The plants that we have are the ones that have survived being trampled on, picked and generally abused by Chiquitito, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Maybe one day we will have an immaculate garden full of carefully groomed plants, but right now our garden is filled with the infectious laughter of a toddler who is not scared to explore his environment.
Follow me as I show you what is at its best and what is not, and maybe you can help me to identify a few plants that I am clueless about.
Background Information on El Salvador's Growing Conditions
Situated just over 13 degrees north from the Equator places El Salvador in the Tropics of Cancer, in an area that was once home to tropical rainforests, and today is home to coffee plantations and sugar cane fields.
The climate is tropical, with a temperature that fluctuates between averages of 64 - 90 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees and 32 degrees Celsius). There are two distinct seasons - a dry season which lasts from November to April and a wet season that runs from May to October.
I live at around 3,250 feet (1,000 metres) above sea level, on the slopes of El Boqueron volcano. This means that the weather here does not get as hot in the day, but during the wet season it may drop down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night (13 degrees Celsius). And whilst we do get a lot of rain during the wet season, we do not tend to receive as much as the coastal areas.
Tropical & Garden Flower Identification Guide
This book is on my shopping list for the next time I place a book order with Amazon.
With over five hundred close up photographs and plant names in English and Spanish, this book is an excellent resource to help in the identification of tropical flowering plants.
Initially I wasn't able to identify all of the plants in my Salvadoran garden, but this book (and the help of knoweldgeable friends) helped me to fill in the missing information. It's much more exciting when you actually know what you've got growing in your garden. Don't you agree?
What is Growing in My Tropical Garden?
Bougainvillea in Bloom
The bougainvillea plant is native to South America and its popularity has made it a popular plant all over the tropics. I was surprised to read that that the bougainvillea will shed its leaves during the dry season, because as you can see my plant still has leaves. I also read that they flower for up to five weeks and I am fairly certain mine flowers almost constantly. But, I could be wrong, so over the next year I will make regular observations to see how it is doing.
Ornamental Ginger Plant
This plant has been happily growing in the corner of our garden since we moved here almost two years ago. It kind of gets hidden by the shrub in front of it, but I have tried some subtle pruning to rectify that.
We recently had visitors staying from the UK who commented on the lovely red flowers. So, imagine my surprise when I tried to find out what this plant is and discovered it is a ginger plant.
Here is another unidentified plant story.
When we moved to El Salvador from Malaysia, Senor Cicak lamented that he was unable to buy lemon grass here, a staple in favored Eastern cookery.
We inherited this plant when we moved in, and assumed it was a kind of ornamental grass. It looked really shabby, so I cut it right back, and lo and behold within a few months it was looking a lot healthier.
One day we were playing in the garden with our toddler when I absent mindedly broke of a leaf and sniffed at it.....hmm.....this didn't smell like grass! I passed it to Senor Cicak who commented that it smelled lemony. Rushing to the computer to do a search he was delighted to confirm that our "grass" plant is indeed Lemon Grass. Happy days!!
I bought this Russian Sage from our local garden center and it cost about US$3. Since I planted it, almost two years ago it has come on amazingly.
It flowers almost constantly, attracts bees and is also a regular feeding spot for our hummingbird. I assume its the same hummingbird, as I have only seen one at a time, but I guess it could be a different one!
The Aloe Vera is another plant that we inherited.
It grows very happily at the edge of the lawn, and has had lots of baby plantlets - unfortunately I don't think any of them survived being transplanted to other spots in the garden.
I keep this plant well trimmed, as when the leaves begin to drop down I am concerned about Chiquitito getting scratched by the sharp spikes. So far we have only had one scratching incident - and I guess instead of using antiseptic I should have broken off a leaf and applied the sap to the wound.
If you would like to find out more about growing and using Aloe Vera you can read this beginner's guide at the Global Healing Centre.
Herb Selection - Salad Burnet, Parsley and Basil
This is a selection of the herbs that I have growing in my small garden. My reason for buying the plants was not particularly to use in cooking but to provide a toddler safe filler for my borders - with no worries if he decides to do a taste test on the foliage. As an added bonus, when Chiquitito brushes past the plants, the air is filled with a delicious aroma.
On the right is Christmas Basil, that has a wonderful scent of mulled wine. I have probably 5 or 6 varieties of Basil, and I will honestly admit that I have never used them for cooking. I love pesto, but I am sure it would take far more leaves than I have to make a worthwhile amount.