Wednesday, August 31, 2022



Yesterday I was needing new scenery on my walk so I took the local bus to Turtle Bay Hotel on the North Shore of Oahu to have an outing.  Helpfully for tourists and locals alike, the bus detours up the hotel's long driveway to turn around in the parking lot there and then goes back to Kamehameha Hwy again. I got my exercise walking along the coastal track and returning along the golf course cart pathway. (In Hawaii, there always has to be public access to the shoreline which is owned by us all.)  With camera in hand, I then circled the hotel to check out the new gardens that were installed as part of the renovations during the Covid shutdown. Two years later the gardens are looking fabulous.  They seem stuffed with healthy and bright plants.  Pretty amazing as this is a hotel that juts out into the sea on a rocky point that gets inundated with salt laden winds.  I expect there is a clever horticulturist supervising irrigation and feeding to keep the grounds looking so good.   The several hundreds of dollars per night for a hotel room there helps pay for all that garden care.  I contributed by treating myself to a cappuccino and almond croissant in the lobby cafe with the scenic view of the beach below.

A view of the hotel from along the coastal track.

New native plants going in along the coast.

Going back by the golf course.

The new drive through entrance.  Vinca and Kupukupu ferns in front.

Approaching the drive through from the right side. 
That wood artwork/wall helps protect the area from the wind.

The windy ocean side walkway still looks lush although
mostly planted with tough beach plants like Naupaka.

The pool area on the other side of the hotel.

Lush gardens amongst the walkways out front.  Bright
orange Crotons in beds of Laua'e fern.

Native white Hibiscus looking at its best.


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

GOLDEN DURANTA (Duranta erecta)


Golden Duranta seemed to suddenly become popular in the gardens of Hawaii a few decades ago.  I also saw it suddenly spread around the islands of Samoa within just a few years.  Its bright yellow foliage and ease of propagation made it quickly popular amongst gardeners.  This shrub/small tree is native to tropical Central and South America and grows there in hot, sunny, sandy areas so we can be sure it is another tough plant.

Golden Duranta grown as a trimmed hedge/groundcover 
along with Spider Lilies.

In our area of Oahu, Golden Duranta is usually seen in the form of low, long, formal hedging to contain a garden of shrubbery.  Occasionally you see low shrubs that have been shaped into a large ball.  It looks great but you have got to know that it takes a ground crew to regularly trim them with a powered hedge trimmer to keep them looking so nice.  Many viewers do not realize that that low, under 2 ft, hedge plant is actually a huge bush if you let it grow naturally.

If you buy a plant and put it out in your garden you will realize how quickly Golden Duranta grows.  If you are wanting a shaped plant, you need to start pinching tips and keep those clippers on hand.  You could let it grow out naturally but be prepared for a fast-growing bush that is as wide as it is high and may need some hard pruning every few years.  What is beautiful is to shape it into a small tree.  (Fifteen feet or so high.)  Select one or three of the main stems to become the trunk and prune away anything extra under the crown.  As the tree grows higher you will have a beautiful weeping form tree that really shows of the flower and berry spays at their best.  You can also make a mini version of this by shaping a plant in a pot into a tall stem with a big bushy head on top.  In Samoa I have also seen tall plants being shaped into topiary animals that make fun entrances to the house.

The Golden Duranta has beautiful sprays of small flowers that show up all year round.  They are usually blue in color but you do see white and purple varieties as well.  The flower spray then turns into a spray of small golden berries that are also very pretty.  Both could be included in a small flower arrangement, but I think the berries last longer.  The flowers only form on new growth so if you are frequently trimming the shrub, you are not going to see them.

You do need to know that the fruit and the leaves of Golden Duranta is poisonous so you may not want to grow this plant in your garden if you have small children or pets.  For some reason it does not seem to affect birds.

A shrub that has been allowed to just grow naturally 
with occasional trim.

Golden Duranta likes full sun and moist but well drained soil.  It grows very fast and naturally sprawls out so keep that in mind as you choose where to plant it.  You would not want it right next to a walkway.  The mature plant does have tiny thorns (or bigger ones on a tree) so that could be a problem.  On the other hand, this makes it a good shrub to keep people out of certain areas. 

