Los viveros de Chihuahua 2

I just realized that I passed a small milestone. My last entry about our spooky October garden marked the 100th post at Botanica Chaotica since beginning my blog back in April 2021. Hurrah! It’s been roughly 2.5 years since then and I still have many ideas for future posts, so here’s to 100 more.

Today, we are continuing our series on Chihuahuan nurseries by visiting a nursery in a middle class neighborhood. Last time (here), we toured a nursery from a lower income neighborhood where the plant selection was pretty limited. So, I was really hoping to see a lot more variety at this nursery, especially some of the more interesting, native desert plants.

Arriving, the first thing you notice is that a significant portion of the nursery lies in a deep pit, a veritable tropical oasis located in the middle of the desert. Per the last post where the growers were digging their own topsoil to fill pots, I couldn’t help but facetiously wonder whether this pit was the result of doing that same process over hundreds of years. Selling their own soil (soul), so to speak.

On the fence that keeps you from plummeting to your death was this climbing milkweed (Funastrum cynanchoides). Sadly only hardy to zone 9.

Walking around the perimeter to reach the nursery entrance, you get a view down into the operations, including the cull pile (left) and a bird’s eye view of their trees and shrubs.

The entrance, though, is at street level. Here we are looking back towards the sidewalk through a selection of outdoor flowers.

These were mostly common plants that we could easily find here in the US, like vinca, kalanchoe, and zinnia.

There were also a few carnivorous plants and some grafted cacti.

Moving on to the next greenhouse, there was a jaw-dropping selection of houseplants. A much greater selection than the previous nursery. The cacti and succulents on the shelves were planted in half beer/soda cans, which I thought was both creative and attractive. The blue display case would be at home in an old 70s gas station, filled with gum, candy, and cigarettes. It has achieved a higher purpose here.

A close-up that you may recognize from the post introducing this series on Mexico.

Moving further in.

On the floor, buckets of aquatic plants, primarily floating fern (Salvinia natans) and frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum). I used to grow these back when I did freshwater aquatic gardening in aquariums.

More cacti and succulents, including some Pachypodiums and a perfect silvery Euphorbia obesa. Note as we tour through this nursery that many of the smaller plants are in the traditional plastic pots that we are used to in the US, while the larger plants are mostly in black plastic bags. Many of the plants in these houses were were growing in a mixture of volcanic rock, potting soil, and perlite.

A view across the ferns and other houseplants towards an enormous stacked row of terra cotta pots bordering the pit outdoors (left). More colorful varieties of houseplants on the right, including aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei), croton (Codiaeum), and various Dracaena.

An all time favorite, the lustrous green version of Monstera deliciosa. I don’t actually like the variegated ones (not shown) that have become so popular, which is strange for someone who usually loves variegated plants. Mainly, it’s because the variegation is neither consistent from leaf to leaf nor is it symmetrical. It’s just a little too chaotic for my tastes.

So many houseplants…

Another greenhouse leading outdoors, each side lined with cacti and succulents.

Upcycling options for hanging plants. I liked the rusty cans, but not the clear plastic cups and bottles. The plants in the bottles were mainly growing in densely packed, decomposed pine needles.

A few larger specimens of yucca, sotol, and a cactus. We’ll see more of those in a minute.

Heading outside, that narrow path between the pots and the greenhouse goes to a ramp that will take us down to the pit.

The view into the pit.

So many different types of terra cotta pots.

Very nice blue yucca with sharp, brown tips and Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’. You can see that these plants are all planted in soil dug directly from the ground.

And a very large $4800 sotol plant ($240 US). Seems like decent price for something that big and slow growing, just look at that trunk!

Descending into the pit. El  Coronel, one of two iconic mountains in the city, rises in the background like an ancient Mayan pyramid.

Nice cactus in a regular plastic pot with potting mix, though most of the trees in the background are in plastic bags with topsoil.

Which way should I go? The vegetative tunnel on the left or on the right?

