Tag Archives: Plumeria

The Gardener Within


Remember the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers?” It takes more than just showers to have beautiful flowers in May – or June or July or any month. It also takes digging and planting, nurturing and patience, faith and prayer.

My maternal grandfather was a strong typical “type A” personality, but when he worked in his garden, he was calm, happy and peaceful. His special joy was in finding many varieties of iris. He would drive all over Southern Illinois in search of new iris plants. Studies have shown that in a similar way, Alzheimer’s patients who are placed in a garden all day are no longer violent.

I don’t plan on collecting iris, but I’ve thought about the many varieties of daylily or hibiscus available. I’m trying a little of each to see which ones grow best here. It’s hard to decide – so maybe I’ll collect both!

Even when I lived on my sailboat for five years, I had hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes and pots of aloe plants for sunburn and wounds. I needed that bit of plant material to make me feel like I had a garden. Various cultures around the world have special tales about the healing power of plants on all levels.

Some of my favorite times as a small girl were spent in a special cherry tree in the back yard of a parsonage. We only lived there a couple years, but as long as we did, I would climb up onto a high limb and read. As a lonely child, it was my way to escape. Many of us have had spiritual experiences with trees, but we don’t discuss them for fear of sounding silly. We rarely talk about the spiritual aspects of gardening, until someone of like mind brings up the subject.

Maybe I’m a little strange, but I talk to my plants. I haven’t really heard them talk back, although they do respond by growing and producing. I used to think people who talked to their animal pets were weird, too!

Today, I live on an acre of a’a in Hawai`i. A`a is lumpy, rocky lava that blew out of the depths of our volcano. The only way to plant something is to move aside the rocks and dump in a bag of soil, which filters down after a rain or watering and I need to add more soil. Still, there are nutrients in the greedy porous lava. Plants do grow, with a lot of prayer and patience.

Peter and Eileen Caddy were founders of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. They moved to a barren plot on the northernmost tip of Scotland, a place where nothing should have grown. Yet they made it work, through meditation and conversations with the nature spirits and “devas” – the angels of each plant. They claimed to receive gardening advice from those beings.

No matter what we may believe about all that, their results were incredible. I hope for the same results in my lava. Here in this little corner of the Big Island, I suppose it takes calling on Madam Pele, our volcano goddess – or maybe calling on the menehune.

I believe that if you are open to it, the process of gardening will tell you everything you need to know about life. There is a definite spirit of cooperation and communication between plants and humans. It is easy to see how we cultivate ourselves when we cultivate a garden. The idea is to relate to all living things as if they can understand, because they can! It is a living prayer.

Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of gardens and gardeners. He carries a shovel in one hand and a book in the other. He gave up his life as a prince of Ireland to live as a monk on the edge of a forest in France. Many people came to him for his healing through herbs and flowers. His reputation grew and ultimately, he built his own monastery that featured his healing plants.

Being There with Peter Sellars is a wonderful old movie. It is the story of a man who started out as sort of an idiot child who learned to garden, and could speak of nothing but gardening. Through a minor accident, he was brought into a home where he gradually worked his way up to international significance with only his gardening remarks. Everyone thought that his words were profound, and they became metaphors for everything from politics to world finance to love.

Please leave a comment and tell me what spiritual experiences have you had with plants.

New Life!


As I came out of the house this morning, my eye caught this growth. A branch of ohia that touches the ground, and looks totally dead, is shooting up a lehua blossom. Even if our temperature doesn’t vary more than a few degrees year round, there still is a definite feel of spring this time of year.

Perhaps the struggle for growth in a field of lava creates a shift in perspective. The tiniest bit of green that pokes its head through the black stone is cause for praise and excitement.

While I watered my plants this morning, I took pictures of a few precious keiki (Hawai`ian for babies – and a term we use for new and/or young plants).

One that I am especially excited about is the beautiful Barbados lily I was given by my daughters. http://www.tropilab.com/orangelily.html I’m still trying to find out more about this beautiful plant. What I’ve read so far indicates that it is actually a Hippeastrum Striatum, a variation of the amaryllis. The nurseryman told us that when it dies, a new plant will pop up wherever the flower falls. This seems to be coming true. If you look closely, you’ll see it sprouting up new growth. How many can you count?

