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!

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!


Hawai`i Tropical Botanical Garden

Last Saturday, a small group from the Ocean View Garden Club visited the Hawai`i Tropical Botanical Garden just north of Hilo on Onomea Bay. As long as I have lived here, I was not aware this existed. It’s a wonderful place to take visitors and I definitely will go back myself! Admission is $15 per person and there is a discount for a group of 10 or more. We took lunch with us and ate at a picnic table by one of the inlets.

I have taken pictures of the signs that tell the history of the garden. Be sure to read them carefully. I apologize for not being able to give you the sound of the ocean in the background as you amble along the path.

I usually go through and pick the best 10 to 15 best pictures out of a group, but this time, I will not do that. I have put them all into a slide show so you can look through them at your leisure, and pretend that you are walking through the garden.

From the back of the map:

Founded by Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse in 1978, the Garden was opened to the public in 1984. The Founders purchased seventeen acres on the ocean and spent six years hand-clering the impenetrable tropical jungle to create the winding trails and outstanding beauty you will experience as you walk through the Garden. They later purchased an additional twenty acres and donated the entire thirty-seven acres to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, establishing a non-profit nature preserve.

I have included a few pictures of the inside of the gift shop, as well as a glance at the map and trail guide we were given when we entered. My neck is sore from looking up so much. Plants that we may have only seen in a much smaller size in our own gardens are monsters here. Even if you would like to, you don’t need to know the names of all the plants in order to enjoy their beauty.

Follow me as I take you down this path into a garden of delights! Click here to view the slide show.

A hui hou!

Jacaranda Progress


In June 2008, I was given several protea plants for my yard. In each pot of protea was a microscopic bits of green growth. The nurseryman who sold them to my friend said that I could plant them. Jacaranda seeds had fallen into the soil around the protea and had taken root. I carefully put them into little pots and you can see the results above.

By December 2008, here is how they had grown.


Now, a year later, there is more growth, but it is slow.


It is hard to imagine those tiny seedlings becoming one of the huge beautiful jacaranda trees we see all over the place.

Maybe someday I’ll have a couple of gorgeous purple flowering trees to give more color to the gray landscape.

A hui hou!

Lava Homestead Update


I’ve thought of the succulents and snapdragons that are all over this acre as really nothing more than weeds. Why? Because I didn’t plant them, they sprout up unbidden, then grow without anyone’s help, and they aren’t something I can eat. But I realized just how much they add to my landscape when I caught this shot of them. I think you’ll agree they are beautiful.

As we move into the last month of the year, I thought I would catch you up on what’s happening in my lava garden. It’s been about two months since my last update.

One of the most exciting changes lately has been my coffee berries – they are turning red! I may only get enough out of this first crop to make a small pot of coffee, of course. But I’m sure it will be the tastiest cup of coffee I’ve ever had.


I picked the ones that were ripe enough. Now I need to get the pulp off the beans, dry them, roast them, grind them, and drink!


The red mustards I planted several weeks ago are beginning to look like something edible.


I’ve had trouble keeping my cat (Kaimana) out of my raised beds, so there are large patches where nothing is coming up. He likes to scratch around and make himself comfortable.

Is that pot big enough to sleep in?Is that pot big enough to sleep in?


At the same time that I planted the red mustard seeds, I also put in another batch of beets. They will give me several good meals this winter.


With the help of one of my students, I planted some ginger cuttings she had brought. It took them a long time to root, but now they are showing good growth and soon I will transplant them to a permanent location.


It’s been almost a year since I planted this red scarlet chard, and it’s still going strong. I eat off of it occasionally, stir-frying it in olive oil with lots of garlic. When the leaves are still young and small, I sometimes cut it up and put it into a salad without cooking it.


Like the chard, my arugula plants just keep producing. I love fresh arugula salads. A friend said, “A little arugula goes a long way,” but I like the spicy bitterness more than most folks do.


I’m not sure if these papaya plants are going to do much at this elevation, but I keep nursing them along. They were also a gift during this past summer.


My garden club has a plant gift exchange at Christmas. The gift I received last year was this pikake plant, now full of buds and blooms.


