Sunday, May 12, 2019


 A few days ago I was exploring Hamilton, New Zealand.  In the center of town they were using Swiss Chard in the city gardens.  It is called Silver Beet in New Zealand.  The name would have been given at time when Swiss Chard was only seen with white stalks.  Now we have these beautiful rainbow stalks and look how beautiful they look in the city landscape.  Maybe it will make you think about where you could plant your next lot of Swiss Chard.  We are used to seeing ornamental kale in public gardens these days and I remember seeing town gardens in Anchorage, Alaska full of lush parsley several years ago.  I am sure there are lots of  other beautiful vegetables that could make the transition too.

 Silver Beet is almost like a national vegetable in New Zealand.  The boiled leaves are served up often on the dinner plate  along with meat and potatoes.  You see it growing in kitchen gardens everywhere.  One of those  easy care plants that can be continually harvested.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

CALAMANSI ( x Citrofortunella microcarpa)

Citrus always seems to grow in our area of Oahu, Hawaii despite the sandy soils and the salty trade- winds.  I have three types of Citrus in my garden.  The two older trees, Meyer and Jambhiri/Rough lemons I have written about before,  (June, 2013) but today I want to talk about my Calamansi tree.  I have only been getting fruit from it for about three years now but I love it.

The Calamansi tree came as a free Arbor Day giveaway from Waimea Falls Park.  I guess it was seed grown because I waited several years for it to finally fruit. It grows next to the compost pile so hopefully its roots are sucking up some goodness from the compost.  I actually have another Calamansi in another part of the garden that was given to me as a gift later on and I am still waiting for that one to produce.  The fruit are a lovely small size being less that an inch in diameter.  Just right for squeezing into my ice tea or on my breakfast papaya.  I have heard them referred to as a Filipino sweet lime but to me there is not a lime taste.  I just think of it as a mini lemon although it does have its own unique taste.

This last year the tree was absolutely loaded so that I made several jars of Calamansi marmalade and also gave lots of fruit  to jam making friends.  They were making mixed fruit jam; Calamansi with strawberry or with pineapple etc. I had to admit that the jams tasted very nice, but my English heritage keeps me a purist and I just use citrus for breakfast marmalade.  Early in the fruiting season, the fruit were just turning yellow and the marmalade had a green tinge while the marmalade made at the end of the season, with very ripe orange fruit, turned into orange colored marmalade. 

Calamansi juice has more of a kick to it when the fruit is just starting to ripen and is still a bit green.  I used to cut the fruit in half, just like you would for a lime, when squeezing the fruit into my tea or on my food.  Now I am smarter and I just cut a cap of skin off one end of the fruit and then squeeze.  It means much less mess and  less juice all over my hands.

I find the Calamansi seeds quite easy to grow and they pop up after a few weeks.  I usually soak the seeds in water for a day first.  I believe you can also grow the trees from cuttings as well.  Calamansi is native and very important economically to the Philippines and used often in traditional Filipino cooking.  The tree is fairly small, growing 3-6 meters, so it is a good tree to have in home gardens. Like all Citrus, it likes being watered.  Being a citrus fruit, Calamansi is high in vitamin C and has many uses. eg.  lemonades, marinades, seasoning, marmalade etc. Calamansi lemonade is sold in cans commercially here in Hawaii. Use scissors to cut the fruit off the tree when you harvest Calamansi.  The fruit has very thin skin and it will tear if you try to just pull the fruit of the tree.  I find that the fruit will last up to a month in a bowl in the fridge while those left out on the kitchen bench will soften and go off after a week.  My tree is bare of fruit now, (it fruited December to March, after the rains arrived) but I still have some fruit in the fridge that I picked when the last of the ripe orange fruit were dropping to the ground.  Because the skin of the Calamansi is so thin the wild chickens like to eat the dropped fruit and the birds will eat the ripe ones on top of the tree.  We all get our share.

While I was at Eilat in Israel several years ago, I was intrigued by the use of shaped citrus trees on all the bedroom balconies of a white hotel building there.  They looked very elegant...the green against the white of the building plus the small gold fruit.  I wouldn't mind betting that they were using Calamansi trees.  There is a picture of it in my (June, 2013) post about gardens seen in Israel during that trip.


