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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

February 2010 - Volume V, No. 2

OUR MISSION: To protect and preserve our natural heritage and help build an environmental culture while developing a Botanical Garden dedicated to Mexican flora and providing an oasis of peace and tranquility for all.
Please tell your friends and prospective members/supporters how to access the newsletter and help broaden the base of support for the Botanical Garden.

Art & Antiques Appraisal: Fabrica Aurora - Saturday, Feb 13

Aves y Agaves: Audubon-El Charco Joint Fundraiser Auction - Sunday, Feb 14

Botanical Illustration Classes
Illustration in Colored Pencil: Feb 27-March 5
Botany for Illustrators, Gardeners, & Amateur Botanists: March 1-5
Succulent! Capturing Cacti in Colored Pencil:
March 8-12

Garden Lecture Series: Soil Microbiology - Friday, Feb 19

TEMASCAL - Saturday and Sunday, February 27th and 28th

Bird Walks - First and third Wednesday of the month

Yoga at El Charco - Mondays and Wednesdays

Guided Tours - Tuesdays and Thursdays


charco and audubon

Joint Fundraiser Auction
Sunday, February 14, 12–3 pm 
$350 pesos members, $500 pesos nonmembers | |

aves y agaves  

Support two environmental organizations and have fun at the same time. We’ll be under an elegant canopy near the Plaza of Four Winds at El Charco, with great views, watching a professional auctioneer from New York wield the gavel for an array of art created by over 50 of San Miguel’s most talented artists, designers and architects. The event is catered by BOBO Gourmet. It’s mid-day so you still have time for a romantic evening.

Don’t wait—seating for the auction is limited and tickets are going fast! You can get yours at El Charco del Ingenio Visitors’ Center, or contact Linda Whynman,, or Naomi Zerreffi, If you’re not a member of Audubon and/or El Charco, join now and get the member’s discount. The list of participating artists and their works can be seen at thanks to Mapa Verde San Miguel.


Art & Antiques Appraisal
by Mark Vail

Saturday, Feb 13, 12-3p.m. 
Main Terrace, Fabrica Aurora

And don’t forget the extra bonus this year. There will be an “Antiques Roadshow” style event at Fabrica Aurora.  Bring your collectibles for an appraisal by Mark Vail, the New York auctioneer and Mort Erlick, local resident knowledgeable about Mexican antiques and folk art.

100 pesos for one or two items.


  Mark Vail, auctioneer



SAVE THE LAJA supports the creation
of Interactive "Earth Garden" in El Charco

After many months of working on the plans, we have a finished proposal for the “Jardin de la Tierra” (Earth Garden), an interactive space oriented toward children and young people. The area, located near the entrance, is self-contained and safe, and will have a series of simple, rustic installations designed to introduce diverse environmental themes to youngsters (accompanied by parents or guardians) through play and hands-on experience.  Some of the attractions include a pond area with a water wheel, a play area with sand surrounded by rocks, an observatory with telescope, a house made of plants, a solar calendar based on indigenous Mesoamerican design, and diverse examples of alternative energy (solar, wind, water).  All the areas will have signage with explanations for both children and adults. There will also be shaded areas for resting. 

Financial support for this project comes from Save the Laja (founded by Susan P. Smith) and will be a special attraction for the younger visitors to El Charco. We will keep you informed in future newsletters of our progress and if anyone with appropriate experience would like to get involved, please contact us.

Jardin de la Tierra


Garden Lecture Series 
an audiovisual presentation by Doug Weatherbee

February 19, 10:00a.m. The Boveda

If you missed this well attended presentation last June, this is your chance to hear Doug Weatherbee, who owns an organic food growing design and consulting business in San Miguel de Allende, present on soil microbiology at the Botanical Garden. 

Doug Weatherbee  

He will talk about how soils are more than just clay, silt and sand mixed with a bit of organic material. Healthy soils are alive with incredible biological diversity. What do San Miguel's soils look like from a microbiological perspective, and how might we begin to bring vibrant life back to these soils?

Doug works with small to large land owners to establish organic land management systems for growing plants of all kinds without the use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and reduced irrigation. Doug does this by creating balanced soil microbiology ecosystems. Soils near San Miguel de Allende are typically alkaline, nitrate savanna desert soil ecosystems that are great for growing certain plants but not others. Many human practices such as the use of inorganic fertilizers, fungicides, tilling, deforestation, overgrazing and burning, degrade these soils by killing microbes.

