Tuesday, March 2, 2021



A year ago I was coming back from a trip to New Zealand and glad to get back before Covid 19 closed down the flights between Hawaii and Pacific countries.  I certainly did not expect that there would be no more trips for me in the next twelve months but here I still sit.  Younger ones in the family are making trips to the mainland US but I am cautious enough that I am waiting for the vaccinations before I step on a plane.  Meanwhile, I have had a few small local adventures to keep the rock fever away.  (I am sure you have heard of cabin fever.  On an island we get rock fever!)

A few weeks ago I went with one of my sons to Waimea Valley.  It is one of my favorite places on this island so I like to go there at least once a year.  My son had been there as a child but was seeing it again with adult eyes.  I was able to show him all my favorite side trails that most visitors bypass.

Waimea Valley is up behind the famous surf beach of Waimea Bay on Oahu's north shore.  There is a lovely short drive up the valley to the actual park which is a paid entrance place.  It was established as a botanical park in the 1970's and has gone through various owners and identities since. These days the valley is a protected place watched over by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  Because of this there is now more emphasis on the Hawaiian history of the valley and on Hawaiian culture.  Despite that, most visitors come for one thing; to go swimming up at the waterfall.  They buzz up the main 3/4 mile path through the gardens to the big pool in the river formed by the waterfall.  You can always see the visitors who are plant lovers.  They are the ones taking time to explore the plant collections up the side trails and stopping to read the plant labels.

Entrance buildings

Covid 19 has hit the valley financially, as it has all tourist related places.  At least now the valley is up and running again.  If you are a local, it is a good easy outing for you with lots to explore.  The valley park also needs volunteers so if you are stuck in an apartment or condo and miss gardening, they could use your help. The park  holds plant sales on Saturday mornings at their nursery behind the upper parking lot.  A good time to stop by as you take a drive around the island.

Main path up the valley to the waterfall.  The river is down below on the left.

If you are a visitor on Oahu, I heartedly recommend you take a few hours to enjoy the peace and beauty of Waimea Valley.  I have put up a few photos of the park taken on my recent visit.  If you want to learn more about Waimea Valley you can visit their website at   waimeavalley.net.

On a side trail

On another side trail up to ancient Hawaiian sites.

Swimming at the waterfall.

On the upper path looking down to the main path.


Friday, January 29, 2021

PIGEON PEAS (Cajanus cajan)


Flower with young pods starting to form.

Over a year ago, near the end of 2019, I bought a tiny Pigeon Pea plant in a 4" pot from Home Depot.  This is the first time I had ever seen them sold in Hawaii so I was thrilled to buy it and try it out in my garden.  I had seen it growing as a 5ft bush in Fiji, so I knew it needed a bit of room.  I planted my baby plant in a big old rusty wash tub that sits in my container kitchen garden area.  I guessed that as it grew into a shrub, the roots would be able to grow into the ground through the rusty holes in the tub.  By March the Pigeon Pea bush was about 3 1/2 feet tall and throwing out sprays of pretty yellow pea flowers.  Within a few weeks I was using the young green peas in a few curry meals.  I did not do any cutting back of the bush but left it to grow on just to see what it did.  I was also reluctant to cut branches back in case I was causing a latter reduction on flowering....when ever that was going to happen.  But it never did flower.  The bush just kept growing bigger and bigger.  By September, it had grown as tall as the house and was giving way too much shade to the other food plants.  Then we got a big rain storm and with the strong winds, and the weight of the rain on the branches, it was just too much and the the whole bush and tub fell over.  I was able to get it back up but I had to chop off a large part in front to make it stable.  Finally, in late November the tree started getting flowers again and by New Years Eve I was picking the green peas and then a few weeks later, I was picking the mature dry peas.  Just a few days ago I called the season over and cut the bush way back down to about 4 ft. high.  The branches got thrown into the compost heap.  I plan on keeping it trimmed low from now on, knowing that it will start to flower in the late fall/autumn, and I will be able to continue my education about this plant.  It seems that I should get five or more years out of it.

Green Pea stage

Actually, it has been a good plant to have around.  It is something new and of interest to learn about while I cannot go off traveling to new places because of the Covid 19 pandemic.  The yellow flowers are pretty and cheerful in the garden and it has been a pleasure to watch the bees come in to visit them.  I have been showing off the the bush to interested gardening friends as it is something different to be growing protein foods in your garden.  I also had plenty of peas to share out with them for growing their own.  I hear that the peas are sprouting well within a few weeks of planting.

