Dear Friends of the Gardens,
This past month has been one of the most inspirational ever for the Vallarta Botanical Gardens; I hardly know where to start with our string of excellent news.
First of all, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens have been unanimously elected as a “TOP 10 North American Garden Worth Travelling For in 2013″ by an international jury made up of garden tourism leaders from Canada, the United States and Europe. The destinations will be officially announced March 19 at the Garden Tourism Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We are the first Mexican garden to receive this recognition.
This award will be presented to the VBGs’ Executive Staff and Officers on Tuesday, March 26. Please show a warm Vallarta welcome to our distinguished Canadian guests by visiting us on this important day. Garden visits are a rapidly expanding sector of the tourism market, so the award is sure to bring secondary benefits to the community as a whole. Given the approach of the first-ever Vallarta Bugambilias Festival, mounted by the Vallarta Garden Club, this recognition could not have come at a better time for our region to attract an important sector of the travel market.
Additionally, a delegation of the Board of Directors of the National Museum of Mexican Art, the only accredited museum of Mexican art in the United States, recently visited the Gardens and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with us. We have begun to brainstorm collaborative projects that would benefit our organizations and promote tourism to our respective cities—Puerto Vallarta and Chicago, Illinois.
Speaking of tourism, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, our Sister Cities counterpart in southern California, has teamed up with us for a travel-destination raffle: “A Beach and Botanic Vacation.” If you’ve never visited that beautiful seaside garden, here’s your chance to win a trip for two that includes round-trip airfare and three nights of luxury accommodations, a private after-hours tour of the Garden and dinner with its Executive Director. Only 400 tickets have been printed, so your odds are good—or increase your odds by buying several! Tickets cost $250 pesos each (or three for $600) and are sold at the VBG and at No Way José! Restaurant. As all aspects of the prize have been donated, 100 percent of the ticket price directly supports our Gardens!
More good news: the guacamayas verdes (Military Macaws) that we’ve been working to save continue to return to the area and have been observed as close as perhaps a meter and a half of one of the reintroduced nests. Please see the full article in this issue of the Leaflet to learn more. Many thanks to all of those who worked on this project, and especially to our Executive Director, Neil Gerlowski, who coordinated all efforts and even climbed the trees with the crew from Vallarta Adventures to rig up the nests.
The VBG is not only working to save guacamayas but also partnering with the Banderas Bay Initiative through the University of Guadalajara’s CuCosta Campus in a publicity campaign to raise consciousness about conservation. VBG and Initiative staff and volunteers have given dozens of media interviews in past months and mounted nearly 200 posters provided to us by Pericos México via Defenders of Wildlife. The posters ask the public to save guacamayas by not purchasing them and thereby contributing to an illegal pet trade that is wiping out the species.
To those of you in Puerto Vallarta, please come up and visit us soon; to those of you in other places, we’re worth the travel!
From the Gardens,
Bob Price, Curator and Founder
Tropical Gardening Q & A
My large plumbago in a very deep pot just wilted and browned despite heavy, regular watering. When I pulled it out, I found the soil was dry below the top 8 inches. What happened?
The soil’s the thing! If your plumbago was planted in potting soil from a vivero or other store, that mixture should have been combined with a heavier, more moisture-retentive soil. Basic potting soil—what you buy in local nurseries as tierra, “earth”—is light and actually somewhat moisture-repellent; that’s why it’s so important to wet it well when planting.
It’s okay in small pots and for plants you’ll treat as annuals, but for deep containers in which you expect roots to spread out and prosper, your watering efforts will be wasted. All that water is barely keeping the plant alive in the top few inches, as you saw. The more claylike, nutrient-rich soil from riverbanks is ideal to mix in, but you can more easily buy bags of lama at nurseries, which will be silty and extremely fine. Before planting, mix equal amounts with the tierra, perhaps adding in some shredded coconut bark and aged abono, or manure.
Even if you had moistened the potting soil to begin with, it might have reverted to its original condition in a dry spell. And once dry, it would refuse to absorb water, letting it run down the inner sides of the pot and out the bottom. It’s a good idea to check large pots for deep moisture from time to time, using a long stick.
To submit your gardening or botanical questions, simply send an e-mail to [email protected] with “Q&A” in your subject line.
VBG Leads the Charge in Saving Endangered
Military Macaws in Western Jalisco
An old hollow pine in the mountains between the Vallarta Botanical Gardens and the town of El Tuito was home to two families of Military Macaws until poachers cut it down in early January. The chicks that survived the fall were most likely sold as pets on the black market. Sad story—but through the community effort of volunteers coordinated by Neil Gerlowski, our Executive Director, the adult birds, who have returned to the area, once again can hope to breed.
