Shopping for garden plants in March–and not online or from a catalogue? Not in my part of the world. But while on vacation near Merida, Mexico (and missing Canada Blooms, which was taking place at home in snow-and-ice Toronto while I was basking in 30-degree-pus temperatures), I had a yen to visit a nursery and do some plant shopping.
So one morning I took in two of them on the outskirts of Merida, the capital of Yucatan State and a half hour’s drive from the Gulf of Mexico, where we were staying. There were more nurseries to visit, but I confess that by the time I toured two the sun was high overhead and I was wilting. I had to escape to the seaside, my lounger and an ice-cold drink.
I was just looking, anyway, with no plans to buy because I had no place to plant anything.
Lots of succulent beach plants grew outside our rented ocean-front villa, plus coconut palms that threatened to bonk us with falling fruit, oleander, hibiscus and wildy colourful bougainvillea –obviously in season, since it was showing off on walls and fences everywhere.
If only I could grow some of these beauties in my garden!
The Merida nurseries weren’t that different to the ones at home. Near the front they featured eye-catching pots and flats of colourful geraniums, gerbera, calendula, petunias and impatiens in full bloom that you immediately wanted to buy. In the Mexican climate such plants have a longer lifetime, and some even grow as short-lived perennials. Large tropical plants were loosely grouped to show off their best attributes and smaller ones were massed together, especially if they were in bloom. Areas of plants were were set out with paths in between and plenty of reaching space. Many plants, like the ones on my home page, sat under mesh roofs to protect them from the strong sun.
As at home, some plants seemed to be mislabelled or not labelled at all, or they were simply mysteries to me. The bank of pots below were labelled Truen-Venus O. lili. They contained dainty plants with pretty rose flowers, and they looked like they might work as a ground cover, but darned if I knew what they were. At Vivero Xochimilco, they were reasonably priced though, at 30 pesos, or $2.50 Canadian, for a generous pot.
I figured I could identify plants by looking for their botanical names, but Truen Venus etc definitely wasn’t one, nor could we translate it from Spanish. In fact, botanical names were not to be found. The beautiful Spathiphyllum wallisii below, which is called Peace Lily at the nursery near my home, was labelled Cuna de Moises, or Cradle of Moses, in Merida. It may be something else in Veracruz. This just underlines to me the importance of using botanical names to identify plants, no matter where you live. The well-grown, large plants on display were 250 pesos each, or $21.25 Canadian. I paid $20 for one at my local nursery last summer, but it was a good deal smaller than the lush specimen below.
Bromeliads were in abundance in many varieties, all unlabelled. I loved the one below, which was also 250 pesos/$21.25 CDN, and could see it in a giant container on my front walk, maybe with some silvery grey licorice plants trailing over the edge (okay,okay–Helichrysum petiolare.) If there was one plant I really really wanted to take home with me, this was it. Using sign language and the help of my almost-fluent husband, the nurseryman told me that this plant produces a large spiky maroon flower later in the season. Now wouldn’t that be something!
Pom-pom trees or other other evidence of topiary were nowhere to be seen, but one latticed ficus was displayed in a centre bed lined with royal palms. I can’t imagine the years of work it took to train those ficus. The price tag was 2,500 pesos, but at $212.50 CDN I considered it a steal.
The nursery nearly next door focussed more on foliage plants, and it was a welcome retreat in the heat of the day, with tall trees, natural paths and plants growing as they might in your own garden.
This nursery offered bromeliads too– a whole bank of them, also unlabelled. These colourful plants are a favourite choice for foundation plantings for homes and big shopping malls, of which there are many in the lovely colonial city of Merida.