Category Archives: FLOWERING PLANTS

White Rain Lily

I planted a few tiny bulbs about five years ago and I always forget they are there. After several nice rains, one little beauty popped its head through for me this morning. It is known for blooming only after rain, and still it is always a surprise when it does bloom. The rest of the year, I don’t even know they are there. Tiny and delicate, the leaves are like narrow blades of grass, and the bloom itself is small. The wind was blowing the blossom a bit, so one is slightly blurry. I thought you might enjoy sharing the surprise with me.

A hui hou!

Mele Kalikimaka!

We may not have a White Christmas in Hawaii
(except on top of Mauna Kea)
but we do have an incredible display of poinsettias!

All along the highway we find massive blooms,
some in long banks of poinsettia hedges –
others peeking out from behind trees.

As late as April,
I have seen a wayward bloom
here and there that
simply didn’t want to go away.

Wherever you are in this world,
I send you joy in this wonderful holiday season.

A hou hou!
Mele Kalikimaka!

A Garden Surprise

My garden has suffered from too much neglect this fall. A friend in Hilo gifted me some “old” unwanted plants. One was a pot of orchids that seriously needed to be divided. I’ve been trying to remember to nurture them along until I could do something with them. I have managed to sprinkle them with a little water from time to time, so they have survived (barely).

One morning as I was leaving for school, this is what I saw. Not only that, but there are four more spikes about ready to open up anytime. What a delightful surprise!

I have no idea what variety they are, so if someone knows, please let me know. Now that I have seen how beautiful they are, and as soon as they have finished their blooming, I’ll divide them and get them into my “orchid patch” under the ohia tree.

A hui hou!

Hawai`ian Flowers, Part 2

Last weeks’s post showed the color and drama orchids can bring to your trees. This week, I give you a tour of the inner workings of Hawaiian Flowers.

Marla has a small gift shop attached to the greenhouses where you can browse.

Walking from the gift shop into the greenhouses, you instantly realize you are in the tropics, and you want to take home one of each variety!

Many years ago, I took all the horticulture courses offered by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The smells and sights of greenhouses and workrooms bring back memories of that time. So for me, those are still the most exciting areas of any commercial enterprise.

The results from TLC and perfect growing conditions, however, also bring a particular kind of joy, as you will see in this slide show of Marla’s orchids in full bloom.

A hui hou!

Hawai`ian Flowers

In the part of the world where I grew up, an orchid meant you had a special date to the high school prom. And it was a big deal!

Now I live where orchids are grown everywhere and can become as rampant as weeds, yet I still am in awe at the abundance of plants and where they can grow. Maybe you are, too.

Just a couple miles from my home is Hawaiian Flowers, an incredible orchid farm that grew from a small hobby into a large facility. She claims it is the “Southernmost Orchid Farm in the US.” You can find her on Facebook as Hawaiian.Flowers. (Be sure to put the period between Hawaiian and Flowers!)

When our garden club went to visit, we walked through the acreage surrounding Marla’s home as well as through the greenhouses where she grows some of the most beautiful orchids you will ever see.

This slide show demonstrates how lush an orchid can grow in your trees. You might want to try this if you live in an area where there is no frost any time of the year. I bought a few from her and will try to recreate the same sort of garden.

Next week I’ll show more of the flowers, but this week I wanted to show you just how easy it is to grow orchids wherever the climate permits.
A hui hou!



Even if the ground is frozen where you live, you know that Spring is right around the corner. Have you been going through your seed catalogs? Have you started getting itchy fingers, wanting to dig in the dirt? Are you monitoring the slightest change in temperature?

If so, you have the same case of Spring Fever that I do. I’m on Spring Break this next week and I’ll have more time to weed my beds, plant seeds, and nurture what’s already growing.

A hui hou!

White Rain Lily

I planted several of these tiny bulbs (Zephyranthes candida) on April 14, 2009. The first year, about 3 little strands that looked like grass came up, then nothing at all. I thought they had completely died. Today I happened to look down along the redwood path by my house and there it was.

I purchased these and other bulbs from Old House Gardens. According to the blurb that came with them, this plant was discovered in Argentina in the 1500s. These particular ones date to 1826.

“Its grassy foliage is followed in early fall by short, white crocus-like flowers that open after every rain.”

A day later, it had opened up even more.

So after the wonderful rains this past week, the only rains of any significance since I first planted the bulbs, here it is. What a sweet and beautiful way to end the old year!

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! (Happy New Year!)

