Tag Archives: bougainvillea

Separate summers

Datura outside our bedroom window yesterday. There’s also aloe vera.

MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.

He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.

He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.

I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.

And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.

Gotta be the latitude.

Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.

It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.

My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.

Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.

And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.

I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.

That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.

There were no flowers at all. Nothing.

In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.

Summers separated by half a century of time.

Bougainvillea butcher

THE CURSE of my gardening existence, as has often been noted here, is this bougainvillea that I planted when it was in a pot, and then I turned my back on it, so to speak.

When it spotted me otherwise engaged, it exploded — spikes, shedding flowers and all — to its current beastly status, virtually out of control, taunting me daily.

But I am battling back. At least, Abel the Deadpan Gardener is fighting back on my behalf. That’s him Tuesday morning giving the plant some much-deserved discipline.

For contrast, see the photo below that my child bride shot about a month ago as I posed for perspective’s sake.

That’s one big mother. That plant, that is.

But Abel’s labor did not stop there. One of the four ivy plants creeping along the Alamo Wall decided recently to take a dive, in a manner of speaking. It died, and I don’t know why.

It was firmly connected to the rock wall, and difficult to pull off even in its dead state, but Abel did a great job.

With the trimming done, he chopped everything and hauled it away in a wheelbarrow to somewhere out back, down a ravine where it will decompose as Mama Nature intended.

Abel went home with 500 pesos.

Not bad for three hours of work in the sunshine.

Man versus beasts

Photo shot April 12, 2017. Almost high noon.

IT’S SPRINGTIME, and the two banes of my life are muscling up in the yard, threats sans mercy. Monster thorns.

On the left is what I imagine is the world’s biggest nopal tree. Perhaps I should notify Guinness. On the right is the bougainvillea that, of the four in the yard, I let fly out of control.*

It’s hardly the biggest in the world, however. Bigger ones abound in my town. They never, ever stop growing.

I inserted myself into the photo to provide perspective. I planted both the beasts when they were tiny tykes.

Click on the photo for a closer look. Yes, the grass is mostly brown due to our being in the dry season. All is dark and dusty. The sky is not dark. It’s blue and beautiful.

The house is off to the left. The pastry kitchen and Nissan carport are off to the right. The sex motel is behind that wall. It’s what appears to be a white stripe. Actually, it’s yellow.

* * * *

* The other three I keep firmly under my green thumb.

Border wall

This is today, April 5, 2017.

I AM BIG on border walls. We have one here at the Hacienda. It separates us from the sex motel next door.

Walls create happy neighbors.

Stepping out to the terraza this morning — it was 48 degrees! — I snapped this photo to illustrate the difference between the two worlds of Hacienda and, well, you know.

When the motel was constructed almost a decade ago, I had this section of wall raised about a foot so folks in the motel rooms could not peer directly into our yard.

But we still can peer directly into their rooms.

You’re also looking at our two border guards, which are yuge!* The nopal and the bougainvillea, both of which I planted when they were little pups out of pots.

The sex motel manager recently asked if I would mind if they cut the bougainvillea on their side of the wall. I cannot imagine why they would want to do that. It’s quite pretty.

I replied yes. What they do on their side of the wall is their own business, not mine.

What I am particularly pleased about this morning is the temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

It makes me happy to be alive.

That and other factors too, of course. Like the V-formation of white egrets that just flew overhead.

* * * *

* Tip of the sombrero to the Blond Bomber in the Oval Office for adding this spelling variation to the language.

Reach for the sky

My soaring nopal.

I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.

When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.

Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.

So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.

I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.

I measured, more or less.

It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.

My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.

While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.

I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.

Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.

Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.

I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.

Springtime is just getting started.

My soaring bougainvillea.

 

 

The Middle Ages

AROUND  6 P.M. yesterday, I was watering the yard with a hose. Six months a year, this is not necessary. The other six months, it surely is. Just plants. I don’t water the grass.

If grass grows, it needs mowing.

I started with the Alamo Wall, spraying the ivy that covers the far side. Had you told me when I was middle-aged that I would spend my waning years behind an ivy-covered wall, I would have thought you daft or worse.

I went on to water things on the wall’s other side, where the yard sits. I only water plants I like. I do not like the loquat tree or the peach either. Not too fond of the pear.

They are trash-tossers.

I do water the sole remaining banana stand, the four rose bushes and the two daturas. I water the towering nopal cactus because I don’t want it to die and thunder down.

I do not water the huge maguey, but I do soak the two beefy aloe veras and the surrounding greenery. I douse the pole cacti, which are over my head now.

I water no bougainvillea. Damn things are on their own.

While watering I was thinking about history.

I have a bachelor’s degree in history. There are few degrees more useless than history. I almost topped myself, however, because when I first attended a university right out of high school, I majored in philosophy.

That was at Vanderbilt in 1962. But I soon dropped out and dropped philosophy too. What was I thinking?

I read lots of history these days. Recently, I’ve been focusing on the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, but it’s unfashionable to say that now. Maybe it’s a race thing.

There was lots of fun stuff in the Middle Ages. There was Charlemagne; his daddy, Pepin the Short; Vikings; Dual Papacies; tribes with names like Lombards, Franks and Jutes; and women named Gerberga and Himiltrude.

Nobody is named Himiltrude anymore.

lady
Gerberga

About a thousand years passed between the Roman Empire’s demise and the Renaissance. That time in between was the Dark Ages. We’re about 200 years shy of another millennium passing.