I had a lovely gardenia bush that suffered during the worst of the sulfur dioxide fumes from the volcano. Today, it is growing back and producing a few buds.


I put out a bunch of cuttings of a purple-flowered bush (don’t know the name of it), and every one of them is showing great signs of growth. When it finally blooms, I’ll find out what it is and post more pictures. At this point, it’s great fun to see something grow from a bare stem stuck in the soil.


I have what I call a smoky bush (don’t know the real name of that, either) that is showing leaves from another piece of twig put in the ground. These two plants (red and purple) seem to take off right away with a little soil and water.


Still another plant that seems to root and grow profusely without much care is this magenta geranium. I’d put in just a couple of small cuttings from a friend, and now they are filling in the blank spots, giving color to an otherwise gray landscape.


The lilikoi plants that grow against my shed were eaten back by fuzzy black caterpillars. Now they are showing new growth. Unless someone gives me a bunch of lilikoi, I won’t be making more lilikoi butter this year!


The brugmansia were in need of some drastic cutting back. Once I did that, they started sprouting all sorts of new leaves and they are looking twice as healthy.


The poinsettias take over the island at this time of year. Soon I’ll have a chance to get more pictures of those. When they are mingled in with other colors, and especially the white flowering shrubs, they are a breathtaking sight. Some of the “Snow on the Mountain” are blooming on my property.

This plant is sometimes called Snow-on-the-Mountain, and is closely related to poinsettia, crotons, and the other members of the Euphorbia plant family. It is a native to the Pacific Islands. See the full article here.


We’ve had little bits of rain here and there, not enough to overflow the tank, but to keep it at a decent level. That’s a critical element in the grand scheme of life here on my little homestead. If it keeps up like that over the winter months, I’ll be in good shape. At least we are not worried about snow storms here!

A hui hou!

A Trip Around the Stanford Quad


It seems that most large universities, as well as some smaller ones, have a “quad.” When I was a campus minister at University of Arizona, there was a massive quad where students and faculty hung out, played Frisbee, studied, slept, nuzzled with someone special, or whatever else they could find to do.

For an old college instructor like me, being on the quad of any school is thrilling. From the moment I first set foot in a classroom as a teacher, from kindergarten through university, I have loved teaching and being on a campus, being a part of campus life. I think I’d be deliriously happy just hanging out in a university library doing research in musty old tomes.

My visit to Stanford University (guided by a friend who is a Professor Emeritus from the Medical School there) included their quad. He added to my limited knowledge of the campus.

As we approached the main building of the quad, I was drawn to the floral arrangement in the center of the vast lawn.


It wasn’t until I stood a little elevated and distant from the floral arrangement that I realize the flowers created a large “S” for Stanford. I wondered if everyone else who visits miss it at first like I did.


Everything about the Stanford campus has history behind it. A walk along the corridor of the main building takes us back more than a century.


One of the stones on the floor of the corridor commemorated the centennial.


Each graduating class added a stone showing the year. This is the first one, laid by the graduating class of 1892!


You can walk along the corridor and see a class for every single year since then. A nice tradition!


And here is the latest one – for the class of 2009.


One of the pillars shows some of the damage done by the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 17, 1989, almost twenty years ago. You can read more about it here and here.


Other news articles discuss the donations and work done to renovate the Stanford campus . . .


. . .and how it looked 15 years later.

That last link has excellent pictures and history of the quake, including more information about the World Series that had to be cancelled that day. To read about damage that is more specific to Stanford, go here.

One dominating attraction on the quad is the Memorial Church


This chapel was built by Jane Lathrop Stanford in memory of her husband, Leland Stanford in 1899.


This close-up shows the intricate and exquisite mosaic artwork.


Due to regular church services being held, visitors were not permitted to enter, so I took many shots outside. I loved this sign in several languages.


The courtyard of the chapel offers areas to stroll, rest, meditate.


The jacaranda were in full bloom in the chapel courtyard.


So many tucked away treasures like these side doors of the church.


Every detail was considered, as evidenced by this mosaic floor in the foyer of the chapel.


