Friday, December 11, 2009

First winter? in Hawaii

I'm having a blast growing so many plants that I've tried before and killed, like this variegated star jasmine, Trachelospermum j. 'Ogon Nishiki'. I think it just doesn't like cool nights below 50 degrees, well no problem here, it seldom gets below 65. This plant has already doubled in size in just a few months.This banana is a real stunner, Musa acuminata 'Siam Ruby' , not only is the foliage great, but it also produces great fruit. No winter cold to slow them down, they just keep growing.
This viney shrub is also one I've tried in So. Ca. with no luck. No worries Medinilla magnifica does great here. The berries that form later are blue as a bonus.
Andy & I recently got a chance to visit the Lundkvist Palm Garden, a really amazing tropical paradise in Leilani, just a few miles south of us. This palm garden is way more than just a collection of palms. Laid out geographically, it still is a beautifully designed garden. Started in the late 90's, Andy and I could not believe how mature it was. I know it gave me a lot of hope for my own garden, and inspired more than a few palms to add to my list, like this Dypsis sp. with a white trunk or this
orange crown shaft one called Dypsis sp. (orange crush)

After a quick two weeks back in San Diego to tie up some loose ends, I just got back to Hawaii. I had to ship my Kubota tractor over (not cheap) and my most valued plants that I had set aside. I shipped over almost 500 plants, the process was pretty easy actually. The only ones I had to get special permits for were the bromeliads and orchids. I know 500 sounds like a lot, but remember we had over 4000 taxa at our old house, so this was really only about 10%. In addition to those shipped, we have collected about another 500 here, like this beautiful Coleus 'Henna', so after 4 months we are right at about a thousand, not a bad start.Plants here are so cheap, and that goes for orchids as well, these dendrobiums we got at the local Macu'u farmers market for less than $3.00 ea. They are basically cheaper than pansys, we bring the home, have them in every room and have mounted them on every native Ohia tree (Metrosiderous polymorpha) we can reach.
I thought it wise to ship as many plants over as I could (nothing invasive), as I don't see me going over to the mainland for a while. I was shipping almost everyday I was there, 52 boxes in all. My friends Mary and Bill McBride were nice enough to put me up, and let me turn the back of there nursery into a shipping factory. I was great to have Andy at the other end to pick up the boxes and pot stuff up, as well as set cuttings.
The lanai is slowly getting closed in with this new bamboo fence and plant shelf, and trust me a sunny location out of the rain is important for a lot of plants as they get there new roots established, as well as many plants that just don't like being wet. I am getting so used to the rain and humidity now, I miss it when it doesn't rain. This week it hasn't rained in at least 5 days, a drought by Puna standards.
Oh, but all that rain makes the garden so green. I can't believe I have turf, after 20 plus years of telling people to remove it, but 100 inches a year is very different than Southern California's 8" a year. Andy told me we got 8" in one day while I was gone, now that's a lot of rain.
This picture is on Waipio Valley, just about one hour north of us, this really is a stunningly beautiful place.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A New Kind of Gardening

Well, we are in the new house now for six weeks now and got our container about after one week in the house. The house is new (2009), but the one acre property is not
developed at all. The first thing we did was pay for a hog fence across the back and down one side, the other side was already done. The front is open, but I plan to build a wall across with a small walk in gate and automatic (solar) drive though gate. The driveway is curved, and the house set back at an angle, so it leads to a lot of creativity. The dogs, Thai and Tallow our rat terriers arrived Sept. 28th, and were at home by the next day. They leave the local wild chickens alone, and for now seem to stay in the yard. The first purchase was some cindersoil, we got 30 yards delivered for about $700 bucks, or about $23/yard. So far I like it, it's heavy to move around, but holds enough moisture while maintaining good drainage. We are basically on rock (lava), and gardening here is filling in existing holes and planting, or building up on top of the lava, just like making raised beds. I plan on mulching as soon as I can find some, It's free at the landfill, but the chipper is only here part time. It's raw so will probably need to composted first, but trust me that doesn't take much time here. It has rained almost every night so far, although we are drier than when we were in Lalani. It's only rained a few days so far, today was one. Even then, the sun seems to come out at least a little every day. Some areas are over grown with Moluccan Albizia (Falcataria moluccana), a huge towering tree. It's nitrogen fixing, so it grows fast. Most people here don't like them, they are supposedly brittle and fast growing. We have a small one in the back, so I'll remove it, in ten years it could look like these.
But they are very cool to look at, these are at the lava tubes, piles of lava left after the trees that were in the middle got burned out.
Speaking of lava, when Dani's sister Dae and husband Cliff were here a few weeks ago we
walked out to to the spot where the lava flows into the ocean, it was really beautiful, and only about 10 miles from the house. Jeff is in the green shirt, Andy on the right end.
We've been making beds and planting, we got three 15 gal Ptycospermum elegans, Solitary Palms, for the front beds, plus some cool Mala
ysian Rhododendrons from this
local nursery 'White Cloud Nursery', they have over 200 varieties. They need perfect drainage so I picked up some clean
5/8's cinder for them, you can also use it to add air space to any potting mix, kinda like pumice or perlite. It cost about $20 buck a yard picked up.

