By Tommy Clarkson from the November 2013 Edition
(Many who visit Ola Brisa Gardens have commented that they would enjoy seeing the more “non-touristy” side of Mexico.
With that in mind “Sight and Sites” was created. To learn more about these fun – and very unique – eco/adventure trips please visit www.olabrisagardens.com)
If you’re the sort who enjoys plants, nurseries and greenhouses than this may just be the perfect trek for you!
We head east out of Manzanillo on the old, scenic highway to Colima. It may take a bit longer but the sights are delightful and well worth the additional thirty minutes or so. En-route we enjoy coffee, fresh baked pan dulce and the Mexican countryside.
In about an hour, following assorted twists, turns, ups and down, we arrive at the small, roadside, Flor del Disierto vivero owned by Laura and Teresa Barajas Perez. They’ve never met a cactus they didn’t like! Hence – in the area’s vivero market – they’ve gone about endeavoring to fill that particular niche through an excellent selection of cactus and succulents. One can but only marvel at the variety they’ve on display. In fact, if I remember correctly, my much admired Starfish Flower Plant and Red Dragon Flower on our Crossroads Terrace – both succulents – originated from there!
Then, but less than a quarter mile down the road, we stop at the one hectare site of Rey Leon, operated by Teresa Machuca Gonzalez. When last there, one of her staff, Alecia, graciously helped me pick out – and then carefully tied and wrapped it for travel – a wonderful, multi-colored, Caricature Plant that will, ultimately grow to three meters or more in height.
With me, at the time, was Nathan of Aquatic Sports and Adventures – my buddy whose superlative eye for photography provide the accompanying pictures – who often joins me on my various treks. Barely upon arriving, he noticed a wonderful purple leafed, stemmed and flowered Jamaica – pronounced “huh-mike–ah” – that also, absolutely, insisted on coming along home with us! (A great, refreshing, local drink is made through steeping the dried flowers of this Hibiscus relative, by the way.)
Then we drive another fifteen minutes or so to the seven hectare Vivero Massangena where Hector Torres is the boss. During my most recent visit there, my pal Reo helped me locate and acquire a small Swiss Cheese Vine, another variety of upright Elephant Ear and six Russelias – also called Firecracker Plants or Fountain Bushes. This is not a small operation and enjoying it all entails no little walking about. One can get confused and turned around here with all of the greenhouse structures and large sections of outdoor plantings but we made it back to the vehicle safely!
Then we endeavored to get everyone thoroughly lost on various country roads, as we took numerous turns by, around and over an aqueduct providing fresh water for the area’s farmers, before arriving at Ruben Cabrera Silva’s Viveros Tropicales de Colima. Not as large as where we’ve just been but somewhere in his operation I always seem to find a plant or two that I have not previously found elsewhere. The last time – with the help of slender and petite Claudia – it was two, very different, varieties of Euphorbia which are related to the Crown of Thorns and that I still have not been able to successfully identify!
Our last vivero stop (perhaps another scenic twenty minute drive to Coquimatlan) was at the largest – the twenty hectares of Vivero Valles Verde. The Director of this substantive enterprise is Leon Machuca Gonzalez. But be forewarned, seeing each and every plant here would take days!
Much to my delight, when last there, I found an Acalypha for the one that, several months ago, had sadly passed to the Great Greenhouse in the Sky and for which I had looked extensively and unsuccessfully for a replacement. (But I prefer the other names this unique plant goes by: Red Hot Cat’s Tail, Beefsteak Plant, Fire Dragon Plant, or Copper Leaf.)
By this time there was a consensus that lunch was in order. So, at the rather remote and rustic Restaurant “El Chino”, we had a unique treat – fresh water prawn . . . grown right there! While Chino and his wife prepared our lunch, tall and attractive Aurora took our drink orders and brought us delightful snacks to take a bit of the edge off our hunger.
Then, the day successfully filled with memories of new plant varieties, via picturesque back roads, along the river, through valleys and by native greenery we returned via a different route, to Manzanillo.
One might say that this day “planted” the idea for similar further such adventures!
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.