I have included a slide show below of all photos I took around the chapel, many more than are in this post. Today, I end with a shot of these marvelous sculptures near the chapel. In a few weeks, I will do another post that shows the individual statues and who they represent.


A hui hou!



To watch a larger version of this slideshow, click here, then click on the large arrow.


San Mateo in Bloom



I hope you aren’t sick and tired of seeing photos out of California. Even though I lived there for many years, I had forgotten how brilliant the flowers could be. Part of the time I was there for my May-June visit, I stayed with friends who live in San Mateo. We walked all over their neighborhood and I was stunned by the abundance of beautiful roses. The geraniums are like weeds in California!

Please enjoy the photos! There isn’t much I can add about them, so I’ve put them here in a slide show for you.



I suggest that you go here to get the slideshow in a larger version and get the full benefit of the beauty.

Feels Like Spring!


When I returned from my trip to California mid-June, I saw how much some of my plants had grown. Of course, a few things had run their course and were regrouping for the next growth spurt.

For instance, a few little snippets of ivy geranium that I’d broken from a friend’s plant had actually grown and was covered with brilliant magenta blossoms. What richness! Above is a single bloom. Here is a view of several together.


The brugmansia that had given its first bloom a month before, now had eight trumpets hanging! After waiting several years for a blossom, I can now count on it giving me flowers regularly. Those eight have died now, and six more are waiting to open. I think I was too excited to hold the camera still, or maybe it was the wind blowing the blooms, but you can the difference between my one lonely first bloom and now.


I had planted one small piece of orchid cactus given to me by a friend. I started looking up “orchid cactus” with Google and found many sites that said it is neither a member of the orchid family, nor is it a true epiphyllum. So far I haven’t found a site that tells me exactly what it is, other than it is related to a desert cactus. I’ll keep looking. Whatever it may be (or not be), the bloom was beautiful. I found it when I went out to water mid-day on July 3.


At the beginning of May, I planted some heritage canna bulbs from Old House Gardens. One was a Florence Vaughn Canna (1893), and the other was a Canna Indica (1596). Until they bloom toward the end of summer or in the fall, the leaves are flamboyant and perky. There is something rather wholesome about having plants from bulbs that come from a line that is over 400 years old!


I want to put in a plug here for Old House Gardens. I ordered a sampler package from them online, then got a phone call from a woman there who wanted to know my elevation, what kind of soil I had, typical range of temperature, and the like. Before she put together my sampler, she wanted to know what might grow best here. Everything they sent me has grown beautifully! I can’t say the same thing for another company that sent me bare root plants. After a year, not one of them has done anything! Very disappointing!

These gladiolus bulbs were also from Old House Gardens. This picture was taken on June 27, and they were about half the size they are now. Everything is growing amazingly fast! You can see the cannas growing in several spots behind the glads.


This pikake plant was a gift at our Garden Club Christmas party. I have since planted it in the ground in one of my “lasagna” patches and it’s about twice this size. I took this picture because of the blooms, which are incredibly sweet smelling.


By the time I take pictures and get them into this blog, the plants have at least doubled in size, but I keep trying to let you know how things are growing. This small potted lime tree was covered with little limes that are now about three times as big. I picked off some of the smaller ones to allow the others to grow to a decent size.


There is a fresh crop of veggies coming up, too. Everything here is two or three times this big, also, just since I took these photos two weeks ago!











Only a few kale plants came up, but even those few were looking hearty.


Then I went out one morning and this is what I saw! Something had completely stripped the leaves. Feeling a bit like I was closing the barn door after the horses were out, I cut the bottom out of yogurt containers and stuck them around each plant. At least it will keep whatever was eating them from getting any new growth. And there are already new leaves cropping up in the middle of this disaster.


I did the same thing with the Thai hot peppers that I’d recently planted. I didn’t want the “flesh-eating” bugs to get them, too!


I should probably pick off the beautiful flowers from the Siam Basil, but the bees seem to love it, so I just leave them alone. It’s such a treat to see the bees actually working. I may even decide to keep a hive of my own.


