Saturday, April 30, 2011


This week the Love to Garden Club of Boquete took a field trip to Finca Dracula one of the largest collections of orchids in the Americas,.  Located on the other side of Volcan Baru from Boquete, it is above Cerro Punta, the highest town in the country.  We took the spectacular new Ruta Sur (Southern Route) highway, a major shortcut through some of the main agricultural areas of the country.  The original immigrants to this area were Swiss and German.  One can see why this mountainous landscape appealed to them.

The Finca (farm) gets its name from the Dracula family of orchids which are cultivated there.  Of the 189 known species of Dracula, they have over 150.  Many other species are also represented.  We learned that it takes several years for an orchid to bloom from seed.  They use various methods of propagation and produce many hybrids from selective fertilizations.

Finca Dracula was established in 1969, after the founder visited Thailand and fell in love with orchids.  He has played a major role in preservation of rare species of orchids, as well as in discovery of new species.  The lovely grounds, which feature many plants besides orchids, were landscaped by the best garden designer in Panama and feature several levels and waterfalls.  For more information, see their website.

Here are just a few of the pictures I took of their orchids.  Unfortunately I don't know the names of most of them, so we will just have to appreciate them for their beauty.  Images from the grounds are in the later entry.

Some of my favorites were the miniatures, whose blooms were often less than 1/4" across:

I hope you enjoyed this vicarious show of Finca Dracula's orchids.  And I hope you get to visit there yourself someday.


Friday, April 29, 2011


After having lived in the UK when Princess Diana was still alive, I'm a sucker for the Royal Family.  Therefore it seemed only reasonable that I arose at 3:00 a.m. this morning to tune in the wedding of Will and Kate live.  Thanks to the internet, I was able to see three simultaneous views on

It was wonderful.  Perfect.  Kate's dress was a design for the ages.  And the visible evidence of the real love between these two young people was refreshing.

The Kiss Felt 'Round the World

Why have so many people be so taken with the Royal Wedding?  Perhaps it reminds us of an Ideal England - a place of picturesque villages with historic pubs, a landscape of rolling countryside and open fields dotted with fringes of woods, a place where tradition holds on as a remnant of the greatest country in the world, a place steeped in the tempting breaks for morning coffee and afternoon tea with scones and Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam.  A place where one can count on hearing "BBC News" in the standard BBC accent.  A place where wins and losses are counted on the local cricket pitch and not in the number of lives lost in senseless wars.  A place where the foothold of tradition never lets go.

Unfortunately, that England no longer exists.  Instead, it is reeling from the influx of minorities in a society that has trouble adapting to change, a deterioration in its infrastructure, and a token royalty who are an economic burden to its fragile economy.

But what if we can imagine, if only for a few moments, that the England of our dreams still exists?  I submit this was the allure of the Royal Wedding.  And, if Will and Kate live up to the promises and expectations heaped upon them, perhaps there will be more to admire in England once again.


I don't know about you, but I shed a tear or two in regret that Diana wasn't there.  I think the world shares the hope that this storybook marriage will have a happier ending.

Cheers to the young couple.  May they live in peace and happiness, and be an inspiration to others.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Other than cows getting loose in my friend's neighborhood yesterday, which was the most exciting thing that happened, there have been two items of note:

1.  We had a 4.5-magnitude earthquake last night, which I felt in great detail and immediately reported.  At first I thought it was Li'l Bit scratching herself on the bed, but soon realized she wouldn't be shaking the bookcase.  It lasted for about ten seconds.  This was my first perceived earthquake in Panama, although there have been several more since January which I haven't felt.

2.  The rainy season has definitely started.  Here is a mid-afternoon downpour that just ended.  Next time I'll use a slower shutter speed so you can see the intensity of the rain better.  This is what we call a "gulley-washer" in Texas:

The lime tree out back is getting a good soaking.

Front yard left - rain bouncing off the Jimny
(sorry - couldn't get the picture to be on the left)

Front yard center
There's the heliconia I discussed yesterday at lower left.
Front yard panorama right:  puddles

I am told this will be an almost daily occurrence.  Last year it rained most of the day for several weeks.  A more typical pattern is beautiful clear mornings with an afternoon or evening shower.  Think Great Britain.

