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My Bahian garden, a letter to Grandma ‘Nado

Guaimum, one of the colorful characters to be found in a Bahian garden.

Abacaxi! Pineapple are one of the few plants that can thrive in our nutrient poor sand.

Dear Gramma Nado-

I thought you might be interested to see some of the things we have growing here at our Brasilian beach house.  My childhood is full of memories of you and your garden; the raspberries eaten straight off the shrub, the bounty of tomatoes, beans, rhubarb, cucumbers and even  currants and grapes.  We ate them fresh all summer; and got to enjoy them all winter as homemade preserves, jams and jellies. So I have always had a bit of a knack for plants, which I credit to growing up with your garden and the one my parents planted every year while we were kids.  I’m using all my learned know-how to make our yard here a tropical paradise, but every day I discover how different the plants and environment are here, only 13 degrees south of the equator.

Living on the beach means no soil! Only nutrient poor sand.

Living on the beach means no soil! Only nutrient poor sand.

Our first problem is: we don’t actually have soil, or dirt or even clay.  Our house is situated only 60 meters from the high water of the ocean, so everything is sand, sand, sand.  Fresh water drains away through the sand quickly, there are hardly any nutrients and everything is blasted by the salt wind coming off of the ocean every day.  The right kind of palm trees can handle it, and a few other plants, but most get their leaves fried by the sun and salt.  I have had to move quite a few plants to the other side of the house where they are protected from the “Salito” (salt air in portuguese), it doesn’t matter how much fresh water I give them, the salt air and constant sea breeze slowly burn their leaves brown until they die or I move them.

Crazy blue flower vine.  Once established, it will cover everything!

Crazy blue flower vine. Once established, it will cover everything!

Although, away from the ocean side, we have some plants that are practically a menace.  There is a lavender, blueish flowered vine that will climb anything and cover everything, and fast!  It literally can grow 5 cm (or more!) in a 24 hr period, I measured it once.  It creeps, crawls, entwines, wraps around, covers and chokes everything it encounters.  Gary says it’s a “Zombie” vine, and I think he may be right. It’s a little hard to get it started, but once established, it will take over everything.  We should have killed a huge bank of it (it was attacking our neighbors roof, and pulling off the spanish tiles) but after hacking all the branches off, all the leaves gone, only a few sad stalks remaining, and only 3 months later you can’t even tell anything ever happened.  EEEEVVVVIIILLLLLL!!


Sadly the borboletas were kind of boring, brown and white patterned. See all the leafless branches around and in the background, and the vine had just made flowers (which normally would have =fruits!)  Oh well.

Speaking of crazy total conquest vines, maracuja rates up there on the highly unkillable scale.  Maracuja is Passionfruit, and it is also a super fastgrowing conquistador vine.  But!  vulnerable to the offspring of certain butterflies, I just discovered.  I had a vine that went over the wall to my neighbors, climbed their trees, banana plants, the electricity wire, covered several square meters (not kidding) and was completely denuded of all foliage within 3 days by: hungry, hungry caterpillars.  Really.  But now the caterpillars have become butterflies and flown away, and the hacked back vine is now staging it’s comeback tour, the stunted remains are already starting new shoots.


Rescued plants thriving in their pots.

I have also been lucky to have many gardenista friends that have given me many roots, cuttings, stalks, and baby plants to start (thanks Katharina, Sabine, Anjo), and I’ve had much success with these.  I’ve even ‘rescued’ some plants from the roadside or construction sites that are doing quite well.  Including banana, cana lily, and others I can’t even name.


Cana lily I found by the roadside, which is happily spreading all over the place.

At any rate, I enjoy very much propagating new plants, and seeing the new little ones becoming big healthy ones




Gary built me a work bench to plot, plan and plant at!

Gary built me a work bench to plot, plan and plant at!es, and every time I work in the garden, I think of you, Gramma ‘Nodo.  Especially when the fruit trees give fruit.  If the day comes when they don’t, I will tell them: “Make fruits, or Gramma ‘Nodo will have you cut down!”  I remember from you: sometimes the best gardener must be a ruthless gardener.

I will always think of you whilst working in any garden.  With so much love,thank you Gramma ‘Nodo!


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