm at the other street-side corner at end of patio-balcony, plus a Guarumo Tree to attract toucans, and a banana tree to attract me!  🙂 And mulch for the flowerbed which I’m choosing over rocks used a lot here or ground cover. Also my landlord stopped by and he asked them to return and plant something to shield my bedroom window from street and replace three street-side palms at his expense. So the outside of this place is really taking shape! Now this afternoon I have some shopping to do at Price Smart and will also get a water hose. Soon I won’t need it with the heavier rains coming, but now we are just getting light showers in afternoon and I must keep these plants alive!
I highly recommend J&C Gardens if you live anywhere near Atenas or La Garita. You can email Cristian (who speaks English) at or call him at 8873-7483 cellular. Tell him Charlie recommended him!

Flowers Arrived at 7 AM!

Plumbago and Tutti Frutti in front,
then tall green palmy plant goes in living room,
more garden plants in back, palm around corner
and the butterflies have already come!

Below is a list of what Cristian says he is planting tomorrow. Click the linked name to see photos of what it looks like and the ones delivered today are in these photos here, though not all delivered yet. This will be a hummingbird and butterfly garden. Lots of photo ops!

Triquitraque (“Firecracker” in English)– an orange flowering vine planted at top and trailing down the walls. Opportunity of a house built into the side of a hill!  (not delivered yet)

Blue Plumbago – a flowering hedge along bottom of concrete wall under the orange vines (photo at right)

Tutti Frutti (a variety of Lantana) – a row of mixed colors of flowers along the sidewalk (in photo at right, on the left side, shorter – yellow, pink, orange, red)

Palma Roja (Red Palm) – a brightly colored bamboo-like palm with red, yellow & green trunks, going at the end of back sidewalk as an anchor to the far end of my garden and to block view of street (see palm photo below).

Maraca (Shampoo Ginger) – a really cool tropical flower (rare and it may take a while for him to find one but he will even if he has to take it from his uncle’s yard he says). He is really working hard to please me and have a perfect garden for butterflies and hummingbirds.

Red Ginger – a red flowering tropical plant (photo below) – There are other varieties of Ginger
but not sure if I’m getting one of the others. I’m hoping for a Torch Ginger, my favorite. 

Heliconia – truly tropical and comes in many varieties (1 delivered today, see photo below – a different variety is coming tomorrow he says) This is often associated with Hawaii, but native here.

Foxglove – 2 or 3 plants between the Palmetto and Red Palm along back (not here yet). This is for the hummingbirds.

Petunia – well, I guess every garden needs a “filler”  🙂    (not delivered yet)

Palmetto – already here in the ground, see bottom photo
Aloe Vera – already here, something the landlord plants on all of his properties – I have 2 and may end up putting them in pots if Cristian can’t work them into the garden plan.

Red Palm at end of sidewalk in back
not shown in above photo. It will block
the street from my garden and anchor it.
One variety of Red Ginger. I may get another.

One variety of Heliconia and I will get at
least one other variety he says. 
Palmetto, the only plant here now. Don’t think it was watered during dry season.
I’ll take better care of it.

You can probably tell that I’m very excited about getting my dream tropical garden this quickly, just a week after moving in. Of course tomorrow I will be showing you the completed masterpiece, I think I will call it my “Humming Garden” or in Spanish Jardín del Tarareo You can walk through and either hum a tune or watch for butterflies and hummingbirds!   🙂   Pura Vida!

Some might ask why I didn’t save money and plant it all myself and get even more joy from totally creating it myself? Several reasons: 
1) I don’t have a car or truck, so we are talking many trips to and from La Garita where the nurseries are located at $50-$60+ per taxi round trip. It could possibly cost me more doing it myself!
2) It is the beginning of the rainy season and it needs to be done right now along with a lot of other things I need to do like get the stuff I shipped out of storage and make photos!  🙂   
3) The professionals do a better job in this case and at what I consider a very good price compared to the states. This kind of labor is cheap here. And I would not have known about some of these flowers or where to get them for a while.
4) I don’t have the garden tools, which would be another expense and the side of this hill is rocky, another challenge I’m letting the professionals handle.  
5) I’m retired and enjoying life and consider using the cheap labor a wiser choice at this time. 
So I won’t go on a guilt trip for not doing it myself! (Even though I enjoy gardening.) Of course I will probably add another plant or two occasionally, and look what a great start I’m getting in a new house! I’ll be showing more of the house in coming posts including the already landscaped yards, but today and tomorrow it’s the new butterfly & hummingbird garden or Humming Garden!