Lessons from Lava

The official theme of this blog is ” homesteading, food, travel, and philosophy from the side of a volcano in rural Hawai`i.” So far, I’ve done mostly the first three, but very little of the fourth – philosophy. I could elaborate philosophically on many topics, and over the next few months, bear with me as do more of that.

The official title of this blog is “Lava to Lilikoi,” and that is a great deal like saying “how to make lemonade out of lemons.” In other words, when given an acre of lava, how do you produce lilikoi (our name for passion fruit) in abundance?

The drought has discouraged me from doing a lot of gardening, although I did plant 45 garlic cloves this week! They don’t like a lot of water, so this area should be perfect for them. I bought a pound of California softneck garlic from an heirloom seed company, since most stores sell garlic that is treated to prevent it from sprouting. (I understand that health food stores might have organic non-treated garlic, however.)

The opening photo shows some of these garlic bulbs, plus a few miniature pumpkins from the grocery store, and a couple of even tinier acorn squash that never did grow big enough to eat!

One of the many lessons of gardening I have learned has been not to plant anything that requires plenty of water, plenty of rich soil, or a different climate.

For example, my geraniums have taken over various spots of my acre, and they add a great deal of color to an otherwise gray landscape. Herbs in pots are growing nicely. I have been able to get some delicious beets and arugula occasionally. My donkey tails seem to do well. Palms that don’t require a lot of water are doing okay. Various flowering shrubs have done fine (when the Mouflon sheep don’t eat them). Other veggies did quite well when we had regular rains, or when the birds didn’t eat them.

Please don’t mistake this for complaining! I’m just stating facts about my own particular situation. Everyone in my garden club seems to be suffering from the drought, too.

So on this weekend after Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the beautiful ancient ohia trees scattered around my acre, for the hens that give me delicious fresh eggs, for the splashes of magenta, purple, orange, blue, red, pink , white and yellow that adorn my lava “lawn,” for a year-round temperature that allows me to be free from snow and ice. Living and gardening on lava makes me thankful for every single sprout!

I’m also grateful for my friends, whether here or on the mainland, who keep in touch; for my students who challenge me, and who keep my mind active and alert; for good health that permits me to continue gardening and teaching; and for my family members who make me proud to be their mama, grandma, and great-grandma, sister, cousin and aunt!

Finally, I’m grateful for my little Katrina, a sweet and photogenic joy in my life! Doesn’t she look pretty in blue?

A hui hou!

Shades of Green

Living on an acre of lava that offers many shades of black and gray, I might quote the Muppets and say, “It’s not easy being green.” I forget what it means to be green.

Friends from the mainland came to visit and were amazed at my catchment system, and for the first time, I had an inkling of just how “green” we live here in Ocean View. I know my friends in California think they are being “green” when they put in a 100 gallon rain barrel. It’s no wonder they are in awe of my 15,000 gallon tank! Still, our planet appreciates every 100 gallons saved.

So much of what we grow and eat here goes through its green stage, like these bananas before they turn yellow . . .

. . . or the coffee berries before they turn cherry red.

Herbs in all shades of green stand close to my kitchen door.

Fresh corn and other veggies offer more shades of green.

Then we have fruits – the enormous jackfruit. . .

. . . and wonderful limes.

I love cooking up a mess of fresh greens from my garden . . .

. . . or a pan of this brilliant green chard.

There are so many places where shades of green forms a spectacular frame, like this scene from Kauai.

Mostly green forms a background to other colors of Hawaii. . .

. . . or for our sensational orchids, and other flowers.

St. James Park in London provides another backdrop for early spring flowers.

Our Hawai`ian fauna also comes in shades of green. There is the florescent green of the Jackson. . .

. . .and the dark almost black green of the sea turtles.

The stately ti plants are considered good luck when planted around your home.

The green lotus leaves create a sense of serenity and peace.

The many pictures of green in my albums would fill a few coffee table books, each one another category of my life. This is only a small sampling of my green pictures. Beyond the visual green, there is a lot of symbolism to be found in the color green. I think I’d better reserve that for a future post!

A hui hou!

All Is Not Lost!

Mahalo to those of you who have sent condolences about my drought-ridden garden! I have a tendency to get discouraged, and wonder if we will ever get rain. It looks like I’ll need to order my fifth load of water for the catchment tank this next week, unless we get a heavy rain in the meantime (which doesn’t look likely).

Mostly it’s been my vegetable garden that has suffered. I can’t seem to get enough water on them, no matter how hard I try. My attempt to conserve water for personal use (like bathing, flushing, and cooking) means I can’t water as often or as deep as I’d like. What my veggies need is a nice overhead soaking from the skies. Anyone know how to teach me to do a rain dance out there??