Now the rain has subsided, birds are singing, and there is just a faint rumble of thunder in the distance.  Time to enjoy the rest of the day.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Today is Easter Sunday.  It has been a lovely day here in Boquete, with bright sunshine all day following a nice rain yesterday afternoon.

Here is the heliconia in my front yard, still not fully open.  This was the one I showed you upon my return from a recent visit to the U.S.  I've been following its progress daily, including a period when ants were feeding on its nectar.

I'm not sure how much longer it will take to open fully, but for the time being it is bringing great joy to my life.  It is right by my front door and serves to remind me to look for the beauty in life:

My Heliconia - still not fully open

Here is another recent discovery, this one in my back yard:  a miniature passion flower.  A bit of research has led to the conclusion that it is Passiflora punctata, a Panama native.  I'm guessing it is growing wild, unnoticed until now because it is hidden among the branches of a rather uninteresting shrub.  You can see how small it is compared to the size of my hand:

Passiflora punctata?

On this Easter Sunday, commemorating Christ's passion, it seems appropriate to feature a passion flower.  This tiny secret flower serves to remind us that life can flourish anywhere it wants.

May your life flourish in its renewal, just as mine is.


Friday, April 15, 2011


I have the pleasure of coordinating an Art Show & Film Festival, a production of the Boquete Community Players and  produced by Boquete Artworks, the new arts organization of which I am President.  The show will be May 6-7 from 12:00 - 6:00 pm at the BCP Events Center.  Over twenty-five artists in many media will be participating.  Including me.

As a preview, here are some of the images I'll be selling as note cards.  Most of them are from Boquete and most are new, made especially for this occasion.  Even if you can't be in Boquete for the show, I hope you enjoy seeing them:






Morning Glory


Las Mandarinas

Los Bananos
Olinda, Brazil:  Bicycle

Olga's Garden


Olga's Cannas

Fern Fantasy

El Salto Bouganvillas

Bajo Mono Loop
Jaramillo Loop with Volcan Baru

El Salto Bank

El Salto Beckons

Hope to see you at the show!


Thursday, April 7, 2011


Today was my first full day back in Boquete after seeing the U.S. for the first time since I moved here.

Last night, as I pulled up to the gate there was a man walking down the hill and entering my front yard.  When he saw me he stopped and came up to me.  It was my gardener.  Turns out he had been sleeping in the hammock on the back porch every night, guarding my place.  I had not asked him to do this.  This is just one example of the kindness the Panamanians have shown me.

This morning I awoke to a brand new world:  new birds, new flowers, and a new rainy season, all changed during the time I was away.  The rain waiting until the night to fall.  This is a good sign - hopefully it will stay this way.

I haven't begun to look at the new birds yet.  From the sound of them there are many small songbirds.  This evening I went to a presentation on photography by Tito Herrera at a friend's house high up Jaramillo Mountain with a direct view of Volcan Baru through the mist.  It was wonderful to see my photographer friends, and the view was breathtaking

It is great to be back after the emotional intensity of the stateside visit.  Meeting with some of my former students for lunch in Rockville, Maryland last weekend, produced major culture shock.  Rockville is a product of the sprawling growth which is fed by the sprawling growth of the Federal government.  There was nonstop commercial development - one shopping center after another - for miles.  It was dizzying, sickening.

So here I am writing this in my little house in Boquete, feeling so glad to be back to a kinder, simpler life.  I never thought I could love a simple place so much.

New Heliconia in Front:
One of Three

The Three New Heliconia Blooms:
All emerged while I was away
Another type of heliconia
in the rear has really taken off
since the gardener thinned the bamboo
around it.

The lovely but poisonous Datura (Angel's Trumpet)
is thriving next door so I can enjoy it at a distance.

Bananas that were cut down to
build the fence grew about a foot,
are now about as tall as the house.
They will get much taller.

One of the hibiscus plants I bought
just before I left has come out well
The other new hibiscus, a double one, is also thriving.
The neighbor - a kolancho? - transplanted from
the gardener's yard is now blooming for the first time.

My favorite - the torch ginger -
has put out several new shoots,
a sign of flowers to come.