Traveling for Garden Design Inspiration

Whether a snowbird returning to Puerto Vallarta or a year-round resident waiting for the right time to make major changes to your garden—or even completely redesign it—the weeks following the rainy season provides a perfect window of opportunity. The soil is soft and humid but unsaturated meaning you can usually dig with relative ease and not kick up too much of a cloud of dirt.

To start the creative juices going in anticipation of your design phase, travel is often the best way to gain new inspirations and perspectives. For me, Mexico City provides infinite opportunities for exploration and learning and horticulture is one the many themes it covers o so well.

One especially unique and memorable horticultural destination there is the Xochimilco neighborhood. Its name is Aztec for “flower field” and Xochimilco’s flower markets continue to provide some of the best opportunities in the city for buying cut flowers and a host of live plants perfect for home gardens. If you find yourself shopping there, just consider that many of the plants which thrive in Mexico City’s cooler, drier climate won’t necessarily do well here in the costal tropics.

Xochimilco also features remnants of the vast system of canals and manmade islands that converted marginalized lands in the time of the Aztec’s arrival to the area, into some of the most productive agricultural grounds in the Americas. What remains has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Irregular developments encroaching upon this site have cast doubt into its future, but touring through these canals aboard colorful trajineras piloted in gondola-like fashion is an obligatory part of the Xochimilco experience.
Among the most impressive and carefully curated botanical gardens in the country is that at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM).

The gardens are laid out among ancient lava flows and that serve as perfect backdrops for some of the garden’s most extensive and well attend collections—cacti and agaves.

When visiting the UNAM’s botanical garden, save plenty of time for the gift shop and plant nurseries. The gift store is incredibly well stocked and is an excellent source for books on everything from horticulture to natural ecology.
The UNAM also has a plant adoption program based around a novel concept—they propagate rare native plants threatened by extinction and put these up for adoption for people to grown in their gardens, patios, or window sills. Cacti, agaves, and plants of the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae) are especially well represented. The accessible prices of these botanical treasures are such that you’ll probably want many, but for each you’ll need to fill out an adoption form.

UNAM staff maintains communication channels to keep tabs on the success of this program. By keeping their prices accessible they are able to keep an income stream intact for their work while alleviating the economic pressure that drives poaching of these plants in wild areas.

These are just two spots within Mexico City to delight those with an affinity for plants. Of course if long-distance travel isn’t on your immediate horizon, come up and visit us at the Vallarta Botanical Garden. We’re a convenient daytrip from anywhere in the Bay of Banderas region and there’s always something new in flower or in fruit to fascinate and further inspire our love of nature.