Palms of Spring

COCONUT PALM
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COCONUT PALM

 

Just a couple weeks ago on March 11, Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota held a celebration in honor of three separate religious holidays falling on the same day. The three holidays were Jewish Purim (celebrating the story of Queen Esther), Hindu Holi (celebrating several Hindu myths and springtime), and Muslim Mawlid al-Nabi (celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad).

Now we have moved into April and there are other religious festivals to celebrate. In the Jewish tradition, this is near the time of Pesach, or what we commonly call Passover. This year, it begins at sundown on Wednesday, April 8 and commemorates their Exodus from Egypt out of slavery.

In the Christian tradition, today is Palm Sunday in remembrance of Jesus’ triumphant ride into the city of Jerusalem. The people expected him to liberate them from the oppressive government, so they were excited to see him and spread palm branches on the road before him. It is in honor of that day that this post focuses on palms.

The opening photo is looking up into a tall coconut palm in a friend’s yard over in Na`alehu, loaded with coconuts. I just hoped none would fall on me as I was taking the picture.

The tall palms all over Hawai`i are beautiful, although not native. Here is one in the middle of the Ala Moana Shopping Center on Oahu.

ALA MOANA PALMS
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ALA MOANA PALMS

 

When I visited some of the Hawai`ian sacred sites in Hilo with a group of students last month, I took these pictures of the tall palms scattered around the area.

SACRED SITE IN HILO
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SACRED SITE IN HILO

 

PALMS AT SACRED SITE
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PALMS AT SACRED SITE

 

MORE SACRED SITE PALMS
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MORE SACRED SITE PALMS

 

Then we have the banana palm trees. Here is a small one in a friend’s yard. I have a few but they are still way too small to even think about bearing.

BANANA PALM
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BANANA PALM

 

This little coconut palm in my yard has a long way to go to match the one on top of this post! It has been badly damaged by the wind and sulfur dioxide.

SMALL COCONUT PALM
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SMALL COCONUT PALM

 

I was given this saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) in a large pot by another friend.

SAW PALMETTO
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SAW PALMETTO

 

Since then I have taken it out of the pot and planted it in the ground.

SAW PALMETTO IN GROUND
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SAW PALMETTO IN GROUND

 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been putting in triangle palms (Neodypsis decaryi) to line my driveway. Here are a couple of photos to show you. Maybe in about five years or so, they’ll be closer to the size I want. This shot was taken before my driveway was put in.

TRIANGLES ALONG DRIVEWAY
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TRIANGLES ALONG DRIVEWAY

 

This shows the cinder dumped onto the driveway, with a friend and his son on the bobcat, ready to grade it down for me.

CLOSER VIEW OF TRIANGLES
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CLOSER VIEW OF TRIANGLES

 

This gift triangle was already about three times as big when I got it as the others I have. Such a prize!

MY LARGEST TRIANGLE
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MY LARGEST TRIANGLE

 

Then I was given four small triangles to put into the ground. One has made it, but the other three are still waiting to be planted. Someday I’ll get around to it – along with all my other projects!

SMALL TRIANGLES READY TO PLANT
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SMALL TRIANGLES READY TO PLANT

 

Perhaps someday, mine will be as big as the one a friend has on Maui. He planted these in 2003.

MAUI TRIANGLE
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MAUI TRIANGLE

 

A post on palms wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the “Sago Palm,” which isn’t even a palm at all! I think people call it a “palm” because of the way the branches look, but it is really a cycad. Perhaps I’ll do a post on that another day. Here is one that belongs to my friend on Maui.

SAGO PALM
“SAGO PALM”

 

If you are interested in knowing more about the various religious holidays I’ve mentioned, check out one of the following websites. I highly recommend this Interfaith calendar that lists all the religious festivals. The Religious Tolerance site is also very informative.

Time to go water my palms!

Spring Has Arrived!

ELHARD'S DONKEYTAIL
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ELHARD’S DONKEYTAIL

 

Do you think my cuttings of donkey tail will ever look like the ones Bob Elhard grows above?

