There are always surprises and interesting tidbits gleaned in conversation with garden owners. “Why San Miguel?” is a perennial question we ask each other. While the 4 C’s are not specifically connected to this week’s garden they do refer to our beloved San Miguel de Allende.
Bear with me…we’ll get to this gorgeous garden.
Will Brien and Kathy West, owners of the surprisingly colorful (it’s the hottest week of the hottest month here) plant-packed garden where we painted this week, told us their story of choosing San Miguel and this property. Will retired before Kathy and started looking for a retirement place that absolutely did not have snow. They had had enough of the severe winters in Ipswich, MA. Will was the family scout and traveled widely—Tucson, Seattle, San Diego, Portland, San Miguel—looking for that ideal place. To help make this major retirement decision, he developed a matrix to rate potential communities on culture, community, climate, and cost (the 4 C’s). And we all know that San Miguel wins hands down on culture, climate, and community, but then there is cost. In 2012, the price of real estate in San Miguel was not what it is today and the rest for them is history.
The garden is in the planned development of Candelaria and the view from the garden looks out over acres of Mexican landscape with a glimpse of the Picachos in the distance and not another house to be seen. This most attractive garden on approximately 1/3 acre had been landscaped and maintained by the previous owners but Will saw the potential for change. He and Kathy had worked for 20 years to turn their two acres in Massachusetts into a park-like setting so they had gardening experience.
Although there was a water feature (swimming pool) in the garden, Will decided to add a koi pond with waterfall. To achieve this in an already landscaped garden, he moved all the plants from the left side of the garden to the right side creating a more densely planted landscape reminiscent of the close plantings in English cottage gardens. The koi pond is nestled in the shade of several trees and nicely balances the two sides of the garden around the central swimming pool.
Above Linda expertly captures the peaceful koi pond, gurgling waterfall, and surrounding colorful plantings.
There were many options for me…one that I temporarily considered was the magnificent blooming agave that commands everyone’s’ attention including the many hummingbirds busily working the blooms. In addition to the gentle water sounds, the hummingbirds added a constant and delightful hum punctuated with noise from their little territorial wars. I did paint this later with pastels from a photo.
It is, from a human perspective, sad that once the agave has bloomed the main plant dies. (For almost all agaves this is true.) These magnificent plants with their large rosettes of strong, fleshy leaves are quite often garden centerpieces. Certainly, this one in Will and Kathy’s garden will be hard to replace.
Instead, I chose, for a watercolor painting, a small private spot within the garden that proved to be more challenging to paint than I had originally thought. Notice the hammock chair from which one can look across the uncluttered landscape to the Picachos. I like to think about whiling away a hot afternoon in the shade swinging and sipping something stronger than iced tea.
Also, I made sure to angle my perspective to include the garden lamp after hearing how well lit the garden is at night. According to Kathy and Will repairing and adding to the garden night lighting system has been a recent and most successful project. The koi pond now has lighting in it that illuminates the colorful and oh, so, numerous koi. We didn’t get to see this feature….perhaps there will be an experimental nighttime painting session??
Our thanks to Kathy and Will for inviting us to paint in their beautiful, plant-filled, colorful garden. Oh, and I almost forgot…they, also, have a thriving vegetable garden as well…tomatoes, beans, round zucchini…..
GREENS—Olive Green is a soft, brownish-green color named, of course, after the natural green of olives. The color olive has long been favored by armed forces around the world. Olive drab was the color of the standard uniform for U.S. soldiers during World War II and the Vietnam War. It is on my “green only” palette.