Saturday, December 10, 2011

Plants, plants, plants

Just finished up the second semester of my plant tissue culture class at the U of H Hilo, learning so much, but time consuming as well. Also been really busy setting up the new web store and learning the ins and outs of shipping plants. I'm starting to get the hang of it, but like everything else there's a learning curve. Growing plants is easy, it's all the other stuff that's the effort. Just had my first inspection since building all the tables and it's all good on that front. I'm looking forward to a good spring.
Cuphea ignea 'Alba'
Been propagating a lot to get ready, but I don't have as much space as I would like. Local sales take care of the overflow of plants, but the locals aren't really all that gung-ho about horticulture. It's so easy to grow plants here, that the concept of spending money on plants is foreign here, people just get cuttings from friends and neighbors. You just plunk the cuttings in the ground & they grow. In fact that's what I call most of the landscape design here, plunking. People get new plants and just plunk them anywhere, basically no design at all, even putting in a path seems like an advanced step here. The other thing I had to get used to is just that there are way fewer people here. I'm used to a city of three million, this whole island has only has 170,000, that's a big difference & even then only 80,000 on this side. The people I do sell plants to are super nice though, there's a lot of retired people, who like to garden. They don't always have a lot of money, but they really like gardening. Mostly, I love hearing the stories about their life experiences, people here come from everywhere. So many perspectives.
Costus 'Rainbow'
I'm always finding new selections, like this white cuphea (above), a local guy said it just came up from seed after a hard cut back. And I'm always finding out new stuff about plants I already grow, like this Costus ginger. I was talking to Sean up at the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden  and he was telling me the flowers on all costus gingers are edible. This one to the right is lemony with a little spicy kick to it. I grew it just for the pretty variegated leaves. The flowers on galanga ginger (used in Thai cooking) are small, white, and hotttttt. Luckily costus can be grown from cuttings, because I can't sell any plants that are grown by division that have been grown in the ground here. The issue is the possiblity of nematodes. California, Arizona, Texas and Louisiana have strict importation rules, it's all about the citrus industry. If I want to sell plants from division they have to be grown from seed first, or purchased from another certified nursery, or grown from tissue culture. Apparently the cinder that a lot of grower use here can have nematodes, unless it's heat sterilized first. We just use coco peat (coir) and perlite, so we can ship anywhere.
Tupidanthus calyptratus variegata
I've been starting to do more airlayering. I've known how to do it my whole life, but it's very easy here because of the mild temperatures. These Tupidanthus airlayer had tons of roots after just 3 months. They were too big for mail order, so I potted them into 2 gallons. I think I'll take new airlayers of the small branches that grow off of these, I think I can get them small enough to be easy to ship. 
Papaya 'Aussie red'
Variegated Banana
I've been learning a lot about tropical fruits too. Pineapples, bananas and papaya, as well as mamey sapote, rambuton, mango, brazilian cherry, jaboticaba, starfuit, tropical apricot, lychee and so many more love it here. I used to try to grow papaya in San Diego, but not well, here they are weeds. I've grown the most popular types, rainbow and strawberry here, but I've also been trying some other selections, like this dwarf Australian variety from 4 seed I ordered. The large fruit is very round, orange flesh and sweet. I like it mostly for the size of the plant, papayas just get really tall here after a year and the fruit is really hard to pick. This one is easy. I'm also growing a giant Thai type, that has fruit that can get up to 8 lbs each, it's popular for green papya salad because of the size, but if you let it get ripe it's delicious. I got some seeds of a variety called watermelon as well, don't know if it's different than the giant thai, so I'll just grow them out and compare and contrast. The early research I did said papayas were male and female, but all the ones I grew got fruit, female right, but no males defies basic genectics. After doing some more research I found out that they can also be hemaphrodidic and males can also produce fruit, but usually it's smaller. The genectics on these can get really complicated. Still learning about pineapples, they are even more complicated. As far as bananas, my favorite so far is Musa 'Ae Ae' the variegated, not only is the plant stunning, the fruit is really great, sweet, slightly acid and great size. 
Cestrum 'Goldspire'
The garden here is also filling in nicely, the fragrance at night with all the Brugmansias (Angels Trumpet) blooming is wonderful. I've also been enjoying the fragrance of a new hybrid night blooming jasmine called Cestrum 'Goldspire'. It has the same strong smell of night blooming jasmine, but with a pretty yellow color and a better habit, it's compact habit is a big plus. So far it only blooms once a year, in the early winter, but I'm hoping it blooms more once it's mature. In any case a really good plant. 

It's finally starting to rain here, since the begining of November we've gotten over 16" this month. The garden looks amazing, a little wet, but this is a rain forest after all. I love to show it off. My 78 year old mom and her husband were just out here and loved it. It really is crazy how fast things grow here. Right now some good friends from Vista CA are here, and they couldn't believe how mature it is. Still I was at a new friends house the other day and Glen's 25 year old garden dwarfed mine, with mature trees and epiphites everywhere, it  just makes me look forward to future. Here's a great shot of Andy, with his new short hair, from the Volcano the other day. Later.
Andy Maycen at Kilauea Volcano

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