All is not lost, however. Like the new sprout at the bottom of my red ti plant above, there is still life. For some strange reason, my flowers are doing well. There is just enough of a mist occasionally to keep my brilliant nasturtiums blooming and spreading.

The geraniums don’t seem to need as much water as other plants. In fact, these magenta ivy geraniums are going crazy. I need to do a “dead head” job on them, but they are a gorgeous spot of color from my kitchen window.

The pikake blooms are sweet smelling and provide a nice contrast to the magenta behind them.

I’ve tried to pick my figs regularly, even though I only get one or two a week. They are a little morsel of flavor. Perhaps someday I’ll get enough to actually make some fig jam! I was about a day too late to pick these two. The birds got there first.

One plant that doesn’t need much watering and seems to keep growing during this drought is the tillandsia cyanea (Pink Quill), part of the Bromeliad family. Mine are all full of the pink brachts with tiny purple flowers. Locally, many call this “Kamehameha’s Paddles.”

Most everything that is in a pot seems to have fared much better, but even then they need a constant watching. I have two of these cardoon (also called artichoke thistle). It is a relative of the Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) and is grown for its stem, which I assume is cooked up for eating. I’ve never grown this before so it will be an interesting experiment. Does anyone know if the thistle can be eaten like a regular artichoke?

These four basils grown in pots are doing well. They are purple basil, lime basil, cinnamon basil, and sweet basil. They are right outside my kitchen door for handy use. The basil I planted in the ground was eaten by birds before I even had a chance to cover them with netting. Fast and hungry critters, they are!

This broad-leaf sage is doing quite well in a pot. I transplanted it from the ground in order to keep it going. It was starting to die in the ground, but has made an amazing come-back.

This little society garlic is in a pot for now. I may move it to the ground somewhere once the rains come.

Plants like hibiscus and geraniums don’t have much trouble surviving.

The lime tree was taken out of a large pot and put into the ground a couple months ago, and it’s doing well. There are already new blossoms on it. I tripled the number of drips going to it since the palms and bromeliads (on the same drip system) didn’t need as much.

I planted several stems of this purple flower and those have taken root quite well. They are now providing me with lovely blooms. Many friends say they have this plant, but don’t know the name of it. If anyone can tell me, please write!

This was another twig given to me. There was a bunch of this growing in Monty’s and Bob’s garden that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Bob called it “Jessup” but I haven’t been able to find anything about it on Google. I keep getting sent to people and places, but not to a plant. Another one that I don’t know. Any suggestions?

Of course, I find it impossible to kill my red chard. It tastes so good in a quick stir-fry with garlic and olive oil. For every leaf I pick, two more come up! A small patch of this keeps me in good greens.

This poha (Cape Gooseberry) is growing quite well, too. I’ve been saving up some of the berries to plant so I can get more bushes. I just had a bowl of poha ice cream in downtown Kona this past week. Absolutely wonderful!

The leaves on this petite orchid don’t look healthy, but the delightful blooms (less than an inch across) are poking out to be admired.

This tri-color stromanthe is managing to survive. I love the three colors of this striking plant.

At last, these three donkey tails found a home in hanging planters right outside my dining room window. They sat on my front steps for over a year, so some of them are not hanging down as straight as they would ordinarily. They have not needed much water to keep growing. Maybe as they get longer and heavier, they will straighten out.

Out of all the seeds I planted of this Thai hot pepper, only two survived. I gave one to a friend as a gift, and this one I’ll keep. Last year, I got dozens of peppers from one plant and since only one or two of these tiny peppers are more than enough for a good hot flavor, one plant is probably enough. I’ll put this in a larger pot next week.

I have about six or seven of these seeds for a Sago Palm (Cycad) that were harvested by a friend on Maui. They had to be soaked, then stripped, and planted on their sides, half-way submerged in soil. They are starting to split and this one is even showing a bit of green. They are very slow growing, so maybe my grandchildren will see a plant from these seeds.

This is an autograph tree given to me by a colleague. It has been growing nicely, but you can see that something bigger than a bug (probably the mouflin sheep) has been taking huge bites out of the leaves. Animals are looking for anything they can find that might provide them with a little moisture.

One triumphant story is the cauliflower. Just a few weeks ago, I went out to find the leaves stripped down to the center vein. Most people have agreed that it is more than likely the caliche pheasants. I continued to water them, wondering if they would revive. Voila! They have huge leaves again and just might make it. I’ll try to put something over them so the caliche won’t get them again.

