Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Maui: Bamboos at Garden of Eden Arboretum

A few days ago I took you on a tour of the Garden of Eden Arboretum located on the Hāna Highway in northern Maui. My post showed you many of the exotic trees, shrubs and perennials growing there, but I left out one group of plants: bamboos.

The bamboo garden at Garden of Eden isn’t huge but since I didn’t know ahead of time that it even existed, it was like receiving an unexpected gift when I saw the first huge clump:

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Bambusa vulgaris ‘Vittata’ aka painted bamboo;
from China and Japan; height to 50 ft., hardy to 27°F

Painted bamboo may be common in tropical regions, but for me it’s still a thing of rare beauty.

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Bambusa vulgaris ‘Vittata’

Yucca Do summer sale

I don’t typically repost sales and offers from commercial nurseries but all the plants I’ve bought from Yucca Do Nursery over the years have thrived so I don’t hesitate to recommend them.

They’re having a summer sale right now, with prices reduced from 10 to 50%. Check it out! There’s some tasty stuff:

Agave dasyliroides; rarely seen but a secret favorite of mine

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Maui: Garden of Eden Arboretum

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been back from Maui for over a week now.

The past six days have been the week from hell: 10 to 12 hour work days, with no time to play. Maui seemed so very far away, almost like a dream. Yet as I was preparing the photos for this post, I felt like I had been there just yesterday. I guess that’s how it often goes with vacations, especially the ones that are so special you will remember them for the rest of your life.

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This post is about the Garden of Eden Arboretum. This 26-acre private botanical garden is located near the Ke’anea peninsula along the Hāna Highway (near mile marker 10.5).

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I spent almost three hours there on day 4 of our trip. I got rained on, suffered more mosquito bites than at any other point in life (over a hundred, without exaggerating) and yet it was one of the most magical places I saw in all of Maui. The guidebooks are ambivalent about it because admission is a fairly steep $15, but if you have even the slightest interest in plants, this place literally is paradise.

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Yes, it was closed when I got there at 7:50am, but the gate opened promptly at 8:00am

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our garden after our summer vacation

As much I was looking forward to seeing our garden after our trip to Maui, the transition back to reality wasn’t easy. I wasn’t ready to come home, and there were still parts of Maui I hadn’t been able to explore. But I guess it’s good to leave something for next time…

As for our garden, it didn’t look much different. In spite of the incessant summer heat, the perennial beds in the front yard still look decent. And the areas I planted earlier this spring (on the left in the photo below) are filling in nicely. I’m happy about that.

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Perennial bed inside the front yard fence

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Maui day 12: All good things come to an end

Today was our last day in Maui. I woke up feeling a bit down, and the feeling continued all day. We’ve had such a great time here and it’s difficult to leave all this beauty behind. Even though Hawaii is only a 5-hour flight from Sacramento, vacationing here is an expensive proposition and I don’t know when we’ll be able to return.

We spent the morning at Maluaka Beach. My wife and I had been here for sunset a few days ago and thought it might be a good spot for swimming, which it was.

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Maluaka Beach—organized boating trip (alas, not for us)

To see more pictures of Maluaka Beach, please go to this post.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Maui day 11: Maui Nui Botanical Gardens—La Perouse Bay

This morning we checked out the northern section of Poʻolenalena Beach, away from the Makena Surf Resort. While there were people on the beach, it certainly didn’t feel crowded. Another slice of paradise!

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Poʻolenalena Beach

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Poʻolenalena Beach

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Maui day 10: Beaches, beaches, beaches

Today was a very relaxed day. We started out by swimming at Poʻolenalena Beach, then checked out the beach at Makena Landing, went ziplining in upcountry Makawao, and ended the day at Maluaka Beach.

All of these beaches are in the Wailea—Makena area of South Maui, just 2 miles from each other. It’s astounding how many stunning beaches there along such a short stretch!

This post will be brief, but I hope you’ll enjoy the photos!

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Poʻolenalena Beach

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Poʻolenalena Beach

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maui day 9: Molokini

Molokini is a small horseshoe-shaped “island” off the coast of South Maui. Geologically, it’s a partially submerged volcanic crater that acted as a relief vent for Haleakalā, the 10,023 ft. dormant volcano that dominates the topography of Maui. Today, Molokini is Maui’s premier spot for snorkeling and diving. The sheltered crescent offers protection from the powerful currents and allows you to view the marine life up close.