White fly can sometimes be a problem and spraying with soapy water can help this.  If you are growing Golden Duranta into a hedge it is always important to shape the hedge so that it is narrower on top so that all the leaves get access to the sun for good foliage growth.

It is fairly easy to propagate Golden Duranta from cuttings.  Start off 6" lengths of woody stem tips in potting media.  Using rooting hormone will give some extra help.  It can also be propagated from seed.


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

HEARTS AND FLOWERS (Aptenia cordifolia)

 Hearts and Flowers is a smaller species of the ice plant family.  It has small heart shaped leaves and small, bright red flowers which gives it the common name it goes by in Hawaii.  It has been around, and in the local nurseries, for decades which must mean it does well here.  You occasionally see a variegated leaf variety and also a yellow flower form.

The Heart and Flowers plant is native to South Africa so it can take some sun and dryness, but really, it does better in partial shade as it is not as tough as it looks.  It stays at about 6 inches in height so often gets used as ground cover but does better in small patches. I would not try to use it over large sunny areas because you are sure to get dead areas.  It works really well in pots or hanging baskets which allow the stems to hang several inches over the side and is fast growing.  They do like to be well watered but need good drainage so that the plant does not rot.  Occasionally the ones in containers may need a bit of a trim back.  You do need to keep an eye out for slugs and snails.  Sometimes I have some yellowing of leaves.  A few doses of multi nutrient fertilizer seems to solve the problem.

This is a plant that is easily propagated.  Take a few tip cuttings about 6 inches long.  Remove the lower leaves and flowers and plant them up in some potting media to get them going.  I usually dip the cuttings in rooting hormone powder to help things along.  I put 4-5 cuttings together in a 6-inch pot and it will be a strong looking plant within a month.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022


 I finally made it back to New Zealand after two years of all the travel restrictions Covid 19 brought.  It was still not easy travel but at least I got to see family again.  In the last few days of the trip I visited the Auckland Botanical Gardens.   (The name is plural but all the gardens are together in one place.)  You pass by them on the motorway just south of Manukau City.  The garden was only established in 1982 so I have been waiting for the trees and gardens to mature a bit before finally visiting.  It does not have the Wow factor of Hamilton Garden but I spent a very pleasant few hours looking around with a relative.  My favorite areas were the Edibles garden and the African Plants garden.  It was also fun to watch all the eels in the pond below the bridge at the rose gardens.  Entrance is free.  If you want more information you can go to for more info.  Below are a few photos from the day.  As usual, you can click on them to enlarge the photo to see better.

The entrance building and cafe with shaped, native
Mingimingi bushes in front.

Lake with native trees on the bank.

A mini forest of Camellia trees with lifted canopy and fallen
petals on the ground.

The Children's garden filled with a wide variety of plants
for botanical discovery.

The New Zealand native plant area.

The Worm Farm shed in the vegetable garden area.
Comfrey and Rosemary in front.

The huge lawn area at the back where dogs were allowed
to run off leash.

The African garden

I loved this rustic garden shelter.

The hard working gardeners.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

YELLOW WALKING IRIS (Trimezia martinicensis)


The flowers with a few baby plantlets forming on the stalks.

Here is a flowering plant that can add some sparkle to a tropical garden that is heavy in leafy vegetation.  I usually refer to it as the Yellow Central American Iris but the consensus on the internet seems to go with Yellow Walking Iris, so I have used it in the title.  When I think of walking Irises, I think of the Blue Flowered Walking Iris (Neomarica gracillis), which is a thicker leafed, Central American cousin also seen in Hawaii gardens, that has more of the "walking" attribute. 

