Costa Rica is known worldwide for its biodiversity. But that doesn’t mean it’s a land of magical soil where anything will grow.
Even though the country is small, it consists of different regions, each with its own specific climate – something that must be kept in mind when planning how to best accentuate your property with the proper landscaping.
While a red palm will whither in the dry forests of the northwestern Guanacaste province, Bismarck and foxtail palms are incredibly drought-resistant and work in most regions, said Steve Gordy, who’s been growing palms for more than 20 years.
For the past 15 years, he’s been growing a wide variety of palms in Guanacaste, so he knows what works and what doesn’t.
His landscaping business, Greengo Gardens ([email protected], 8811-0565), has been trying to promote native trees for landscaping, because they’re easier to maintain.
Gordy said his services are often called upon after a homeowner’s efforts in the north Pacific region turn south.
He speaks with homeowners about what they’re looking for and presents them with designs that suit their interests, but that are also sure to last, Gordy said.
“Everyone has an idea of the look they want, but you need to first stick with what works in your region and go from there,” he said.
Along the Caribbean coast, where rain is fairly consistent year-round, most palms will flourish. But in other areas, particularly Guanacaste, it’s important to plan for the dry season with drought-resistant plants. If not, the plants will require constant watering, which will cost a homeowner not only more money, but also more time.
Guillermo Chávez agreed with Gordy, adding that the persistently strong winds in some regions – especially along the coasts – will blow the roots out of some beautiful designs, if not planned properly.
“Each region has its own plants that work in that region,” said Chávez, who runs his own landscaping service (8814-6616) and is a member of the Costa Rican Landscapers Association. “I think people like plants and flowers with a lot of color, but you have to consider other factors.”
When planning a new landscaping project, it’s important to know what seasonal conditions your home will experience throughout the year, and which plants will survive some of the severe weather, such as strong winds. Delicate flowers won’t last under the constant duress of heavy winds.
Oleanders and bougainvilleas are both vibrantly colored and strong-rooted, meaning no compromise has to be made between beauty and hardiness.
Chávez also said strong-rooted plants provide solid foundations for the soil, preventing erosion.
“To protect the land is to protect the country,” he said.
To fight erosion, Gordy recommends using vetiver, a nonseeding grass that roots deep into the soil but doesn’t spread.
“It’s really good, and works just as well everywhere in the country,” Gordy said. “I think it’s going to become very popular.”
The grass can be planted in horizontal rows along a hillside to stop the gravitational flow of sediments toward the base. It sprouts up in thick clumps like a bush, and has been used in Madagascar to prevent heavy rains from washing away rural roads, Gordy said.
In addition, the grass needs little water, roots in the ground easily and needs trimming only three times a year.