Mature green and dry peas 

Pigeon Peas only broke onto my consciousness when I saw them growing in home gardens in Fiji some fives years ago or so.  Some of the Indian shop keepers would be shelling Pigeon Peas on the shop counter top between serving customers.   They would kindly answer my questions about how they used them.  Being a protein filled pulse, the Pigeon Peas are very popular with vegetarians.  They are a common food source in  India, Caribbean and Africa.  It actually was introduced into Hawaii by sugar plantation workers brought from Puerto Rico but still not something I was aware of until recently.  I actually saw someone selling the Puerto Rican food, Arroz Con Gandules, out by the road over Waianae side of the island recently.  So somebody is still using Pigeon Peas in a traditional way.  Meanwhile, I think Hawaii gardeners are becoming more aware of this plant as well.  A few people in local gardening Facebook groups are growing it for the first time.  Those who are into permaculture and growing "food forests" are especially interested.  The Pigeon Peas not only provide protein food for humans but also for chickens and other birds.  The bush is a good "pioneer" plant that can help break up new soil and provide nitrogen for future crops.  It also can be used as a quick growing wind break or to provide shelter for tender young fruit trees.  The leafy foliage of Pigeon Peas  is good fodder for animals like goats and cows or it can be "chopped and dropped" to provide a nitrogen rich mulch if the trees are kept trimmed down in size.  Even the strong lower branches of the plant can be used as a good burning firewood.  Suddenly this plant is looking very prestigious.  Everybody in the tropical world should be growing it!  

One year old bush

Pigeon Pea is an ancient food that has been used for thousands of years.  This perennial legume is high in vitamins, minerals and fiber as well as protein.  To add to all its accolades, it is a tough plant that can handle poor soils and dry periods.  The pea pods can be harvested when they are plump but still green and the peas eaten raw or cooked in things like curries and stews.  You can also leave the pea pods on the bush a few more weeks to dry out and use the dry peas to store for future meals. Do not leave them on the tree for too long as there is a tiny bug that will eat them or they can go musty with the rain.  The peas dry quickly and can be stored for extended periods.  I have been sun drying my mature peas to finish them off and then I will pop them into the freezer for 24 hours to kill any bugs before I store them in jars.  I do this to rice and all the pulses that I buy at the super market too. The dried peas can be used in soups or rice dishes etc. but have to be softened first.  You soak them overnight in water or boil them for 90 minutes to do this.  Arroz Con Gandules is a rice dish with tomato sauce and herbs etc. added while there is a Jamaican version using coconut milk with spices that sounds really good too.


PS   Feb 2021

Just noticed for the very first time that our local Foodland is selling canned green pigeon peas.  I am sure that I have not seen them before.  It is a sign of the times.....the local Puerto Ricans are making their claim in local cuisine.

Monday, December 14, 2020

RADISHES (Raphanus sativus)


I am thrilled to announce that I can actually grow Radishes now. Yes, I know!  Kindergarteners grow them because they are so quick growing and easy for an educational experiment.  It is just that somehow they would not grow properly for me in the past.  It was a matter of the Nasturtiums (May '20) all over again.  I was trying to grow them at the wrong time of the year!  In fact, there it is written on the Radish seed packet, "Excellent for autumn crop in the warm areas."

I planted my seeds mid November and have harvested my first small container crop.  I have sown another lot of seeds this morning.  The seedlings pop up within 3-4 days and then the Radishes are ready to harvest by four weeks.  I hope to plant one more lot after that before the weather gets too hot for them.

Radishes have been eaten since ancient times throughout the Old Worlds of Europe and Asia.  This plant is actually related to cabbages and belongs to the Brassica family.  The crisp and peppery roots are not high in vitamins and minerals but have lots of natural chemical properties that help prevent disease in the eater.  The leaves are actually higher in nutrients so do not be quick to throw them out in the compost.  The younger, tender leaves can be used in salads and the older leaves cans be sautéed.

Radishes love to grow in the sun.  Too much shade will make for more leafy growth and smaller roots.  Sow the seeds in place as they do not like being transferred.  Grow them in a rich, loose soil.  Thin out the seedlings to 2" apart.  It is important to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. 