We been getting lots of cool stuff at the local Mucuu Farmers Market on Sundays. I meet a guy who sells Cordyline terminalis cultivars (Ti). We went out to his place
& got a whole truck full.
We also ordered some sod, yes grass!, it's called seashore pasplaum, a really fine textured low grass that reminded me of hybrid bermuda, but it's soft. It supposed to be very salt to
lerant, and can even be watered with sea water. I'm hoping that it will put up with the dogs. I'll cut it with a reel type mower, push, very green.
We have a small front porch. So we added a grass walk to the steps, I'll probably add some custom stepping stones later. All in all it's coming along. I think it's going to look great. -tom

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


It's been a while since I've posted, but it has been an extremely crazy year. Andy and I finally sold the house in Vista at the beginning of July and had our last day on the property on July 23rd. We moved to Hawaii at the beginning of August. But, that last month in Vista was a wild one. We had developed an amazing garden over the last 10 years, and put a lot of work into it. It was kinda sad to say goodbye, but I've been told when you have a dream, to follow it, so we did. Hawaii has always been a popular vacation destination for us, and we considered retiring there. Andy and I started looking at some land to buy on the Big island for the future, and we quickly realized that prices had really come down over here, if we could sell the house back in California. After lowing the price considerably, to bring it in line with plunging values in the neighborhood (Ouch!), we finally sold to a great family, who really appreciate the garden, which made us very happy. They even took the chickens and goats.
So packing and making arrangements to move to an Island in the middle of the Pacific required some major planning. In less than 30 days we sold most of the furniture, what was left of the nursery, (after we had started it up again), packed a container for Hawaii & said good buy to friends. Their was a glitch with the dogs and they are staying with our good friend Dani up in Apple Valley until they can be shipped over the end of this Month (September 09). For us it's been hard not to have them around, but we'll be better settled in by then, and things will be stable.

We bought a brand new house about 10 blocks from the ocean in a community called Hawaiian Paradise Park, not far from Pahoa, a small town that looks the wild west in the tropics. It's about 15 miles south of Hilo, the largest city on this side of the island. Adjusting to a Hawaiian frame of reference has been interesting, they tell us that it's dry down where we bought, it only gets about 90" of rain a year. After having an average rainfall of 8" a year in San Diego, this may take some getting used to. The really wet places her
e can get up to 200" a year. The rental we have been
living is in Leilani, about another 5 miles south. We are farther inland here and get a lot of rain. It rains almost every night and things are very lush. The little house is tucked in the jungle just off the main road. The garden is surrounded by strawberry guava which has overtaken the native landscape to the point of being impenetrable. Moss covers
everything, and Hedychium gingers, Ti's and Heliconias are everywhere. It really is beautiful, even though we are basically camping
out, since most our belongings are being held until the escrow closes on the new house, which happens this week. Most of our time has been spent setting things up here, and having fun. Not to far from us are the Kapoho tide pools which offer excellent snorkeling, as well as a small black sand beach in Kehena which is as beautiful as can be. Large coconut trees, rocky cliffs and amazing clear blue water just cool enough to be refreshing, but not so warm as to be like bath water. We have already begun to amass quite a few plants. I'm still getting used to the fact that it is about 83 every day here and 70 at night. They tell me it gets cold here in the winter, the high
60's. There has never been a recorded frost here and the water quality is excellent. Paradise - I'll post again soon - tom

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Well I gotta say, even though I don't like winter in general, I do like the progression of the garden as we approach spring. Just walking through the garden is a delight for the senses. The Michelia doltsopa has been in bloom for at least a month now, although it seems early. The smell is wonderful, the flowers so elegant. It's about 9 years old now, is 12' tall, conical in shape and I can see it from my kitchen window. 

