Maybe it’s the closeness to Día de Los Muertos that led me to choose this scene in Nonnie and Ed Markeset’s lovely garden. The fountain does somewhat resemble a tiered altar with colorful offerings and this is the first thing one sees upon stepping out the back door. Nonnie later told me that the fountain is dedicated to her mother whose idea it was to build it there.
It was a cold and cloudy November day that presaged rain so it made sense to huddle under the roof extension to paint. We were lucky, and while a little on the cool side, it did not rain and we wiled away a couple of hours doing what we both enjoy—plein aire watercolor painting.
This small vignette of Nonnie and Ed’s garden doesn’t begin to do justice to the complexity and beauty of their large garden. If you look closely at my painting, you can make out the roof of the gazebo through the open window. On the other side of the wall and window is what I would call a lanai room which is open to the entire garden…a sort of living room that’s always on vacation.
In addition to the lanai room and the gazebo, there is a greenhouse and an intricate pattern of paths that define the various beds. Linda, braving what looked like the possibility of rain, sat in the middle of a garden path and painted this lovely view of the gazebo with so many colorful blooms. She gave the day some sun and shadows in her painting. Such is the artist’s prerogative.
The garden has been primarily Ed’s project. This is not Ed’s first garden. He has a long and varied gardening history starting after WWII in Norway where, as in much of Europe, recovery took many years and community garden plots were an important source of food. For many children, working a garden would be a chore and whether it was or not for Ed, gardening has been part of his life ever since.
Ed’s work as a civil engineer with USAID as well as other jobs has taken him all over the world. As we spoke, I lost track of all the places that he has lived—Mexico City and other parts of Mexico, Washington D.C., Oman, and Egypt—gardening in many of them. He could probably create a garden almost anywhere on Earth. For example, when Nonnie and Ed lived in Cairo, they lived in a hi-rise apartment overlooking the Nile. Obviously there was NOWHERE for a garden but there were two balconies and Ed with amazing ingenuity created wonderful mini gardens on each balcony. In the morning, they could look out over the vast city of Cairo and the Egyptian desert through greenery and blossoms!
It’s always interesting to hear how people have chosen San Miguel. Ed and Nonnie have literally traveled the world and have first-hand knowledge of all the intriguing and beautiful places. The story starts many years ago with Ed and his first wife who was Mexican. In addition to traveling widely in Mexico, they lived in Mexico City for five years. During the 1970s, Ed visited San Miguel and recalls that from the Mirador the city, at that time, extended only twelve or fifteen blocks in any direction from the Jardin. He tucked that memory away.
It wasn’t until decades later (1996) when Ed and Nonnie were looking for a retirement option and had eliminated Florida and Cuernavaca that Ed suggested they look at San Miguel de Allende. As the usual story goes, in less than a week they bought one undeveloped lot from the development company for Malanquin. Later they were able to buy the adjacent lot from David Cohen (Casa Cohen) that expanded their house and garden to its present size and glory. The house and garden are well integrated with areas of the garden becoming rooms that extend the house inviting all to use and enjoy the garden areas.
Those of you who garden know that the work is never done; there are always new plants to try and beds to replant. Most of us do not have to literally start over. Three years ago Ed and Nonnie experienced a catastrophic flood from adjacent lots under development that sent a wall of mud and water that filled the basement and covered the entire garden. How disheartening this must have been but one would never know that such a catastrophe had occurred as the garden, with much love and care is, I imagine, as beautiful as it has ever been.
We so enjoyed the morning painting in Ed and Nonnie’s garden and are most grateful for the invitation to paint.