Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Things are looking up this week.  I have new chairs in my garden and it is amazing the difference they make to the feel of the place.  My old plastic chairs were a few years old and, although still usable, looked very faded and drab with lots of mildew on them.  I had been saving up a few dollars from plant sales while I was on the lookout for some new chairs on sale. (In my retirement the garden has to pay for itself.)  Last week some lovely, sturdy plastic chairs went on sale at Longs Drugs for $9 each and I bought eight of them. The chairs are made in Italy which I think says something about our global economy.  The old chairs I put out by the road and  were gone in ten minutes.  I do not expect these new chairs to last more than a few years.  Between sun, rain, and salt air any chairs I have had in the garden only last three or so years at the most.  I have tried wood, plastic and metal in the past.  Some super expensive ones might work but it seems easier to just go cheap every few years.

Meanwhile, son #2 had also noticed that I needed some new chairs.  He suddenly showed up with four new wood Adirondack chairs that he had assembled and painted.  What a lovely colorful gift that really gives a lift to the garden....and to me!  The paint job is even more impressive when you know that it was done with leftover paint found abandoned next to a trash can.

So, sorry there is no plant info today, but this post is really just to show off my new chairs.  The four Adirondack chairs will go in a shady spot near the kitchen door where we like to sit and talk in the cool of the evening. I will place one of the plastic chairs under the guava tree which is a good shady spot in the morning to sit and have a cup of coffee.  The rest of the plastic chairs will be kept stacked by the house to quickly  come out when we have a gathering for a BBQ or a birthday etc.  I do love being able to provide a nice garden area for my kids and grand kids to build memories in.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

GROUND ORCHIDS (Spathoglottis plictata)

Ground orchids showed up in Hawaii a few decades ago but it is only now that I am starting to appreciate them.  In the past I tended to keep my garden green with "useful plants" only.  That meant very few flowers and then they would be shrubs with flowers like Crown Flower where I used the flowers for lei making. (Nov, 2011)  I must be getting softer as I am wanting more flowers in my garden these days.  Just for decoration.....to give me delight.

Several years ago I found a pot of half dead Ground Orchids in the trash can at our local cemetery.  After reviving  and re-potting them I gave them to my daughter to put by her front door.  A few years ago she gave them back to me as they were going to be living off island for a while.  She is back now, but I have kept them near my front door and fallen in love with them.  A few months ago I divided up the clump into three and re-potted them in large 3 gallon size cement pots.  Fabulous!  They loved the new soil and root space and have been putting on a show for me since.

Most orchids grown locally prefer less soil and lots of air space around the roots.  This is why these Ground Orchids are different.  They are terrestrial orchids as opposed to those that like living on tree branches.  They love soil, as the results of my re-potting showed.  Ground Orchids do like some shade, especially to protect them from the hot afternoon sun.  They look great as ground cover under trees.  The Ground Orchid likes moist soil but do not like wet feet so those grown in containers need to be allowed to dry out between watering.  The leaves look rather like baby palm leaves,  Sometimes you will need to trim off some brown leaf tips with scissors to keep the plant looking attractive.

I have seen two color varieties of Ground Orchids.  There is a yellow/mauve flower variety and the dark purple variety which is the more common and the one that I have.  Flowering occurs on 1-2 ft long stems during the warm months.  It is recommended that your fertilize in spring and summer with a controlled release fertilizer to keep the flowering constant.  The tiny flowers come out at the top of the spike while older flower heads will have dead brown sepals on the stem left from older flowers that have died off.  When the flower head is new and young it looks very attractive in flower arrangements and will last up to a week in a vase.  I do not see it sold in the flower shops here in Hawaii but it is popular in the market in Samoa.  To dead head the Ground Orchid you cut off the complete dead slower spike.


Thursday, May 17, 2018


Last weekend I attended the Honolulu Garden Club's flower show held at the Honolulu Museum of Art.  This flower show is held every three years and the admission fee gets you in to see the art galleries as well as the plants and flowers on show out in the courtyards.

