GUATEMALA 2016

This year our A&M Garden Club visit was a month earlier than in 2015, in October, so we could work with the kids in the schools before the end of the school year.  And this year we were glad to welcome three members from Violet Crown Garden Club in Austin, TX, and some Brazos Valley Master Gardeners.  Upon arrival in Guatemala City we did a quick tour of the main sights and sites, including a park with a huge relief model of the country, the National Palace, and beautiful flowers in the Kakao Restaurant.

 

Next day we visited Iximche Archaeological Park near Tecpan.  Iximche was the pre-conquest capital of the Kaqchikel; a beautiful exposed site with plunging ravines on three sides, and surrounded by pine forests.

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After lunch at the Pueblo Real, we visited the Bazar de Hortalizas – a vegetable and fruit garden where produce is grown both for the restaurant and for the public to come and buy.  All kinds of herbs, fruits and vegetables were growing there.  Notably, all the Criolla corn we saw growing all over the country was literally “as high as an elephant’s eye”!!!   In front of the restaurant were gardens filled with flowers and a water feature with aquatic plants.  All this was enhanced by great food, artisan gift shops, and a live Marimba band playing in the courtyard.

Next day we traveled to Jocotenango (Kaqchikel Maya for “Place of the Jocote”, a delicious small native plum.) Here we visited La Azotea, a coffee museum, coffee growing area tour, a nursery, and beautiful flowers.  We were also treated to a cinematic overview of various Maya dances according to region, and a Maya musical instrument museum, coffee tasting and gift shop.  How about that Jade Vine seen below!!!

At a “Seeds for Life” site, La Escuela de San Felipe de Jesus, we met some of the children in the classroom and did a few activities with them before going to visit one of the SFL gardens created by and tended by one of the boys.  He is growing Swiss Chard and herbs, and built a fence around the plot to protect it from the dogs!

After lunch at the Hotel Antigua, we had time to wander around the beautiful gardens to admire the plantings and talk to the Macaws sitting in the trees, and on the way out of the city we stopped at the Cerro de la Cruz, an enormous cross high on a hill overlooking the city of Antigua.
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The highlight of the next day was visiting one of the villages on Lago de Atitlan (San Pedro Laguna) by boat, and returning along the lakeshore past beautiful homes and gardens, until we arrived in style at the dock of the Hotel Atitlan for lunch and to wander around the spectacular botanical gardens belonging to the hotel.  It is so hard to choose pictures for this blog!

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So many beautiful trees and plants, both in the wild and in cultivation!  We were privileged to enjoy a guided tour of the Guatemala City Botanical Gardens, which were small, but full of exotic and interesting plantings.  That same day we also visited the Paseo Cayala Gardens, complete with the statue of the bashful recumbent Giant!

Next day was a major school activity at another SFL site at La Escuela El Durazno, where we conducted many activities with the kids, including planting a vegetable garden and discussing composting, having them make small flower arrangements to take home, making “sombreros” and learning parts of the plant, Fruit and Veggie Bingo, making healthy recipes with fruits and veggies.  All in Spanish, English and Spanglish!

That same evening we visited Finca San Jose Greenhouse near “our farm” home, and saw fairly large production of beans, peppers, strawberries and other vegetables being grown for export to European countries.  Alyssum and Cosmos flowers are also being grown here as trip crops to control Thrips and Whitefly.  There is a huge area being prepared for a structure in which to grow strawberries hydroponically.

Breakfast at the Valhalla Macadamia Farm just outside San Miguel Duenas was another “highlight”!  Pancakes made from Macadamia Flour, drizzled with melted Macadamia butter, topped with blueberry jam and coffee with honey for sweetening – all home grown and prepared!!  This was followed by a tour of the farm and the opportunity to experience a facial with Macadamia oils.

Next stop was a visit to the Museums and Gardens of Santo Domingo in Antigua – beautifully landscaped ruins of what was once the largest monastery in Antigua, and which included artisan shops and crypts and skeletons!

From there we took the shuttle up to Tenedor del Cerro for lunch in a park setting, overlooking the city and mountains on the other side of the valley.
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On the final day we stayed close to home, with early horseback riding, followed by another kids’ activity session in the pavilion for the farm workers’ children.  So much fun, doing the Sombrero program, exercises, eating healthy, Fruit & Veggie Bingo, etc.  Another special treat awaited our group later in the afternoon, when we paid a visit to neighboring Finca Enon for a tour of the gardens to see orchids and bromeliads in the trees, all kinds of  tropical plants and trees, fruit trees laden with lemons, oranges and grapefruits, roses and flowering vines, and vegetables, with a spectacular backdrop of mountains across the valley.  And so ended another memorable visit to Guatemala, and even if I haven’t recorded all this in exactly the right order, I’m already counting towards next year!!!

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