Random Saturday

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Rainy season is almost upon us again and the sky has become a swirl of puffy white clouds edged with ominous darker gray ones which bring with them a telltale drizzle and cool humid breezes.  April marks the transition into rainy season and although we still have dry sunny days, they will steadily become fewer and fewer throughout the month until they are gone completely. This year I’m kind of looking forward to the rain, I never thought I’d say that but my garden is suffering a bit  and things are starting to look dry and thirsty no matter how much they’re watered with the hose. I think that too much sun is about as bad as too much rain. Only a few of my rose bushes have blooms on them now and most of the water loving annuals including the zinnias and marigolds have dissapeared. It seems that this dry season has been uncharacteristically harsh. I was going to re-seed last week but I figured I might as well wait til the end of the month when the rains return and I won’t have to worry about watering them every day. Two things that seem to be thriving are the sweet alyssum and the hydrangeas, bless their dear hearts. Hydrangeas are practically indestructible around here and most houses have several bushes growing in their gardens.

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A few of my roses are blooming, though not as profusely as they usually do. This orange and yellow blend is almost always in bloom come rain or shine. I wish I knew what it was called but most nurseries around here don’t provide the real names of roses. I thought it might be Charisma, but it’s anyone’s guess.

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This pink edged white rose reminds me of strawberries and cream. It’s called Princess De Monaco.

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This russet colored rose is one of my favorites. The color is somewhere between terra cotta and cinnamon.  In case you’re wondering, the white residue on the rose leaves is a fungus spray, it’s the only way to keep blackspot and downy mildew somewhat under control in this humid climate.

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My fig tree is doing surprisingly well. I had this tree in a large clay pot for about 12 years where it dutifully produced 5 or 6 figs per year. It never grew more than 2 ft. tall.  When we bought the mountain house I brought it up here and took it out of it’s clay pot and put it in the ground. I am amazed at how much it’s grown in just a couple of years and how many figs it’s producing now. Fig compote (with cheese!) is one of my very favorite desserts.

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I just wish my grapevines were doing as well. They’ve been in the ground longer than the figs but they are really putting up a fight and refusing to grow. They’re just scraggly and tend to lose all their leaves during the wet season. I have no idea what’s wrong with them. I had hoped to be eating grapes by now but it seems that they take one step forward and two steps back. I’m guessing that they prefer a drier climate.

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The giant passion fruit is looking nice and green. I had to build a trellis support for it. No fruits in sight yet though.

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I don’t know what these black berries are but they look terribly poisonous. They’re hanging from the palm trees. I’ve already cut several of these palm trees down but they just keep coming back.

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Sweet alyssum are springing up all over the place and their scent is simply heavenly. It overpowers even the fragrance of the roses.

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Dwarf Goblin Blanket Flower in a pot.

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A major dissapointment in my garden has been the pond. I had envisioned bloom after bloom of fragrant tropical water lilies delicately rising above the water to display their colors amid the water hyacinths and the Louisiana Iris. Everything would have gone according to plan if it hadn’t been for those pesky koi fish. They are like eating machines and they devour everything in sight. Now my pond looks like nothing more than a muddy murky hole full of water and dying plants where monster fish lurk like sharks waiting for any tidbit to fall in so they can eat it. These fish actually climb up on the rocks and out of the water so they can get at the plants that are out of their reach! I find them frightening. I had been quite hesitant about buying koi because I’d heard that they were incompatible with plant life. I had intended to buy goldfish instead but hubby beat me to the punch and went ahead and bought the koi. Not just any koi but 15 inch long koi who had about a million babies in my pond within a week of their arrival.  I’ve decided that I’m going to call up the breeder who sold them to us and beg him to take them back. Free of charge. Heck, I’ll pay him to get those pests off my hands. Maybe my water lilies will recover.

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The Hibiscus bushes that line the property look quite happy. Hibiscus always does well here. I’d love to get some of those really exotic colored hybrid varieties that I’ve seen online.

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Another pink variety. This one is more ruffly.

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The lantana bushes are full of bright little flowers. These guys will need a good pruning before the rain starts or they’ll just take over the garden.

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Even though there weren’t very many long stemmed flowers in the garden today, nature always has a way of providing something to use in a bouquet, even if it’s the tiniest of flowers. I cut what I found growing…toadflax, catchfly, alyssum, and I was still able to enjoy the sweetest fragrance from these miniature bouquets.

