Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rupununi Gardening

This post is especially for all my "Dirt Digger" friends. 

I have always liked the open feel of the Compound at Karanambu.  The terracotta gravel is part of the base laterite ridge that  runs across the North Savannahs and is the Watershed between the Amazon and the Essequibo rivers.  So, when a friend offered some neighborly advice, and said that I needed to plant up the whole thing, I knew he was wrong.  Then he went on to say that he no longer planted Bougainvillea, as they were too unruly and hard to keep in shape.  But that is exactly what I liked about them; and of course they are native to northern Brazil, close enough to be native here too.  I would create Islands of Bougainvillea next to cabins, in as many colors as I could collect and underplant them with reseeding flowers that I would find around the Savannah.  Eventually they will ramble against the cabins.

Now, that sounds all well and good, but it is a process to plant in laterite.  There is no soil, just gravel with yellow mud that is soft in some places when wet, but hard as concrete when dry.  Each time, I have to dig out a good sized hole and backfill with a mixture of mud from the swamp down the road, and manure from the Corall by the "Out Station", three miles away.  We bring in a landrover full at a time,  on a huge tarp.

These pictures will show you the story
A splash of color around each cabin.  This hot pink was the only Bougainvillea here.  I add a few more and underplanted with Purple Vinca which has spread nicely,
The Coral Bougainvillea with Sorrell (red hibiscus), my new favorite color because it goes from pink to dark orange, all mixed together.
Hot Pink Bougainvillea with Light Purple Vinca
A hole ready to plant next to the Yellow Bougainvillea.  Note the laterite that I have dug out of the hole and banked around it.
 Bright Pink Vinca with Sorrell and Lighter Pink  Bougainvillea being watered with "gray water" from the shower.
This is the Dark Purple Bougainvillea. It is less rangy and more compact than the other colors.  In the nearby town of Lethem, there is one that is over 20 feet high.  I can't wait for this one to grow! Behind it is the upright form of the White Frangipani.
This Dendrobium Orchid belonged to my Grandmother and then my Mother and now it is here at Karanambu.
Cattleya Superba
This is one of our native Orchids and one of the most beautiful.  They are all flowering right now. Richard Schomburgk, the famous naturalist, traveling through this area with his brother Robert, in 1839-1842 called it "Superba".  I see it called "Violacea", but since it is the original, I continue to call it "Superba".
I found this one on the Savannah. I have no idea what the name is, but it is a ground Orchid, which has already bloomed profusely, twice! 
Trees of these magnificent fragrant flower, called Monkey Cup, surround Maricuba Pond near by.
I rescued these Pineapples from the near by Village of Yupakari.
6 months later, they are starting to fruit, several of them!
This Watermelon Vine gets only one fruit at a time!  It's very big, but only one!
Eschallots growing in bed of mud & manure.  We used the offcuts from the tree, which we chainsawed to make boards, to raise up the sides of the bed.
These are Dwarf Bananas, which only get to about 5 feet, so the wind doesn't knock them over.
Bed of Pak Choy and Purple Mustard Greens growing in the planting mixture of mud & manure.
4 O'Clocks and Purple Peruvian Pepper with Jump up and Kiss (Portulacca), which is also Native to the Savannahs
Amaranths in the Kitchen Garden.  I collected a few of these seeds from a near by Village and they are reseeding all over the place. Perfect!
Even on a rainy day this is still my favorite color.  Beautiful!
 I picked my Sorrell today! Hope I get some sun to dry it. It makes a wonderful drink!
Gardening in the Rupununi is a challenge...
but I love it!

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