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.
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.
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.
Friends have given me lilikoi seedlings and several white pineapple plants. So much to look forward to here!
As soon as Spring semester was over at the college, I took off for a week to visit my children on the mainland. I’ve posted photos of my daughter Inga’s garden in the past, but for the first time ever, I was there to enjoy it in person!
One morning while she was at work, I walked around her garden with my video camera. Another addition since I was there is the little dry creek and bridge in the photo above. Inga set it up to look like it empties into the pond.
Enjoy this YouTube I created of Inga’s garden in the early days of Spring, even though it was still very cold! You’ll see Quimby the Corgi, Mr. Bill and Spooky Boo her two cats, and a neighboring white cat that wanted to get into the act, too.
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 . . .
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.
This past Saturday, our Big Island Self-Sustainability group (BISS) met to celebrate the Summer Solstice with a potluckat the home of one of the founding members, Kele, in Hilo. I love living in Ocean View, but I have to admit to more than a little envy when I see what can happen in a yard where there is actual soil and rain to help things grow.
These pictures are in order as I walked around the outside of his home. There were surprises with every step. I won’t try to give you the names of everything I saw, but most of you will recognize banana trees, and the amarylis in the foreground.
You might say that his entire garden is a banana grove.
Even with a house (and more flowering plants) on one side, the banana grove feeling remained.
The path curved down away from most of the bananas, guiding me around the corner of the house.
For those of you who are familiar with the tobacco plant, you might be surprised at the small size of the leaves on this specimen. Perhaps if it was in the ground instead of a pot, it would look more like the tobacco most of us know.
Oops! More bananas, plus some great-looking papayas!
These are ornamental bananas, a pretty pink, but not for eating!
And yet more bananas about ready for chopping off the tree.
Sometimes there are pieces of interest that are not growing.
I got a few ideas for how to handle some of my pots from Kele.
The bananas don’t seem to stop!
Here’s one of the striking spots of color.
A simply stunning display! Too bad I had to get a car in the background.
The bright blue ginger provides a colorful background for the salmon cannas.
And this takes me back to the driveway entrance to Kele’s home.
I had no idea that Betty Crocker offers landscape awards. Some of the community groups sponsor these awards here in Hawai`i and each year, they encourage local residents to nominate someone they believe has an unbelievable garden. There are four categories, and Kele won this year. He’ll be flying to Honolulu soon to accept the award. I think you’ll agree that his yard certainly deserves it.
Congratulations, Kele, and thank you for letting me share this beauty with my readers.
It’s hard to believe that only twelve miles away is a hideaway this lush and fertile! On twenty acres of volcanic land that has decomposed, my friend Connie has created a delicious and peaceful botanical garden.
My friend, Velvet and I were invited to come and take pictures. Once we were through the gate shown above, we walked along this beautiful roadway.
All along each side were many plants and flowers. It is obvious a great deal of loving care has gone into developing her acreage. Tucked into the ferns were several of the colorful Stromanthe sanguinea.
I was stunned at the size and beauty of her yellow native Hawai`ian hibiscus. I found out that mine is from a cutting of this particular plant. Click on each of these small pictures to see a full-sized version.
This climbing Mandevilla vine gave me a great idea for my own property. It is a way to lift the color up off the ground and toward the sky.
For a larger version of this slideshow, click here.
I’m also envious of this shade house. I don’t need shade on my property, because it rarely stays very sunny for any length of time, but a shade house makes it possible to keep many shade-loving plants together in one spot.
Another bit of information about Connie . . . she is the owner of TLC, a business providing indoor plant services. If you want to contact her, leave a note in the comments and I’ll let her know you are interested.
For the next two weeks, my brother Hilton will be the guest poster. He lives in Florida and writes a travel/food blog about the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area. Please visit to see some of the gardens of Florida.
Relocating rocks can be either hard labor, or you can look at it as good exercise! I choose to think of it as a way to get in my weight lifting. This weekend, I put on my heavy duty garden gloves and started creating a spot in the sun for my three new boysenberry plants.
Soon after I moved into this house, I created a side path out of cinder and 12-inch pavers with the help of a friend. The photo above shows the path before we added the pavers, but gives an idea of where they would be going – fairly close alongside the house. This was also before the lattice work was put in around the base of the house.
Boysenberries need to be in full sun. There are many places around my acre that are in full sun, but only this one place where they would have something to climb on without building a frame. For several reasons, that wasn’t an option at this time.