This photo gives you a better idea of how some of these plants are laid out. At the far end you’ll see the Siam Basil, Holy Basil, and regular Sweet Mammoth Basil. You can see my three Thai hot peppers, and the pathetic stripped kale. At this end is a luxurious patch of Greek oregano. You can probably see the pieces of gutter guard I’ve placed over new seedlings of spicy mesclun and a blend of loose leaf lettuce seedlings. It’s not just bugs I need to watch for, but birds – and Kaimana (my cat) who loves to dig in what he considers his private litter box! In the bottom left-hand corner, you see the source of the squash vine.


Here is a closer view of how I’ve put the gutter guard material over the freshly planted seeds. Since I took this picture, the seeds are up about ½ inch. I also placed the same material over okra and arugula seeds.


Another good use for gutter guard is shown here. I was sent some heritage Moon ‘n’ Stars watermelon seeds from my Cuz’n Don in Mississippi. I made a circle around each hill with three seeds in each one. Several of them already have sprouts about an inch high. I may even get a watermelon out of this.


Several people have asked to see my front garden patch from a couple angles.


It doesn’t take a lot of space to provide good food. From these little beds in front, bigger beds in the back, and even the beets growing among the daylilies in my patio, I can keep myself with a healthy supply of food. Here is a bunch of arugula, lettuce, other mixed greens, herbs, and the onion-tasting flowers from the chives – all ready for a big salad. I ate the whole thing, with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and crumbled feta cheese!


Writing this has made me hungry! Must be time to go pick a few leaves and eat lunch!

A hui hou!

Florida Sunken Gardens

(Note: all the individual pictures in this post link to larger images in Flickr; just click on the smaller images you see here.)

Last year, my brother at inkwatu.com invited me to offer two guest posts. This year, I’m excited that I can reciprocate. Be sure to check out last week’s post, which was also from him. When I visit him in Florida later this year, I will know I’ve gotten on his nerves when he takes me to visit the Sunken Gardens! It is with great love and joy that I present my brother, Hilton. I’ll be back next week. Mahalo, Hilton!

A hui hou!




That’s the “tag line” for the St. Petersburg Sunken Gardens. It’s well chosen. The afternoon I first visited the St. Petersburg Sunken gardens, was following a particularly stressful job interview and negotiations. I bought my ticket to the gardens—actually, I bought a year pass which I’ll discuss shortly—and entered into four acres of solitude and reflection right in the heart of downtown St. Pete. Slowly walking along winding paths that conceal then reveal verdant surprises, the tranquility helped me make up my mind about how to proceed with the issues that led me to seek some respite. The experience totally satisfied my need for garden paths, ivy covered rugged stone walls, miniature water fall fountains, and koi ponds. The Sunken Gardens botanical experience was exactly what I needed that day.

It was apparently what other people needed, too. A small troop of kindergarteners immediately fell silent upon walking into this magical world. A middle aged woman and her mother spending an afternoon together walked about. A soon-to-be bride and groom and their best-man and bridal attendant where there checking out the area where weddings are conducted. The occasional other single senior, such as myself, moseyed about, taking pictures, sitting on benches, or just standing, listening to the birds.



Here’s a quote from the Sunken Gardens brochure about the history of the attraction:

“Sunken Gardens has been a landmark in St. Petersburg since 1935, when it officially opened as Turner’s Sunken Gardens. In 1903, the four acre property was purchased by George Turner, Sr., a plumber, who was an avid gardener. He drained a shallow lake, that dropped 15 feet below street level to provide a rich soil to grow fruits and exotic plants from all over the world. By 1924, his amazing garden was attracting visitors who paid 25 cents for a stroll through the beautiful, lush gardens. Papayas, citrus and exotic plants brought the tropics to this subtropical area. Grover heaters were brought in to heat the magnificent Royal Palms, bougainvillea and other cold sensitive tropical plants during the winter. The garden became world renowned for its unique collection of plants and colorful blooms. In the 1950s, exotic wildlife was added to the growing botanical attraction… In 1998, Sunken Gardens was designated a local historic landmark, and in 1999 it was purchased by the City of St. Petersburg.”

There are 24 different areas of the botanical gardens. My personal favorites are the Chilean flamingos, the parrots and other exotic birds, the bromeliads, the lily ponds, the various koi ponds and miniature waterfall fountains, the Japanese garden, the arched bridge, the little spots to meditate and rest, the tropical fruit garden, and the butterfly garden.