In one of my small raised beds mentioned last week, I have a kabocha vine starting to grow and bloom. http://holybasil.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/you-like-kabocha-dontcha/ I really love the flavor of this vegetable. If you check out this website, you’ll see the many ways it can be prepared. I haven’t tried them all yet, but intend to. It’s called “Japanese pumpkin” here by my local friends.

My pink plumeria is starting to bloom. The yellow ones started about a month earlier.

This gardenia is in a container in my patio area, rather than in the ground. But it’s still exciting to see it start to do something. If you look closely (maybe with a magnifying glass?) you can see a tiny bud starting to develop.

The same thing is true of this pepper plant. Somehow the label got lost on this plant after I bought it, but I think I remember that it’s supposed to be hot. I guess the only way I’ll find out is to taste it! (laughing)

I planted peanuts in a little pocket of soil my daughters created for me. They used ohia leaf litter, mixed with compost and some of my “pig dirt” (see last week’s post). You can see the ohia leaves still dropping off. But the peanuts are looking healthy. I remember eating fresh raw peanuts out of my Grandpa Jones’ front yard in Mississippi. Yummy!

There is new growth on my coconut palm. Some of the older leaves have burned edges from the sulfur dioxide in the air (from our volcano), and you can see some spots from the acid rain.

My red banana had a few burned leaves, but it looks like it just might make it.

New growth is very rewarding! Watching my plants sprout and grow is like giving birth to my children again!

Aloha!


What in the world is lilikoi?

If you read this blog and you are not a resident of Hawai`i, that’s probably what you’ve been wondering. Lilikoi is the Hawai`ian name for Passion Fruit. It has a very distinctive flavor and not everyone likes it the first time they taste it. I think it’s definitely an acquired taste, although it was love at first bite for me.

You can cut it in half, and spoon out the insides with a spoon and eat it, seeds and all. Sometimes I cut up a whole bag of them, scoop out the flesh into a colander and let them drain into a bowl overnight. The juice that results is perfect for making salad dressings, ice cream, jams, or anything else you can think of.

A friend gave me an already established purple lilikoi vine along with some of the yellow lilikoi fruits. I planted the purple vine, ate a few of the yellow ones, and kept the seeds from the rest to plant. The picture above shows the seedlings. I gave some to a friend in Kailua-Kona (where they have a little real soil) and hers are growing like crazy!

I put these seedlings out, poured soil in around them, but some still are not much larger than they are in the picture above. Some of the others are about 8″ tall. It will be a long time before I get enough lilikoi juice to make ice cream.

Another of my other early attempts at trying to grow something at 2300′ elevation in lava was this banana. I’m not quite sure it will make it. But you can see a few leaves trying to push through.

My greatest success has been with the plumeria or frangipani, as it is called in some areas. The smell is delicious and visitors to the island love the scent from their welcoming leis. I have white, pink and yellow right now, and I’m looking for some of the deep reds. They are the simplest to grow. I just move enough rocks to put in some soil, stick in the cuttings, and they take off. This picture shows one of my early plants, flowering in the first season. http://sd1new.net/GardenPages/plumeria.htm

I was given several protea plants. The picture below shows them before I put them in the ground. Unfortunately, the sulfur dioxide got to them and they probably aren’t going to make it.

In each pot of protea was a very tiny bit of green growth. The nurseryman who sold them to my friend said that I could plant them. They were from jacaranda seeds that had fallen into the soil around the protea. I carefully put them into little pots and you can see the results here. Again, I gave some away, and I have two in my yard that seem to be growing nicely. It’s hard to imagine these tiny seedlings becoming one of the huge beautiful jacaranda trees. http://www.floridata.com/ref/J/jaca_acu.cfm


I won’t bore you this time with more of my early attempts at getting things to grow. I plan on doing mostly raised beds for veggies, and a lot of container gardening. (See Janice Crowl’s Container Gardening in Hawaii in the Amazon link on the right.)

Aloha!
Lucy