Posts Tagged ‘succulents’

When last we left Casita Colibrí’s garden, it had weathered Moving days and the plants were Surviving and thriving wherever they had landed at their new home.

Much to the movers’ relief, some (though, not a lot!) of the plants were to remain on the ground floor. With those, it was within my artistic ability to create an entryway and to arrange the palms and other shade-loving plants in my new apartment’s atrium.

However, the landscaping on the rooftop, where the majority of the plants landed, was left to the imagination — as I had neither the strength nor the skill. Consequently, two and a half weeks ago, under a blazing hot and unrelenting sun, my friend and excellent landscaper Jose Ruiz Garcia and his nephew came over to move, position, and re-position trees and succulents and shrubs — oh my!

Most mornings it’s now where I begin my day. With coffee in hand, I cautiously wend my way up the narrow spiral staircase to commune with my plants, listen to the birds sing and chatter, and enjoy this beautiful and tranquil garden that Jose has created. It’s also a perfect setting to sip a glass of wine as the sun sets.

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Given the barrage of bad, sad, depressing, and infuriating news these days, I’m finding it difficult to string together more than a few words. However, who needs words when Mother Nature is speaking from my terrace — succulents and cactus to the rescue.









Jatropha podagrica

Wishing all health, safety, and a bounty of beauty!

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Who knew that there was an amazing garden, built on a former garbage dump, and open to the public in Xoxocotlán? Not me, until a friend mentioned it and invited me on a field trip to visit.

Thus, a few days ago, I found myself at Vives Verdes — a delightful labor of love — a marriage of plants, recycling, art, education, and the environment.

Nine years ago architect, Francisco Martínez began a project of landscaping a healing, artistic, and environmental garden — not only utilizing plants, but also converting found objects into planters and whimsical art.

Vives Verdes incorporates more than 200 species and 2000 plants — mostly from Oaxaca, but also from other arid climates throughout the world.

A water catchment system utilizing paths, beds, and ponds irrigate the garden and no chemicals are used.

Vives Verde is open to the public and school groups. It is located in the Las Culturas neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca.

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Stepping outside my front door, sometimes the play of light and shadow in Oaxaca takes my breath away.

Black and white photo of Crown of thorns plant

Crown of thorns (aka, Corona de Cristo, Euphorbia milii) taken November 2018.

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Five or six months ago, I took multiple cuttings from my Stapelia gigantia and planted them in six planter boxes on top of my terrace wall.  I used them to fill in around agave that I’d planted in the middle of each box.


Once the rains came, they began spreading their prehistoric-looking tentacles…


And, the flowers have exploded in their carrion-smelling bloom, attracting green bottle flies, as designed.


I think my stinky stapelia like their new homes!

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My friend G called this succulent, the Chrysler Building.  Anyone who has seen the original, or photos of it, in New York City can understand why.P1130505This Kalanchoe luciae  is one of the great, great, great… grandchildren of the original plantlet G had given me six years ago when I first moved to Oaxaca.

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Remember the night my Pitahaya (aka, Dragon fruit) blossom was ready for her close-up?  Three months later, here she is…

Pitahaya fruit

Though there is fruit, flowers continue to put on their bloomin’ after-dark show.

Pitahaya flower and fruit

Their beauty never ceases to enchant.

Pitahaya flower

From terrace to table…

2 halves of Pitahaya fruit

My version of “farm fresh.”

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This has been a good year for my stinky Stapelia gigantea.

Stapelia gigantea unopened blossom

Feather-light blossoms open to reveal zebra-striped, hairy flowers.  Apparently, to carrion eating insects, these tiny soft white hairs resemble mold growing on rotting meat — a disgusting thought!

Part of Stapelia gigantea hairy petal

And, to complete the putrid package, the flowers smell like rotten meat.

Stapelia gigantea open flower with 7 green bottle flies

An odious odor only a green bottle fly could love.



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Several mornings ago, after a day and night of rain, I went out on the terrace to check on the garden and found…

Pitaya flower with rain drops

Yikes, one of my Pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus – aka, Dragon fruit) had bloomed overnight!  Must be a relative of my other Night Blooming Cereus.

Two years ago, the original cuttings had been laying in the campo of a friend in San Martín Tilcajete.  When Chris (Oaxaca-The Year After) asked if we could have some, the answer was, “¡Por supuesto!”  Loving the wall of Pitahaya at Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo, six months later, with the original five cuttings becoming fifteen, I could use them to begin to screen the chain link fence at the new Casita Colibrí.  I kept pruning and sticking them in the planter boxes.

Pitahaya climbing chain link fence

June 2, 2014, 8:40 AM

And now, they have begun blooming.  Having missed the “night-blooming” of my first flower, I was determined not to miss the unfolding of the second blossom, seen above near the top of the pole, providing the weather cooperated.  It did!

Pitahaya blossom

June 2, 2014, 7:20 PM

Pitahaya flower

June 2, 2014, 8:40 PM

Pitahaya flower, side view

June 2, 2014, 11:00 PM

By the next day, it had closed, never to reopen again.

Pitahaya flower closed

June 2, 2014, 2:54 PM

However, there will be fruit…

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Yesterday, a new visitor arrived on the rooftop garden.  Naturally, I wanted to know the name of this tiny guest who seemed to love my sedum.  After searching page by page through my Smithsonian Handbooks:  Butterflies and Moths unsuccessfully, I spent hours this morning combing the web.  I think my new friend is from the family Lycaenidae (Gossamer-winged); subfamily Theclinae (Hairstreaks); tribe Eumaeini; and genus Electrostrymon.  However, for the life of me, I can’t figure out which species — while the markings match, the colors don’t.  Any lepidopterists out there who can help?

Pale green & orange butterfly

As for what he (I’m pretty certain it is male) was doing on the sedum — he was rubbing his wings together.  For this, I did find an answer.  According to the Learn About Butterflies website:

Hairstreaks usually have a pattern of lines or stripes on the underside wings. These, in combination with ocelli ( false eye markings ) and short tails ( false antennae ) act to divert attention away from the head, and towards the outer edge of the hindwings. By oscillating the wings, the tails are made to wiggle like antennae, further increasing the illusion that the butterfly is ‘back to front’. Attacking birds will always aim at the head of a butterfly, but are tricked into aiming at the tail. The butterfly is thus able to escape in the opposite direction unharmed. Another reason for wing-rubbing is that male Hairstreaks have patches of specialised wing scales – ‘androconia’, located on their upperside forewings. Sacs at the base of these scales contain pheromones. Rubbing the wings together helps to disseminate the pheromones, which attract females and induce them to mate.

Maybe there will be some springtime courting on the terrace….

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Returned from the mercado this afternoon to find…

Garden pot breaking on top of the garden god

… a crack in the pot.  Garden god bursting with pride???

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Torrential rain by night; brilliant blue sky by day…

Garden god surrounded by succulents and cactus

This is the way the garden grows during the rainy season in Oaxaca.

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Twenty-four hours in the life of one of the more bizarre, and almost prehistoric-looking, residents of the terrace garden, a Stapelia gigantea

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Trying to identify this plant I did a Google search using the terms:  cactus, stinky, flies, star flower… because it definitely smells gross, has incredibly large zebra striped star-shaped flowers, and is a favorite of green bottle flies!

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