Our Gardens and their Walls
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…” Robert Frost
Here in San Miguel de Allende one has to assume that everyone loves walls. High walls outline the entire property line of each parcel of land. It is, usually, only from the third or higher floors and azotea that one can see beyond the confines of home and patio or garden. The walls along parts of my garden are 15 feet high and along the back wall of the house almost 20 feet. These are substantial barriers.
This week we painted in the delightful and colorful garden of Sally Dorsey and Herb Miller. On entering, I noticed that there were only waist-high walls along the driveway that separated their property from neighbors. With these low walls, particularly in the case of the uphill property, it looks and feels like Sally and Herb are in the middle of a natural area with a stream, agaves, yuccas, mesquites, cactus, as well as other shrubs and trees. On the low wall, instead of spikes or broken bottles, are large potted plants that effectively frame this natural area from any vantage point.
I was tempted to paint this view but couldn’t resist the fountain surrounded by flowers, varied textures, and many shades of green. Having just bought five, new for me, green paints…Phthalo Green (blue and yellow shades), Undersea Green, Jadite Genuine, and Green Apatite…I was anxious to use some of them and thought the fountain view matched some of my new greens better.
Looking at this picture-perfect scene, it was hard to believe that two weeks ago San Miguel had the hailstorm of the decade and this garden had some damage. Sally told us that the access street to her house had washed out and the stream through (really under) their property was a torrent. Many of the plants in my garden are still in shreds, but here everything was fresh and seemingly unscathed. Their gardener, Martin Ramírez Ramírez, has been busy refreshing and replanting. Sally has great praise for his care of the garden.
The garden spots seem to wrap around and envelop the house…softening and brightening it. Linda found a spot up the stairs from where I was painting that had shade, an archway, bright colors, and, lo and behold, a cat.
“This garden was awash with color so I concentrated on color choices and values. And, I had just loaded my palette with New Gamboge, Opera Pink, and Carbazole Violet. The Gamboge was the perfect color for the house and Opera Pink is the ONLY color for bougainvilleas.” Linda
Before we started painting, Sally gave us a tour of the house, and there we met Aspen, their pure white shelter cat…very likely a Turkish Angora and such a friendly one. Aspen is restricted to the house because of wanderlust and, therefore, couldn’t pose for us in the garden so Linda and I both took pictures, but only Linda added Aspen to her painting.
Sally and Herb have had this house for about a year; however, the house and garden are about 10 years old. Most of the garden was in place when they bought the house but Sally has been busy and as she said, “ I have to put a finger on everything.” Her career as an interior decorator shows not only in the charm of interior renovations but in the garden as well.
It’s always interesting to hear how people find their way to San Miguel. Sally and Herb lived for many years in Atlanta and, during some of those years, built a vacation house in Bali. When they eventually sold the Bali house, they began looking for another second home, preferably, not too many time zones from Atlanta. Some of the South American countries seemed too unstable, so they started looking in Mexico. Nothing quite worked out and, as a last resort, just before their house-hunting vacation was up, they decided to go to San Miguel because a friend of a friend had raved about it. They took a bus from Puerto Vallarta to San Miguel and, as the all too common story goes, bought their first house five days after arriving. Sally told us that during those five days the Historical Walking Tour of San Miguel by Patronato Por Niños was one of the experiences that sold them on San Miguel as the place for them. Their first house on Calvario served as a vacation home until they retired last year and moved permanently to this current house.
We had a tranquil, one might say, meditative morning painting and wish to thank Sally and Herb for the invitation to paint in their garden!!
Undersea Green is one of my new greens and also one of the darkest greens on my palette. An artist’s favorite, this medium to high staining green is a blend of French Ultramarine with Quinacridone Gold…so, really, I could have mixed it instead of buying it. Linda uses it as well.