Whole plant showing plantlets growing on flower stems

Walking, in the case of these Irises, is to bend their spent flowering stems down to the ground which allows the little baby plants, that sprout from the joints on the flower stems, to grow in the ground a few feet away from Mama plant.  It is these baby plants that form on the flower spikes that make this plant so easy to propagate and share with your friends.  It is a trick I learnt from the gardener of our local library.  At the time, there were about a dozen Yellow Walking Irises growing at the front of the library.  One day I noticed that the gardener had gathered a few handfuls of the baby plantlets from the Irises and stood them in a beautiful deep Chinese design bowl in the library.   These made an attractive green arrangement at the library checkout desk, while at the same time, all those little plantlets were rooting in the water.  After a few weeks they disappeared to be grown in other gardens.  Of course, you could just let the plant do that naturally in its own way, but the environment has to be right for the plants to grow.  Being able to get the babies rooted and then planted in a good loose media insures that.  This Iris can also be propagated by seed and also by dividing the rhizome and root clump.  I think growing the babies is by far the easiest method, plus you a tidying up the plant at the same time.

Plantlets that are starting to grow roots after sitting in water a few days

Yellow Walking Iris is a perennial plant that blooms all year round although it does seem to be more bountiful in Spring.  It likes lots of water but also needs good drainage.  Although it can survive full sun, it will look happier in partial shade.  It does like a rich soil so that it needs fertilizing in my sandy soil to stop the leaves bleaching out.  I have had no problems with pests on it except for the occasional bag worm hanging under the long leaves.  It does need its dead leaves and flower spikes cut off once in a while to keep the plant looking attractive.  The flowers only last one day and fold up by late afternoon but there will be other flowers on the spike to replace them next day.  The flower stalk holds up in a vase of water but remember the individual flowers will not be on show in the evening.

Several plantlets potted up together to form new planting.


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

TI (Cordyline fruticosa)


The common green Ti almost finished flowering.  Notice a new head beginning at center.

The name Ti is a Polynesian name for a plant used by them throughout the Pacific islands.  In the Hawaiian language it is called Ki.  As the Polynesians established themselves on new islands, Ti cuttings were taken with them to grow in their new homes.  Therefore, Ti is called a Canoe Plant, along with the other plants that were established across the Pacific by the canoe voyagers.  You do find Ti growing wild on trails in the forest of Hawaii, and I guess birds could have pooped the seed there, but probably they continue from ancient plantings.  The common Ti is a rich green color although some Polynesians also had a red Ti.  The Ti leaves had multiple uses e.g., wrapping food for cooking, thatching for houses and making clothing such as sandals and raincapes.  Of course, it was used for hula skirts, and you will still see Ti leaves used today at any island show.  The large roots of older Ti plants could also be cooked in time of famine.  Today you still see Ti leaves in use and there are small farmers that grow them to sell to the hula schools or to lei makers and florists.  Restaurants often use the leaves as attractive liners for their food platters.  The leaves also get flown to mainland markets for floral arrangements.  You can buy them on the internet.  Usually, they are grown by small farmers, but even Grandma down the road may be making some pocket money selling them to the local lei maker.

Red Ti

Anciently in Hawaii, the Ti leaves were associated with the gods Lono and Laka and still carry some mana.  Ti plants were grown around taro lo'i for protection and good fortune and are still grown with that in mind around houses in Hawaii today.  Sports fans wave green Ti leaves at University of Hawaii football games these days for good outcomes.  I love the local travel advertisement on TV where a guy is tapping the shoulder of a person with a Ti leaf for luck while he sits at a slot machine in Las Vegas.  For whatever reason you grow them, Ti are attractive in the garden and always come in handy.

My favorite Ti in the garden.  It is very hardy and has smaller leaves so that
I can use the whole head in a bouquet.

Some of the Pacific Islanders had red Ti and other colored ones are native to the Caribbean and East Asia. Around the 1920's, Ti enthusiasts started developing new hybrids and collecting the seeds so that there are now a wide variety of color and leaf shapes.  If you become a Ti enthusiast you can join The International Cordyline Society.  From my own experience, I think some varieties are hardier than others and you need to know if the variety needs more shade or sun.

A long narrow leaf, dark purple Ti in flower.

A Kahili Ti.

