New Home!

1-spring flowers

In 2005 I bought this sweet small house on an acre of land consisting of nothing but a’a lava rock. Then in May of 2008, I started this blog. I began to share photos and write about how that acre of lava was developing (or not developing).

Since late spring of this year, I was given a home that is closer to the college where I teach, closer to town, and has land that will actually grow something. It is still rocky, but the lava has decomposed enough that it manages to provide more of the lush greenery for which Hawai`i is known.

Down side yard toward back1

While I lived in Ocean View, I complained about not being able to grow anything, or at best what did stay alive was growing at a snail’s pace! Now my complaint goes in the opposite direction – everything grows too quickly! This view into the side yard was taken in April.

Down side toward back2

Two months later in June, it was so overgrown that no one could walk through it! There is a lot of work to be done still, but with the help of some friendly landscapers, it is beginning to take shape. I’ll post more pictures as things start to look beautiful again.

I look forward to cleaning out this little area with its raised beds. It is a perfect spot for growing herbs, or starting seeds, or potting seedlings, and more. The purple sweet potatoes growing here were probably from starts the previous owner was tending. I will transplant some of those into a backyard garden.

Raised bed for herbs

Friends have given me lilikoi seedlings and several white pineapple plants. So much to look forward to here!

A hui hou!
Lucy

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!

Summer Patio in Boise

Several weeks ago, I showed Inga’s garden, promising a review of her latest project – a roof to provide shade for her patio. I just received the pictures for your enjoyment. As you can see, her father and brother-in-law pitched in to help. Inga and her sister kept everyone supplied in nourishment and beverage.

There’s something wrong with this picture! While we struggle to get through a drought here in Paradise, my daughter’s Boise patio looks more tropical than our own tropics! Of course, a mister system helps.

I am impressed with her ability to make such a small space hold so much and still look spacious. I can’t seem to get that effect on an entire acre.

Even the necessary utilitarian area is beautiful.

So many beautiful things growing!

I keep trying to get a few tomatillos to grow. She has no problem.

Her fruit trees keep her well supplied.

With so many things growing . . .

. . . it’s a wonder she has a chance to sit here and relax!

As always, I get lots of ideas for my own patio and garden.
Mahalo nui loa, Inga!

A hui hou!

A Time to Plant…

 

It’s always time to plant here, but I haven’t had the chance to really concentrate on it lately. With the springs semester finished and graduation over, I’ve been enjoying my time with soil and seed.

 

The plastic containers that had contained Costco cherries, tomatoes, blueberries, and other berries had small holes to allow the water to seep through. I put a coffee filter in the bottom of each one, then filled them with potting soil.

 

Saved fudgesicle sticks made good markers. The lids of the containers protect the seeds and future seedlings from birds and other critters, while letting the sun get through. It’s easy to sprinkle them with water.

I’ll keep you posted on their growth (or non-growth)! I’m trying to keep an optimistic attitude.

 

My list: zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, acorn squash, kabocha, tomatillos, fennel, thai peppers, cauliflower, artichokes, roma tomatoes, eggplant, kale

A hui hou!

Drip…Drip…drip!

 

With the increase in number of plants that require watering, it’s become a time-consuming task to get to all of them as much as they need it. Also, too much water doesn’t make it to the plant, no matter how careful I am. In this unusually dry season, conservation of water is a priority.

My daughter, Inga, came to see me this past week, making her winter visit to get out of the cold Idaho weather. She asked if she could do a project of creating a dripper system like one she had recently installed at her own home. I jumped at the opportunity!

We stopped by Home Depot to talk with the helpful clerk there and purchased all the items she needed. We learned several things along the way that will make the next system easier.

Our first lesson: 500 feet of larger diameter tubing is too much to work with at one time. From now on, I will need to cut it into manageable pieces and use connectors. As she was unwinding it, it all became too entangled.

 

Our second lesson: Let both the larger diameter tubing and smaller ¼” tubing set out in the sun to make them more pliable. In fact, she found that soaking the smaller tubing in very hot water for a while made it so much easier to work with. You can see the pan here beside her as she works (plus my shadow as I took the picture).

 

Our third lesson: Wear sturdy gloves! Cutting the holes and pushing the emitters and connectors into the tubing can be hard on your hands after a while. The blue object in her hand is the hole punch. First, she punches a hole in the larger tubing, then into that she inserts the ¼” tubing with a connector. At the end of the smaller tubing, she inserts the emitter and sets it close to the plant.

 

Here is a close-up of the connection between larger and smaller tubing.

 

Here you can see the emitter, where the water drips out onto the plant (in case you wondered)!

