Saturday, August 30, 2014
Our little beach community on Oahu is one of the few places you will find Golden Spider Lily growing in Hawaii. That is because a few lily bulbs were brought here around four decades ago by a new resident moving from a South Pacific island and those bulbs have greatly multiplied around town now....including three clumps in my garden. You do see lots of green and purple leaf Spider Lilies in Hawaii but you have to hunt to find the yellow leaf ones. I should note here too, for people living on the mainland US, that there is another plant on the mainland that also gets called a Spider Lily. You may need to compare photos of the two types. In my mind I always associate Golden Spider Lily with South Pacific islands like Tonga, Samoa or Rarotonga where they are growing in almost every garden. It was a bit of a mind shift when I saw them growing at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Was it native to Asia or the Pacific? Research on the internet tells me it is from Melanesia, so I expect that means Papua New Guinea which is the origin of so many useful tropical plants.
I am a big fan of Golden Spider Lily because it is so easy to grow and will survive tough conditions like our sandy soil. It is also a perennial patch of bright color that I can place around the garden. I have one in a container that does very well. One home in our town has a dramatic display of them lined up along the roadside against a rock wall.
The Golden Spider Lily will grow 3-5 feet in height with leaves growing 2-4 feet long. The plant needs to be in the sun to turn bright yellow.....and no....the yellow leaves do not mean it has a nitrogen deficiency.( That was my first thought when I saw it for the first time many years ago in Tonga.) It is a clump forming plant with lots of babies growing out from the side of the stem for you to share. Just cut off one of the babies with a bit of root attached and plant it in soil.
This lily usually flowers around August in Hawaii. It has large fragrant white flowers but the petals are a bit floppy so it is not so good for flower arrangements or to tuck in your hair. The long yellow leaves can be used in flower arrangements and also used in Tongan style leis. I have never seen fruit grow on it. The Golden Spider Lily likes well drained soil and average water amounts. It it does not get enough water it gets little rust colored bruise spots in the leaves. Funny enough, when I first saw these I thought it was a rust colored fungus growing because I was over watering them. They look a lot happier these days after a horticulture teacher explained the true reason to me.!
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I am rather fond of the Manila Palm even though it is very common here in Hawaii. If you have a small garden but still want that palm filled, tropical garden look, the Manila Palm is an easy choice to make. It has a lovely mini coconut palm look without the hassle of dangerous coconuts falling or bulky dead fronds to dispose of. The Manila grows to about 20 ft and has fronds that are about 6 ft long. It also has the added beauty of its flowers and the resulting 1" long red skinned nuts that give the palm its other name of Christmas Palm. The name Manila Palm will tell you what part of the world it is from, although it is not actually native to the Manila area of the Philippines but to the southern islands of Palawan and Danjugan and down into the Sabah area of Malaysia.
The Manila is an easy, trouble free palm. Well ...except in Florida, where they are having problems with Lethal Yellowing disease. Hopefully it does not come to Hawaii. We have enough new bugs and diseases arriving here already. The Manila Palm has flowers and fruit all year round. The fruit do drop on the ground and some grounds crew workers like to trim off the flowers and fruit so they do not have to bother with raking them up. I like seeing the red fruit and the birds and wild chickens like to eat the red skin off the nut. Some of the dropped fruit will sprout and root but they are easy to pull up out of the ground while still small.
The Manila Palm does well in a container. One plant or three together. The height of the palm will be stunted somewhat depending on the size of the container. It also does quite well inside as long as the room is well light.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
I have a beautiful Shinobu Fern in a large pot sitting in the shade under my Guava tree. I love to see it there and it obviously loves its spot too. A few months ago the very same Shinobu Fern was sitting near the kitchen door and totally naked of any fronds. This was a result of the Hau tree being cut down and taking away the fern's shade as well as reduced watering while I was off traveling for two months. The fact that the plant is now a mass of beautiful lacy fronds shows that it may be pretty but it is also tough. The type of plant that grows well in any garden. Even better, it is also a very useful plant as the fern fronds look very attractive in flower arrangements and the smaller leaflets are popular tied into haku leis. I like to tuck a few leaflets in next to the ribbon bow when I am tying off a regular neck lei of any kind of flower.
I was having a look around the internet to see uses for the Shinobu Fern and there are some beautiful pictures out there of haku leis, using the fern, that could give you ideas of flower combinations,etc. The other intriguing find was a web site that shows a nursery in Japan growing thousands of hanging balls of Shinobu Fern. They tie the plants on to balls of moss with rope and after about a year the ball will have about twenty fronds and is ready to sell just in time for Father's Day. Many of the plant balls have a bell wind chime hanging from the bottom and are popular as a cooling, relaxing symbol of summer. They look just beautiful and it certainly is an inspiring possibility.
The Shinobu Ferns can be divided into about forty different species. I think my one might be Davallia fegeensis. This is a native from Fiji and is know for its very fine lace look. Davallia mariesii is very popular in Japan. The Shinobu Ferns, as a group, are known to be very ancient plants that were growing before the time of the dinosaurs. They come from the East Asia into the Pacific area. The rhizome tips are covered in brown hair which has lead to names like Rabbit Foot and Squirrels Foot being given to it. The plant likes good drainage, water and shade. It will grow in the ground, in containers or even up on tree branches or large rocks. They make a lovely show in hanging baskets.
