1.27.2009

Jungle in the Garden



Not only is there a garden in the jungle, but I managed to find a jungle in the garden. No, not my own sometimes out-of-control patch of property, but a real garden, with real jungle plants. Tromping around in Panama's cloud forest and seeing gardenesque jungle scenes was the subject of a post last week, and those scenes were not my only discovery in that part of the world. We set off on a hike through the steep-and-deep ravines of the Three Cascades trail, and after climbing through tangles of vegetation, fording creeks and getting lost a few times, we stumbled back out onto the road., or what passes for one hereabouts, and headed downhill, toward the charming hamlet of Guadalupe.
Along the way we--the Artiste, Birdboy and I--happened upon Finca Dracula, a huge edge-of-the-cloudforest garden named, not for the famous bloodsucking Transylvanian count, but rather for a genus of orchids native to the northwestern Andes (mostly Ecuador) and Central America. Finca Dracula, as it turns out, cultivates one of the world's largest collections of orchids. Needless to say, I had to pay a visit. Birdboy and the Artiste, being wet and cold from our high-altitude ramble, proceeded to town for sustenance and a wood-fired sauna at Los Quetzales.

What drew me through the gates and into the spooky green twilight of the farm's entryway was not a love of orchids. Oh, I like them just fine, but have not yet really surrendered, gardener-wise, to their charms. Instead I was lured by the rushing stream along the finca's edge, the glimpse of a lake within, and the sight of enough giant plants to make Gulliver feel homesick for Brobdingnag. When I happened upon the garden's anteroom, where visitors arrange for a tour or to simply pay a nominal fee to wander around, I knew I had come to the right place. All that orange!
Aside from the orchid collection, here was a garden busting out with all the plants we'd seen on our hike. And they were used in all manner of dynamic, eye-catching combinations. It was a jungle, but cleaned up and ready for prime time. There were, for example, those gunnera. I have NEVER been able to grow those darn things, though certainly not for lack of trying. As if to prove their value as garden plants, there they stood, bold shapes silhouetted against a filmy bamboo background. Talk about textural contrast. Wowsa!

Or how about this bold vision of Dracaena, tree ferns, and bananas? Foliage rules!

Of course it's nice to have color too. These heliconia certainly provide it. And look at all those impatiens. I like the Spanish name for them, miramelinda--which I'll translate roughly as "Look how pretty I am!"

Then there are the cool mosaic pathways winding through the gardens.

Lastly, a grab bag of sights around Finca Dracula. Can't wait to get back there.

11 comments:

inadvertent farmer said...

I have no words...darn that is all just too cool. I love the tropics and all things warm and humid, quite the sight as I sit here watching it snow outside. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. Kim

Guess I did have a few words, lol!

buedamau said...

just amazing! everyone who loves flowers dream with something like that! it's like a perfect invitation...

Aerie-el said...

Gorgeous. The mosaic bridge and walkway is quite unique. And gunnera--what a plant! I've got 2 in the soil now...planted them last year and got some small leaves then. Hoping for giant dinosaur leaves this year.
Love your writing style and the photos. Reading your posts are like being right there on the hikes and garden tours with you.
~Aerie-el

Chandramouli S said...

Wow Steve! That's a perfect spot to spend your peaceful holidays! Jungle in Garden - I first thought you might have written it wrong but was later amazed after reading the entire post.

Layanee said...

Wet in the tropics is better than covered with snow in the NE! Gotta love that gunnera. I'll bet you could stay dry under one of those leaves. Great photos. I am happy to hear that you braved the chilly conditions for the warm colors of this garden.

Steve Silk said...

IF-Yeah the memory of those places is particularly appealing when I look out the window here. We are getting bombied --yet again!-with snow. We've had snow on the gorund for about 2 months. Jeesh!

Steve Silk said...

Sure is an invtiation Buedemau-one I'd like to take up this very minute!

Steve Silk said...

Thanks Aerie-el. You are one lucky dog to be able to grow those Gunnera. Hope they didn't mind the snow you had out there.

Steve Silk said...

Hi Chandramouli--No not a typo--just trying to keep you guessing!Do you have any scenes like that where you live?

Steve Silk said...

Hi Layanee--Agreed: wet tropics are better than snowy New England, or at least a worthwhile break. Actually I like winter, it gives me some down time. Gunnera is great, the best thing like it we can grow , near as I can tell, is Petasites. Ever try it?

Hort Log said...

I like this post very much. The Gunnera is fabulous, but I doubt I can grow it in the lowlands.