So that’s the latest from the lava field. My posts have slowed down a bit lately, but each fall semester, I teach five college courses. That takes up most of my spare writing time. Once I’m back into a good rhythm of school, I’ll do better.

A hui hou!

Last of Summer Gardening

Nothing spells the approach of autumn better than a bright orange pumpkin patch. How my daughter manages to get such beautiful pumpkins is beyond me! Many of you have been keeping up with my daughter Inga’s gardening in Boise, Idaho. Here is an update on what’s growing in her yard, including the pumpkin above.

Her yard is full of orange and yellow blossoms, just ready to produce fruit, but beautiful in their own right.

I have an old wooden ladder in my shed. I need to drag it out and use it as a backdrop for some plants (if the drought will let something grow)!

She finds odd bits of metalwork to add a fanciful touch to her garden.

I love the brilliance of sunflowers – another touch of the approaching fall season.

She tells me of all the wonderful fresh veggies she brings in for her supper.

But the biggest envy I have is for her “taters!” Inga and I just love our fingerling potatoes, sliced and fried in butter with fresh eggs!

I promise her (and myself) that I will get to Boise next summer and enjoy the garden with her.

A hui hou!

Gardening From A to Z

Two of my favorite landscapers (Bob and Monty) invited a group of us “tree huggers” to come tour their garden. Since the land on their property is much like that of Ocean View, I gathered lots of how-to ideas on what to grow and what not to grow.

Their elevation is about the same as mine (2300 feet), same rocky lava ground, with perhaps a little more rainfall than I receive, although everyone is experiencing the drought now. Even without much rain this year, my first impression of their acreage was very tropical, what mainlanders picture as being “Hawai`i.”

Since I have said this post is about gardening from A to Z, I suppose I’d better start with A. The rest of the alphabet will be mixed up, however, and maybe I’ll end up at Z!

I love these large deep blue Agapanthus, shown here in front of Stromanthe. The Agapanthus in my garden is smaller and more of a baby blue.

The guys have concentrated their efforts on saving the native Hawai`ian trees, like this tall ‘Ohe Makai by their gate. Like many of the Hawai`ian natives, this particular tree is on the endangered list.

A couple of other native plants they have growing are the Ulei or Hawaiian Rose . . .

. . . and the Hala Pepe.

According to Wikipedia, there are seven native Hawaiian hibiscus species. The striking native white hibiscus is one of those.

Monty’s primary interest seems to be the palms. Soft paths through the palms were everywhere.

I lost track of how many varieties of palms we saw. It seemed like we walked for miles through palm groves.

What rests below the top layer of rocks is one of the factors we all deal with here. If the drainage is stopped by a solid layer of lava, plants don’t grow well. Of those palms planted at the same time, some are quite tall, and others look like they have never grown, due to this layer that hinders root growth.

This Fishtail Palm could be one of the largest of its kind. They are rapid growers and intimidate all the other palms.

No tropical garden is complete without its anthurium plants. . .

. . . or ginger . . .

. . . or banana. This particular banana is not common. (Dare I say it’s “rare”?) It puts out two stalks of bananas each time. If you look closely, you can see them. Even the keiki (babies) that come up after the mama plant has died have the double growth.

Bob tells the story of them going to a nursery in Pahoa to buy a rhododendron, and came home with 39 of them! He said to place the plant on top of the lava, then mound cinder around it. The roots will go down between the big rocks and the small feeder roots will spread out into the cinder. I’m going to try (just) one, I think.

Spots of color were scattered throughout the acreage.

Tucked here and there were other familiar plants, such as donkey tail, ti plants, butterfly bush, and stromanthe.

We saw a few familiar plants in a variety that weren’t as typical as what we have in our own gardens, like this tri-colored jade and variegated monstera.

There were several healthy specimens of staghorn fern.

Various protea are usually found in our tropical gardens, like these banksia (not in bloom at this time), king and pincushion proteas shown here.

For me, one of the most stunning flowers was the passion flower, not the same as the lilikoi we normally have growing.

It seems everyone is suffering from either drought, effects of vog, or critters like rats, sheep, pigs, caliche pheasants. A few veggies are still producing here.

I particularly loved the delicate little “society garlic.” I was given a few small bulbs to bring home and plant. The flower can be tossed into a salad and the flavor is heavenly. My car probably still smells like garlic (not an unpleasant odor for me)!

Bob said his primary passion is xeriscaping, which is designed to reduce the amount of water generally needed for growth. That means succulents and other drought-resistant plants. I have some of these in my own garden, and I plan to do more.