Monday, November 23, 2020

GALPHINIA ( Galphinia gracilis)


Galphinia is a native of Mexico, so right away you know that this is another of my beloved tough plants. It loves warmth and sun and keeps blooming throughout the year.  It can take partial sun but it will probably means less flowering.  The internet says it likes fertile soil but I find it grows fine in my sandy soil. Once established the plant needs little watering although it is helpful during a hot dry summer.

Galphinia is a shrub that grows very fast.  Make sure you give it some room to grow as it naturally can grow several feet high and wide.  It develops low branches that fill in as a ground cover.  If you do not want it to grow so big you will need to keep up with the trimming back.  I give mine a severe haircut about every year and pinch off the tips to shape it during the year.  Pinching does delay the flowers blooming though.  I decided last year to cut off all of the lower growth and turn the shrub into a full head on a stand shape so that I could have other stuff below it.  

Galphinia is a hardy plant and I have had no problems with disease or pests.  Babies can be grown from seeds or cuttings. I know I have done so many years ago, but I do not remember it as an easy plant to propagate, so it may take some experimenting for the home gardener.  I do love this plant for its persistent show of color in the garden and for its easy care.  It is not so good as a cut flower for flower arrangements unfortunately.  In Mexico it is used in several ways in traditional medicines.


Friday, October 23, 2020

NAUPAKA KAHAKAI (Scaevola taccada)

Along our north east shores of Oahu, Naupaka Kahakai is a common plant to see both in private gardens and in beach parks.  It is one plant that can grow happily right next to the beach with all of the sand and salt winds that are there.  Because it is so tough, it is also starting to show up in middle strip plantings of highways over the last few decades. 

Naupaka Kahakai on the coast.

Naupaka is native to Hawaii but is also native throughout tropical and subtropical Pacific and Indian ocean coasts.  The white, marble sized fruit containing one seed, is light, like styrofoam, which disperses by floating in water.  The fruit and flowers can be seen in the summer and fall time.  It has a curious looking flower that looks like a half flower.  It is white but will sometimes have some purple streaking.  In Hawaii we have several native cousins of Naupaka that live in the upland forests and have purple fruit.  The Naupaka Kuahiwi also has a half flower and there are various versions of an old Hawaiian story about the two Naupaka; Naupaka Kahakai from the beach and Naupaka Kuahiwi from the mountain representing separate lovers.  They each have half of the flower that has been separated rather like a modern lovers heart locket.

Naupaka Fruit

Naupaka can be grown from cuttings although I usually have grown it from seed.  I remove the outer fruit and soak the seed for 24 hours.  They sprout quite readily and once the plants are established they need minimal water or feeding.  They like full sun and well drained soil.  They can grow up to several feet tall but in the wild usually stay in lower clumps.  They do have naturally a very wide sprawling  growth so think about this before you plant them.  In some places, like Florida and Bermuda, the introduced Naupaka has become invasive and taken over areas usually covered up by their own native plants.

Naupaka flowers

Some years ago, I planted four baby Naupaka plants up the end of my driveway near the road.  It was an open area subject to salt winds.  They did fabulous there.  Too fabulous!  They got watered by a neighbors sprinkler and were so super healthy that I had to be trimming them back from the driveway all the time.  This included keeping an eye on the lower branches as they started growing new roots where they touched the soil.  After about a year I removed three of the plants, and after another year. I gave up and killed off the last as it was too hard keeping it trimmed attractively.

On the other hand, Naupaka Kahakai has its good points.  It actually will grow happily in your beach side garden and makes a nice wide privacy hedge along beach side or road.  Some people grow it to prevent coastal erosion along their beach property but you have to know that this is now illegal in Hawaii if you are reclaiming public beach area.  If you have irrigation pipes set up to get these plants established you are going to be even more reportable to the authorities. 

In some public gardens you will see grounds crews attack Naupaka with a machete to prune down the plant.  All that will be left is a bare ugly sprawl  of branches.  (Yes, it will grow back.)  Occasionally a major prune back like this may be necessary but it is way better to take the time to prune back Naupaka with hand pruners and the keep the foliage looking attractive.

Apart from being an attractive coastal plant, Naupaka does have other uses.  I would guess the main use today in Hawaii, is to rub the fruit or leaves inside the glass of your snorkeling mask to prevent it going foggy.  Anciently in Hawaii, the fruit was a famine food or a welcome fresh snack when making long canoe journeys.  Over in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the leaves also served as a famine food.  I remember seeing years ago, a picture of smoking pipes made by northern Australian aboriginals using the hollow Naupaka branches for pipe stems.  Many cultures throughout the plants habitat used Naupaka for making traditional medicines.  


