Our final evening in Costa Rica was spent at the beautiful home of Ms. Ileana Terán, coffee plantation owner and founder of the SACRO Foundation, Save Our Costa Rican Orchids. Set on a hillside overlooking the city, the landscaping incorporates tropical flowering and foliage plants from around the world, and historic artifacts from Colonial times, as well as many orchids from Central America and beyond.
Ileana graciously led us on a tour of her lovely gardens, walking first amid colorful bromeliads covering the steep slope, along a shady path, up to the terrace where the greenhouses are located.
Because she is passionate about orchids and orchid conservation, she has a large collection of miniature orchids, many with blossoms less than ¼ inch across on equally small plants. Ileana introduced us to the many interesting miniature orchids that are being grown on tree fern stumps hollowed out to form pots or mounted on branches of particular trees (including one live tree for some species that only live on living trees; most will do just fine on dead wood).
She pointed out the very tiny flowers on a Pleurothalis, then some of the Leptanthes, with its small yellow flowers coming out of the middle of the leaf. Everywhere you looked there was some other small plant bearing tiny, delicate flower of various shapes, colors and sizes. It would have been easy to stay there for hours, but there was a lot more garden and another, much larger greenhouse to explore before the light faded.
Outside other orchids bloomed, with flower color from green to brown to orange to yellow.
Yellow and red flowers of the vine Thunbergia mysorensis dangled on thin stems from the roof at one end of the larger greenhouse filled with orchids artfully mixed with tropical foliage plants with interesting textures and dramatic form, fountains and small trees. Many of the orchids were in bloom, but with cryptic flowers that had to be looked at closely to be appreciated.
After the garden tour we went inside as the sun began to set, and watched a video about SACRO, the organization she founded that is committed to preserving natural habitats where orchids grow wild through multi-faceted programs in conservation, including active conservation education of school children. This private, nonprofit organization sponsors several projects including in vitro propagation and regional orchid gardens to preserve native orchids. Another project is “Save the Guaria Morada”, the national flower of Costa Rica. School children in Nicoya schools learn about the orchid in their classes. To help prevent the extinction of the guaria morada (Guarianthe skinneri) in its native habitat, children help to pollinate the flowers and are then involved in a project to disperse seeds of the orchid with model airplanes and by scattering them out of cable cars in the watershed of the Tarcoles River.
We then enjoyed appetizers and sangria as darkness fell and the lights of the city started twinkling in the distance before a lovely farewell dinner with our hostess. This was a memorable way to end a wonderful trip – and not many people were looking forward to the journey home the following day, heading back to reality, and in many cases, cold and snow.