Monday, April 1, 2019


You do not think gardens when you think Las Vegas but there seems to be a lot of green landscaping going on there these days.  The strip is not just hotels and casinos....a lot of palms and other greenery helps to make the area feel more like a resort.  Out in the fast growing suburbs there are a lot of trees being planted in the commercial areas and home gardens. All done with a careful eye on water usage and trying to conserve it.  I was in Las Vegas for a week recently and it was all very interesting to look at. If you get to visit this city make sure you go have a look inside the shopping area of the Venetian. Mind blowing.  The highlight of the week for me was to take a day tour out to Death Valley. So much more beautiful and interesting than I expected.  Here are a few photos taken along the main road through Vegas.


Monday, March 4, 2019


Something new for my blog.....a link to a really interesting and enjoyable gardening article.  I am low tech so hopefully this actually works.  It may even be the start of something new.  Aloha

Friday, March 1, 2019


Some decades ago I heard about Sleeping Giant Garden at Nadi, Fiji with its wonderful orchid collection.  It was also famous because it was owned by the actor Raymond Burr ( of Perry Mason and Ironside fame) who had a home nearby.  A few months ago I was staying in Nadi for a few days and asked around to find out if the garden still existed and was delighted to find out that it did.  Raymond Burr has been dead for awhile now but the garden is run by a non-profit group.  The garden is several miles out of town below a mountain range that gives the name of the garden.  Next to the drive way in there is a large orchid farm nursery that looks like it is not used much now but the actual garden area is delightful and really worth seeing if you are in the area.  Here are a few photos from my visit there.


Monday, January 28, 2019

OYSTER PLANT (Tradescantia spathacea)

Oyster Plant is a fairly common ground cover plant in Hawaii and often seen at commercial sites.  It does have a reputation for being colorful and hardy but it does need some care and thought about placement if you want a full and healthy ground coverage.

Oyster Plants at an entrance gate, Taveuni, Fiji

I have three kinds of Oyster Plant in my yard.  One is the taller 12"-18" high, green leaf with purple underneath, "regular" plant.  I remember seeing it growing wild on the Mayan temples at Tikal in Guatemala so am not surprised to learn that it is native to Central America and Mexico.  This plant will spread by seeding as well as by vegetative growth and may become invasive in the wrong place.

The regular wild type showing the flowers

The other two types of Oyster Plant I have in my garden are a dwarf 5"-8" high version of the "regular" type above and a dwarf tricolor variety with pink and green striped leaves with a lighter purple under the leaf.  I see pictures on the internet of a dwarf golden color Oyster Plant but I have never seen it here in Hawaii.

 My two dwarf varieties 

According to the internet, the dwarf varieties are sterile and I have never seen any seedling popping up from them while I have had them from the tall wild variety. Actually, I cannot even recall seeing flowers on the dwarf types.  The  tall "regular" Oyster Plant has little white flowers that turn into pouches of seed that can be crushed in your hand, when they are mature and dry, to sprinkle seeds around on the soil.  The Oyster Plant is quick to produce babies growing from the mother plant and so will quickly fill in spaces as a ground cover and will give lots of babies for you to cut off and pot up to grow more.  Make sure to get the whole of the stalk of the baby plant so that you have the root growing cells at the bottom of the stalk.

Although Oyster Plant is drought and sun tolerant, they will thrive in moist soil and in partial shade.  They will rot if left in soggy conditions.  It seems to me that when Oyster Plant is grown in full sun the planted area will end up looking sad with bald patches after awhile.  The plants do not do well close to foot paths as the plants get broken up if they get stepped on.  I do find that the big brown African snails like to eat and hide among the Oyster Plants in my garden so it is good to keep an eye out for them.

Some people find the sap in the plants very irritating to the skin and will need to wear gloves when working with the plants.  The sap make my hands feel a bit itchy but I just need to wash my hands with soap after working with the plants.  Apparently dogs can find this plant extremely irritating to the skin so it is best not to use this plant if you have dogs running around in your yard.


Friday, December 7, 2018


The main market in the capital of Vanuatu is one of the most interesting markets in the Pacific Islands.  So much wonderful and interesting produce being sold.  Out front of the building is the area for selling cut flowers and pot plants.  Here are a few photos to give you a sense of the place.

Note the green in this bouquet.  Maybe you have this weed growing in your
tropical garden but see how pretty it looks here.