Monday, February 7, 2011

Coastal Travels

Manzanillo, Mexico

Followers of this blog may have wondered why no posts in the past month.  Well, when you're on a cruise ship, internet access can be difficult and/or extremely (!) expensive.

We had the rare opportunity in January to join family on a 3-week trip beginning in NYC, sailing down to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal, finally ending in LA.  Besides the welcome change in weather from wet/cold/windy to warm, sunny and... did I mention warm?  The places we visited were remarkably different than our day-to-day, in so many ways.

Since this blog is about coastal gardening, I should begin with the flora.  Setting aside NYC, the plants are so different from home in every port we visited.  There were the expected palm trees of course.  But what took me by surprise, as we were north of the equator the whole time, was all of the flowers.  From bouganvillea hedges in Mexico to hibiscus in Florida, to stunning flowering trees in the hills of Costa Rica, everywhere we went plants were blooming.  I guess it should have come as no surprise; perhaps the real revelation was how much I had missed them.  Color, shape, scent.  Sigh.

One of our favorite stops was in Costa Rica, as we were able to connect with a family my husband had known many years ago, and they took us for a grand tour in the few hours available.  After a lovely drive through the countryside, surrounded by coffee growing on every steep hillside, we stopped for lunch in an open-air restaurant.  Afterward they mentioned, perhaps you would like to see the butterfly farm?  Turns out there was a Lepidoptera nursery on the same property.  Just walk down the short path, enter a tall shadecloth-netted structure... and wow.  Hundreds of beautiful butterflies, gorgeous flowering plants (including a red banana) for their food and shelter, and a gracious young woman who raises them to show us around.  My knowledge of butterflies is brief, but a place like this will take anyone's breath away.
Bananas inside the butterfly nursery

Cactus fences in Bonaire help to keep the wild donkeys and goats at a distance
We were lucky enough to observe sea turtles and dolphins alongside our ship, birds of all kinds (including flamingos in Bonaire), and my brother witnessed a gray whale breach at sunrise off the Baja coast.  Transiting the Panama Canal is an experience all in itself, but the natural wonders are what will stay with me.  To see plants and animals along other stretches of coastline than our own, mostly that I cannot identify, was humbling and inspiring.  Returning home to our amazing Oregon coast, I am seeing it with new eyes.

Germinating coconuts in Acapulco


  1. Wow, NYC to LA is huge. Such different plants than we have here in zone 7 and fun to see. I like the cactus fence--I'm not going to trespass.

  2. Yes, the cactus fence is amazing! Very nice pictures - each one brings a feeling of adventure and exotics. You certainly had a great trip!