San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gardening Companies Make Green Thumbs Unnecessary

WHILE everyone wants to come home to a gardenfilled with the bright colors of orchids and birds of paradise,the smells of ylang-ylang flowers and eucalyptustrees and the soft feel of pure grass under their feet, noteverybody has the time or desire to do the planting, wateringand fertilizing it takes to make this a reality.Costa Rica is known internationally for its rich biodiversity,and plenty of professional gardeners here are willingto bring to your yard the colors and smells people travelthousands of miles to see.Many gardening companies offer services from start tofinish – design, purchasing, planting and maintenance.They are also willing to offer a helping hoe in any of thesteps, particularly maintenance – lack of which can turn abeautiful landscape into a memory during the dry season ora jungle during the rainy season.GARDENERS typically hold a consultation withclients before designing a garden.“I like to see their environment; as soon as you can seethe land and how it wants to be… it appears instantly,” saidMike Krepin, owner of Miki Landscape (658-8270), whichoperates primarily in the northwestern province ofGuanacaste. “In some cases people just want a facelift. It’snice working with big pre-existing plants; sometimes werelocate them, then burst it with a lot of color.”Regardless of whether clients are looking for a tropicalgarden, something with an oriental touch or a beachscapethat flows seamlessly into the sea, gardeners are alwaysaware of the climate and soil conditions they must workwith. Costa Rica may enjoy great biodiversity, but thatdoesn’t mean every type of Costa Rican plant belongs inevery garden.“A garden in Guanacaste, in Flamingo (on the northernPacific coast), would be very different from a garden inHeredia (north of San José),” said Demetrio Alvarado,owner of Jam S.A. Landscaping (653-8855 or 838-3241 forEnglish), which also operates primarily in Guanacaste.Alvarado stressed the importance of knowing andunderstanding soil types and what types of plants can growin different types of soil.ALSO taking conditions into consideration, AnaCecilia Arguedas, of Tropica Tica (438-5096), tries to workas much as possible with native species when she designsgardens all over the country.“We have a goal of rescuing the native species of thecountry… to increase the habitat of native fauna,” saidArguedas, who studied interior design but has sinceswitched to landscaping, and who designed one of the gardensat the Four Seasons Resort on Guanacaste’s PapagayoPeninsula, on the northern Pacific coast.“The slogan of Tropica Tica is ‘Planting is Conserving,’”she said. “This says a lot about who we are. I feelvery satisfied that I am helping the planet. Every garden,every plant, every tree is helping the environment. It ishelping the air we breathe, it is helping the birds…”MIKI Landscape’s Krepin sees things on a more personallevel.“Gardens make your home everything,” he said. “Yourgarden is your home; it is the first thing you see when youcome to the house, and the first thing you see outside whenyou leave your home. And it is great to sit on the patio andenjoy.”Krepin also uses a lot of native plants, and he doesn’tthink the dryness of Guanacaste has to be limiting. He evenbuilds shaded ponds that he says use little water.“We have a lot of water problems in Guanacaste, but alot of flowers can grow even though it’s dry, for example,heliconias,” he said.Krepin also installs low-water irrigation systems, mistersystems and drip systems that direct water to eachplant’s root system, avoiding wasting water, he said.“We can make the dry rain forest look more like therain forest right outside your window with misting,” hesaid. “You can get the right kind of irrigation system togrow almost anything.THESE systems help with one aspect of maintenance:watering.All of the above-mentioned gardening companies alsooffer mowing, pruning, fumigation for garden pests (somewith organic treatments) and fertilization services (alsoavailable organically).Jam S.A. Landscaping also trains local gardeners, forclients outside of their Guanacaste base, how to tend anewly designed garden.Miki Landscape limits its maintenance to Playa Negraand Playa Avellanas, south of Tamarindo, on the northernPacific coast. They also plan to start offering maintenanceservices in Tamarindo.“A lot of my customers are people who live in the United States part time and want me to keep their propertylooking like someone lives there, cut the lawn and makesure the drip systems are always running,” Krepin said.Tropica Tica does maintenance only in the CentralValley.PRICES for garden design, construction and maintenancevary widely depending on size and types of plants.Jam S.A. Landscaping charges approximately¢100,000-130,000 ($210-275) for two days of work buildinga garden of 40-50 square meters. One day, with threeworkers working eight hours, would be about ¢60,000($125). Consultations are free.Krepin of Miki Landscape says he could make ahouse look great for approximately $1,000, including allplants and rocks. He charges about $100 a month formaintenance.Tropica Tica maintenance of a normal house on a1,000-square-meter lot, with a 500-square-meter house,would be about $225 a month, including two visits, cutting,fumigation and plant replacement.Most gardening companies say maintenance visits aretypically made every 15 days.OTHER gardening companies offer similar services; afew are listed below.Servicios Múltiples de Devearva (203-4909, 375-6904)works primarily in the western suburb of Escazú, SantaAna, southwest of San José, and Heredia, north of the capital.The focus is on maintenance – mowing, pruning, fumigation,fertilization, picking up trash and “everything ittakes to keep a garden looking nice,” according to SergioDelgado. The company offers bilingual service. Prices varybut can range from ¢6,000-12,000 ($13-25). A free consultationis offered to all potential clients.Ambientes Ecológicos (282-6573, 355-7055) offersmaintenance, fumigation and decoration services in themetropolitan area. Prices start at ¢15,000 ($32) a visit formaintenance.Todo en Jardines (285-2291, 360-3763) offers maintenance,fumigation and weeding services. It also does computer-generated designing of gardens and offers a widevariety of grasses and installment options. Prices start at¢15,000 ($32) a visit for maintenance. The price for grassand installment is approximately ¢1,200 ($2.50) per squaremeter. Bilingual service is available.Diseños Naturales (219-4591, 377-8554) offers designand maintenance services for all kinds of gardens.Maintenance for a 50-square-meter garden costs ¢30,000($63) a month.Vida Creativa (215-3000, ext. 144, 214-3051) designsgardens using elements of feng shui (see related article),complementing plants with rocks, wood and water features.The two architects who operate the business focus on creatingunity between the house and the garden. The cost oftheir design services, which are offered throughout thecountry, is about ¢6,000-8,000 ($13-17) per square meter.The Escazú-based company also offers full maintenanceservice, including organic fertilizer and fumigation, for¢8,000-15,000 ($17-32) a month.

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