There is nothing in the world like a little roadside vivaro. You can pass them in the blink of an eye.
“Wait! Stop, go back.” That’s me, on the way to Liberia. In the background if you listen closely, you can hear my husband muttering under his breath. “OK, turn here,” when here is a gravel path that looks a little like the entrance to a nursery. But there it is, a path and gate through a worn fence. And there they are, the flowers and plants that someone’s grandmother thought worth saving. The air is full of fragrance and pollinators are busy at all the flowers. There is a hummingbird. No, not one, there are three zipping overhead. One is quite indignant that I am here, close to the food source.
There is shade cloth over many of the plants. Others are soaking up rays like bathers at Playas del Coco. I have to run my hand over them. I need to feel the crispness of the leaves. Near the house (there is usually a house) a little girl watches me and smiles. She is used to having visitors but scoots back inside when her mother comes out to see who is here. “Buenos dias,” my best Spanish. “Me gusta este flor.” And I do like the shrub. Its flowers are all yellows and orange and would look perfect near the lower door. “¿Cuánto?” The shrub is too good to pass up so we load it in the car. “Muchas gracias,” and I smile at the little girl who smiles back shyly.
That is the way of the roadside vivaro. It’s just a little family business that sprang up because grandma wouldn’t stop growing flowers.
We have a wonderful corner vivaro in Nuevo Arenal. A small house on a corner right in town. You could drive by a hundred times and not know that someone had a business there, but go through the gate, call out “Hola” and the proprietor appears. She has the face of a happy grandmother with plenty of smile lines around her eyes. She has been growing things for years, and many of her plants are unusual. She will chat you up in Spanish and not care that you don’t understand. It’s her way with visitors. The plants cover the ground next to the path. They laden the shelves and hang from hooks. Cacti have their own special place. Prices are so low you feel as if you are stealing. Most of the regulars never ask for change.
There are bigger vivaros, of course. I love La Garita and the attendant smaller vivaros that spill over and down the surrounding streets. But there is nothing like grandma’s vivaro, tucked away around the corner or just down the road.