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!

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.

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 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 ( 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 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.