All gardens are a form of autobiography—Robert Dash
When Alfredo García-Lucio and Jim McKeever describe their garden as a series of rooms, one feels that for them home is wherever the garden is.
Jim took me on an all too quick tour of this remarkable garden and I wanted to forget painting and just continue exploring each garden room, path, and nook and cranny. Doing justice to this complex 2½ acre garden (1 hectare) would take a long time…so forgive me if this essay only scratches the surface of a most remarkable and personally designed garden.
I knew that I was in for a treat when, as we pulled in the driveway, I saw the most amazing nopalera—a stunning display of 300 prickly-pear cactus planted close together (mere inches apart) and planted in a particular orientation to the sun along a curvilinear path. It reminds me of pictures of the Terracotta Army.
A little digression before proceeding… I ran across this garden quote some time ago and feel this is the blog post where it should be used. “Every garden has the potential for perfection because it will never be finished, because the elements that make it a garden … are in constant flux and you can never step into the same garden twice.” Frank Ronan
Jim, as he was leading me along the meandering paths, which would be about 1 kilometer if we had followed all of them, told me the story of what is now the nopalera or prickly-pear cactus garden. The property was purchased 11 years ago and construction of the many garden rooms has been underway for 9 years. Where the nopalera is, they first planted 100, yes, 100 plum trees. I’m sure they envisioned not only a froth of pink bloom in the spring but plentiful fruit later; however, the climate and particularly the Mexican bees did not cooperate. All the mesquite trees that were originally on the property, and there are many, bloomed when the plums bloomed and the bees definitely preferred the mesquites. They tried hand pollination but eventually gave up and found someone who wanted the plum trees. Only four survived the move. There are two varieties of prickly-pear cactus planted—one considered choice eating for its pads and the other for its fruit or tunas.
The prickly-pear cactus were so eye-catching that I hadn’t noticed the 500 organ pipe cactus lined up along the road-facing wall of the property.
And then the family of peacocks strolled by—the peahen and her four almost adult peachicks. There really are so many delights in this garden. Later I saw bantam chickens but missed the Indian runner ducks.
We both settled down to paint in the shade around the pond which was constructed where a small arroyo had been with dirt from the construction of the house creating a barrier for a small catchment area. It was difficult to do justice to the many subtle variations of green which changed in the reflection to even more subtle if somewhat muddier greens.
The many varieties of oleander are in full flower throughout the garden adding sparkle here and there, but what caught my eye in the area of the pond were the brilliant but ephemeral flashes of red and blue from the darting dragonflies. Perhaps inspired by the iridescent flashes of red, Linda added red waterlilies to her painting.
Briefly, some of the other garden rooms: A usually picture-perfect vegetable garden that is suffering this year from the catastrophic grasshopper invasion that is plaguing my garden as well. A new greenhouse. A large kiosk for dinner parties with pink trumpet vine and wisteria covering the elaborate wrought-iron structure. The wisteria hasn’t bloomed yet but Jim is hopeful. It was started from seeds from a 60-year-old wisteria plant in England. A training area for their many dogs…
Eco-friendly practices are an important part of this garden design. Most of the established plants manage with the San Miguel seasonal rainfall with only occasional watering in the driest months.
Jim and Alfredo are probably best known in San Miguel as owners of Camino Silvestre which offers decorative objects for the house and garden and all things for hummingbirds. There are currently two shops and a restaurant in San Miguel de Allende and one shop in Mexico City.
What you may not know is that they are founders and owners of Parasol company which is a leader in the wild bird feeding industry.
They were pioneers in the movement to combine functional backyard bird feeding with artistic and decorative accents. Parasol began 22 years ago in 1997 when Alfredo García-Lucio and Jim McKeever were frustrated by the lack of an attractive and functional feeder for their own backyard garden in Denver. They were looking for a feeder that combined beautiful design, quality materials, and superior function.
Alfredo designed a number of innovative hand-blown glass feeders and the rest is history. Since then, Parasol has become an industry leader and innovator in providing colorful, artistic, practical and functional alternatives to the traditional notions of bird feeding and garden products.
We are so appreciative of the opportunity to explore and paint in Alfredo García-Lucio and Jim McKeever’s spectacular garden.