A year ago, I wrote about one of my favorite times of year here in Hawai`i, in what we call “winter,” and the dazzling banks of poinsettias that line the road. I thought about trying to take more pictures this year, but the highway is narrow and curving with almost no place to pull over. I did notice that some of the photos are a bit hazy, so it must have been voggy the day I took some of these. Please enjoy these pictures that show our winter scenes.
Yes, there is a difference between summer and winter here. Even in Florida, Southern California, and Arizona (all states where I have lived in the past), there is a distinct change between the temperatures in July and those in January.
Here, there is no noticeable change in temperature from month to month all year. From late November until mid-March, however, there is a change in what is blooming along the roadsides and in our gardens.
For example, the road I drive to the college where I teach seems like one huge embankment of of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). “Pulcherrima” means “very beautiful,” and it is. There is no way to compare these with the little pots of poinsettias you might purchase in grocery stores. Against our rich forest green, the brilliant reds are almost florescent. Then throughout March, I look for those little drops of red in the midst of jungle growth that keep hanging on. When they are all gone, I know that it is winter is over!
My first experience with poinsettias took place back in the early 70s when I was a student in the ornamental horticulture department of California Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo. We made a field trip to visit the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, CA where over 70% of the poinsettias in the United States and over 50% worldwide actually begin. There were acres of greenhouses filled with poinsettia cuttings in all varieties and stages of growth. Please follow that link to view the history of that ranch as well as the history of poinsettias in general.
Poinsettias flow over onto the ground and almost seem to take over everything else.
I love the way they intermingle with the yellow hibiscus. Such a dazzling display of color!
This is a sight few of you will see at Christmas.
Many of the poinsettias have found their way into the wild tangles of growth.
Others are a featured part of a home’s entryway.
You can see why I’m obsessed with taking just the right pictures to illustrate this stunning plant.
Poinsettias are originally from Mexico and named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico in the 1920s. The rest, as they say, “is history!”
During his stay in Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species. In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina.
I remember when I lived in Southern California how people would plant the small potted plants they bought at Christmas time. Many of the homes there had nice stands of poinsettias, but none reached the size or proportion of the ones here.
If you are interested in what to do with your Christmas poinsettia plant, go here to read up on it. Another good site on how to choose and care for your poinsettia, and what to do with it at the end, go here.
I really do empathize with those of you who are suffering under ice storms and record-breaking snowstorms. I have lived in Alaska, Illinois, and Rhode Island, so I know what you are experiencing. But I couldn’t go back to it, now that I’ve lived in Paradise!
Whether you are celebrating Hanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, or any other festival at this time of year, poinsettias are a celebration in themselves!
I’ve thought of the succulents and snapdragons that are all over this acre as really nothing more than weeds. Why? Because I didn’t plant them, they sprout up unbidden, then grow without anyone’s help, and they aren’t something I can eat. But I realized just how much they add to my landscape when I caught this shot of them. I think you’ll agree they are beautiful.
As we move into the last month of the year, I thought I would catch you up on what’s happening in my lava garden. It’s been about two months since my last update.
One of the most exciting changes lately has been my coffee berries – they are turning red! I may only get enough out of this first crop to make a small pot of coffee, of course. But I’m sure it will be the tastiest cup of coffee I’ve ever had.
I picked the ones that were ripe enough. Now I need to get the pulp off the beans, dry them, roast them, grind them, and drink!
The red mustards I planted several weeks ago are beginning to look like something edible.
I’ve had trouble keeping my cat (Kaimana) out of my raised beds, so there are large patches where nothing is coming up. He likes to scratch around and make himself comfortable.
At the same time that I planted the red mustard seeds, I also put in another batch of beets. They will give me several good meals this winter.
With the help of one of my students, I planted some ginger cuttings she had brought. It took them a long time to root, but now they are showing good growth and soon I will transplant them to a permanent location.
It’s been almost a year since I planted this red scarlet chard, and it’s still going strong. I eat off of it occasionally, stir-frying it in olive oil with lots of garlic. When the leaves are still young and small, I sometimes cut it up and put it into a salad without cooking it.
Like the chard, my arugula plants just keep producing. I love fresh arugula salads. A friend said, “A little arugula goes a long way,” but I like the spicy bitterness more than most folks do.
I’m not sure if these papaya plants are going to do much at this elevation, but I keep nursing them along. They were also a gift during this past summer.
My garden club has a plant gift exchange at Christmas. The gift I received last year was this pikake plant, now full of buds and blooms.
I had a lovely gardenia bush that suffered during the worst of the sulfur dioxide fumes from the volcano. Today, it is growing back and producing a few buds.
I put out a bunch of cuttings of a purple-flowered bush (don’t know the name of it), and every one of them is showing great signs of growth. When it finally blooms, I’ll find out what it is and post more pictures. At this point, it’s great fun to see something grow from a bare stem stuck in the soil.
I have what I call a smoky bush (don’t know the real name of that, either) that is showing leaves from another piece of twig put in the ground. These two plants (red and purple) seem to take off right away with a little soil and water.
Still another plant that seems to root and grow profusely without much care is this magenta geranium. I’d put in just a couple of small cuttings from a friend, and now they are filling in the blank spots, giving color to an otherwise gray landscape.
The lilikoi plants that grow against my shed were eaten back by fuzzy black caterpillars. Now they are showing new growth. Unless someone gives me a bunch of lilikoi, I won’t be making more lilikoi butter this year!
The brugmansia were in need of some drastic cutting back. Once I did that, they started sprouting all sorts of new leaves and they are looking twice as healthy.
The poinsettias take over the island at this time of year. Soon I’ll have a chance to get more pictures of those. When they are mingled in with other colors, and especially the white flowering shrubs, they are a breathtaking sight. Some of the “Snow on the Mountain” are blooming on my property.
This plant is sometimes called Snow-on-the-Mountain, and is closely related to poinsettia, crotons, and the other members of the Euphorbia plant family. It is a native to the Pacific Islands. See the full article here.
We’ve had little bits of rain here and there, not enough to overflow the tank, but to keep it at a decent level. That’s a critical element in the grand scheme of life here on my little homestead. If it keeps up like that over the winter months, I’ll be in good shape. At least we are not worried about snow storms here!
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.