The Use of Plants and Greenery in Urban Areas in Las Catalinas

January 5, 2020

At the town’s founding, 80% of the land in Las Catalinas was set aside in perpetuity for the rejuvenation of a tropical dry forest reserve. In this way, Las Catalinas could grow in harmony with the environment, and maintain a constant connection to the natural beauty of Guanacaste.

This connection to nature is also present throughout town, where the use of plants, trees, shrubs, green spaces, and flowers enhance pedestrian streets and plazas with natural beauty.

There are two sets of principles that help guide the use of greenery in Las Catalinas.

 

Sustainability

In Las Catalinas, plants are prioritized that are native, or at the very least thrive in this habitat. This follows with many of the design choices in Las Catalinas, like the timeless tropical architecture, or the hardscaping. Beauty and aesthetic are valued, but the many elements of town should fit here, and be naturally suited to the environment and conditions.

As a result, the plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers of town are chosen from a selection of plants well-suited to dry tropical climates, periods of shade and sunlight, the soil present in Guanacaste, and the salinity of the coast.

The exception to this rule are plants that provide a specific product or purpose. Irrigation and care for plants is an investment, and plants that require such care are chosen very carefully to provide fruit, vegetables, herbs, and seeds, or give back to environment by serving the needs of the animals.

For example, at the Beach Club the herb garden sources fresh herbs for the kitchens around town. The flowers around Plaza Central are another example, which serve as a habitat for butterflies and hummingbirds.

 

Town’s Design Principles

There are three principles that guide all urban design in Las Catalinas: preservation of topography and views, preservation of privacy, and maximization of walkability. All use of urban greenery falls into one of these three categories, which can be seen in three of town’s most prominent plants.

 

Limoncillo

Contributes A Natural, Unobtrusive form of Privacy

The Limoncillo hedges just outside Plaza Central

 

The limoncillo (swinglea gluteosa) translates to “lemon grass”, and takes its name due to its similar appearance to the swingle lemon. This fast-growing hedge plant can be seen prominently on Camino Las Catalinas, and is used around town for a few reasons. Limoncillo doesn’t need irrigation in this climate, grows very quickly, and comes in thick and green to form a natural privacy wall. These hedges serve the same purpose as any wall might, but they are light, manageable, sustainable, add natural beauty, and contribute fresh air.

 

Azulinas

Contributes daily beauty to a walkable plaza

The morning blooms of the Azulinas

 

Azulinas or blue flowers (of genus impatiens) can vary from blue to pink, with an elegant, dark green long-stemmed leaf. Azulinas like shade, can survive well in sun, and grow quickly to fill out and give the garden a mature feel. These flowers also contribute a different aesthetic depending on the time of day.

Azulinas burst into flowers in the morning, which then drop throughout the day, leaving behind a carpet of blue flowers and the elegant leaves of the plant. This daily shift is present in Plaza Danta, which makes the area a vibrant and welcoming square during the day that transforms to an elegant evening space.

 

Almendro Trees

Contributes shade for walkability while preserving views, added benefit of food

The Almendro in Plaza Danta. As the tree continues to mature, its foliage will offer plentiful shade to the area

There are three varieties of the Almendro or almond tree (Andira inermis). These three variets are beach almonds, mountain almonds, and river almonds. The beach almonds like the environment here the best, handling the soil, periods with little rain, and salt in the air very well.

Almendros are valuable to town for a few reasons. Their foliage spreads out like an umbrella, with thick leaves that provides plentiful shade for people walking beneath. This foliage also grows at specific stepped levels, making it very simple to grow these trees so as not to obstruct views. Adding in the fact that they produce almonds, a fresh snack for both human and animal passersby, and these trees contribute both a tangible product and a valuable service.

 

See Them During a Walk Around Town

These are just a few examples of the plant life used all around town to add beauty and shade to the walkable streets, preserve privacy, and enhance the views and topography of town. There are many plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs all around town, and each has a specific purpose and intention following the guiding principles of greenery.

 

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