Tuesday, January 21, 2020

CULANTRO (Eryngium foetid)

Recently I noticed 4" pots of Culantro for sale at Home Depot.  I was looking for a long term replacement for Cilantro.  If I buy Cilantro plants they seem to bolt into flowers and seeds within a few months. ( If I do do buy Cilantro I will only buy them in winter months, only give nitrogen fertilizer, and still expect to only have them for a few months.)  Because Culantro has the same flavor as Cilantro I thought it might be a good replacement.  At least it would be fun to grow something new.

Young plant with first flower stalk starting from center.

I remember seeing Culantro for the first time in Thailand several years ago.  The fact that it is now for sale in Honolulu shows that we are getting a much wider range of herbs sold locally now.  I have been having a look around the internet for information on the plant.  It looks like  Culantro can easily bolt in the summer too.....bother!  Maybe it will not be a long term replacement for cilantro.  However, if kept in partial shade and if you keep trimming off the leaves it may last up to two years.  So we will see how it goes.  This will mean notes added at the bottom of this post in the future.

Large flower frond with seeds forming at center of each rosette.

I was also surprised to find out that this plant is actually native to the Caribbean islands and Mexico.  It is usually called Vietnamese Cilantro here in Hawaii so I expected it to be an Asian native.  In the wild it grows in moist, shady areas,  The one plant I bought has grown well in a 6 gallon pot and now has a few babies growing from the side.  It did grow a huge green flowering frond which I let mature to observe it.   Apparently this plant will self seed easily but it is best to cut the flowers off to keep the leaves tender and tasty.  I have found slugs nibbling at the leaves so keep an eye out for them.

The plant now older with babies growing...note slug damage too.

One of my sons loves the Culantro leaves in his Saimin.  They are also used a lot at Pho restaurants. It is better to cut the leaves off with some scissors rather than just pulling the leaves off and risk damaging the plant.  I am still deciding if the chopped Culantro leaves work in my lunch sandwiches..  Time for a bit of experimenting.  I plan to divide some of the new babies off the  mother plant to pot up as they get bigger.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

SPANISH MOSS (Tillandsia usneoides)

I have had bunches of Spanish Moss hanging on my guava tree for several years now.  In the past I was not that keen on the stuff until I saw how a lady in my neighborhood was incorporating strands of it in her leis.  Fortunately Spanish Moss seems to like Hawaii climate and it is happy hanging out on my guava tree.  Every several months I will divide  the thickest bunch up to start a new bunch.

Because Spanish Moss is such a different type of plant it really results in a big learning curve in growing it.  Lots of interesting information to pass on to the kids.  For example:  Did you know that Spanish Moss is not a moss or a lichen?   Nor is it Spanish for that matter.  It actually belongs to the bromeliad family so it is related to the pineapple plant.  Look at just one strand of Spanish Moss and see it as a chain of tiny plants with the end one sending out a new baby plant and so on.  Then another thing.  This tiny bromeliad has tiny flowers....just like its cousins.    I have to admit that I learned about this from a garden facebook group.  A gardener was commenting about flowers on her Hinahina.   I am thinking, "no way" but I went out and inspected my Spanish Moss very closely, and what the heck?  There were a few tiny little mustard color flowers on my Spanish Moss and I had never noticed them for all these years!  That was in the summer time.  I do not see any out there right now.

A tiny flower on the end of a strand.

Here in Hawaii, Spanish Moss often goes by a few other names.  One is Hinahina which in Hawaiian refers to the silver gray color of the plant.   The name is also used for a few native plants of a similar color.  Spanish Moss can also be called locally as Pele's Hair; a name that is also given to strands of volcanic glass.  Both names have a nice descriptive and local touch but Spanish Moss is not native to Hawaii.

Spanish Moss is native to the US South and on down through Central America, the Caribbean and into the northern part of South America.  In nature if just grows and hangs from trees and does not have roots that take nutrients from the tree.  These it absorbs from the air through its leaves.  Often people buy Spanish Moss and and hang it in their covered patio thinking it will be OK without any further care because they have heard it is an air plant.  Remember that in nature it will get rain.  In the patio, without watering, it will die.  Even my plants outside need watering in dry weather.  I just give them a spray with the garden hose.  Some people use spray bottles and others dunk the whole clump of Spanish Moss into a bucket of water for a minute or so.  About once a year I will give it a light feeding of  Miracle Grow fertilizer mixed in water using a watering can.  Although it can take sun, Spanish Moss likes partial shade.

Spanish Moss for sale at a market in Bangkok.
 Note the large palm seed and bigger air plant used in the display to hang the moss on.

My Spanish Moss just hangs over branches on the guava tree.  I notice the professional nurseries use small plastic net cups used in hydroponics to hang theirs.  The net cups can be bought on the internet.  The thing not recommended is any kind of metal hook or wire as the metal becomes toxic to the plants.  One guy on the internet uses those little plastic butterfly hair clips they use on orchids.  He likes to clip bunches of Spanish Moss on to other hanging plants.  It is important to to keep the plant strands hanging down and free so that the air can pass through.  This is a good reason to divide your clump when it gets too fat.