Adjoining the gift shop for the Sunken Gardens is the Great Explorations Children’s Museum. Although it is adjoining the gardens, it is completely separate physically so the quietude of Sunken Gardens is preserved.



Another quote from their literature describes their facilities for weddings and private parties:

“Since 1935, Sunken Gardens has been a favorite setting for exchanging those special vows…The Garden Room, a great location for your banquet or reception, is located in the historic 1926 main building. It was designed keeping its history in mind, creating a loft-like feel with high wood ceilings and metal beams. Overlooking the exquisite gardens, this special room’s uniqueness makes it unlike any other wedding experience.”



The following are the best links I found for additional information and reviews of the Sunken Gardens.



I find it particularly interesting that the Sunken Gardens began as a non-commercial enterprise, the private garden of an individual expressing their love of the garden experience. My sister’s website, Lava to Lilikoi (lavalily.com/) covers her own garden and farming on the side of a volcano on the Big Island (the Island of Hawaii) in the state of Hawaii. Weekly, she chronicles her gardening in photos and narrative. She has also had posts on private gardens of other people (mostl in Hawaii) that show the kind of personal devotion to gardening George Turner, Sr. had with what became, eventually, the St. Pete Sunken Gardens. Please take a peek at these posts of Lucy’s on some lovely private gardens:

I know absolutely nothing about plants or flowers. I’m just a person who loves to bask in their beauty and oxygen. But, Lucy is the opposite in that regard. Horticulture is definitely one of her things! She helped me identify the flowers in the pictures I took for this post. But, even she wasn’t entirely certain of a couple so if we made a mistake, please let us know.




I don’t buy many yearly passes to local attractions, but I bought one for the St. Petersburg Sunken Gardens. For a senior, it’s only $35 ($40 for non-seniors; $50 for Family, that includes membership for two adults in the same household and dependent children through the 12th grade or two grandparents with their grandchildren—which I think is a lovely idea). The annual membership is much, much more than free admission for one year. It also includes invitation to members-only events, discounts on special workshops, 10% discount in the gift shop, the newsletter and access to horticultural information. What sold me on buying an annual membership, however, was the free admission to over 145 botanical gardens participating in the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program (reciprocal program brochure). In Florida, alone, there are 16 participating gardens, including the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens just across the Skyway Bridge down in Sarasota and the Florida Botanical Gardens up in the northern part of the county that I covered in the Inkwatu Florida Botanical Gardens post.




There are also joint plans that combine the gardens with tickets to Great Explorations. It is especially important in a depressed economy that those who can donate to educational causes such as the Sunken Gardens do so. They have a variety of options from Contributing members at only $100, that gives you a family membership plus 5 free admissions guest passes, up through Private Benefactor, that includes quite a number of special privileges, and Corporate Benefactor, that includes such really nice features as a special employee day with free admission and special activities, company signs during special events, complimentary individual memberships for employees, and several other benefits.



There are a number of workshops and special shows throughout the year, most of which are either free with the annual membership or offered at a discount with the membership. One coming up in March which I plan to attend and cover in Inkwatu is the Orchid Festival, Sunday, March 22, 10am to 4:30pm. which features commercial orchid growers from Florida, lectures throughout the day and thousands of orchids for sale. It will be free with paid daily admission: $8 adults, $6 seniors (55+), $4 children (2-11) or free for annual members.

Sunken Gardens is located at 1825 4th St. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33704; general information 727-551-3102; wedding and rental information: (727) 551-3106. It is open Monday through Saturday 10am to 4:30pm and Sunday, noon to 4:30pm.


Florida Botanical Gardens

Last year, my brother at inkwatu.com invited me to offer two guest posts. This year, I’m excited that I can reciprocate. I am unable to post anything myself this week and next, so you will have the pleasure of seeing what Florida has to offer! Actually, many of the plants there are the same that we have here in Hawai`i, except that Florida has soil as well as higher humidity. It is with great love and joy that I present my brother, Hilton.

A hui hou!


