Gardening: Jardin Botanico Vallarta definitely worth visiting

Visiting the Puerto Vallarta area to escape winter? Take the time to visit Jardin Botanico Vallarta. You will not be disappointed. These gardens were listed as one of the top 10 gardens in North America worth traveling to.

The 64 acre garden in situated 24 km south of Puerto Vallarta on the Palms to Pines highway. It is possible to get to the gardens by public bus, taxi, Uber, drive or book a tour. The cost is to get into the gardens is $200 peso which is roughly $14. Dogs are allowed in the gardens but they must be kept on a leash and clean up after them.

The botanical gardens were founded in 2004 and opened a year later. The amount that has been accomplished in the last 14 years is amazing. The gardens are well laid out with many different walks and areas to visit.

For those that enjoy a good walk, follow the Jaguar Trail. It will take you through the jungle to the Rio Los Horcones. The river alternates between bubbling rapids and a lazy current. One area where water flows quietly over big rocks is marked as the children’s waterslide. The Rio Los Horcones is a warm, clean river that invites at least a wade if not a swim. The rock formations along and in the river definitely add interest.

On the jungle walk, take time to look at the native plants along the way. Many will look familiar as similar plants have found their way into local greenhouses and our homes. Airplants Tillandsia are abundant attached to branches and forks of trees in the natural area and within the cultivated garden. Different varieties of Palm trees are found along the trail as well as in the gardens.

While the Jaguar Trail can be a challenge in flip flops the rest of the garden is easy to navigate. Well defined paths lead people between the different gardens and pathways. Expect to see large plantings of cacti, rhododendrons, agave, bromeliads, orchids, ficus, vanilla and other tropical plants.

As with every garden, what is in bloom catches the eye. In December the Bougainvillea were in full bloom with the traditional pinks as well as yellows, whites and bi-colours. The size of the plants and the mass of colourful bracts were magnificent. Large hibiscus shrubs were also blooming as we different varieties of orchids and pots of annuals.

Blooms are not everything in the garden. Keep an eye out for orchids, Staghorn ferns, bromides and other epiphytes that are found throughout the garden. These plants attach themselves to other plants but take their nutrition and moisture from rain and moist air.

Keep an eye out for the hummingbirds that are throughout the garden.

The restaurant was a great place to stop for a complimentary drink; iced Jamaica and a bite to eat. Prices are listed in both Peso and USD. One side of the building overlooks the cultivated garden and the other the jungle. Bird feeders are set up on the jungle side. Expect to see a number of different colourful birds at the feeders.

A small gift shop with local and garden related items, along with plants are available for purchase. Moneys from these sales go towards caring for the gardens.

The gardens are a peaceful retreat that offer a peek into the local flora. They are open from 9 until 6 seven days a week in the busy season.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives by Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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