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Puerto Vallarta Botanic Garden

hacienda de oro restaurant

hacienda de oro restaurant

We visited the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden. The garden was founded in 2004, and we were curious to see such a new botanical garden. One of the challenges of landscaping is making the planting interesting while you wait for the plants to grow, so it was interesting to see what they did with a new botanical garden. Their stated mission is to promote sustainability, protect native rainforest species and to develop the largest collection of Mexican orchids in the world. They already have a good section of native bush and an interesting shade house and conservatory, but for now, while they develop their orchid collection and wait for their revegetation plantings to fill in, the best parts of the garden are the swimming hole and the Hacienda de Oro restaurant.
I don’t mean that in a negative way; the swimming hole and the restaurant are great, and it was the most pleasant meal we ate in Mexico. The tortillas and vanilla ice cream are made there on site, our table was up on a balcony with a great view and a fresh breeze, and the service was endearingly slow and over-solicitous. We found a lot of details throughout the garden to interest us; photos are below.

dry-stacked lava rock wall

dry-stacked lava rock wall

This is the only dry-stacked wall I saw in Mexico. The photo does it more justice than it probably deserves. A tequila company donated 6,000 blue agaves to grow on the slopes overlooking one section of the garden. Fields of blue agave look pretty cool, making it onto my list of scenic agricultural crops. The bot garden is interplanting the agaves with native rainforest trees; the trees will eventually shade out the agaves and they’ll no doubt harvest the agave for tequila after the 8-10 years it takes for an agave to mature. The heart of the agave, with it’s leaves cut off, is called a piña, and does indeed look a lot like a pineapple. The process of making it into tequila is described with lots of photos here. (MediaStorm has a beautiful montage of photos from tequila country, less plant-related, but also worth checking out.)

pineapple

pineapple

There were some pineapples in the section where they grow food for the restaurant. Pineapples are another crop that looks pretty cool, although fields of them are not as striking as the fields of agave.

bromeliads

bromeliads

They have a lot of nice tillandsias and other bromeliads in the shade house.

strangler fig

strangler fig

The centerpiece of the rainforest section is a large strangler fig, and they’ve planted vanilla vines on many of the trees. Vanilla is a type of orchid, native to Mexico, and a focus of the garden, so it’s pretty much mandatory that all visitors taste the vanilla ice cream in the restaurant. They also planted several coffee trees beneath the forest canopy, probably as a demonstration of shade coffee.

epiphytes

epiphytes

There are a ton of epiphytes on the trees. Epiphytes are one detail which usually don’t make it into tropical-style plantings in the Bay Area. They really make a place feel like a rainforest.

gringo tree

gringo tree

The trunks of this gringo tree are fused together. I like when trees have a form that no responsible gardener or arborist would allow.

Bursera sinabua

gringo tree

Bursera sinabua are called gringo trees because the trunks are red and peeling. They have a graceful form, and I would like to plant one here in the Bay Area, but I think our winters are just a little too cold for them.

Anita made some drawings of the garden that we might try to upload. Garden Design magazine has a half-page article in the latest issue, focusing on what the garden intends to be, but I didn’t find it online to link to.

ryan 2/7

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