I must admit, the first time I went to the show, many years ago, I was blown away by the flower arrangements and the other plant material on display.  The last few times I  have attended;  not so much.  Maybe the whole culture of stay at home housewives who garden and create flower arrangements is on the way out although surely us retirees can take up the effort.  Despite that, I was glad I went and there were a few interesting and inspiring things to see.  I was also happy to support the garden club as they do contribute a lot of time and money to help support Honolulu's botanical parks and other community gardening efforts.

Here are several photos taken from my outing.

Awarded Best in Show


Thursday, April 12, 2018


Pedilanthus tithymaloides is a stiff, upright, perennial plant that is also on my loved tough plant list.  I always associate it with SE Asia after seeing it growing in pots in front of homes there so often.  In fact, it is another of those tough plants that are native to Mexico and surrounding sub-tropical areas.  That is why it can survive hot, sandy areas in your garden although it if gets lots of micro nutrients and extra water it will really put on a show for you.

Variegated subspecies

There are several subspecies of Pedilanthus tithymaloides and I have three of them in my garden.  The taller, variegated form with its green/white,pink colors is seen occasionally in Hawaii garden, especially along the coastal area where it can survive the sandy soils and salt winds.  I have seen long 2-3 ft stems included in bunches of red ginger flowers for sale.  Other forms of Pedilanthus are usually seen in containers  I think the smaller  "Nana" looks especially good in a nice pot.


"Nana" cuttings and a newly transplanted plant.

If the plant is grown indoors it will not have flowers.  Outside, the Pedilanthus has small red slipper shaped flower bracts on the tips of the stems in the spring time. Hummingbirds love these flowers if you are lucky enough to have them where you live.  None here in Hawaii unfortunately.  If it is a form of Pedilanthus that gets red color in the leaves, this color will only show when the plants are kept in the sun.  If you want to see a fabulous example, have a look at the photos I took in Malaysia,  (Aug. 2012) where the red in the plants is considered to give the plant lucky attributes.  They would also tie red ribbons on the plants for the same effect.

Another subspecies

New plants sent up from roots that I pulled up and planted.
The plant above this picture started out the same way a few years ago.

I have never seen any seeds on my Pedilanthus plants but they are easy to propagate from cuttings.  I let the cuttings dry off for a few days to prevent rotting before planting in potting mix.   Mature plants will also send out babies from the roots that you can just pull up and plant.  Pedilanthus tithymaloides does have a white sap that is toxic in that it can cause vomiting if ingested and be painful if it gets in the eyes.  That is good to keep in mind if you have little children or pets that you are concerned about.  The sap can also cause skin irritation but I have not really had any problem from it.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

PUKEKURA PARK, New Plymouth, New Zealand

I have just got back from a few more weeks in New Plymouth, New Zealand and so here are a few more travel photos.  I joined a free garden walk there that I saw advertised in the local paper.  It was a walk around Pukekura Park and was led by park volunteers.  As you can see, it was a beautiful day and lots of retirees like me came out.

Pukekura Park is an iconic park situated just a few blocks behind the city center.  Bless those early settlers who reserved a scrubby gully to become a community park and for the many donors and volunteers as well as the paid gardeners who built up and expanded the gully to become the premier botanical garden of today.  It is now almost 130 acres of park filled with bush walks, playgrounds, a cricket field, lawns, glass houses, a tearoom by a lake, as well as a small zoo and the popular Brookland's Bowl....an outdoor amphitheater used for performances. It is very worthy of a visit if you are in town.  These photos were all taken at the town entrance end of the park.

Main entrance to the park with the cricket field in the background.

All us retirees enjoying the garden tour.

Highest view point.

Queen Elizabeth fountain in lake.
One of the many shady dells.  The palms are the native NZ nikau palm.