Macaws are cavity dwellers and must search for pines of just the right specifications for their homes. Such trees are becoming scarce due to logging, so Neil and the team stepped in.
They cut up sections of the downed hollow tree and built gigantic bird boxes out of them—shoulder high and weighing around 500 pounds. This is the first time that such an attempt has been made in Mexico. Now they’re monitoring the site in shifts to make sure the poachers don’t come back, hoping that the birds will soon reoccupy their old homes.
Only a couple of hundred Military Macaws are left in Jalisco and Nayarit, an enormous two-state region that used to have hundreds of thousands. The human population in these two states has almost reached 10 million, and is increasing exponentially.
Many biologists speculate that with continued habitat loss and poaching, this magnificent emblematic species, one of Mexico’s largest and most colorful parrots, will be extirpated from the wilds of this country in 10 to 20 years. Neil’s 1-year-old, Emanuel, loves watching the TV program “Go, Diego, Go!,” about a Latin American boy who spends his time rescuing endangered animals in tropical forests. Neil wants Emanuel to one day observe guacamayas (Spanish for Military Macaws) in the wild as he has, so he’s putting in the time and work now to try to save them.
As both the Executive Director of the Vallarta Botanical Gardens and the Development Director of the Iniciativa Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay Initiative), Neil coordinates projects with many local and international conservation groups. Their ambitious plans for saving the guacamayas include installing 100 artificial nests in the forests around Puerto Vallarta and Cabo Corrientes. They’ve targeted the perfect substitute for hollow trees: the old oak barrels that tequila manufacturers use to age their products. These barrels have internal dimensions quite similar to the cavities that the guacamayas inhabit in nature, and the volunteers are in the right state—Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila!
The volunteers are also working on a campaign to develop new parks and preserves to conserve the birds’ habitats. These would be in both the high-elevation pine forests, where they live, and the lower-elevation tropical dry forests, where they forage. They also want to reintroduce captive parrots to the wild and install cameras to monitor them, both to gather scientific data and to detect poachers. Volunteers have also been spreading the news via a public-awareness campaign (including online and radio outlets) and in schools and village centers in the rural areas where these parrots still live.
The VBG’s animal conservation work can also have a large impact on botanical conservation in the area. Focusing on emblematic species such as the Military Macaw can motivate policymakers to enact conservation legislation that protects old stands of pine trees and the jabillo tree (Hura crepitans and Hura polyandra), the birds’ main food source. Since both species of trees are valued for their lumber, they continue to disappear even in areas where they are protected by law. The kind of attention that the Macaw rescue can draw may spur proper care and vigilance of those trees.
Check out some videos and photos of the VBG’s Guacamaya Project here:
Check out the videos and more photos of the VBG’s Guacamaya Project at www.vbgardens.org/parrots.
If you would like to help the VBG staff and volunteers in their efforts to save the Military Macaw, one of the most emblematic species of Mexico, contact Neil Gerlowski at either [email protected] or [email protected] with the word Guacamaya in the subject line.
Should you want to visit this site yourself and see the birds, mark your calendar for the next Vallarta Bird Festival, hosted by the VBG on March 7 through 10, 2013, and March 6 through 10, 2014. If you visit the Vallarta area at another time, just ask about signing up for a guided tour.
In this rescue effort our thanks go to many:
- Francisco Espina Ibarra, the ejiditario who first notified us, local police and PROFEPA about the poaching and who helped construct and install the nests.
- Ricardo Farkas, Pavel Gaitán and Francisco Reyes of Vallarta Adventures, for their generous donation of tools, material and time, without which this project would not have been possible. Long live the yellow UNIMOGS!
- Carlos Bonilla of Guacamayas Para Siempre for his help and scientific background.
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—”
Mexican Orchid of the Month
This epiphyte occurs at elevations of 600 to 1,000 meters, growing on coastal trees and shrubs in Nayarit and Jalisco. Its slender, swollen, spindle-shaped pseudobulbs put out thin, apical, deciduous leaves that fall before the blooms appear on 9-inch-long racemes of up to ten flowers. It blooms in late summer and fall.
(Many thanks to Vallarta Orchid Society President and VBG board member T. J. Hartung for permission to draw on information from his publication “Orchids Found ONLY in Mexico,” available in the Gardens’ gift store. Look for his series of articles titled “My Favorite Mexican Orchids” in Orchids. The Bulletin of the American Orchid Society is featuring monthly articles on Mexican orchids by T. J. from February until July, 2013.
