Friday, February 3, 2012

A Calliandra Spring

Elaeagnus philippinensis the Lingaro Berry
Well the days are starting to get longer, and even here in Hawaii you can tell the seasons are changing. It doesn't seem like it but things do slow down here, it's just a little harder to notice. The rain we had in November and December (30") was substantial and really made a difference compared to the last two winters. The plumerias lost all their leaves, and my Kigelia pinna or Sausage tree from Africa lost its leaves for 30 days, before putting out a giant flush of foliage. A few plants actually died, some succulents I brought over from San Diego, they lasted for over two years, but in that 6 weeks of rain they just rotted. It's always warm here, so roots rot more quickly than when they're cold and wet like California. Still others didn't seem to care, Agaves, some Aloes, Euphorbias, and members of the Crassula family are doing just fine. A lot of collectors here just keep their water sensitive plants under the eves of the house. I'm doing the survival of the fittest thing, at least until I have a greenhouse up, not to keep things warm, but dry. The trick here is finding plants that do well, but not too well. I also sold off a bunch of plants I grew from seed from when I first moved here. I really don't have the room for all of them in my one acre garden, but I'm also getting more particular, a bunch were fruit trees that are perfectly good and edible, but not my favorites, and here we are talking about a lot of fruit. I sold off the Achras zapota (Manikara zapota) the Sapodilla Fruit, Chrysophyllum oliviforme the Star Apple or Satin Leaf, Murraya koenigii the Curry Plant, Nephelium lappaceum or Rambutan, Pouteria sapote the Mamey Sapote and Syzygium malaccence the Malay Rose Apple. I'm keeping what I really like to eat, the Averrhoa carambola or star fruit, avocados, mango, citrus, papayas, bananas, passion fruit, Lychee 'Kaimana', Pinapple, Elaeagnus philippinensis the Lingaro Berry my favorite (I've got some really nice 3" available for mailorder - Vintage Green Farms ), Purple Dragon fruit or Hylocerus costaricensis  and strangely I'm still trying a low chill apple 'Golden Dorset' and my favorite plum 'Hollywood' a hundred year old low chill hybrid popularized by my late mentor Sinjen. I've got some starts of those for sale on line as well. I'm even growing alpine strawberries and they are doing really well. Some stuff is still on the fence, like Dovyalis abyssinica x hedecarpa called the tropical apricot, and it really does taste like an apricot plum hybrid, the fruit are small, but the tree is pretty so I think it's worth a shot. It roots from cuttings okay, but I've learned it's salt sensitive in the potting up stage, oh it's always the little tricks.
Most exciting for me is growing all the different Calliandras that I used to grow in San Diego, but that totally rock here. This Calliandra inaequilatera 'Alba' from Bolivia is a great winter bloomer here, one of the few ways I can tell the season.  But, it's the hybrids that I had never seen before that blew me away. When I first moved here I bought what I thought was a Calliandra surinamensis,  from Rozettes Nursery so when it bloomed red I was so surprised, but happily. The local Calliandra surinamensis has a smaller flowers and sort of a weepy habit, I'm glad a brought the California form with me, it has a much bigger flower and better upright habit. 
Calliandra inaequilatera 'Alba'                              

It turns out that John the owner has had this hybrid for more than 20 years. I think it's a hybrid of Calliandra i. x C. surinamensis. It blooms a lot and I'm a fan, the flowers are a little smaller but it blooms well all year, heavier in the winter. Then I was driving around above Hilo and saw a white form of Calliandra surinamenis, I snagged some cuttings, and now I've got that one too. It's a weepy plant with smaller flowers, but I really like the habit and form of the blooms. I was on the Kona side and found a smaller Calliandra with shiny leaves for sale off course it had no label, because almost nothing here has a name on it. I did some some research and while the flowers looks just like C. surinamensis, the plant has a strong lateral habit, and cycles in and out of a really hard bloom. It's a species called Calliandra schultzei, it might be a good pick for small gardens or bonsai. It makes lots of upright seedpods, and prunes really well. Another species I like is Calliandra tergemina var. emarginata, it's compact to about 5', and blooms all year, unlike Calliandra inaequilatera which only blooms in the winter. I've propagated all of them and have them for sale, I want people to try them so I can find out the cold hardiness. That's the one thing I can't do here, just too mild. It's still kind of weird not worrying about cold or drought. Even this picture of Calliandra inaequilatera with Euphorbia cotonifolia wouldn't be possible in California because the Euphorbia would be dormant, it just goes a little off here.
Calliandra inaequilatera with Euphorbia cotonifolia
Calliandra surinamensis 'California'

Calliandra surinamensis 'Red Form'

Calliandra schultzei

Calliandra tergemina var. emarginata

Calliandra surinamensis 'California'

 Calliandra surinamensis 'White Form'