Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Spanish translation: "Fruit-bearing". Typically used in Spanish to describe fruit trees. I've always had a green thumb. Well, not always... Most of what I learned about plants came from watching my mother and father transform the yards of vanilla spec-houses in vanilla white suburbia into world class, jaw dropping landscapes. No matter where we lived, the landscaping around our modest houses made the houses themselves look like a million bucks. It was, and is, a hobby of theirs that, apparently, is genetic.

A couple of years ago a large tree nearby our house snapped its taproot and came down, taking 3 more trees with it, nearly landing on the house and forcing us to cut down another tree upon which it came to rest. My garden under the shady, dry forest canopy became exposed to the blazing tropical sun, literally, overnight. So, taking into account one of my favorite John Wooden quotes ("Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.") I began to transform the now very sunny space into an orchard - sun loving "frutales"!

I planted what I had in pots that I grew from seeds first: a marañón (cashew tree) and an aguacate Haas (Hass avocado). I then transplanted a naranja valencia (Valencia orange) that was suffering in the shady canopy behind my brother-in-law's house next door (we live on the same 3.7 has./7.5 acres). I also transplanted a guanábana that a neighbor had given me that I had planted too close to the house in too much shade. Next was a limón mandarina (Mandarin lime) that my other brother-in-law had given me that was languishing in a plastic soft drink bottle bottom. That was five trees, not very big ones. But that's all it took... I became a "jungle planter crack head"!

In the coming months I cleared more trees, bought, - or was given - and planted banana, mamón chino (they say they don't grow in this part of Cost Rica - mine's thriving!), mamón criollo, níspero, aguacate criollo, manzana de agua (water apple), limón dulce (lemon), carambola (star fruit), guayaba, guayaba criollo, maracuyá (a vine), mandarina (tangerine), noni, Tommy manga and mango. (What North Americans call a mango up there is called a manga here. They're big, hybrid fruit. The wild trees with the smaller yellow fruit are called mangos. Both are delicious!)

My orchard has a couple of years to grow before bearing fruit (though the marañón will probably get fruit this year). It's back breaking work clearing and planting. Then, there's maintaining the orchard, keeping the undergrowth from becoming overgrowth. And last year I had to water them all nearly every day because we had no rain during the rainy season and they couldn't put down good roots. But it's also one of the most personally satisfying and, yes, relaxing things I have done and continue to do. Walking amongst my fruit trees in the morning in the fresh air with a cup of coffee clears my mind, lowers my blood pressure, calms me, centers me and allows me to focus. It's a Zen thing.

Some people raise rabbits or breed dogs. I'll stick with my frutales. They don't run away, they don't bite and - most importantly -  they don't give me any lip.

¡Pura vida!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice Mike!

    Landscape is nicely trimmed up - will become a thriving forest in the future with your green thumb. I didn't know you could grow crack though :p