Nature, if left undisturbed, has ways to regenerate degraded soil ecosystems, albeit over long periods of time. Doug's work involves speeding up some of nature's regenerative methods by amending the soil's microbiology, thereby expanding the range of plants that can be grown. In doing this work, Doug draws on the pioneering organic growing techniques of Dr. Elaine Ingham, Soil Foodweb Inc., and her Oregon State University research program. Dr. Ingham is regarded as one of the world's leading applied soil microbiologists in regenerative agriculture.

Doug is a Certified Soil Foodweb Advisor. He has worked with and studied watershed restoration with Craig Stonholtz of Dryland Solutions in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he learned Bill Zeedyck's Induced Meandering river restoration techniques. He is a Certified Permaculture Designer and Teacher, having studied with one of the world's leading Permaculturalists, Geoff Lawton, of the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia.
Reserve a space at

70 pesos for members of El Charco and 100 pesos for non-members. Doug will be going to Haiti to help 4 NGO's with restoration work, focusing on the food aspect of the project. All proceeds from this presentation will go to the efforts in Haiti.




After several meetings between El Charco and its neighbors, members and visitors, it has been decided to establish a space in the reserve for members with dogs to use according to specific regulations. It will be approximately two and a half acres in the western zone near Balcones, a naturally forested area, but where the ecosystem has been so altered that wildlife will not be affected. In order to confine the dogs and not allow them in the rest of the Garden, this area will be fenced with gates at various points and will be well signed.

We are currently discussing the possibility of economic support from the users of this dog park for the infrastructure and their participation in the management of this area.  If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact:




There are still a few places left for some of the March classes but registration closes February 15th so please contact  before then.

Illustration in Colored Pencil: Feb 27-March 5 from 9-noon,
Instructor: Susan Rubin

Colored pencils are perfect for sketching on location as well as producing studio pieces. Learn the components of a color, apply layers, use skills such as building, blending and burnishing. (4 places left).

Botany for Illustrators, Gardeners, & Amateur Botanists: March 1-5 from 1-4p.m. Instructor: Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski
An enlightening lab class designed specifically for students of Botanical Illustration and amateur botanists who would like to understand better what they see. Study plant morphology and learn to observe plant anatomy and recognize botanical details that will make your drawings more accurate and realistic. This class is highly recommended for gardeners, illustrators, artists of all kinds. Denver students often take it more than once even!

Succulent! Capturing Cacti in Colored Pencil: March 8-12 from 9-1p.m.
Instructor: Susan Rubin

Learn about the botanical attributes that make succulents unique in the plant world.  Draw and observe cacti and succulents in the gardens using a variety of techniques to record size, form, color, and details.  Hone your skills with lessons that target techniques to portray needles, spines and ridges, as well as the smooth flesh of succulents. (4 places left)

botanical illustration
drawings by Susan Rubin


Collaboration with the Agrarian University of Havana, Cuba

During the month of January, Dr. Miriam Isidron Perez of the Agrarian University of Havana visited El Charco to assist our staff in propagating the species Geohintonia mexicana. This cactus is on the point of extinction due to removal by collectors.  El Charco, in coordination with the Agrarian University of Havana, Advanced Research Center (CINVESTAV), Unidad Irapuato, and the National Polytechnical Institute (IPN), is trying to rescue some genotypes of threatened cacti to avoid their disappearance by multiplying and conserving them ex situ using macro- and micro-propagation techniques.

Dra Miriam Isidron


Film Production in San Miguel and El Charco

In January we were privileged to receive the well-known maker of documentaries, Mitl Valdez, ex-Director of the Center for Cinema Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).  UNAM’s movie team interviewed several members of our staff, including our Director, Mario Hernandez, and President of the Board, Cesar Arias, both of whom talked about the theme of development of San Miguel in its Bicentennial year of Independence.