We continue to seek sponsors for the Conservatory for the National Collection of Mexican Orchids; please click here to donate today!
An artist’s sketch of our much-anticipated Orchid Conservatory:
Last October I led a garden/cruise tour to Tahiti and the islands of Raiatea, Bora Bora and Moorea aboard the Paul Gauguin. Our small group of garden enthusiasts included a former VBG board member, Ralph Osborne. Ralph was interested to see several plants there that he knew from the environs of Puerto Vallarta—but it’s not all that surprising.
What we think of loosely as “tropical” plants were freely transported among warm-weather countries by early explorers and colonists—long before anyone worried about the transmission of plant diseases and invasive species.
For example, when the crew of HMS Bounty mutinied off Tahiti in 1789, a collection of breadfruit plants (Artocarpus altilis) was cast overboard. The plants had been intended for the West Indies, to be grown as inexpensive food for the plantation slaves there. Other aliens did make it to compatible countries and sometimes wreaked havoc, displacing important native species.
I’ll list here some especially appealing plants seen on our South Pacific tour that can be and are grown here in the Banderas Bay region.
The Gardens are home to many Torch Gingers (Etlingera elatior), which are native to Indonesia. This rhizomatous perennial ornamental ginger bears its amazing flowers on 5-foot stems. The waxy, pinkish red overlapping bracts make it look like a modern ceramic sculpture. You will need a large space for it, as the canelike foliage can reach 12 feet in height. It needs well-drained, humus-rich soil and full sun to partial shade.
Frangipani (Plumeria rubra) is a well-known and widely grown large shrub to small tree, its flowers long associated with Hawai’i, where they are seen in leis. But one of the parents of the many cultivars is a native Mexican tree, Plumeria rubra acutifolia, which grows abundantly in mixed mountain forests throughout Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas. It forms a deciduous shrubby tree up to 26 feet in height, but can easily be pruned to fit a particular space in your garden. (And because it prefers dry, rocky soils, It’s a great plant for patio containers.) Frangipani often produces its heavenly perfumed blossoms on bare stems after a cool-winter leaf drop. Plumerias are easily propagated from cuttings: simply break off a branch, let it dry out for about a week, and stick it in new soil. (Avoid handling the sap as you break it: some skins are irritated by it.)
A good woody climber for your Vallarta garden is the Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica). I just love the common name—so exotic! Native to Tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, it is dense and vigorous. The long, slender-tubed, fragrant flowers are interesting in that they open white then change to pinkish red over a three-day period. This vine responds well to drastic pruning, so it can also be maintained as a privacy-screen shrub. It likes a fairly rich, well-drained soil, and though it can tolerate full sun it performs better if given a little shade in midday heat.
Another must-have vine is the Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), native to the Philippines. This large vine bears the most extraordinary teal-colored flowers on long, densely packed pendulous racemes dangling 16 to 36 inches. It is perfect for training up a semishaded arbor in humus-rich, well-drained soil. It may be hard to find, but the Vallarta Botanical Gardens do have well-grown specimens for sale.
The last plant on my list is the Crepe Jasmine (Tabernaemontana divaricata), native to Asia but commonly seen here in Vallarta. This bushy, 6- to 10-foot shrub has shiny, dark green foliage and pure white flowers resembling gardenias but less fragrant. (Their perfume is strongest at night, when the white blooms attract moth pollinators.) The shrub responds well to pruning, but because it is from the same family as plumeria it exudes the same sap. Give it moist, fertile soil in full to part sun.
Photos by David Tarrant
Mr. Tarrant will lead a “Gardens of South Africa” tour November 15–26, 2013. For complete details, contact Linda Sim at [email protected]
Vallarta Flower and Garden Show
February 22–March 3
Through furious and inspired work over the last few weeks, the Gardens’ Hall of Flowers has been transformed into a floral paradise like none before.
Come admire Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium and Vanilla orchids, multicolored Anthuriums, tree ferns, bromeliads, palms, bougainvillea and tropical fruit trees in arrangements that are nothing short of stunning. Our nursery also offers the greatest variety of plants for sale, at the best prices, during this event.
Vallarta Bird Festival
The Puerto Vallarta region is home to more than 300 species of birds; including those in the nearby mountains brings the count to nearly 400. Discover and learn about this rich biodiversity with us during our next annual Vallarta Bird Festival, held in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day.
