As I look back at my garden travel memories of 2019 the resounding theme is color! We began the year exploring South America, took a September train trip in France, Switzerland, Italy, and took a trip to Central America and Mexico, in December. Everywhere I went I found colorful food, critters, art, and, of course, colorful flowers. These images are from Central and South America, the colors in Europe are equally wonderful but that will have to be another story.
Colorful Food Costa Rica is one of many coffee-growing countries and the coffee cherries were heavy on the coffee plants. The rich dark coffee I enjoy every morning begins as a red ripe cherry fruit before it is washed, dried, spun, shipped, roasted and ground.
The yellow banana so familiar in our supermarkets is recently getting some competition from other types of bananas but I’ve not yet seen this fuchsia pink banana variety. The banana flower is equally beautiful and shows off brightly in between the deep green leaves of the plant.
Cashew nuts have quite a mystic about them so unique in shape and deep in flavor and I will admit I’d never given it a thought about how they are grown. In Recife, Brazil I saw my first cashew apple on a tree.
The single kidney shaped nut grows at the bottom of an apple from cashew trees in tropic regions. The fruit can be yellow or red and is used in juices and sorbets. The nuts are separated from the fruit, dried, shelled and roasted before eating. One nut for every apple certainly explains the luxury price for a pound of these tasty nuts. I tried the sorbet and I like the nuts better.
The lure of tropical spices brought explorers from all over the world to the spice islands. Vanilla, a favorite flavor of North Americans, only grows in the tropics. The nutmeg I use mainly for holiday baking was once thought to protect from the plague. The nut is inside a pale tan shell, with the red mace web over the nutmeg meat used for seasoning.
Nutmeg was once more valuable than gold.
Heliconias and Gingers bloom in so many colors and shapes, here are just a few of the varieties I found in my wanderings.
The flavors of our lives are directly connected to the foods and flavorings of plants grown in the tropical climate between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn latitudes. This is a clear connection to trade policies.
Colorful Critters Living in the gardens of the tropical climates I glimpsed birds in vivid color combinations of bright yellow, blue, red and orange. I’m not a dedicated birder, flowers hold still and I find that so helpful. There were a few snakes as well, no photos available as the photographer quickly slipped away.
Green and Blue Iguanas wander about, climbing trees, soaking up the sun. They eat mainly plants, feeding on the leaves. I’m not going to adopt one as a pet anytime soon but they were fascinating to see, they seem to watch people as much as people watched them.
Butterflies are the flying flowers of the tropics. Many gardens create butterfly displays and Costa Rica is actively supplying the butterfly larvae for this practice. In the Elisa Keintzer garden, the butterflies fly free.
Grace Navarro of Navarro Garden is raising the Owl butterfly larvae to help repopulate this species in her community.
And there were spiders, a baby tarantula ran right at me, no photo opportunity! Then there were these Golden Silk Orb-weaver spiders. The webs are golden in color and are so strong there are continuing attempts to use them commercially.
The females, which can grow to 3” in body length alone dominate the web. The males only grow 1/4” and live on the side of the enormous yellow-tinged webs. These spiders seemed to be everywhere in Costa Rican gardens. The spiders feast on insects and are helpful organic pest control. (We’re all in for organic, right?)
Colorful Architecture & Art The Vallarta Botanic Garden near Porto Vallarta in the Baja peninsula is a garden filled with color. Everywhere color provided the canvas where the plants grew.
Murals are found in all sizes and illustrating a world of ideas. Here is one of my favorites found dockside in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. The full image is above for the opening of this post.
Buildings painted in vivid colors have a frame of blue sky above, blue waters below.
This year the photos tell the story, the tropical flowers were unending and so beautiful. I wish I could show you every one.
Strongylodon macrobotrys, commonly known as jade vine, & tropical red and yellow clock vine, Thunbergia mysorensis, are a stunning sight in the gardens.
Pink Philippine orchid in Porto Vallarta Botanic Garden grows in panicles hanging from the leafy plant.
The photo below shows a large yellow bloom, or chalice vine intertwined with orange trumpet vine, the pink is a ginger flower, the deep purple is a princess flower, and the lavender a bougainvillea, all found in Costa Rica.
Orchids abound in the tropical climate in all sizes and colors, Mexico alone is home to 1200 varieties. There were other colorful surprises in my wanderings, a wood fungus in bright turquoise, and an unfurling leaf wrapped in stripes.
The foliage of begonias, and other shrubs put on a show in patterns and shades of green.
The tropical trees so leafy and tall were most amazing at eye level with the variety of colors and textures in their bark.
It was an intensely colorful year of garden travels. These images are a sampling of the variety we enjoyed.
Our big travel experience for the coming year is a trip to Asia I hope you will continue to travel along.
Please comment below if you want Rich to know you like his many photos.