UNAM cinema


Get to Know our Team

This month we present Pedro Cordoba and Antonio (Toño) Herrera Centeno dedicated for years to various infrastructure work in El Charco and predominantly for their work in stone in the plazas and paths of the Garden. Maestro Toño, a cultivated and imaginative person, has not only had a fundamental role for 12 years as a builder, but has also been instrumental in the design of the store/reception (with its traditional roof of vegetable fiber), the greenhouses, artificial islands in the reservoir, La Boveda, sweat lodge, fountains and ponds of the Garden and arranging Parque Landeta. Pedro Cordoba assists the intense and creative work of Maestro Toño with dedication and energy.  

Toño y Pedro



Seeking Volunteers

The work inside the Garden as well as in the ecological buffer zone is enormous and we invite the public to participate as volunteers. We especially need help with the botanical collection area and in the nursery.

If you are interested, please contact:





Every year El Charco has a stand at Candalaria in Juarez Park to promote and inform the public about our activities and programs.

mampara para Candelaria


First Municipal Ecological Fair

A very successful planning meeting organized by the Ecology Department for the First Green Fair of San Miguel de Allende took place in the Boveda of the Botanical Garden. This Fair is scheduled to take place in Parque Juarez March 19, 20, 21.  The meeting was presided over by Helio Bastien and 70 representatives were present of different organizations of civil society concerned about conservation and the environment. During the meeting, the Botanical Garden suggested integrating the Spring Equinox Concert into the Green Fair, an idea that was well accepted by all present. This concert, which has been taking place each year since 1999 with the participation of various musical groups, will take place on March 20th starting at 5p.m.  Mark the date and stay tuned for more information about the visiting artists this year.

concierto del equinoccio
spring equinox concert at El Charco


hummingbird feeder  

The Gift Shop and Café

This month we are featuring the beautiful hand blown recycled glass hummingbird feeds from PARASOL

El Charco is the exclusive outlet in San Miguel for these beautiful feeders, featured in Better Homes & Garden, The New York Times, Family Circle and more ( 

They come in various colors and designs and are works of art as well as being functional. Only 300 pesos.



El Charco CALENDAR 2010

Only a few calendars left in the Gift Shop, now priced at $100 pesos. 

This calendar contains reproductions of 12 oil paintings by the international artist, L. Sabrina Gaydos, which show examples of both rescued cacti and others from the land inside the Garden.

Sabrina dedicates this calendar to a great teacher, botanist and friend, Roy Turner, who enthusiastically introduced her to El Charco from which the inspiration came for this project.  The calendars are available at the Gift Shop at El Charco as well as at Tecolote on Jesus and Border Crossing (Mesones/Relox).

The original oil paintings shown in the calendar may be purchased directly from the artist by contacting her at 








At the entrance of El Charco you may see a beautiful maguey from which this traditional drink, aguamiel, is derived. It flows from the heart of the plant – rich, delicious and nutritious. We invite our visitors to try it, courtesy of the cafeteria.



Another Day in Paradise  

Article in “Another Day In Paradise”
by Nancy Seely

Once again, El Charco del Ingenio is recognized for its conservation work in a prestigious magazine.  The Garden is also recommended to visitors  as an ideal place for outdoor activities.

See the article at:


SENECIO SALIGNUS (Groundsel Willow)
by Walter L. Meagher
Photographs by Wayne Colony

This Senecio, a member of the Aster family, cousin to Sunflower, Tagetes and Zinnia, is ubiquitous on the roadsides in February. There is one, and bounteous it is, on the northwest side of the Conservatory. Once, Freddie (when he was fifteen) and I went to look at a Senecio – busy, vigorous, full of blossom – on the stony edge of a baldío adjoining a building site within the urban area of San Miguel. Stonemasons and their helpers were at work on the scaffolding. I had my ten-power magnifying glass and was looking at the ligulate flowers, counting them. ‘Dad,’ Freddie said. ‘Dad, they’re looking at us. And laughing.’ Without assuaging a teenager’s agony, I said, ‘That happens in any country.’


Click here for the rest of the article.


February 3 and 17th starting at 9 a.m.


The walks are for birders of all levels. They begin at 9:00 a.m. and last about 2 1/2 hours. No reservations needed, and feel free to leave the walk at any time.  Please bring binoculars, wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat, and bring water. Signe will meet you after you pass through the Reception area of the Botanical Garden. Cost: 60 pesos for members of either El Charco or Audubon, 100 pesos for non-members of either organization (includes El Charco entrance fee).