PS.....well after hitting the publish button for this post I realized that this is actually my 100th post on this blog!  Yay!  Still plodding along.  I am enjoying the journey.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

LANTANA (Lantana camara)


For the last century, Lantana was a scourge in Hawaii.  Despite its pretty posies of pink and yellow flowers, it was very invasive across the dry lowland pastures of the islands.  The birds eat its berries and so aided in the spread.  The plant is toxic to the cows, goats and horses that are living in those pastures. Over the 1900s  a few attempts were made to bring insects into Hawaii the would act as biological control.  The plant has not been totally eradicated but it does seem way more under control now.  The wild Lantana is not one you want in your garden despite how pretty those little flower heads look.

Thankfully, horticulture science has come to our aid by developing unfertile cultivars that we can now grow in our gardens.  If you need a colorful display in a hot dry garden this is the plant for you.  Several years ago I saw it used extensively in public gardens in Egypt and admired its toughness there.  I have it growing at the front edge of my yard where it next to a hot cement driveway. The soil is sandy and there is full sun all day.  The Lantana handles it all along with other super tough plants like Aloe Vera and Rosemary.

Several cultivars are being sold to choose from now with a big spectrum of colors.  There are whites, creams, yellows, pinks to orange and reds.  The plant has a rather musky smell but I do not find it unpleasant. Lantana needs very little care once it is established.  Pinching the tips or giving the plant a light trim  will prevent it from growing leggy or too high.  The plant does need to be watered frequently to get established but after that it will look good with a weekly drink.  It does not like lots of fertilizer and any disease is usually caused by too much water or poor drainage.  Although Lantana is a perennial plant in the tropics, it is best to replace them every few years to have a healthy looking show.

New plants can be propagated from the stem tips.  Use rooting hormone to help as they are a little difficult to get going under home conditions.  A big added bonus with Lantana is that its flowers are loved by the bees and butterflies.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020


 This Covid 19 Pandemic is starting to get me down.  I was happy to stay at home for a few months and clean our my cupboards and drawers but now I am over it and want to go travel.  Instead, things are going downhill and we are almost back to to lock down again as new deaths are announced daily in Hawaii.  Who knows when I will be able to share a travel post again here.  Apart from quarantines on arrival here and at other places, there are no flights going out to Pacific places that I want to go to and if you are on a US passport you are not wanted either.    Bother!  Bother!  Bother!

Anyways.....I suddenly had a thought today.  I can write about a lovely outing I had last month..  No tourists on island but the virus numbers at the time were almost non existent and some of the visitor attractions were opening up and giving special rates to locals to get some customers.  Kualoa Ranch is on the windward coast of the island of Oahu.  I pass it often as I drive to Honolulu from home and always admire the view of the mountains, ranch and ocean.  I also see the tourists exploring the ranch in open air vehicles and wish that I could go and have a look into the back of the valleys like them.  With the lower cost and feeling that I could give  some support to a local business, I went and spent a day there taking two tours plus I bought  lunch.  The ranch has existed for 170 years now and has been owned by the Judd family all that time.  It is a big bit of land, 4000 acres, with ocean front land and two valleys that go back into the hills plus a beautiful range of steep mountains in the middle dividing those valleys,  For many years it got its money from raising beef but these days, like many agriculture ventures, it has a growing tourist adventure activity side to cover the ranch costs.  There is still beef farming and the original horse riding but lots of other land and ocean activities as well.  The valleys have also been used as a site for many movies so the movie site tour is popular.  The landscape and views are fabulous and there is also the ancient history of the place as well as modern history of  a sugar mill and a WW ll air base.

I was thrilled to play tourist for the day and finally see the back areas of the ranch.  I am sharing a few photos here and if you want to learn more about the place you can go to their website  ......kualoa.com.  The opening photo on their site will show you what a stunning place it is.  The two tours I went on were up the two valleys on either side of the mountain range.  I was thrilled that we actually went on a mini hike up to a low saddle where we could see into both valleys at one time and up where native trees were still growing wild.  I have tried to make an explanation on each of the photos but either it is not working right or I do not know what I am doing with the new system...so....sorry but it is just photos on their own.  In the photo of the chickens, they are all hanging out in a mini forest of pigeon pea plants giving them shade and the occasional dropped pea as a reward.  I thought that was a really good idea.   Remember you can click on the photos to have them enlarged.