In the old days Spanish Moss was used for such things as insulation, mattress stuffing and packing material.  Now it is more likely used in arts and crafts.  I like to add a few strands when making a lei such as winding it around a single strand of crown flowers for extra effect.  It is a plant you can have fun with.  I notice the house finches like to sneak a few strands too when it is nest building time.


Saturday, November 9, 2019


I recently spent a month in Nepal.  I was not there for the usual trekking in the mountains but just to hang out and look around.  Most of the time I was in Kathmandu city but I explored out into the surrounding valley as well.  I also took the eight hour bus trip over to Pokhara to stay there a few days so that I could see a bit more of the country side.  An absolutely fascinating country that was easily visited on a low budget.  As usual, here are a few photos pertaining to gardening to share with you.  Remember you can click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Typical Kathmandu house with city style gardening

Marigold flowers used for welcome leis or Hindu temple offerings.

Houses and rice terraces in Kathmandu Valley.

Corn drying in house windows, Kathmandu  Valley

Shankhadharpark, Kathmadu .   A central city park that you pay to go into.
 It seemed popular with teens taking photos of each other.

Garden of Dreams.  Surprise!   A neo classical historical garden in Kathmandu.
A tranquil spot from another world that you pay to visit.
Ladies selling their bananas and papayas on the street. Kathmandu

Man selling vegetable seeds and plants at street market, Kathmandu

A lady at Lakeside,  Pokhara  who had established this lush permaculture garden.
There was also a little cafe on the house veranda there.
A lady knocking down flowers to gather for use in
 giving blessings at the Hindu temples.  Pokhara 

Vegetables for sale at street market, Kathmandu

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Here are just a few photos of some Bougainvilleas in containers at a temple in Ayuthaya, Thailand.  I think they are multi color grafted but it could be that they have planted a few different color plants tightly together.  I just presumed that they were grafted that way when I took the photos, but now looking at them, I wonder.   Anyways...they were a fabulous show and getting lots of attention from the tourists.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019


For the last several weeks I have been off traveling again.  During quiet evenings at my guest house I started looking around on youtube.com at gardening videos.  This is not something I have done much before but I have realized that I was missing out on some fabulous stuff.  Even more so, I have actually clicked on the subscribe button for the very first time because of the wonderful videos put on you tube by Self Sufficient Me.  These are by Aussie gardener Mark Valencia who could also be called the Russell Crowe of gardening.  His personality and enthusiasm is very engaging.  Mix that with pure practical gardening know how and he is a winner.

Mark Valencia lives near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in a semi tropical climate so he is growing similar foods to what we grow here in Hawaii.  His gardening videos have a huge following from around the tropical world and also he has a blog at selfsufficientculture.com that you can have a look at.  Obviously I am a bit behind on such things as his videos have been on you tube for a couple of years now but if you have not seem them please check them out as they are very helpful and I know you will become a fan too.  Here are a few links to start you off.





Sunday, September 15, 2019


There is a beach only a few minutes walk, through the back yard and an empty lot away, from my house.  The grand kids refer to it as Grandma's beach because it is near the house and also because I am one of many who watch over the beach.  We go swim there.  We walk there and observe nature and watch the changes on the beach with the tides and seasons.  Most importantly, we pick up the plastic flotsam that comes in from the ocean.  I throw it with the household garbage in the collection bin which goes to H Power to be burnt for electricity.   Much of this plastic comes from the other side of the Pacific Ocean or from the fishing industry.  Most of the plastic has been in the water for a long time and may have been part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.....a giant gyre of  marine debris that sits out in the north Pacific ocean.  Some days it is just small stuff coming in but after a big storm large objects can come in like fishing crates and racks which I put to good use in my plant nursery area.  (Frugal in the Garden,  April, 2016)

Another thing that comes in is fishing buoys.  In the 60's up to the 80's it was possible to find glass blue/green buoys which make a nice collection.  It is very rare to find one of these days....maybe one gets kicked off a distant island in a storm to still arrive here.  There are plenty of plastic and Styrofoam buoys that show up now.  If I find a interesting new one I bring it home and hang it around the garden for a free decoration and it is rather interesting to see the different types.   A few years ago I looked at a New Zealand gardening book that showed pictures of quirky gardens there and some people had totally gone over board on collecting fishing buoys in their gardens.  I decided I did not want to look too crazy so I limit it to one of each type of buoy and leave the others up on the sandbank for others to take home.  There are a few gardeners around in Hawaii that use the buoys to decorate their garden.  The most popular way is to hang them in trees like baubles on a Christmas tree.  They look really good on a wide stretching tree like the Beach Almond/Kamani  Others sell them on eBay or cut them in half to grow plants in.

I am putting up a few photos to show how I use them in my garden.

We call this big barrel size buoy The Hippo.  The kids like  to balance on it.
You can see mother of pearl growing on it and it probably came from a pearl
farm in Japan that got washed away in the tsunami  of 2011.