 

She ran the line all around my bananas, coffee, plumeria, blueberries and more.

 

Our fourth lesson: When you have an acre with plants spread out all over the place (even on a small portion of that acre), 500 feet doesn’t go far. This time she put in two systems, one off the hose bib by the back door and one by the front door.

Between the two, it covers part of the plants behind the house, all of the front garden area, and up one side of the driveway. The next 500 feet I put in will take care of the other side of the driveway, my vegetable beds, and the patio. I’m sure there will be plenty more lessons learned along the way!

 

Is that a backache, Inga?? Thank you so much for making my gardening easier!

A hui hou!

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?

The Art of Bonsai

BANYAN BONSAI
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BANYAN BONSAI

 

I can’t remember exactly when I first became interested in the beautiful Japanese art of bonsai. It was probably in the 1960s, when I traveled to Japan on four different occasions. On one of those trips, I climbed Mt. Fuji with friends, an exciting story for another time.

At the hotel where we stayed the night before our climb, I was quite taken with their bonsai garden. Many of the trees there were over 100 years old with an incredible history. I vowed then to learn how to create these for myself. I brought home many of the “bon” or trays in which to plant the trees. They have survived many moves since that time.

JAPANESE BONSAI POTS
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JAPANESE BONSAI POTS

 

Before I go any further, I want to make sure you know how to pronounce the word “bonsai.” I’ve heard it called everything, including “banzai,” which is the suicide attack word used by the Japanese during World War II. The correct pronunciation is a softer sound of “bone-sigh.”

On one of my favorite sites, you can discuss issues with other bonsai enthusiasts, order supplies, buy bonsai books and tools, learn new techniques, and so much more.

Another site offers a beautiful bonsai allegory written in 1993 by Horace A. Vallas, Jr. that can teach us how to be good managers or good parents.

The American Bonsai Society, Inc. was founded in 1967, around the same time I visited the bonsai gardens in Japan. Their official site has many beautiful pictures of bonsai.

The banyan bonsai at the beginning of this post is one of many created by Carole Baker’s late husband and shown in an earlier post of her yard. Here are two more pictures showing others that he created and tended.

CAROLE'S BONSAI
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CAROLE’S BONSAI

 

MORE OF CAROLE'S BONSAI
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MORE OF CAROLE’S BONSAI

 

I think you can tell from these pictures and from the websites I’ve listed that bonsai is the art of miniaturizing a tree or group of trees. Land is so precious in Japan that often the only way a person can experience nature or go into a forest is to kneel silently before a “grove” of bonsai trees in a tray. In this way, we can simply let ourselves melt into the tiny landscape and imagine walking among the trees, or be drawn into sitting at the base of an old tree. It’s difficult for me to describe this type of meditation, but it is a very effective way to put yourself into a peaceful setting, if only temporarily.

If you can imagine this pot filled with a miniature grove, then you have the ability to create one of your own. The Wikipedia site on bonsai has many beautiful pictures of not only groves and forests, but of other styles that can be produced.

SINGLE FLAT POT
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SINGLE FLAT POT

 

There are a variety of ways to begin a bonsai. What I talk about here is one of the methods I was taught in the 70s at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The roots of a bonsai are trimmed and secured to a pot or bon with a wire threaded through a wire mesh and tied around a twig underneath. This is one of my pots from an old bonsai that didn’t live. As you can see, there are many sizes and shapes for the trays, or pots.

POT SHOWING BOTTOM MESH
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POT SHOWING BOTTOM MESH

 

Once the plant is secured in the pot, soil is pressed around the base and roots. Try to find bits of moss, carefully lift it up and transfer it to the top of the soil. This helps to keep the soil from washing away, as well as helping to create an illusion of age.

Then the process begins of trimming the tree itself to a size and shape you desire. This is not to be done in a hurry. The entire process is quite meditative and I can get completely lost in it all.

MORE BONSAI POTS
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MORE BONSAI POTS

 

There are many ways to proceed. One trick in getting the gnarled effect right away is to buy an aging root bound plant, like a Juniper, from a nursery that is no longer really any good for planting in your yard. I love the ones that seem to be growing around a rock. The roots have been secured in such a way that the tree appears to be sitting on top.

When I start talking about bonsai, I don’t know where to stop. There is so much to say. All I can suggest is that you get a book from the library to start out, find a nice flat tray, get a plant and just try your hand.

Something else you might try is to attend one of the shows put on by the Big Island Bonsai Association. Classes may also be available.

I promise you that it’s extremely addicting. Once you start, you may never be able to stop. Why would you want to??