Shady paths, some easy access like these and others were less tame.

Inside one of the glass houses.

The tea house by the lake.  A good place for lunch.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ARUGULA (Eruca sativa)

I had vaguely heard of Arugula, (or Rocket, if you are from British background) for many years.  Something the foodies were in to.  It did not really enter my life until ten years ago when I spent several weeks traveling around Italy.  As usual, I was traveling on a low budget and staying at hostels etc.  I was always on the lookout for cheap eats and various deli/bakery type places sold sandwiches I could eat on the street or sitting on a park bench.  It seemed that a savory filled sandwich like cheese or ham would always have several Arugula leaves added in such a way that half the leaf hung out from the bread and then when they wrapped the sandwich in plastic film the leaves wrapped over the bread and made it look more attractive and healthy.  I was rather intrigued by this and like to do it at home now.  I got used to the peppery taste of Arugula on that trip and started growing small batches of Arugula in my container kitchen garden when I got home.

At first I was not sure how well Arugula would grow here in Hawaii, but after several years experience I can assure you that it does well here.  I do start growing it in the cooler months and into the summer until really hot weather overpowers it.  I grow it from seed.  Just a small teaspoon of seed scattered over the soil in the wide container and patted down into the soil.  This last time I used seed from a partially used packet that had been in my fridge for five years.  I was not sure if it would be still viable but up it sprouted in a few days time.   When the plants come up I start using them as micro greens but soon I have a good supply of leaves several inches long.  I use it along with Mizuna leaves (July, 2016)  in sandwiches and adding to green salads.

Arugula has been popular since the days of the ancient Greek and Roman empires.  It is an annual and a member of the mustard family.  It loves rich, moist but well drained soil.  It likes sun but tolerates some shade, especially when it gives some protection from hot afternoon sun.  I saw a suggestion on the internet that Arugula would make good ground cover, especially under a tall plant in a container.  I could really see this working in a patio garden for apartment dwellers.  The plant does tend to bolt into seed when the weather gets hot.  Apparently it is an easy plant to gather the seed from so I need to keep a few old plants going this year to get the dry brown pods and try to do that.  Free seed is good.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

GOLDEN ELDORADO (Pseuderanthemum reticulatum)

Golden Eldorado, which often is just referred to by its scientific name, is a common shrub through out the Pacific islands.  In my mind it it always associated with Samoa where the children usually have Golden Eldorado flowers included in their small bouquets that they carry to school to decorate their classrooms.  The shrub is probably native to the Melanesian islands of the western Pacific but it is such an easy and attractive shrub that it has now been taken up by the tropical zones around the world.

The Golden Eldorado is very popular for hedges.  Although it can grow up to 10 ft. or so, it is an easy shrub to prune and shape and will even tolerate a very hard prune.  Actually, if left untrimmed, the center of the bush gets rather woody so a good trim promotes new growth and a more leafy appearance.  It likes the sun but will also grow in partial shade, although the leaves will stay more greener than the bright yellows that show up on the new growth in the sun.  Golden Eldorado is also a good shrub for growing in beach side towns as it can handle sandy soils and ocean breezes, although I would not be planting it right on the beach edge.  The spikes of small white flowers with a purple center are attractive and nice to add to a small jar of flowers in the house.  Although it is a tough plant it will look happier with occasional fertilizer and extra water. Remember that it comes from humid, rainy islands.

Propagation is usually done from cuttings.  In fact if you are new at plant propagating this is a good shrub to start out on for cuttings as they have a very high chance of rooting for you.  Take cuttings from the upper stems that are no longer soft and floppy.  Stems that are about the thickness and length of a pencil work well.  Always make the cutting about half an inch under the node or joint as this is where the new roots will grow from.  The cuttings will easily grow in some loose potting mix and can be transferred out into the garden within a few months.  The slugs rather like the new shoots on the cuttings so be on guard for them.