Bougainvillea butchery


THAT’S ABEL the deadpan yardman cutting the bougainvillea down to size, or at least less large, last Saturday.

He also mowed the lawn. It probably was the final mow of the season because it has stopped raining. In the summer it rains every day, every freaking day.

November is our loveliest month, incomparable. The sky is blue. The air is cool. The mountains are green. The birds sing. You really cannot beat November in these parts.

No later than January, we’ll be taking out the grass to the left of the sidewalk, part of a project to eliminate all grass except in the middle semicircle. The green-and-yellow maguey you see on the left will be removed and trashed. All the area beyond the sidewalk will become stone and concrete.

The grass at the bottom right of the photo will remain. It’s part of the semicircle in the middle of the lawn.

That maguey’s removal will be the final one. We had five. Three were of the sort you see in the photo, which grow to monster size. The other two were smaller tequila magueys. I planted them all when they were little, thinking they were cute. They became a colossal nuisance. I am to blame.

We have others that are confined in planters. You see one there in the middle of the photo. Word to the wise: Never let a maguey escape from a planter. It will turn on you.

It will not show you love.

But November is here, and it is beautiful.

Bougainvillea battles

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.


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.

The woodsman


NOW AND THEN, a banana tree has to come down. They make the decision themselves by choosing to be parents, sprouting a banana bunch.

The bananas they sprout, due no doubt to their being out of their natural tropical element hereabouts, are pathetic little things. Parenthood on the mountaintop must be such a bitter disappointment for them.

When a banana tree enters parenthood, it’s the death of her, literally, and she doesn’t die nicely. Her offspring, dangling there on an outstretched limb, start sloughing off crap which litters the ground, making a mess.

I detest them for it.

I have often planted things in the yard that sounded like a great idea at the time. Trumpet vines, magueys, ground cover, banana trees, other stuff I cannot name. I now curse them all.

And I’ve removed them all, sometimes at great effort. The only exception are the three stands of bananas that started with three little trees that were knee-high to a grasshopper back then. A Gringo who lived here years ago, Roy Reynolds, told me when I planted them:

You’re gonna regret that.  Alas, I ignored him.

This morning I headed out to the stand inside the property wall against the front street. There were two, towering mamas there with their nasty little kiddies tossing crap all over the cement-and-rock ground. I had a wheelbarrow, hedge trimmers and a pruning saw.

paulLuckily, neither tree fell on me as they thundered to the ground. Neither did they drop on nearby planters or the Olmec head. Banana trees can be very heavy, but they are easy to cut.

I ended up with two wheelbarrow loads, which I toted to the Garden Patio out back and dumped on the cement floor. I always feel winded after these tasks. Perhaps I should hire someone, but I keep thinking I can do anything — and so far I can.

I will, however, employ Abel the deadpan neighbor who mows the grass weekly to come over and haul them to a ravine just past his house. He likes to earn pesos, and I like to pay him. Easier that way.

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(Note: Due to cancer, I have been bald since last Sunday. Details here.