Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hawaii: Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

Here’s a tongue twister for you: Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Hawaiian is a seemingly difficult language to pronounce, but it really isn’t. The key is to break words into individual syllables. So Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau is pronounced “poo-oo-HO-new-ah o HAW-now-now.” Easy, isn’t it? Not!

Hōnaunau is a small town south of Kailua-Kona, the main city on the western side of the island of Hawaii. A puʻuhonua was a place of refuge to which people who broke one of the ancient laws could flee to evade death. Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, then, means place of refuge of Hōnaunau.


Keone'ele Cove, the traditional landing place for royal canoes and off-limits to commoners

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park preserves one of Hawaii’s most sacred historic places. This site was once home to the chiefs of Kona, one of the six independent chiefdoms of ancient Hawaii all of whom answered to their supreme ruler, or king. Built in the 1500s, a massive wall over 1,000 ft. long, 17 ft. thick and up to 12 ft. tall, separates what once were the royal grounds from the place of refuge, which was both a religious center and a sanctuary for lawbreakers and non-combatants in time of war.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hawaii: Exploring North Kohala

After spending six days on the outrageously green eastern side of the Big Island, the arid landscape of the northwest corner of Hawaii was a surprise—but at the same time a welcome sight. When I saw the wide open expanses, with little to block your view, I realized just how confining the tropical rainforest had been. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the jungle scenery tremendously, but it’s clear that I’m more of a desert person at heart.

Just take a look at how wonderfully sparse this landscape is:


The mountain you see looming in the background in the panorama above is the island of Maui. It’s 26 miles away.

Most of the trees dotting the arid plains on the west side of Hawaii are kiawe (Prosopis pallida), a mesquite native to Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. It can survive where few other plants can. When deprived of water, it only grows to the size of a shrub or small tree. Where precipitation is plentiful, it can grow to 85 ft. in height.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hawaii: Driving up the Hāmākua Coast

On Monday it was time to leave our first vacation rental in Pahoa and move to our second home away from home on the Kohala Coast on the northwestern tip of the Big Island. To get there, we drove up the Hāmākua Coast, crossing over to Waimea, and finally dropping down to the ocean at Kawaihae.

But let’s start at the beginning. Our first stop was the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which I had visited on Saturday. It’s such a special place that I wanted my family to see it, too. Unfortunately, the humidity was off the charts, putting a bit of a damper on the experience.

I took another 100 photos, the best of which will go into my dedicated post (look for it in August). Here are a few more teasers.


Marble ginger (Alpinia sanderae)


Monday, July 28, 2014

Hawaii: Leaving Pahoa

All good things come to an end, and while we’re not leaving the island yet, we’re moving around the top to our new house in Kohala.


I look forward to exploring another part of the island—much drier and less jungly—but I’ll miss our first house and the lovely street it’s on. I doubt I’ll ever get another chance to stay in a house perched right above the ocean, with completely uninhibited 180° views of the Pacific. Renting such a house in California would be prohibitively expensive.

To say goodbye, here are some photos I took yesterday:


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hawaii: Maku’u Sunday Farmers Market

Ho hum, you probably think, another farmers market post. True enough, but the Maku’u Farmers Market is the nicest we’ve been to this far. We liked it even better than the Hilo Farmers Market although for an overall experience the night market at Uncle Robert’s is hard to beat (it doesn’t have a lot of produce vendors though, mostly jewelry, clothes and crafts). 

Held every Sunday from 8am to 2pm on the Hawaiian Homelands Farm Lot off Highway 130, just a few miles northwest of Pahoa, this 5-acre market is home to over 150 vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to arts and crafts, cut flowers and potted plants, and even motor oil! There is also a large food court where you can indulge in whatever strikes your culinary fancy, whether it’s Hawaiian, Filipino, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, or even just hot dogs or a burger.

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip is to see how the locals live, and it appears that markets like this one are a popular way to buy produce, eat out, hang out with family and friends, and in general have fun. The produce prices are very reasonable—quite in contrast to the farmers markets at home that tend to be pricey and a bit on the snooty side. I do think that for many locals farmers markets—instead of supermarkets—are where they buy their fruits and vegetables, This in turn supports local agriculture and keeps the money in  the community instead of sending it to some faceless supermarket conglomerate thousands of miles away.