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Location of Molokini

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Molokini from the air (source: Wikipedia)

Maui day 8: Keawakapu Beach—Kula Botanical Garden

We’ve been here a week now and finally made it to the beach closest to our condo complex, Keawakapu Beach. It’s located in a residential area and the only properties fronting the beach are private homes. It’s probably the nicest swimming beach we’ve been to (Big Beach is still my favorite but the surf is a bit too rough there for us casual swimmers).

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I’m still having a hard time believing this stunning scenery is real. Sometimes it seems like I’m dreaming!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maui day 7: Lāhainā—Kāʻanapali

When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to realize that it’s Sunday. Amazing how you lose track of time when you’re on vacation. But that’s also one of the greatest gifts of being away from your everyday routine.

Today we explored Lāhainā and Kāʻanapali, the main towns in West Maui. Here is a map for orientation (how I love Google Maps):

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To me, the name Lāhainā embodies all things exotic. There’s such a wonderful ring to it: Lah-HIGH-nuh. I think of the South Seas, palm trees swaying in the breeze, beautiful people enjoying every minute of every day. A Paul Gauguin painting come to life.

Of course reality was (and is) quite different. For starters, Lāhainā means “cruel sun” in Hawaiian. We got here at 9 a.m. and temperatures were in the low 80s, but apparently it can be very hot here on a summer afternoon. In addition, Lāhainā was a major whaling port, which I imagine brought a pretty rough crowd. Conflicts with the resident missionaries (see below) must have been commonplace.

Among the things that haven’t changed: The stunning color of the water, and the view of the neighboring island of Lānaʻi.

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View of Lānaʻi from the Lāhainā waterfront

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Maui day 6: ʻĪao Valley—Tropical Gardens of Maui—Big Beach

After two days spent on the road driving to and from Hāna, we decided to stick a little closer to home today. Our first destination was ʻĪao Valley just outside of Wailuku, the administrative seat of Maui County. ʻĪao Valley (pronounced “EE-ow”) is stunningly beautiful; the mountains with their almost vertical sides remind me of the Nā Pali Coast on the island of Kauaʻi.

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Here is a satellite image of ʻĪao Valley. It shows this area’s topography very well.

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The best place to enjoy the scenery is from ʻĪao Valley State Monument at the end of the road. Admission is free but parking is $5—well worth it. The signature view is of the ʻĪao Needle rising 1,200 ft. from the valley floor. Most people think the best spot to see it is from the bridge across ʻĪao Stream, but in my opinion the vista is even better from the viewing platform at the top of the stairs.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Maui day 5: Hāna Highway, again

Hāna Highway again? Yes, I made the drive two days in a row. Yesterday I did a solo trip so I could focus on plants (and the Garden of Eden Arboretum); today I went with the family.

We got a somewhat late start because we had an early lunch at a fantastic vegetarian restaurant called Veg Out in Haiku, a small town a couple of miles off the Hāna Highway. Vegetarian restaurants are few and far between in Maui, and this one is worth seeking out (reasonably priced, too, even by mainland standards).

Yesterday I thought I prettiest spot on the coast was Nahiku but today I changed my mind. It’s got to be the village of Ke’anea. The surf was wild here, waves crashing against the black lava rocks, and there were virtually no tourists. Even though it’s only a few miles from the Hāna Highway (left turn 1/2 mile past mile marker 16), Ke’anea felt like it was in a different world altogether, maybe even a different time.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Maui day 4: Hāna Highway

The Hāna Highway is one for your bucket list. That’s what everybody says. I was more than willing to find out. I got up early, grabbed a latte at Starbucks (sticker shock!) and was on the road by 6 a.m. According to seasoned travelers, it pays to get an early start because the Hāna Highway is very popular (1,500 to 2,000 cars a day). I was glad I did because I did have the road almost to myself—at least initially. Eventually traffic caught up with me because I stopped so often but even then it was never bad.

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Some statistics to give you the big picture: The Hāna Highway connects Kahalui where the airport is located to Hāna on Maui’s east coast and is 68 miles long, although some people would argue that it actually doesn’t start until Pāʻia and hence is only 50 miles. In any case, it has 620 curves, some of them hair-raising, and 59 bridges. Straight driving time—without stopping—is around 2½ hours. Most people probably take 5-6 hours for the roundtrip. It took me 11 hours but I did stop often (very often) and took lots of photos. And I spent 2 hours at the Garden of Eden Arboretum (more on than further down).