MY DONKEYTAIL CUTTINGS
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MY DONKEYTAIL CUTTINGS

 

Even though we don’t have as well-defined a change in season as most locations on the mainland and other parts of the world, there is a certain feel to this time of year. For me, it is a time when I simply have to pull up what has stopped producing and prepare the beds for new plantings. That time came for me this past week. Between the rain and the wind, I was able to do a little of that.

I was down to a few bug-eaten leaves on the mustards and collards, so those were pulled up and fed to the chickens. The same thing was true of my string beans, although I have new beans planted and they are already sticking up their heads.

STRING BEAN SEEDLINGS
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STRING BEAN SEEDLINGS

 

I was able to get my potted Bearss Lime into a larger pot. I need to trim this back a little bit, although you aren’t supposed to do a lot of pruning on citrus plants. I still haven’t decided if I’ll keep it in a large pot or if I’ll try to put it into the ground eventually.

BEARSS LIME
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BEARSS LIME

 

The four small beds I have by the driveway were cleared out. I thought I’d empty out the sweet potato bed because it didn’t look like anything was happening, and look what I found! So I replanted a few of the tiny ones.

FIRST SWEET POTATOES
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FIRST SWEET POTATOES

 

All that is left in the other three small beds is one pineapple that is slowly growing, the chives, and cilantro. You can see that I’ve put scrap pieces of lattice behind the back two beds. When I plant things like eggplant or bitter melon, they can grow up and over the lattice.

SMALL EMPTY BEDS
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SMALL EMPTY BEDS

 

You may remember where I wrote about my “pig dirt” in other posts. Here it is as I was hauling buckets of it into other areas of my plot. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see how high this pile is because of the angle of the camera.

PILE OF PIG DIRT
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PILE OF PIG DIRT

 

I finally got down far enough that it wasn’t feasible to keep shoveling it up and into buckets. So I decided to put a border of lava stones around the outside. I thought I would make a large round bed for planting. Here is my meager beginning of that process. You can see the veggies still growing in the small beds.

PARTIAL ROUND BED
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PARTIAL ROUND BED

 

A friend commented that I wasn’t creating a round bed, but a square bed with rounded corners. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but with a little work, it’s starting to take shape. I still need to put more stones on the larger side to delineate the path where I’ll put black cinder.

ROUND BED TAKING SHAPE
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ROUND BED TAKING SHAPE

 

Here is a close up of the small crescent bed on the left. You can see where I’ve put small stones to divide it into patches. I’ve put in three kinds of basil and Greek oregano. Everything is starting to sprout.

CRESCENT BED
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CRESCENT BED

 

It feels like everything in my yard is without color, that it’s all just a shade of gray and an occasional touch of light green, but this is that “in between time” before things start to look lush again.

I have a few patches in all my beds that haven’t been planted yet. The seed packets are on my table, ready for sowing. This next week is Spring Break, so maybe I’ll be able to get around to a few gardening activities.

Have you started your compost pile yet?

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

WAIMEA STRAWBERRIES
WAIMEA STRAWBERRIES

 

Today’s post is devoted to RED, the color for Valentine’s Day. Wear RED – and make a statement for women’s heart health.

Don’t forget to give your sweetie a gift card from Amazon! There are all sorts of garden tools, books, and chocolates available – whatever s/he might want. Check out the link in the right-hand column. It’s a great “last minute” gift for those of you who forgot (or are wondering what in the world to buy)!

Probably in the top five of my favorite fruits you will find strawberries. The ones shown above are grown here on the Big Island and are the sweetest I have ever tasted. This is just about the time of year when we expect to get the very best.

If you read my post in December on poinsettias, you’ll remember how huge they become here in Hawai`i. They are still in full bloom along the roads, by the way. It will be another month before they begin to fade.

POINSETTIAS
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POINSETTIAS

 

The color of red provides such a lift to gardens! This bromeliad donates her spot of red to the gray-black lava where she grows.