We’ll enter another Dark Age because people never learn. When baby girls once more have names like Gerberga and Himiltrude, you’ll know it’s time to dig caves and stockpile canned goods and hand grenades.

In the meantime, I wake every morning in the king bed next to my child bride, feeling fine and looking ahead to another day of blue skies, cool breezes and flocks of snowy egrets flying between here and the green mountains.

My Middle Ages were Dark Ages, but now my Old Age is a Grand Age even though I gotta water the yard.

Bougainvillea battles

two
Shot from upstairs terraza.

ONCE UPON a time, there was a cute little bougainvillea in a small, plastic pot. An idiot planted it into the ground.

That idiot was me.

Round about that same time, a nincompoop planted a nopal leaf — they’re called paddles — into the ground nearby.

The idiot and the nincompoop were one and the same, me. Flash forward about a decade.

The top photo shows the bougainvillea drooping over the wall toward the sex motel. This is good because it provides a grip on the wall. The only other thing supporting the bougainvillea are two, now invisible, steel chains I installed years ago.

My concern is the plant will collapse. I’ve seen it happen elsewhere. Then it must be removed, spines and all.

I bought that expandable ladder you see on the right, below, a few days ago. I’ll hire Abel the Deadpan Gardener to do some serious hacking. The wall is about 13 feet high.

one

The maguey centered in the foreground of the bottom photo presents an obstacle for the positioning of the ladder, so I’ll have it removed too, including the stone circle at its base.

The nopal tree will be left in peace. I cautiously remove lots of paddles each year, those that insist on growing horizontally instead of vertically. In time, I imagine, it will simply collapse from its own weight. The “wood” is quite soft.

Moral: Do your homework before you plant, especially if you’re planting something with vicious spines and spikes.

This is doubly true if you reside in Mexico.

Triply true if you’re a nincompoop.

Living dangerously

street

livingRECENTLY, I’VE received word from people above the Rio Bravo that living in Mexico is a war zone or a hellhole. I became worried and decided to investigate.

After all, we do reside in one of the “most dangerous” Mexican states, according to the U.S. State Department, an agency rarely given to error, as everyone knows.

Normally, every weekday morning, the two of us take our exercise walk around the nearby plaza, but since we’d never witnessed violence on the plaza, we decided the mayhem must be taking place elsewhere in the hardscrabble ‘hood.

We left the plaza and headed down some ominous-looking streets. Surely, we would find the war zone quickly.

There was a Hellish cast to the blue skies.

* * * *

But before I tell you what happened next, and how we managed to arrive home unscathed, know that yesterday we drove the 40 minutes down the mountainside to the state capital, a spot where no sensible soul sets foot unnecessarily.

First, we went to the snow-white Star Medica hospital and got our yearly flu shots. Then, with ballooning trepidation, we drove down a flower-rimmed boulevard to an office of the ETN bus line where we safely made a ticket exchange.

The red splashes on the street were bougainvillea instead of blood.

Then, breathing sighs of relief due to our stretch — so far — of good fortune, we headed to the Superama supermarket — part of the Walmart chain — for purchases. Following that scary venture, we had lunch at a vegetarian buffet.

The restaurant’s clientele consists primarily of medical students from a nearby university. Surely, most are studying to patch bullet wounds, grenade gashes, and to reattach severed heads that roll across all cantina floors.

Next on the agenda was a stop at Costco. Then we went to an ice cream stand before dashing back to the Honda, heads down, expecting gunfire at any moment.

Again, luck was with us. Not even a flesh wound.

* * * *

We made it home, and the next day dawned, this day, and now we’re walking through the neighborhood in search of our war zone.

Something blood red approaches down the street, and there is noise. We freeze in place. Is this it? Am I about to meet my Maker?

It comes closer, a marching band and rows of students in scarlet uniforms. They’re from the nearby school, rehearsing routines for Revolution Day next month.

We stand on the sidewalk as they pass. Many of the kids giggle on spotting the tall, strange Gringo in their neighborhood.

They decide not to murder us.

As music fades behind, we trod on, apprehensively. But nothing happens, and we return to the Hacienda intact, still wondering where the war zone might be.

I toted my camera, expecting to shoot exciting footage that I would sell to international media outlets. There would be corpses, blood and body parts. A Mexican Robert Capa.

I was disappointed. But I did take these photos.

The war zone remains elusive, hidden. Maybe mañana, amigos.

Maybe mañana.

house

Frogs, roosters, milk cans

morningI’VE WIPED the ceramic frog, the rooster too. And I’ve dusted the metal milk can, the one with the skeleton musicians playing round and round.

Now I’m sitting on a wicker rocker, watching the sunshine, hearing the wind chimes and guitar (Alacrán by Reflejo de Luna) from the player in the living room. The window’s open.

The grass needs a cut, which it will get mañana. Not by me, the neighbor. The ancient (from 1883 or so) clock on the inside wall just chimed 10 a.m. (I stop it every night so it won’t keep us awake.)

There is a vine with red flowers climbing yon wall (Did I say yon?) and it’s making friends with its aloe vera neighbor on one side, ignoring the bougainvillea on the other side. Nature discriminates (and so should you).

I have wiped the patio table and its four chairs, and I raised the umbrella (you can see it up top) just in case the urge to sit out there comes over me later today.

I also yanked some weeds and cleaned the Honda’s back window of grime. So here I sit on the rocker, hearing birds. I really need to water these potted plants in front of me. That’s for later.

Oh yeah, I cut a rose bud for the dining room table. It lends a romantic air.