Iguana Lodge has about fifteen acres of property. Over the twenty years we have been here, we have done a lot, and have more areas to work on too – gardening is an endless passion. Yay!

Lauren has always loved gardening and flowers; coming down here has been an opportunity for tropical fantasies to incubate, materialize, and occasionally flop. Gardening with Native Species became a large focus about ten years ago, with the help of Catherine V. Bainbridge and Reinaldo Aguilar

Catherine and Reinaldo have become our very good friends and have helped Iguana really develop their gardens and understanding of gardening, tropical plants, etc.. Recently Catherine – Master Gardener – artist, and Englishwoman – (bio below) has helped Iguana vastly improve their gardens. Last year with Catherine’s canny help we took nearly two acres of beach front and turned it into an incredible beach-front flower garden. It’s extraordinary – but challenging. Growing in sand is tough! But we soldier on! (Catherine brings her English heritage into the tropics suggesting fun things on this beach, like lining up trees, creating English hedges – so we have this kind of tropical jungly English garden on this killer beach.)

This year Catherine has designed for us our entry gardens and a couple other gardens throughout the property.

Here are some some of Catherine’s conceptual drawings (above and below).

Part of the magic of the Osa is the incredible array of people that end up here. What on earth is Catherine V. Bainbridge, a Royal Geographic Society Fellow, doing here on the Osa? We are truly fortunate to have her and so many other interesting unique individuals here.

And now let me introduce you to Catherine:

I began my professional life as an artist, using my work to leverage funds and raise public awareness on behalf of development teams of a number of organizations at the fore of global plant research and conservation. Among these, the Natural History Museum (NHM), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, (RBGKew), Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

I have always been passionate about gardens and so for me garden design was a natural extension of my foundations as an artist.

To design truly special spaces, requires nothing less than the skills of an artist, since it concerns itself so deeply with the exploration of color, form, texture, contrast, juxtaposition, pattern, proportion, etc… bringing the work together in a such a way as to create a harmonious composition, that resonates with human sensory experience.

In 1997, I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), and set out to combine my passion for painting, plants, and travel. I first came to Costa Rica in 1997, with the generous support of Valerie Finnis VMH, and a travel grant for young horticulturalists from the Merlin Trust, UK. In 2001 I took up permanent residency here, and hold dual nationality.

Since this time, I have been deeply involved in the world of botanical field research, working closely with field botanist Reinaldo Aguilar, including on his project “Vascular Plants of the Osa Peninsula”, in association with the New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG), of which I am also a co-author. Between 2008 and 2010, my interests on the project were focused towards the study of regional orchid diversity, and the development of our series of downloadable rapid guides.

I feel that so much of what property owners here in Costa Rica do with their gardens is tediously predictable, and my work seeks to encourage more unique choices in design style and plant materials.

Over the years, I’ve learnt a great deal about our regional native plant species, particularly regarding their potential for cultivation as ornamental species, and, whenever possible, continue to pioneer this element through our projects.

The growing interest in native plant gardens that is happening elsewhere on the planet has been slow to catch on in Costa Rica. This is surprising, perhaps, when one considers the Country’s international profile as a leader in plant conservation, and given the fact that over 3,000 plant species exist in our tiny geographical region alone. Many of our regional native plants are closely related to popular, non-native ornamentals, and part of the challenge that we face is to enlighten potential clients as to the beauty, diversity and logic, of incorporating what naturally exists in our own back yards.

Even though I have spent almost half of my life living in Latin America, I was born in Somerset, England, and you can’t shake the English soil from my roots! It is, perhaps, this which gives my designs a distinctive note, in terms of their apparently contradictory blend of bold and flamboyant tropical vegetation, often applied with the understated, rhythmic control of an English perennial border.

I draw inspiration from everywhere, but am especially fond of Japanese, European and Mediterranean styled landscaping. I’m not a huge fan of Heliconias!

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