Don Karp

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This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico

Letters - Where Expats Blog
me gardening

Gardens in Tepoztlan

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Me in my garden. Photo by author

The climate in Tepoztan is temperate, making it an ideal place to grow plants. The soil is from volcanic deposits, and very rich. The only hitch is lack of water during the dry season, typically October through May. Some residents fill their cisterns by rain harvesting, while others may need to purchase truckloads of water.

June 27, 2020

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. My organic salad garden in 2012. Photo by author

my garden

My gardening exploits

During my years living in Mexico, I've had a couple of organic salad gardens. I really love getting dirty down on the earth, and participating in the transformation of a seed into a plant. Kitchen compost is another form of magic to me--how the scraps from fruits and vegetables become part of the rich soil for growth. This is a metaphor for personal growth, of incorporating and then transforming my dark side.

I prefer growing salad greens, like lettuce and arugula because it takes only five weeks to go from seed to edible food. And I include herbs and flowers. These are hardy and repel insects.

Because I like to travel, I've not done much gardening. Gardening takes daily weeding, watering, harvesting. But this year, with the lockdown, I can't travel and am doing a garden of sorts. There is no suitable land where I live, so I am growing plants in pots on my back terrace. The rainy season just started. It runs from June through October, raining almost every day in July and August, usually in the afternoons, accompanied by a thunder storm.

terrace garden

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. My terrace garden. Upper left: foreground is mint, followed by several pots with ungerminated seeds and with lavender at the end. Upper right: sprouted arugula. Lower left: leaf lettuce. Lower middle: mimosa, sensitive fern. Lower right: a flowering plant in a hanging pot. Photos by author

What is a "jardin"?

In Spanish, a garden is a jardin. The "j" is pronounced like the "ch" in the German word, "ich." The "ar" is the same as in "jar." The "i" is like a long "e" in English. Or like the "i" in ski. Accent on the last syllable. Got it? Never mind.

What's important to note is that the concept of a garden in Mexico is different from some other parts of the world, like the USA. In the USA, a garden is plants, like flowers, herbs, or vegetables in nice rows. A jardin in Mexico encompasses any cultivated area short of an orchard or farm. It could be just a bunch of potted plants, or a landscaped area, like a backyard with a lawn and some bushes or trees. I'll show you this in the rest of this article.

Here is a video slide show of the number one bed and breakfast in Tepoztlan (as rated by Trip Advisor). The proprietor has a way with design that's stunning, and she applies it on her grounds.

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Notice the beautiful grounds at Casa de la Vida. Video by author

In the wealthier area, away from the town center, people have more land, and large, lush gardens are more common. Here's one in this video.

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Julie's incredible garden in the Atongo region of Tepoztlan. Video by the author

Garden restaurants are very pleasant places to dine. Here are photos of two.

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. A garden restaurant: La Sombra del Sabino. Photos by the author

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Another garden restaurant, Axitla. Photos by Don Karp

At EKKO Hostel, the jardin is more of what one might consider a large yard in the USA. It's a great place for music festivals.

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Another type of jardin: the grounds at EKKO Hostel. Photos by Don Karp

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Three jardines in my neighborhood. Photo by the author

Getting back to the potted plant type of jardin, here are three in my neighborhood.

Jardin Borda

Jardin Borda is in Cuernavaca, is only a half hour drive from Tepoztlan. I'm including it here as a grand finale because it is so incredibly beautiful.

It used to be the summer home of the wealthy Taxco miner, José Borda. The lavish gardens include several species of plants, two pools, terraces at different levels, ramps, stairs, and fountains. Buildings house museums of  cultural events: exhibitions of painting, sculpture, plastic arts and photography, and dance performances, theater, and many concerts.

Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Jardin Borda in all its splendor. Video by the author

With all of these lovely gardens, can you see why this is called a paradise?