Four action-packed days of birding tours and nature walks through unique habitat zones with expert guides should satisfy even the most advanced birders, and lectures from local and international authorities on related topics will round out the festival. March is one of the best months for birding in the region, both because of its warm, dry days and because many of the deciduous trees are still leafless, allowing for excellent observation. Birding-related merchandise will be sold in the Garden’s gift store and by local birding vendors.
Book your reservations today on the Vallarta Bird Festival website . . . oh, and don’t forget your binoculars!
Salsa y Salsa
Thursday, March 14
Learn some professional dance steps with local salsa instructors—and also enjoy a variety of tasty salsas! Our guest chef will be demonstrating how to prepare salsas in three half-hour workshops starting at 12:45, 1:45 and 2:45 pm. The cost for this event is $250 pesos (members receive a 10 percent discount). Roll up your own handmade tortilla and then dance away to the music! Instructors will be provided by Latin Motion, P.V. For more information please call the Gardens at 322-223-6182 and ask to speak with Steve, or e-mail him at [email protected].
Wednesday, March 20
Can you really balance a raw egg on the Equinox? Come and see! We will also host local psychics (from 11 am to 5 pm) to enlighten or bedazzle you via such arcane arts as numerology, tarot and energy cleansing. At noon we will hold a special ceremony to welcome in another Spring and its Rebirth Energy. The entrance fee to the Gardens is $60 pesos (free to members); psychic session fees will vary.
For more information please call the Gardens at 322-223-6182 and ask to speak with Steve, or e-mail him at [email protected].
Let It Ride
Thursday, March 21
The Vallarta Motorcycle Club, 69 Ovejas Negras, will visit the Gardens to showcase their custom and classic motorcycles. Enjoy photo ops on the bikes, a stroll through the Gardens and perhaps a lunch at the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant. Bring your trunks for swimming at the river. The show is included with your Garden entry fee of $60 pesos per person (free to members). If you have a bike, ride it up! These guys and gals aren’t in a mean and scary club; they just like to get together and ride to fun destinations!
Yoga Retreat at the VBG
This weekend event will feature yoga classes held in the Hall of Flowers as well as in actual garden settings, between 11 am and 5 pm. Intersperse your classes with meditative strolls through the gardens or forest and a dip in the rejuvenescent Río Los Horcones! Classes will be taught by top instructors from the area, giving you a chance to compare styles. They will be suitable for practitioners from beginning to advanced levels—even for children! Package prices will be advertised at the end of February.
Garden Amenities and Services
Visit the Gardens’ Hacienda de Oro Restaurant for authentic Mexican food and brick-oven pizza. Our new menu includes delicious dishes such as fish and shrimp tacos. Hike the Gardens’ nature trails and bask in tropical mountain scenery. Experience the Orchid Conservatory, Gift Shop, plant nursery, tequila tasting and more. You can even shop the Gardens remotely through our online store. The very best of Vallarta!
Please Join Us As a Member
Become part of the family that preserves this important sanctuary forever!
Become a member today. Click here for more information: Memberships.
We Would Like to Acknowledge Our Trustees
and Copa de Oro Sponsors for Their Ongoing Support
of the Vallarta Botanical Gardens:
Gary & Susan Adamson
Alan & Patricia Bickell
Barry Briskin & Dr. Susannah Briskin
Christopher Davidson & Sharon Christoph
The Galeana Family
The Holstein Family
Charles & Judith Silberstein
Barbarita & Bob Sypult
COPA DE ORO MEMBERS:
Jim & Kimberly Bennett
The McCall Family—Villa Los Arcos
Dr. James Manne
Marcelo Mico Pilates
No Way José! Restaurant-Bar
Michael Ricks—Windermere Real Estate
Roger & Joana Smith
Carl Timothy Real Estate Group
A. J. Van Horn
Devin & Ellen Zagory
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Raymuncho ‘Ray’ Careme
T. J. Hartung
Dr. Justin Williams
We Also Thank the Following Foundations for Their Recent Support:
SHIRLEY K. SCHLAFER FOUNDATION
CHARLES H. STOUT FOUNDATION
We Appreciate Your Feedback!
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The Vallarta Botanical Gardens, A. C.
Your Best Vacation Value!
Spend the day in the Gardens for only $60 pesos.
Located 30 minutes south of Old Town, Puerto Vallarta, on Carretera a Barra Navidad at km 24, just past Las Juntas y Los Veranos.
Telephone (322) 223-6182
Open from 9 am to 5 pm