At the entryway to their home are these lovely cycads, both male and female. Need I point out which is which? It’s the biggest one, of course. (smile)

I started this post with A=Agapanthus. Even though this bromeliad is called “tiger-striped bromeliad, I’ll pretend it’s a Z=Zebra-striped bromeliad to keep with the alphabet theme. (Don’t tell on me!)

A touch of serenity concludes the tour.

Enjoy this slideshow for more pictures than I could include in this post, and for individual shots of those plants I’ve made into a collage.

Click here to view the slideshow. If it takes you to a web page instead of the slide show, click on “slideshow” in the upper left hand corner.

A hui hou!

August 2010 Update


(photo courtesy of Charles Tobias)


This particular post was published exactly one year ago! It’s a “remember when” rather than “how it is,” I’m afraid. You see, I didn’t think my garden was doing much last year, but all the beautiful things you see here are no longer in existence.

Ka’u District, the part of the Big Island of Hawai`i where I live, has been having a terrible drought. No amount of extra soil, watering or drip system is helping things to grow. Even critters (not bugs) are chewing what little bit has been growing in order to get a bit of moisture.

So I decided to post this “August 2009 Update” to get back a little hope that growing food and flowers in this lava is possible. Looking through the pictures and remembering helps me to realize how harsh this environment can be. The rains must surely come soon!

So here is the post from one year ago:

The July 2009 meeting of our Ocean View Garden Club was at my place. I told them I was definitely a work in progress and not a show place (yet)! They all wanted to see what was growing on my acre because they’d read my blog and seeing a garden that was not finished gave them hope. This post is my monthly catch-up with what’s going on here.

At my front door is this hanging fuschia.


Just below that is my cluster of orchid plants. Here is the latest bloom poking a head through the leaves.


As I stand on my front stoop and look out, this is what I see.


Here it is when I step down and look at these plants from another angle.


These are the Atom Gladiolas. The description from Old House Gardens states that it is a “brilliant red cooled by the finest edging of silver.” They are smaller than most glads and they provide a bright spot of color against my gray/black lava.


I cropped out the Spic and Span Glad from one of the photos above so you could see the difference in color. This is closer to the normal size of gladiola and runs from coral to pink. Both the Atom and the Spic/Span glads are heirloom bulbs dating from 1946. It’s too bad that the blooms don’t last longer.


Let’s walk on around to the right side of the house and look at my small beds of veggies. The sugar snap peas are full of blooms, and I’ve gotten a few pods to add to salads. You can see a piece of my patch of mustard greens.


I have several of these Thai hot peppers that will give me something to toss into my hot Thai cooking! If you’ve seen the little firey hot peppers in a Thai dish, that’s what I have here. It takes a mighty brave soul to bite into those with haste!


One of my students gave me a pot with a macadamia nut seedling. I was afraid it wouldn’t make it at first, but suddenly new leaves started to shoot out. I’ll give it a fair chance to make it before I transfer it out of the pot.


Walking back toward the shed, I have arugula and tomatoes, string beans and okra. I’m making salads with the arugula, but the tomatoes only have blooms so far. There are a few tiny beans that are in the process of becoming bigger beans. Here are a few pods of okra I’ve harvested. I toss a few of these in with whatever I’m cooking up in the skillet.


In the patio area I have beets growing, but not as many as I’d like to see. I need to buy more seeds for a fresh planting. These coffee berries will eventually turn bright red and I’ll be able to harvest them. How exciting to see these green berries. I hope I can get a pot of coffee out of my own trees.


Here is the Little Beeswings Dahlia that produced a few small blooms.


I think my favorite dahlia is the Prince Noir. I hope that eventually I’ll get a whole bush full of these gorgeous blooms.


Recently, a colleague gave me several bags of bromeliad and one has actually bloomed for me already!


Of course, I would love a whole yard of daylilies. Some of the ones I’ve planted have started to bloom.


The pikake plant is full of fragrant blossoms, about three times the number just since I took this photo a couple weeks ago.


I was given a small shoot of this plant. People have given it several names, but after looking on the internet, I’m still not sure what it is. If anyone can give me a link to what it is, I’d appreciate it. It’s been called a “stick plant,” but I’m sure that’s not it. It has also been called “zigzag plant,” but it doesn’t look exactly like the pictures on the web.


It seems like there’s always something waiting to be planted – like these bags of plants given by a friend.


And like most gardeners, I have so much more to be done. Like any addict, I keep buying more seeds than I’ll ever be able to plant!

A hui hou!