Winter birds are still here, but spring migration will be starting soon. The last of the winter waders to arrive were the American Avocets, with their long, pale-bluish-gray legs and distinctive long, thin, upcurved bills. They're in their black-and-white winter plumage, but before they leave us to head north, they will have molted into breeding plumage, with lovely reddish heads and necks. On the land, confusing winter sparrows are very active. It's easy to tell the strongly colored Lark Sparrows, but winter Chipping, Clay-colored and Brewer's Sparrows all have clear breasts and stripy yellowish wings and backs. A black line from bill through eye and beyond identifies the Chippy. Clay-colored has a stronger face pattern than Brewer's, and buffy flanks. But some of them just look too much alike to tell!


Guided Tours in English
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10a.m.-12:30p.m.

Conservatory of Mexican Plants, wildlife, the canyon of the Charco del Ingenio, historical sites ...

A hat, water and good walking shoes are recommended. 50 pesos for members and 80 pesos for non-members.

Private tours are also available for 150 pesos per person (minimum 5 persons). Reservations are not necessary. 

  Conservatorio de Plantas Mexicanas


Yoga “Desde el corazón” (from the Heart)
in el  Charco del Ingenio

Mon & Wed 10-11:15

Cost 100 pesos per class, Monthly package (8 classes)  680 pesos
For more information or to reserve a space, please call 154-4715.
Need to bring yoga mat and blanket


Enjoy a wonderful yoga experience in a perfect setting.  Those who are familiar with this ecological site know that the experience starts at the entrance, its beauty immediately filling our senses.  The harmony, silence, peace, clean air, plants and animals make this place a fountain of inspiration in which to practice yoga in San Miguel.  El Charco del Ingenio offers a perfect mix that invites our senses to open up to the natural beauty around us and within us.

Ximena Velasco has practised yoga for 11 years and for the last 10 years has shared her passion for this philosphy-discipline through her classes.  She has studied in various countries such as France; Italy, India, Nepal, Australia, Mexico and the US among others.  She has explored various yoga techniques such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, y Vinyasa.  Her passion to understand the human body has led her to investigate other techniques of movement, meditation and alternative medicine to bring the necessary tools that her students need. Ximena teaches in several places in San Miguel.

Yoga, as other ancient philosophy-disciplines in the world, is inspired by nature, learning to observe, hear, feel and imitate.  This work allows us to observe, hear and feel ourselves, connecting us to our inner nature. If you are a lover of nature and yoga, this is a worthwhile experience whether you are a resident or visitor.


Saturday and Sunday, February 27th and 28th, 10:00a.m.

This relaxing steam bath is a ritual of healing and purification and is available every month for both men and women. Bring bathing suits and towels. It takes place in the ruins of an old hacienda, under the moonlight, across the dam from El Charco’s reception area.

The mixture of heat, humidity and scented plants and herbs is a purifying experience for mind and spirit. Its benefits are many: it activates blood circulation, increases natural body defenses, eliminates odors, relaxes muscles, helps keep the nervous system in good shape, stimulates breathing and is excellent for weight loss.

250 pesos, space is limited so please call for reservations or information 154 88 38, 154 4715 or in El Charco’s main office.



Saturday, February 28th, sunset (7 p.m.)

luna llena


We invite everyone to this open celebration that has been taking place for many years during the full moon cycle at the Four Winds Plaza in the Botanical Garden.

We celebrate the Full Moon Ceremony to come back into balance with nature on earth. Come and enthusiastically participate and dedicate your intention and energies at the Plaza of the Four Winds.  Bonfire, incense, chanting, drumming included.  Bring flutes, cymbals, a drum or any other instrument if you want.  

It’s worth arriving a little early to admire the setting of the sun and the appearance of the moon over the mountains. You may want to bring a coat for cool evenings.  Admission is 30 pesos, free for members. Children welcome. Any questions, call Alicia Mayo at 152 -0376.

You can make a difference

And you can make a difference with your contribution - volunteer or donate. We appreciate your support!! Please contact Naomi at

E-mail any comments or questions to the Editor at


“Botanical Gardens are not just places for conserving and displaying plants.  At the dawn of the new millennium, they are main actors in the defense and protection of the planet’s biodiversity, with a growing focus on the regional – thinking globally and acting locally.  And they are also builders of a new environmental culture for the societies that inhabit the Earth.” 




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