Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gardening 101 San Miguel de Allende


For those of you who read my earlier post,  Patzcuaro Gardening 101, ( you might think, as I did, that I finally had it figured out. We would all be wrong in that assumption.

Our rental house here in San Miguel opens in the back to a nice tile patio and a small patch of lawn surrounded by high cement walls. When we first arrived the grass was about half a meter tall and the ledges built into the wall held a few unadorned ceramic pots with sad dry flowers struggling to survive among the weeds.


garden 031

Back Patio


This was just as well as Todd had made perhaps five trips between Patzcuaro and San Miguel, with our little trailer, transporting about fifty assorted potted plants, trees and shrubs from our house and gardens in Patzcuaro. During the building of our house we made many trips to Dolores Hidalgo, famous for their Talavera ceramics, for tiles, light fixtures, wall decorations and, of course, flower pots.

Over the ensuing years we also bought pots in Patzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan, Capula and many of the other towns around Lake Patzcuaro that produced beautiful pottery, and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave them all behind. The transport went well on the cuotas, toll highways, but once we got into San Miguel it was a different story. All the roads are cobblestone and there are a couple of places near our house that more resemble a dry riverbed than a road. Todd managed to traverse these areas unscathed on all but one fateful trip. He hit a deep hole and most of the pots in the trailer broke.


garden 026

A Plethora Of Pots


It wasn’t so much that we really needed all those pots but now we had plants with no homes, so off we went again to Dolores Hidalgo. At least this time it was only a half hour away rather than four. We cut and fertilized the brown straw that was our lawn, weeded and watered the existing pots, transplanted the homeless flowers into our newly purchased pots, distributed our plethora of Patzcuaro plants around the property and sat back to admire our work.


garden 013

A Feeling Of Accomplishment


A couple of weeks later we had a rare, and severe, early frost and everything died. The huge coleus that we had carefully nurtured on our covered bedroom patio for four years became a twisted brown stick over night. Two of the three large ficus trees on the front patio died and the gigantic laurel tree outside the front wall shriveled and dropped about twenty kilos of brown leaves in front of the gate. We were stunned. All over town dead bougainvillea and Virginia creeper drooped pathetically over garden walls.

That was our first lesson in dessert gardening. Temperatures fluctuate even more dramatically here than in Patzcuaro. Plants, like herbs, that were desperate for warmth and sunlight in Patzcuaro shriveled and died under the unrelenting sun of the San Miguel dessert. Suddenly we were trying to find enough shaded areas to hide all the plants that used to be happy out in the middle of the yard. I still have not found the right place for my beautiful Australian tree fern, which flourished in the damper climate of Patzcuaro.


fern 003

My Poor Baby


The next, and much happier lesson, was that after a serious frost most of the plants will have miraculous resurrections and become even more lush than before their “deaths”. In a surprisingly short period of time we discovered green sprouts everywhere and were truly astounded by the resilience of nature.


front porch 002

Amazing Rebirth


We have had to learn to garden all over again, but finally through trial and error (mostly error), we are finally having some success. With the onset of the, somewhat sporadic, rainy season our little lawn is thick and green, with a growth rate such that you can almost watch the progress from hour to hour. Unfortunately it is also covered in wasps, for what reason we have yet to discover, but that is probably another blog post. With a few exceptions, the potted plants and trees have settled into their new lifestyles and the cacti are flourishing as never before.  


garden 046 

Rooftop Cactus Garden


  1. I am sorry to have missed seeing your art. Maybe next time.

  2. It's still a work in progress, so maybe it will be finished by your next visit.

  3. Shannon,

    Everything is truly lovely, such a lot of TLC...


    1. Thanks Judy, maybe we're finally getting the hang of this gardening thing.