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Joining The Rose Garden in Malevik for Saturday Show Off 

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Pond In The Rainforest

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I’ve always had a fascination with fishponds and aquariums. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had fish. Sometimes just in a glass bowl and other times in large elaborate aquariums. In our city house we have a small 150 galon tile pond  that was built by a construction crew years ago, but it was only recently that I thought of putting in a larger pond up at the mountain house. It didn’t turn out to be as easy as I had anticipated though, mainly because in Costa Rica few people have ponds and there are no pond supply stores anywhere so I had to come up with some creative substitutes for standard pond supplies. I knew I didn’t want another concrete pond because we’d had a few annoying leaks in the other one particularly after the last couple of earthquakes. I wanted something that looked a bit more natural and would blend in with the surrounding landscape. That meant that I’d have to use a rubber liner, which of course nobody sells here. In addition to this, rubber liners are so heavy that it would have been impossible to import one for less than a a couple of thousand dollars. After asking around on some  local pond forums I decided on a type of plastic that is normally used for greenhouse roofing, which is what locals use for ponds as well. It’s UV resistant and quite thick, albeit very stiff and difficult to work with. On the plus side though, it only costs about 8 dollars per meter and it comes in 4, 6 or 8 meter widths, so I figured I could use it sideways and only buy about 4 meters lengthwise.The first step was to dig a hole. A big one. Fortunately our gardener helped me out with this project, bless his heart. He was my right hand man and I would never have been able to do it alone. He spent a couple of week-ends digging this huge hole. We left a ledge all around the edge to place plants on.

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Then I lined the hole with thick vinyl advertisement banners left over from our store. I turned them face down so the printing wouldn’t show. This was as a sort of extra protection under the liner to prevent random pebbles or anything else from puncturing the plastic liner.

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Then on top of the banners came the liner. Actually I ended up using several layers of UV resistant clear plastic liner which ultimately turned out to be a nightmare because it was clearly not designed for lining ponds and it was susceptible to punctures. Boy is that an understatement. After laying out the first liner and getting it to lay flat without a single crease or fold, I woke up the next morning ready to fill it with water only  to discover that deer had gotten inside and ripped holes in the liner with their hooves. So I bought a new liner and laid it on top of the first one. After filling the pond completely I was dismayed to discover that it was leaking water at the rate of about 5 inches per day. I had to empty it out and locate the problem area. Apparently the store had sold me a defective piece of plastic full of tiny holes. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say that I went through six (count ’em, six) liners. I just kept placing them one on top of the other and I began to think it was jinxed. I guess the sixth one’s a charm because after that many liners it was finally water tight.

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Here’s our gardener wrestling with one of the several stiff plastic liners and trying to unfold it. I’m calling it a liner but I think it would be more appropriate to say “makeshift” liner.

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After cutting the excess liner around the entire perimeter and tucking the raw edge under into the soil, we dug a shallow trench all along one side of the pond to run the pvc tube through from the pump to the filter. A home made DIY filter, I might add. Heh.

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This is the filter, a 70 gallon plastic drum filled with volcanic rock, cut up sponge and thick quilt batting. Works pretty well. All the trenches were later filled in and the drum now has a cover. I also spray painted it green so it would blend in better among the shrubs.

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After I made sure everything was working properly and there were no further leaks, we began to build the waterfall. Most of the rocks were picked up at a local river. We made several trips and loaded up the van and lugged them back up to the pond. I wasn’t about to spend 200 dollars on a pond weir (plus shipping and customs tax!) so I made one from a 4 foot segment of  3″ diameter pvc pipe. I drilled several evenly spaced holes into this pipe and then inserted small segments of 1″ pvc pipe which would distribute the water evenly. It works quite well at a fraction of the cost.

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Then we had to hide the all tubing among the rocks

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The part that took the longest was the arranging of the rocks around the pond. It seemed that we only covered a couple of feet at a time and then it was off to the river again to haul more rocks. This took us a few weeks.

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Yes, that is indeed a fuchsia hula hoop you see in the middle of the pond. I swiped it from my daughter’s room and threw it in there to hold the water hyacinths in place. The wind kept blowing them all over the pond and they’d end up on top of the water lilies almost smothering them. So to keep them under control I confined them inside the hoop. Water hyacinths multiply so fast that I now have two hoops in the pond. I also put in a couple of large Koi fish just to keep the mosquito population in check but much to my surprise, within a week they’d had about 300 babies. So now the pond is teeming with fish.

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It was a lot of work for sure, especially because neither the gardener nor I had any sort of experience building a pond. We pretty much learned as we went. But now I can sit back and enjoy it. I have a nice view of it from my upstairs window as well as from my kitchen window and I find the soft trickle of the waterfall very soothing.

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Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Saturday Show Off at The Rose Garden In Malevik