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Maui day 3: Haleakalā and upcountry

Today we got up at the ungodly hour of 2:30 am and headed out at 3 am. Why would we do such a crazy thing when we’re on vacation? Sunrise at the summit of 10,023 ft. Haleakalā! Much has been written about this magical, mystical and—according to some people—sacred experience. Some people say it’s overrated and a waste of a good night’s sleep, others (the majority) say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing you simply we do while on Maui.

Was it worth it? I think the photos below speak for themselves:

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Maui day 2: Jumping in

With my body still on California time, I was ready to get up at 5 am. However, since at 5 am it was still dark and I wouldn’t have been able to do any exploring, I forced myself to stay in bed until 7.

Even after a leisurely breakfast, it didn’t take us long to head out. We decided to spend the morning at Wailea Beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Maui (I’m sure there’s a great deal of debate on that issue since there are so many stunning beaches). It’s only a few miles from our condo so we didn’t have far to go.

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The sand at Wailea Beach is the finest I’ve ever experienced. It felt like walking through granulated sugar. The sand also has a slight pink cast, which is really nice.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Maui day 1: Finding our bearings

Getting to Maui was as easy as can be. In 5 hours and 15 minutes Alaska Airlines had whisked us from Sacramento, CA to Kahului where the island’s main airport is located.

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The landing was quite bumpy—a bit like riding on a roller coaster that needs adjusting. Fortunately, I was distracted trying to take photos out the window. The colors of the ocean just off the shore were quite beautiful, especially contrasted with the yellow-green of the sugarcane fields.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Paradise, here we come!

After a wait that seemed to last forever, summer vacation is finally here! Guess where we’ll be traveling this year?

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I’ll be blogging every day from Destination X, starting Monday evening, so check back regularly.

In the meantime, click here to read my posts from last year’s trip through the American Southwest—Grand Canyon, Tucson, Santa Fe, Mesa Verde, Arches and lots of other places in between, not to mention plenty of photos of cactus, agaves and other plants.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fields of gold

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

Sting, Fields of Gold

What I want to show you today aren’t fields of barley, but they’re our very own fields of gold. In the summer, the rural areas outside of Davis are dotted with expanses of sunflowers, some grown for the cut-flower market, others for seeds, and others yet for oil.

I took a friend to Sacramento International Airport this morning, located about 35 minutes from here in the midst of fields, and I snapped the photos below with my cell phone. Sunflowers may not be the most refined and sophisticated flowers, but they’re impossible to beat when it comes to cheerfulness. It’s hard not to smile when you see a sunflower, let alone an entire field of them!

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Life saver, anyone?

Life saver plant, that is.

When I visited Candy Suter of Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents in November 2011, she gave me a small cutting of her life saver plant (Huernia zebrina). I’d wanted a specimen since I first saw it in Larry Mellichamp’s book Bizarre Botanicals, so I was thrilled.

Fast forward a year and a half, and that cutting has turned into a small plant (the pot you see in the photos below is 3” in diameter) with a dozen segments. The overall look is that of a typical stapeliad. In fact fact, it looks just like a miniature version of the Orbea variegata I received from my in-laws’ neighbor.

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However, the other day I noticed an addition that hadn’t been there the week before:

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Crape myrtle = epitome of summer

For me, few things epitomize summer the way crape myrtles do. Somewhat nondescript the rest of year, they take center stage when they burst into flower. Few trees bloom as long and as freely as they do, filling entire neighborhoods with pops of color. (On some streets it seems that every house has a crape myrtle.)

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Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica and many named cultivars and hybrids) grow so well in our climate that people sometimes think they are native to California. Actually, they aren’t. As the species name indica suggests, they hail from the Indian subcontinent as well as from China, Korea and Japan. A couple of reasons why they thrive in our area: They like our clay soil, and they positively love our summer heat.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Palo verde in bloom

On Saturday we had brunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Maria’s Cantina in Woodland. To my delight the palo verde (Parkinsonia florida or Cercidium floridum) in front of the entrance was still blooming.

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One of my favorite trees, the palo verde, or more correctly blue palo verde, is the state tree of Arizona. It’s native to the Sonoran and Mohaje deserts and typically grows to 15-30 ft. In spring and early summer (March to May), the tree is covered with bright yellow flowers, as you can see in the photos below. I’m actually surprised the one at Maria’s Cantina still had so many flowers but I’m not complaining!

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