So my first task was to move the pavers to create an area for the berries. Here is the new path, curved to leave a planting spot.
This is a closer view from the other side. They all gathered to see what I was doing. As you can see, there is a little more to be done to finish off the top. They love scratching around in the lava, especially after I’ve tossed in a bunch of weeds.
As I was moving the rocks for the boysenberry bed, I found several flat rocks that looked like pieces of concrete from the original construction period that had been stained by the red concrete. I pulled those out and created a path in some of the beds in the patio. I’ll dump in either cinder or soil and let something like a low-growing herb of some sort or alyssum fill in the cracks.
The left side of this path is unplanted, so it’s full of weeds right now. You can barely see the right side where I have arugula and other salad greens planted. Original steps at the lower end of this path were put in by my two daughters last March.
While I was taking pictures with my new Nikon Coolpix S610, I thought you might like to see the back half of my acre. I stood at the door of my shed and took several shots of it so you can see the potential for more growing space. When I figure out how to use the video ability of this camera, I’ll do a sweep around the property. Until then, just pretend that this is one panoramic view, from left to right. If you want to see a larger picture of each one, just click on it.
Here is a close-up of where the patio is from the shed, shielded by a stand of wild grass. When the grass is pulled, I will plant more flowers and veggies in that area, as well. So many ideas, so little time and energy!
Addendum – just before I posted this, I made a few changes to my boysenberry bed. I removed the rocks from the outside of the pathway, dug three holes with the help of a friend who recently moved to Hawaii from Washington. In another post, I’ll tell you about her and how this blog prompted her to move here.
She and I dug three deep holes, then she held the plant in place while I dumped in my combination of soil and chicken manure. We put rocks around the outside to help hold the soil and water. New growth was already beginning to show on the roots!
Last week, I showed some of the flowering plants and landscaping of Bob Elhard’s plot of land. I love to show local gardeners and their work because it gives me so much hope!
The photo above is a stone table in the entry patio he has created out of a lava slab.
He has used bits of found wood and stones to create little pockets of art everywhere you turn. Most of us here in Ocean View end up with all sorts of pieces of ohia that has blown down during a storm. I have my own piles of dead wood (like the one shown below) and someday I’ll go through them to find interesting pieces to use like Bob did.
Kaimana, my wonderful friend, loves the outdoors. He’s gotten out by accident only a few times, but he always found his way back home. His paws were always scraped raw when he returned, not being accustomed to the harshness of the lava. Now he mostly sits to watch the world go by and fantasize about a life of freedom.
When I first moved in, the lonely monstera you can see through the screen was gracing my entryway, compliments of the previous owner. I added a turtle pot at the bottom of the steps. Now Mr. Turtle lives over on the other side. I’m not sure what’s growing in it here. A friend gave me a few cuttings of a ground cover that didn’t make it. He is empty as I write this, waiting for divine inspiration.
The monstera was eventually shifted down to the ground and I began searching for a way to add my own touch to the entry. On this next photo, you can see where I put the monstera.
You can also see the small Angel’s Trumpet trees growing from cuttings I put in. This name is shared with the closely related genus Datura. The Brugmansia genus is perennial and woody, the Datura species is herbaceous. Also, the Brugmansia has pendulous blooms while the Datura has more erect blooms. http://www.abads.net/ I’ve been calling what I have “Datura,” but seems I’m incorrect in that. Can anyone straighten me out? There are many beautiful trees of the Angel’s Trumpet here on the Big Island.
I was given cuttings of ti plants (Cordyline Terminalis), or ki in Hawai`ian. Ti or ki is grown in profusion around any Hawai`ian home to provide good luck and protection. http://www.hiloweb.com/webman/ti.htmlIt has bushed out and grown even taller since I took this shot. I was amazed at how quickly they grew from simple eighteen-inch pieces of stalk. I put them into water with a rooting compound and within a very short time, I was able to put them into the ground.
I was given a large full basket of a variety of orchids, so I stuck that in the corner where the monstera had been on the front stoop. They are difficult to see here. Isn’t that a nice path going around the house?
This has definitely been a “work in progress.” As you can see, there was a lot of work to be done to make the entry more inviting.
The dark green lattice work I’ve started putting in around the lower portion of the house is a great improvement, don’t you think?
Little by little this acre of lava is being transformed, but I’m an impatient woman.