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!"