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MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Costa Rican Riches - Around San José

A very large Bromeliad

By Jim Bishop.

In November of 2019, Scott and I participated in the Pacific Horticulture Tour of Costa Rica.

San José

Our trip started in the capital city, San José. From there we did several day long trips. On a walking tour of San José we found that unlike much of Central America, it is a relatively new country without much of a colonial past but does have nice museum with pre-Columbian artifacts.

Old Kiosk in San Jose

Nectandra Cloud Forest

The first day, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, we visited a private cloud forest preserve northwest of San Jose to the Nectandra Cloud Forest Gardens.

Man made pond using a local stream

The preserve is for scientific field research by the Nectandra Institute. Current research includes identification of dominant and unusual plants, and investigation into the variables influencing natural reforestation in cloud forests.

We were definitely in the clouds with a persistent drip from the dense vegetation

  Some plants included in the garden are for aesthetics while others are for their importance in medicinal, indigenous and cultural uses.

A colorful striped bromeliad in bloom
Unknown plant with flowers and seeds on its stem
Another colorful bromeliad
An epiphytic orchid
An interesting tree fern
A colorful philodendron leaf
Flowers on plant stem
Dense jungle scene with man made waterfall

We walked through the dense forest in the clouds observing the insects, birds and flora, streams and experiencing the serenity of the place.

A large spiders
Another impressive spider
A colorful beetle

Sarchi Orchid Gardens 

The Sarchi Else Kientzler botanical garden was created by Ludwig Kientzler, who wanted to contribute to education and environmental conservation.

The nursery still grows some plants for sale and has a few display beds
There are also a few elements of whimsey
...and butterfly maze

The project started in 1998 in an old coffee farm, and was officially opened on July 27, 2006, after nine years of preparation. Else Kientzler Botanical Garden has around 2000 species of plants in its 11 garden areas.

Shampoo ginger grew in several places in the garden
They had a few colorful Heliconias 
Another Heliconia
A tropical Iris?
An unfurling leaf
Another Iris?
Another Heliconia
The trunk of a thorny Ceiba
A white Calliandra
A very colorful banana
Don't know what this interesting plant is
Colorful seeds on a palm with crotons nearby
A stream bordered one side of the property

Unlike the dense cloud forest garden we visited in the morning, this garden was the exact opposite with wide pathways, roads and more formally designed and less naturalistic gardens.

Thomas Wiedenmann Gardens

Day 2 we visited Thomas Wiedenmann Gardens near the town of Guacimo in Limon near the caribbean coast.

When we arrived  were greeted with a cup of local fruits wrapped in a leaf 

It is a private nursery that grew exotic tropical flowers which they exported mainly to Europe. Thomas has a passion for tropical plants that flourish in the humid forests of the Caribbean. His garden consists of a collection exotic plants such as heliconias, palms, gingers, calatheas, bromeliads, cordylines, cycads, dracaenas and more.

Our host, Thomas, showing us how they pack cut flowers for shipment
The finished product
Ti leaves also bundled for shipping
Heliconias for trimmed and ready to ship
Amazing blooms ready to go
More Heliconias
And a few more Heliconias
A color mural of tropica plants was painted on the packing house wall

Thomas also grows exotic fruit trees such as the mangosteen; a real treat when in season! The farm receives lots of rain every year and is able to produce year round. Thomas is working on creating hybrid bromeliads in multicolor displays. The owner said it was too difficult to export to the U.S. due to all of the agricultural inspection rules. After the packing house tour, we were given a tour of the growing grounds and gardens.

A few display beds with concrete sculptures
Cool vine clinging tightly

Our tour guide with a very docile bird

Lunch at Turrialtico Turrialtico is  rustic wood lodge with panoramic views over the valley and mountain range.The property is surrounded by tropical gardens.  We saw some toucans across the road high up in the trees but too far away to photograph.

A cane begonia
A nice river ran next to where we ate
We decided not to cross the foot bridge


Jim Bishop is the 2019 - 2020 SDHS Horticulturist of the Year among many, many other things.


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