I knew I was going to like the Maku’u Farmers Market when I saw this row of bamboo

Hawaii: Star of the Sea Painted Church, Kalapana

On our way to Uncle Robert’s Night Market, and then again on our way to the far side of the Red Road, we drove by a small clapboard church framed by palm trees. It looked so quaint, I had to stop and take a look. It turned out that this is the Star of the Sea Painted Church I had read about in Hawaii The Big Island Revealed.


The church was built in 1927 in the village of Kalapana, which was destroyed in 1990 by a lava flow from Kilauea. The church was moved just in time, first to a spot outside the village and then to its current location along Highway 130.


The murals on the wall and ceiling depict characters from the Catholic Book of Catechism and are considered significant pieces of folk art. They were painted by Belgian Catholic priest Father Evarist Matthias Gielen, apparently at night by the light of an oil lamp.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hawaii: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

This morning I left the family behind at the house and made a solo trip to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden just north of Hilo. I had barely pulled out of the driveway when I saw this arresting sight ahead of me:


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more brilliant rainbow. You might think the photo above has been tweaked in Photoshop, but the colors were every bit as vibrant. Could there be a better omen for a day of exploration and photography?

The drive to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden took 40 minutes. My GPS didn’t recognize the street address, 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway in Papaikou, so I simply followed the “Scenic Detour” sign to Onomea Bay.The garden is impossible to miss.


Hawaii: Driving the Red Road

The Red Road along the southeastern shore of Hawaii is one of those fabled American byways. Called “one of the most scenic roads in the state of Hawaii” (1), it is so far off the beaten path that relatively few tourists venture here. When I read that it “takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery reminiscent of the old Hawaii of yesteryear” (1), I knew that I had to check it out. Fortunately enough, the Red Road begins less than a mile from our vacation house in Pahoa so we didn’t have far to go.

The Red Road owes its name to the red cinder pavement that originally covered it. Most of the road is asphalt now but people still use the nickname of days gone by. I found one small spot that still looked like it must have in the past.


We actually started our drive at the far end of the Red Road near Uncle Robert’s and worked our way back towards Kapoho. The Red Road is winding and narrow (in places no more than 8 ft. wide) and offers a variety of scenery, including lava fields, tropical rainforest, old mango groves, picturesque spots overlooking the ocean, and several beach parks where you can picnic and swim. The road is only 20 miles long, but it took us two hours to drive it because we stopped so often. Take a look at the photos below, and you’ll know why.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Hawaii: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is home to two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. At 323,431 acres it’s large park. Only a very small part of is accessible by car, but as you can see in this post, the places you can drive to are pretty fantastic.


The question of the day was whether we would see any volcanic activity. Read on to find out.

The day started out drizzly and misty at the Kīlauea Visitor Center located at 3,500 ft. High winds were driving the rain into our faces, and photography was almost impossible. Still, I took a few photos of the lush, rainforest-like vegetation in this area.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hawaii: Uncle Robert’s night market in Kalapana

Entirely by accident, Wednesday turned out to be the day of the farmers market. After thoroughly enjoying the Hilo farmers market in the late morning, we went to the night market at Uncle Robert’s in Kalapana Village, about 20 minutes from our house in Pahoa. It had been highly recommended, and in turned out to be an early highlight of our trip.

A legend in these parts, Uncle Robert Keli’iho‘omalu is the patriarch of a large family who live on a four-acre compound literally at the end of the road: You simply follow the Kapoho-Kalapana Road, locally referred to as the Red Road for the original red cinder pavement (now asphalt) until you can go no further. From the hundreds of cars parked along the road, you’ll know when you get close. As Uncle Robert says, “Where the road ends, the aloha begins.”


Uncle Robert’s credo


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hawaii: Hilo farmers market

This morning we went to the farmers market in Hilo, the largest town on the east side of Hawaii. In 2012, Huffington Post rated it as one of the ten best farmers markets in the U.S. What was particularly interesting for us was the huge selection of tropical fruits we don’t see at home, plus many Asian vegetables I had never even laid eyes on before.