It's funny how so much of the winter garden can I enjoy  from inside the house. I've always been very consience  of views from the inside of the home. Even the night garden is so important. The front yard has great lighting and never fails to make me feel good. 
I just got a few 1-gal Magnolia grandiflora that I'm going to use as rootstock to graft some michelias onto, I think I'll do an approch graft. That type of graft just splices to cuts together while they both are still connected to their own roots. I've had bad luck before using tradition grafting techniques, I'm told they do better in the summer in a humid greenhouse. I also picked up some 1-gal jacaranda to graft some of the dark purple form called 'Midnight' I have by the office, grafting in Febuary has worked before with that one. 
The hybrid Michelia x Jack Foggi 'Allspice' is also just starting to bloom and the fragrace is amazinig, sweet with a hint of banana. Near it is a Lonicera fragrantisima also in bloom, not  avery pretty plant, kind of gangly with dull foliage, but the super sweet frangrace always gets me. 
The spring flowering trees haev also begun. My low chill cherry Prunus 'Pink Cloud' is almost in full bloom (non-fruiting) in  a super showy light pink. Across the road from it, down by the aviaries, the Red Baron peach is in full bloom. That one has brillent double fuchsia pink flowers and also has great yellow peachs, definately a winner. And once again I can look down on both trees from the back deck.
Well that's it for now, I have to go weed the garden below the vegetable bed and mulch it. Too many weeds popping up! -tom

Monday, January 5, 2009

Evolution of drought tolerance

Well it's been a while, but school is over. I've getting a good grasp of HTML, but java script looks like a nightmare. Anyway, the Verbena 'Little Ones' were patented, the label maker left that info off the tag. 2008 was kinda rough, still trying to sell my place here in Vista, one good thing did happen though Andy & I got married on Aug 9 th, after 13 years together. Still a new home in Hawaii would be sweet. 
We've been pruning roses and fruit trees for a couple of days now. People like those, so those stay, but I am doing a reduction in perennials that take too much work. So mostly for water and maintenance issues. The trees and shrubs are really the important to provide structure, the filler plants are more like the pillows on the couch. I actually like the garden better with less. It's funny how gardeners are always adding, not subtracting. 
 I stopped watering the perimeter gardens four months ago, kinda a Darwin design method. If the plant can't handle it, I cut it to the ground and compost it. I've been surprised by the result. Some so called droughty leptospermums and melaleuca bit it, but my English oak looks great. A few of the big (more tropical) Mexican salvias definitely didn't like it, but they weren't my favorites. I told Andy we needed to get down to the 100 best salvias, or less, call me crazy. Any that I liked I took cuttings of and am planting closer to the house. 
Prepping for spring, potting up new seedlings and such, still need to make cuttings of natives, this is the best time of year. My recent efforts have been in a home made solar heat for the greenhouse, propane just too expensive. I'll let you know how that works out. It will be spring before you know it. I think a road trip to the Huntington or LA is in order.
 The Camellias are starting to bloom, a hybrid called High Fragrance is just starting now. It's highly unusual but it has a great fragrance and a long bloom season. I love Camellias, they really help get me through the winter. There's just so much variety, if you've only seen the ones at Home Depot, you are really missing out, Nuccio's, just up the coast in Pasadena, has the best. 
I'm propping quicker stuff right now, but I have potted up some rare Australian shrubs recently, just some seeds I have left over. Still doing the farmers market in Vista on Saturdays. That's where most of the plants are going right now, I can't seem to grow them fast enough, I think the mail order will have to wait till March when I have more plants. Til next -tom