To propagate, the fern root mass can be divided up or you can get cut stems rooted. The trick is to not over water them or the stems will rot. I usually put three or five stems in one pot to get a nice full new plant.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Well, here we are at this blogs third birthday. It has given me pause for reflection and I am happy to keep on with the occasional writing here. I do aim to write once a month but I seem to miss a few months because I am off exploring the world. Trips will usually mean some travel photos of gardens coming up. I have gone back to some of the old posts to add on more information or pictures so you might want to look at old posts if you are wanting new info on Breadfruit or to see a photo of Crown Flower seed pods in Israel. It is always interesting to see the stats for the blog and watch new people from new countries coming in for a visit. Posts on the Crown Flower and on the Tiare are leading in page view numbers now. Thank you to my followers for joining me on this adventure and I hope my writing is helpful to those who stop by searching for help on a specific plant. Thank you and aloha to all the gardeners who, just like me, enjoy peeking into other gardens around the world via the internet.
As a birthday gift I am going to put up a photo of my favorite sighting of Sunflowers. This is a photo taken at the town park in Hawera, New Zealand a few months ago. They had a long line of Sunflowers that were surrounded by masses of the white flowered Salvia. It was such a wonderful combination that showed them both off at their best. There is another plant tucked in under the Sunflower that is a host for the Monarch butterfly which added to the display.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Malabar Spinach is another of those exotic green leaf vegetables that gets called "spinach" because it can be cooked and eaten like spinach. This "spinach" is a very different looking plant as it is a vine with luscious thick green leaves. It is a tough plant that is still growing strong in the hot summer when the other green leafy vegetables have given up. I saw an example of this when I visited the farm vegetable garden at Biltmore House in North Carolina last year. There were beautiful lush green Malabar Spinach vines growing there at the end of September while the rest of the garden was turning brown. With its climbing habit, you can grow Malabar Spinach on your chain link fence or on your patio railing.
|Malabar Spinach at Biltmore House, Asheville, NC|
Not only is Malabar Spinach beautiful to look at but it is high in nutrition. 100 gm. of fresh leaves and stem will supply 8000 IU of Vitamin A and 102 mg. of Vitamin C. It is also a good source of minerals. The red stem Basella ruba is higher in anti-oxidants than the green stem Basella alba and the red stem does look a little more exotic in your garden. It has tiny mauve flowers that give way to pretty purple berries that can be used in making a natural dye. Malabar Spinach is native to tropical Asia and the leaves and soft terminal stems are used there in curries and the usual stir fries. It is easily sauteed and can be added to any dish that you would use spinach in. The leaves drip mucous a bit when cut so I would use them in a cooked food where it is not noticed rather than in a salad.
Malabar Spinach likes moist, fertile, well drained soil. It can be grown from cuttings. Here in Hawaii, bunches of the spinach vine tips are sometimes sold at farmers markets and you could easily get a few plants growing from them. I find that the little purple fruit dropping on the soil self seed enough to keep me supplied in babies. They are tough little seedlings that are easily transferred.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
I am back home again after spending two months in New Zealand visiting relatives and playing tourist. It was the end of their summer so many gardens there were not showing their best for photos. One thing that I did love looking at was all the garden arches used there in home gardens. They can be seen though out the country. They are often simple home made structures, using 4"x4" and 4"x2" lumber, but really add to the character of the garden. Others can be more expensive bought arches. As I traveled around, I started to take pictures of them and I have put up several of them on the blog for you to have a look at and maybe be inspired by. All of these pictures show the archway as part of the garden entrance way but they could also be freestanding.
A few years ago, after another trip to New Zealand, I decided that I wanted a Kiwi style garden arch in my garden here in Hawaii. Living in the tropics, building wooden structures in the garden is just asking for a termite invasion. I looked at the new recycled plastic pretend lumber and the new white vinyl fence material to see if that would work but it just did not look like the New Zealand wood arches. Instead I decided to go with the more expensive redwood lumber which is a bit more bug and weather proof. The wooden corner poles were not buried in the soil but attached to metal bases that were cemented into the soil to further keep termites away. So far so good. Here is a picture of my garden arch in the front garden. I have a type of passion fruit growing on it....the sweet, orange leather skinned type that grows wild up in our mountains. It never seems to want to climb to the top of the arch. I think it knows there is too much salt wind up there. Lower down it is protected from the wind by the surrounding bushes.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I have an interesting plant that will pop up in odd corners of my garden. Although it is considered a Hawaiian native, it is also native to much of the tropical world. This plant is an unusual primitive plant called a Whisk Fern, or Moa if you call it by the local Hawaiian name. The plant establishes itself from minute spores that float around in the air. It will grow in most soils, sun or shade, even in rocky areas and up in the forks of the trees, so that it can be seen as a weed in both rural and urban areas.
Years ago I was inspired from seeing a large Moa plant in an attractive container at a flower show in Honolulu. It has a strikingly different beauty. From then on I never considered it just a weed in the garden. I pulled up a few of the wild growers and potted them up in a nice cement container. This I have placed by the kitchen steps where it gets the hot afternoon sum and where I enjoy seeing it every day. It has proved to be a tough survivor plant. It does get watered by me and I give it a bit of fertiliser occasionally. About once a year I pull out any dead brown stems and also cut any stray ones off that are growing up from under the pot from the drainage holes.
|Young green whisks of Moa|
|A small mature spray of Moa showing the tiny yellow sporangia.|
As you can see from the pictures, it is not a big leafy plant but is formed by skinny stems or "whisks". It does not have flowers but forms tiny yellow balls or sporangia on the stems. In the old days, the Hawaiians used to gather these sporangia and pound them into a white powder that they used like talc powder under their malo (loin cloths). I imagine a new tapa cloth malo would be a bit scratchy. Today Moa is still used in flower arranging. It is lovely mixed in with a small posy of flowers and gives added interest to a haku lei.