BROMELIAD
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BROMELIAD

 

On the shelf under one of my kitchen windows, I grow a row of potted red geraniums.

RED GERANIUM
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RED GERANIUM

 

And I can’t forget the flower that many people associate with Hawai`i, the red hibiscus.

RED SINGLE HIBISCUS
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RED SINGLE HIBISCUS

 

You can expect my regular weekend post tomorrow when I bring you Bob Elhard’s yard sculpture.

A hui ho!
Lucy – wishing everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Thirty Plus One

OHIA IN BLOOM
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OHIA IN BLOOM

At the end of 2008, I made a commitment to myself and to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) to do 30 posts in 30 days. I wasn’t too sure I could actually do that, but yesterday was my 30th day! I did it – and it was fun!

Today is a little extra one thrown in to satisfy my need to tidy up, balance everything out, and make it a full month. So since there are 31 days in January, here’s the bonus post.

Several friends have asked what plants I do have, so I did a little calculating about what kinds of edible plants I have on my acre. I thought maybe my readers were curious, too, especially since my posts have been a little scattered on exactly what I have here. Most of these plants are either in containers or in raised beds. A few I have placed in a hole in the lava with some of the good rich soil I’ve made. This is only the beginning.

Starting tomorrow (February 1) I will be back to doing a longer post on Sundays. I just might do a short post mid-week, but I’m not promising more than Sunday right now.

Enjoy the list! I will expand the list as I plant more things.

FRUITS/VEGGIES
peanuts
figs
bell peppers
yams
arugula
tomatoes
beets
mustards
collards
string beans
chard
kale

NOT BEARING YET
gooseberries
apricots
blueberries
bush cherry
lime tree (still very small)

TROPICALS
Pineapple
coffee
bananas
lilikoi

HERBS
cilantro
marjoram
oregano
parsley
chives
mint
rosemary

ANIMALS
Hens for eggs

PLANTS THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT
Sage
Fennel
Dill
Kabocha squash
Papaya

From Coffee Bean to Coffee Cup

COFFEE SEEDLINGS
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COFFEE SEEDLINGS

In spite of bad press in the past, coffee is now coming into its own as a beverage that has healthy properties. I’m one of those who is ecstatic over the latest scientific findings.

On the other hand, as an instructor in substance abuse counseling, I know it to be a stimulant that can be abused. What we call “uppers,” are a natural way of life for the majority of the population.

Consider our love affair with coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate! Oh my!!!! Still, we love these items, and with careful use, they can add so much to our lives.

I don’t have a coffee estate, by any means, and I’m struggling to keep my few coffee trees alive. Like most other plants I try to grow, my coffee trees don’t grow very fast. I hope to eventually get a cup of coffee out of what I have.

Above, you can see the seedlings I started from raw beans. That picture was taken in June, 2006. Here is the largest of my trees, photo taken in December, 2008.

SMALL COFFEE TREE
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SMALL COFFEE TREE

Soon, I plan to do a longer post on my friend, Lori Obra. She has a coffee farm and I showed her at the Na`alehu Farmers Market holding up a bag of “Rusty’s Coffee.”

Any guesses as to when I’ll get that first cup of coffee from my own trees?

Preserves and Jams


APRICOT PRESERVES

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APRICOT PRESERVES

I have a friend who loves making jams and preserves. It is one of the activities that he enjoys in his retirement to keep his mind active, and he makes a fine art out of the process.

When our local Costco gets in fresh apricots or peaches, I buy a case (or two) and it’s a sure bet that I can’t eat them all! Sometimes I’ll make a pie and a few get eaten fresh, but usually, I put them up into preserves.

My friend gives me strict instructions on how it is to be done. We use half Splenda and half sugar, and less than most recipes call for. Once the cooked fruit has been put into sterilized jars, we add chopped candied ginger, along with a little fresh ginger, into the juice that is left.

Voila! Ginger preserves!

When I give some to friends, they have a hard time deciding which one they like better – the plain fruit preserves or the ginger preserves.

