It’s always a treat to visit David Tarrant’s garden and this time Linda and I had the luxury of whiling away an entire morning painting in this special garden. David’s garden could be described as a Mexican cottage garden with a wide variety of plants native to Mexico planted densely, growing robustly and, in the right season, blooming vigorously. The garden viewed from any angle is a seamless blend of colors, textures, and forms.
Linda captured the essence of this garden in her painting which showcases the bright blooms of pink and orange Bougainivilleas, the orange of Aloe arborenscens or Torch Aloe in the background, and the recognizable form of Marginatocereus marginatus or Fence Órganos along the wall.
I chose to paint a narrow view of the entrance patio crowded with pots of orchids and the happy Monstera deliciosa or Split Leaf Philodendron. A couple of plants caught my eye….Epidendrum radicans, an orchid found from Chiapas to Chile, and on the table a cutting of fence órgano and several succulents waiting to be planted.
Neither of us included David’s favorite plant which was growing along the back of the house….weedy, gangly, hauntingly fragrant, a Mexican native….Philadelphus karwinskianus or Evergreen Mock Orange. Many in Mexico simply refer to it as jasmine.
For an Englishman like David, the cottage garden is as natural a garden form as the sweeping lawns are to many suburban Americans. He related that a few years ago he visited The Huntington Desert Garden and that spectacular and dense assemblage of plants adapted to arid conditions stuck in his mind. When he moved from British Columbia to San Miguel 13 years ago, he had the opportunity to create a garden with cacti, succulents, agaves, palms, and other similarly adapted plants. The house he purchased in San Miguel had a garden consisting of lawn, boxwood hedges, and a fountain….definitely not what David had in mind. A few years of hard work, lots of mud, scrounged cuttings, and choice specimens planted here and there and David has created his private garden where he told us he has “never felt more at home.”
Along with his many interests and commitments, David regularly guides at El Charco del Ingenio Botanic Garden in San Miguel. I must diverge and tell a story—one day, when David and I were both guiding and I introduced him to the assembled visitors as “David Tarrant from British Columbia,” one of the Canadian visitors blurted out, “Not, THE David Tarrant?”
You see, David is very well known in the garden world. He has always loved gardens, plants, gardening, flowers, nature…all of it. He got his start professionally in England where he trained as an apprentice gardener. His sense of adventure led him to immigrate to Canada in 1967 and a couple of years later he started working at University of British Columbia Botanical Garden where he worked for 37 years. The public got to know him well when, for many of the years at UBC, he hosted the CBC popular garden program, Canadian Gardener, lectured widely, led international garden tours, and authored four gardening books.
David just came back from leading his 40th international garden tour this time to Chile and will be leading a tour to England next May. Hidden away on his study wall is a world map so covered with colored dots of places he has visited that many of the countries are obscured.
Some words of garden wisdom from David: “Gardening teaches us patience.”
Linda and I have been painting San Miguel gardens since March. It has been a privilege to visit and paint twenty amazing gardens. We haven’t decided yet what or where we will be painting in 2020.
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