I went right, because I saw this massive cycad with a knot of unfurled fronds up top and a bunch of healthy new plants coming up around it. I’m assuming that the central plant got damaged or stressed somehow and that forced the dormant buds around the base to sprout.

Look at how small the bags are for these palms. Not much of a root system.

Looking up out of the pit, back at the sidewalk with the climbing milkweed. Note the ledge of the sidewalk jutting out over the abyss. Good thing that fence was there.

Roses, boxwood, weeping mulberry trees, and magnolias. Nothing too unusual in my opinion. Sadly, no unusual, native, desert plants.

This whole area felt very jungly and private. We weren’t followed nearly as much at this nursery compared to the others, though they were definitely suspicious of me. This, however, was the nursery where our credit card number got stolen when we bought a few houseplants for L’s mom.

Heading back to the ramp and the end of our tour. The palm trees on the left were in pretty bad shape. I suspect they were dug from the ground without enough roots and then transplanted into these pots where they languished and died.

And, speaking of a limited root system, take a look at these bamboo! Another situation where these had to have been dug from the ground and then put into these relatively tiny bags. Yet, the plants themselves were still alive. I wonder what the transplant success rate is for most homeowners?

Ok, that concludes our tour of a nursery in a middle income neighborhood. Overall, I thought this nursery had significantly more variety in plants than the nursery in the low income neighborhood, but I was sorely disappointed at the lack of cool native plants. If I lived here, I would be tempted to shop here again, but only in cash to avoid the whole credit card situation again.

Next time, we head to two nurseries in an upper class neighborhood.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. CS

    Wow. Great tour.
    Are the pine needles being used as mulch in some pots?
    Happy centennial!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Yes, the pine needles are also used as mulch in many of the smaller pots.

  2. danger garden

    Congrats on the milestone! I’m so glad you’re blogging. Bummer about the stolen credit card, if they make that a habit I can’t imagine word wouldn’t start to get around.

    The plants, fun to see the variety but, like you, I would love to see more natives. I’m coming around to the bag rather than pot situation—I wonder if it would ever catch on here?

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I think the credit card number got stolen because I was there. Apparently, they kept asking my in-laws whether I was with them or not and were very curious about me as a big, white gringo.

      I know of at least one wholesale nursery in Oregon that is starting to use recycled plastic bags for their bigger plants. Supposedly they are biodegradable and can be planted directly in the ground, but it remains to be seen whether that really works or not. I’ve had a lot of supposedly biodegradable materials that I’ve tried in our compost that still haven’t broken down much in 10 years.

  3. Kris P

    Congratulations on your 100th post! You should proceed at your own pace, as inspiration strikes. Based on my experience, it takes some of the fun out of blogging if you try to stick to a schedule (as I’ve done).

    I really like the use of beer/drink cans as recycled pots. I have to wonder if gardening in a “pit” as you described it creates a more amenable microclimate for many of those plants. My neighborhood was constructed from a former rock quarry and conditions do vary within areas that differ in elevation. Some of those “houseplants” could grow outside in my climate (given sufficient water) so maybe they’re in demand for outside use in Chihuahua too?

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Yes, I decided this summer that I cannot blog at a faster pace given my work schedule. I try to at least get one post per month, which seems to be working out well. I hadn’t thought about the microclimate component of having a nursery in a pit, but I bet you are right. Growing plants in a pit would greatly increase moisture retention in a desert environment, especially when it gets hot and windy. Probably less blow down too. Some of the houseplants might do okay for most of the year in a protected city garden, but they usually get freezing weather several times each winter so would have to protect the more tender ones.

  4. Beth@PlantPostings

    Congratulations on your milestone! And thanks for the tour–so many luscious plants in a lovely place. Tropical posts are so needed during the colder months here in the Midwest. I’m following you now, so I can’t wait to learn more about your garden and your travels.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Thanks Beth! Yes, it is nice to see warmer places on a blog when our own gardens up further north sometimes seem a little less inviting.

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