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!

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

GARDEN CLUBBERS
GARDEN CLUBBERS

(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!

Lei Making

 

Instead of always looking up, sometimes it’s fun to look down, especially when you are looking down on a group of people making ti leaf leis.

May Day in Hawai`i is also known as Lei Day. Making and wearing a lei is such a soft, gentle, and loving way to honor someone.

In order to make the leis from ti leaves, you need to press with a warm iron to soften them. Then using your big toe as a holder, you begin twisting and pulling on the leaf. With each leaf, as you add a new leaf, you can leave a little point sticking out as you twist.

When everything is long enough, twist the ends together to form a circle. Tuck a few flowers into the twisting ti leaves and place it around someone’s neck with a kiss on the cheek.

Traditionally, ti plants are placed around a home to bring good luck.

A hui hou!

Addendum to “Palms Revisited”

 

This morning’s post mentioned a growth on the triangle palms of a friend. Flowers form on this branched growth, which is called an “inflorescense.” I found out about this here but there is much more to be found on the subject. This particular inflorescense has now grown to five feet long! I suppose he can expect flowers soon.

 

Writing a blog can be so educational!

A hui hou!

Palms Revisited

 

Last year on Palm Sunday weekend, I wrote a post about a variety of palms in honor of Palm Sunday.

One of those palms was the triangle palm (Neodypsis decaryi) that I’ve been planting on either side of my driveway. A friend on Maui has several triangles that have grown to be a decent size.

The triangle above recently started sending out some sort of growth. Would you call it a flower?

 

Here is another view. What would you call this?

 

Probably of more interest to people who do not live in Hawai`i is the banana palm (Musa SPP) and the process of growing bananas. Those delicious potassium-filled fruits you buy in the grocery store aren’t nearly as tasty as the ones right off the tree.

Like most fruits, it starts with the flower. As the flower unfolds, tiny little green bananas begin to form.

 

Gradually, fingerling bananas begin to grow and peep out from between the petals of the flower.

 

In late spring, they are beginning to look like real bananas, but still very green.

 

By November, this beautiful bunch is ready to be cut down. Need I tell you they can get incredibly heavy? Sometimes it takes several people to carry the bunch to a shed where they will slowly ripen. If left on the tree to ripen, the bugs get them before we do.

 

Yes, it looks like they are growing “upside down,” but that’s the way they grow on the tree. Think about this the next time you buy a nice “hand” of bananas.

After the bananas are harvested, the old tree is cut down, but several new ones have already started to grow. More bananas will be on the way shortly.

A hui hou!