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Gardens provide the color lawns lack

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Published on Friday, September 8, 2023


By Victoria Torley

A friend of mine loves her lawn.

In fact, there are a lot of people who love their lawns. Lawns, they will tell you, are a lot less work than gardens. Lawns just take a couple of hours a week plus some fertilizing in the spring.

Got a big lawn? Get a riding mower and some music on the headphones and ride around a little. Gardens? Too much work. So, why garden?

Why garden? Where do I start?

Letís start with color.

Green is nice, I like green, but what about all those other colors?  Lawns donít have them. How about planting just one kind of thing,  the simple zinnia.  Zinnias come in just about every color there is and lasts quite a  while as a cut flower.

So, maybe you could just plant some zinnias here and there to pull the eye away from the lawn.

And, since we live in the tropics, how about some nice shade? Nothing says shade like a nice big tree. It doesnít have to block the view or threaten to fall on the house.

Just plant your tree in the right spot and watch it grow. You can even make it a fruit tree!  Lemonade in the shade anyone?

While we are talking trees, they are a great carbon sink, sucking up CO2 and pumping out oxygen. Drink your lemonade and congratulate yourself on helping the climate.

Why stop with a couple of fruit trees? How about some nice big trees on the property so you can feel that refreshing breeze when the wind ripples through them? Or sitting on the deck listening to the gentle rain on the leaves? That is so relaxing.

Especially if you have a glass of wine in handÖ Then there is noise reduction. If you live near a heavily trafficked road, a nice line of trees can reduce street noises.

What about that hill in front of the house? Do you want your house to slide downhill in a heavy rain? Of course, you donít!  

Get yourself some vetiver grass out there or some Madera Negra (Diospyros ebenum) and Guanacaste trees or something else with really deep roots. Plant them now before things start to slip.

Perhaps you have the opposite problem. You live near a river and need those deep rooting trees to prevent flooding. Or, like us, you may have a marshy area on the property. Donít forget to put in some papyrus for that area, it looks terrific and loves wet feet.

So, why garden? Oh yes, itís also good exercise.

Plant of the week. This is something for my friends in the drier parts of Guanacaste: the Polyalthia longifolia, or ďmast tree.Ē Tall and straight with drooping foliage, the mast tree is an Indian native that doesnít mind a hot dry climate. These are 1.5-2 meters tall but the final tree can reach 9 meters. They are used for noise abatement and as a screen in crowded neighborhoods. The plant attracts butterflies and the leaves provide food for caterpillars. Trunks make great masts for small boats, hence the name.

Find more amazing stories about gardening in Costa Rica on 
the AM Costa Rica Garden website. Regarding questions on this article, Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at victoriatorley1@gmail.com.

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