Ti is a perennial plant that forms heads of long, usually wide, leaves grown on slender trunks up to 10 ft tall.  Well, there are also Kahili Ti which are shorter varieties with small leaves that look rather like the feather standards (Kahili) that were used to signify chiefly position in the old days of Hawaii.  Hense their name. Ti can be grown from seed but is easily and usually grown from stem cuttings.  If a Ti is growing too tall in the garden it is easy to cut the trunk to a lower level and grow another plant from the cutting.  The severed but still rooted trunk with grow one or more new heads.  To plant the cutting part, remove the lower leaves from the head, as they will die anyways, but keep the leaves growing from the growing cells point at the top of they head.   If the cutting trunk/stem is too long you can cut it smaller.  I usually find about 12" of stem, with or without the head of leaves, is a good start size.  If you are really trying to maximize the stem you can grow new plants from 2"-3" lengths of stem but it will be longer before you have a decent size plant.  You will find Ti "logs" like this sold on the internet which hold up to being mailed and still grow after a few weeks.  Gardeners in the mainland order them and keep the plants indoors in cold winters.  You can plant a really tall Ti  cutting.  It will root fine but it needs extra effort to keep it upright until it gets fully rooted.  I always start my Ti cuttings in water.  I leave them in a bucket of water for about a week, changing the water every few days.  By then the roots are starting to grow and look like little star bursts on the stem.  I do not leave the roots to grow long but plant them up in one gallon pots once they get to the starburst stage.  Sometimes it is easy to forget which way is "up" with a bare stem. So which is the right way up to plant it?  You could just lay it level on the dirt and it will get new starts come up from the joints. (This actually works well with the short 3' logs") You can also use a trick taught to me from a gardening mentor. That is to just run your fingers down the stem.  If it feels bumpy, it is right way up.  If it feels smooth, it is upside down.

Tall Ti trimmed down to about 1 ft from the ground.

Most nurseries in Hawaii will sell different varieties of Ti.  On the other hand, your neighbors my be willing to share a headed stem of theirs.  Keep an eye out for landscapers doing any trimming in the neighborhood.  I have also grown new Ti plants from Ti that were in floral arrangement or from thrown away funeral wreaths. ( I always check the trash cans when I am at the cemetery.  They are a good source of plastic pots to recycle too.)

The above Ti cut into cuttings for replanting.

Ti grows best in slightly acidic soil that is moist.  They like to be watered.  They do not do well in strong or salty wind.  Ti prefers morning sun.  Too much strong sun will bleach the leaves.  The lower leaves naturally turn yellow and die, but if it seems there are too many yellow leaves, the plant needs more nitrogen.  It is recommended that you fertilize with 20-10-20 every 3-4 months.  Recently I read an article in a farm to table magazine about some virus that was is also causing yellowing of Ti leaves.  Scientist are trying to find a way to solve this problem for Hawaii Ti leaf farmers.  The Ti leaves in my garden get yellow easily but mostly I blame it on my sandy beach soil.  Any Ti plant needs it dead lower leaves pulled off or picked up of the ground.  I cut them up to add to the compost or to make a cooling mulch for my container veges.

Ti stems that have been standing in water and showing their starbursts/new roots.

In the rainy season the Ti goes into flower.  The common green Ti has a spray of tiny white flowers while the pink/red to dark purple leafed will have flowers from pink to purple in color.  Similarly, the resulting berries will be green to red in color.  This year the Ti plants in my town went gangbusters.  As I rode my bike around town, I could see flowers on every Ti  in every garden.  I kept meaning to take photos of them, delayed doing it, and suddenly the flowering was over. I have a few photos I took here but the flowers were half finished at this point.  I know I saw Ti flowers in bud around January 20 when I was gathering leaves to line food platters for a big family party. By the time I got my camera out, around Feb 6th, the flowers were on their way out. So, the flowering just lasted a couple of weeks.  The flower spikes only last a few days in a vase of water but are quite attractive indoors.  After the Ti flower dies off, it seems that the plant lets the old leaves die off while it starts a new head or two at the growing point. It will mean lots of yellow leaves for a few months after the flower dies. It seems a good time to trim down a tall Ti to start new cuttings.