The pictures in this post are all of the Florida Botanical Gardens
and are in random order, unrelated to the text.

Kids have “mountain top” experiences that key in to fundamental aspects of their intrinsic personalities and unlock an affinity that lasts for the rest of their lives. Visual memories come floating up throughout their lives whenever circumstances similar to the peek experience occur. Such a formative experience for me was visiting the Jewel Box, in St. Louis, Missouri, as a child.

Forest Park is a very large St. Louis park (descriptions vary from 13 ½ to 17 acres) dating from the late 1800s that is home to the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Muny opera (outdoor light opera), the St. Louis Science Center, the McDonnell Planetarium, and the Jewel Box.

The Jewel Box is a several storey Art Deco greenhouse built in 1936, partially with WPA funds. It’s on the National Historic Register. Their website describes its dimensions as “50 feet high, 55 feet wide and 144 feet long, containing about 7,500 square feet of floor space.”

It’s recently been rehabilitated to the condition it was in when I was a child. It was a safe place and my parents would let me wander among its labyrinthine paths amidst fake grottos, hills and small waterfalls, or climb the stairs to look out over the spacious interior. When I first read Arthur C. Clarke’s description of the interior of the vast interstellar spaceship in Rendezvous with Rama, the image I formed in my mind bore a strong resemblance to the Jewel Box of my childhood.

A related set of experiences for me, about the same time in my life, were on the grounds of a small inspirational publishing house in Litchfield, Illinois, called the Sunshine House. Much smaller, it nonetheless shared many of the same features of the Jewel Box: wishing well, wandering paths, flowers and plants in faux rock garden settings, soft, piped-in classical music. I still remember hearing J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring on one particular childhood visit to the Jewel Box.

Somewhat later in my life, my love affair with botanical gardens continued into my adolescence with the many hours I was allowed to wander, unescorted, through the numerous parts of the University of Illinois Arboretum while my father was taking professional development courses in Urbana every summer.

The trend continued right up to the present including forays through the U.S. Botanical Gardens in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and, of course, large open parks with similar enchanted paths such as Forest Park itself, San Diego’s Balboa Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and New York’s Central Park. Just south of St. Petersburg, Florida, is Sarasota’s Shelby Gardens that I have tremendously enjoyed and which definitely fits the wandering-through-the-magic-of-nature mold. I suspect that the reason botanical gardens attract us so much is that they resonate to the motif of the enchanted land into which the hero must venture and then return that is part of The Hero’s Journey explained in the book of the same name by Joseph Campbell.

Which brings us—finally—to the topic of this post: The Florida Botanical Gardens, located right here in Pinellas County. The gardens are actually one of three attractions at the Pinewood Cultural Park: the Florida Botanical Gardens, the Gulfcoast Museum of Art, and Heritage Village. A map of the entire grounds can be found here. You will definitely need the map as the grounds are quite extensive. So far, I have only been to the botanical gardens portion. That alone took several hours to enjoy, so I would not attempt all three attractions in the same day.

The Florida Botanical Gardens features native Florida flora (and some wild fauna), primarily Bromeliads, Palms, and Herbs. In addition to some large areas such as the Wildlife & Natural Habitats and the Aquatic Habitat Demonstration Area, it’s organized around smaller themed gardens: the Patio Garden, Herb Garden, Tropical Fruit Garden, Seasonal Garden, Succulent Garden, Butterfly Garden, Bromeliad Garden, Palm Garden, Formal Gardens, Wedding Garden, Topiary Garden, Rose Garden, Jazz Garden, Cottage Garden, Tropical Walk, Tropical Courtyard, Sculpture Gardens, and the Native Plant Garden. (That’s a heck of a lot of Gardens!)

One feature of their website is worth making note of: What’s In Bloom by Month. That will help you plan the timing of your visit to best advantage. Information can also be found at their website on the Wedding Garden, mentioned above, that is available for garden weddings.

When your out-of-town relatives visit, take them to the Florida Botanical Gardens. I highly recommend it. (Especially if they are getting on your nerves and you need some space and silence!) Admission is free and it’s an excellent environment within which kids may have formative emotional experiences as I did, long ago at the Jewel Box.