Either one is deliciously yummy over ice cream or on hot biscuits. In another post, I’ll tell you what we do with the strawberries!

Lilikoi Revisited


lilikoi seedlings
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LILIKOI SEEDLINGS

One of my earliest posts for this blog talked about my lilikoi so you might want to go back and read to refresh your memory about lilikoi. Lilikoi is the Hawai`ian name for Passion Fruit. I took a picture of these tiny lilikoi/passion fruit seedlings back in April of 2007. A few weeks later, I gave two pots to my friend Debi who lives in Kailua-Kona. We planted them at the same time. Here is a shot of mine next to the shed taken several months ago.


first view of my lilikoi plants
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FIRST VIEW OF MY LILIKOI PLANTS

And another one taken last week.


second view of lilikoi against shed
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SECOND VIEW OF LILIKOI AGAINST SHED

This Christmas day, I took this shot of Debi’s lilikoi plants!


debi's lilikoi plants
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DEBI’S LILIKOI PLSNTS

She has been having trouble giving away the fruits, while I’m still struggling to get mine to grow. This is a vivid and laughable illustration of the difference between (a) a plot where the lava has decomposed to the point where it is soil and (b) a plot where the lava is still in the process of decomposing, even though I dump soil around the plants regularly.

Debi’s yard is on the leeward side of the island where tourists come in droves. Visitors to the island don’t get to see my kind of lava yard, and would be surprised at how “third worldly” it can be in our 50th state!

Even though I cannot pick my own lilikoi yet, I received a big box of them in exchange for eggs from a friend here in Ka’u District. I made 12 jars of lilikoi butter from the fruits. In case you ever are fortunate enough to find lilikoi, you might want to make some.

Lilikoi Butter
4 eggs
4 cups sugar
1 pound unsalted butter
1 ¾ cup lilikoi juice
Beat up the eggs in the juice so you don’t get hardened egg in your butter. Bring to a boil, take down to a slow rolling simmer for about ½ hour. It will thicken. (I made a double batch to get 12 jars.)

This is good over ice cream or on toasted English muffin, or you can just spoon it out of the jar! My masseuse said, “It’s so good you just want to put some behind your ears!”

Bare-Root Fruit


red gooseberry
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RED GOOSEBERRY

Several months ago, I ordered some fruits that came bare root. I did as directed and put them into water for a few days before planting in soil. Now they sit in containers on my back steps where I can watch for growth.

If you look closely, you can see tiny leaves starting to sprout on this Red Gooseberry. I remember my great-grandmother and her gooseberry patch. One of my favorite pies is gooseberry pie, but it’s almost impossible to find them anywhere. I think they are not grown legally in many areas because of a pest that is carried by a pine tree. I apologize for the blurriness of this picture of the gooseberry. Not sure if it is the wind or the camera operator!


gooseberry close-up
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GOOSEBERRY CLOSE-UP

Other plants I received in the package were two Manchurian apricots, one Tophat blueberry, and one Sugar Sweet bush cherry. I could swear I see new buds on the apricots and the cherry, but maybe it’s just wishful thinking. The blueberry might not make it.

I’m debating whether to continue growing them in pots or try to get them into the ground eventually. With the poor luck I’ve had trying to keep a hole filled with soil, I may just keep buying bigger pots. These are all either bush berries, or small trees, however, so I think container gardening might be the answer here.


plants on the steps
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PLANTS ON THE STEPS

The next photo may present a good impression, but that is NOT one of my bare root plants sending out leaves already! It’s a small “Snow on the Mountain” that is growing out of the lava just beyond where I have the pots on the back stoop.


growing already?
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GROWING ALREADY?

These plants were mail-ordered from Burgess. I’ve read varying reports on the company’s reliability, but I have friends here who have had nothing but good luck. I’m hoping to have the same results. Many growers on the mainland will not ship to Hawai`i because of the restrictions, but Burgess will ship. I think being bare root might be the key, also.

I can hardly wait for my first gooseberry pie! Even if you can’t get a taste, you’ll be sure to see pictures!

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