The Hilo farmers market is open every day from 7:00am to 4:00pm, with about 30 booths open. But on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the market expands dramatically to over 200 vendors, of which at least 150 are selling all manner of arts and crafts. I even saw booths for on-site massages, fortunetelling and the like.

Here are some photos I took. I would have taken more, but the market was crammed and I was juggling a bag of fruit part of the time.


Bamboo shoots for cooking. Unfortunately, the sign didn’t say which species of bamboo.

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

I knew I wasn’t in my bed at home when I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the ocean roaring outside. And when I grabbed my camera at 5:45 this morning, this is what greeted when I stepped out on the deck of the house we’re renting:


Yep, definitely not Kansas anymore—or, in our case, the Sacramento Valley.

This is the eastern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii. We’re renting a house outside of Pahoa, also known as the Big Islands “hippie capital.” I can’t attest to that yet, having just arrived yesterday evening, but I will report back.

I do know that this area is far away from everything, which is why it is quiet and so reasonably priced. We’re spending six days here to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the west and the Hilo area just to the north.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

#GBFling14: Lan Su Chinese Garden

The first garden we visited on day 1 of the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling was the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Located in the heart of downtown Portland, it is surrounded by a mix of modern high rises and more traditional brick buildings.


This walled garden encloses an entire city block, about 1 acre.


When you step through the gates, which I thought were remarkably beautiful, you leave the hustle and bustle of 21st century Portland behind and embark a journey back in time to 16th century China.


Friday, July 18, 2014

#GBFling14: Sean Hogan Garden

The first garden I saw after I arrived in Portland, Oregon for the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling was also one of the most beautiful. It wasn’t on the tour, but I was privileged enough to enjoy it throughout my stay. It belongs to Sean Hogan, the owner of Cistus Nursery, whose generosity in putting me up at his house I will always appreciate.

Sean is not only a consummate plantsman, he’s also an accomplished garden designer. His garden is a graceful tapestry of greenery and hardscape, with the occasional touch of bling, as evidenced by the chandelier you see in the photo below.


But let’s start in front of the house. Above the front door, for everyone to see, is the motto of Sean’s realm: Hortisexuality. “Horti” as in garden, and “sexuality” as in sizzle and allure.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

2014 Garden Bloggers Fling plant haul

Sometimes it’s easier to start at the end. Before I begin posting about the gardens and nurseries we visited during the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon, I want to introduce you to the plants I brought back.


Yes, everything you see in the photo above was in my suitcase!

Before I left Portland, I bare-rooted most plants (two small Agave victoria-reginae and a Yucca linearifolia stayed in their pots), wrapped the roots in newspaper, and then put them in plastic bags. Thanks to the gracious help of Loree Bohl of Danger Garden this didn’t take long. I then placed the wrapped plants in my suitcase and stabilized them with clothing to keep them from shifting around. Apparently this approach worked very well; aside from a couple of broken leaves, there was no damage at all. I should add, though, that I had a direct flight so my luggage wasn’t tossed about as much as it might have on a longer flight with more connections.

Below is my bounty from Portland. All plants came from Cistus Nursery, which we visited during the Fling, with the exception of the cut leaf emperor oak (Quercus dentata ‘Pinnatifida’) you see in the lower left-hand corner. That plant came from Gossler Farms, one of the plant vendors at Friday night’s banquet—yes, we had a banquet and got swag bags just like Hollywood celebrities.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 Garden Bloggers Fling preview

I just got back from five jam-packed days in Portland, Oregon, attending the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling. We visited private and public gardens, nurseries, and even Timber Press, one of the world’s preeminent publisher of gardening, horticulture and natural history books. The organizers went above and beyond to create a memorable experience for us, and I couldn’t have been happier. I took well over 1,000 photos so it’ll be a while before I get them all processed. In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of what I’ll be showing you.

The collage overview format below is a shameless rip-off of what Alan Lorence of It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening did on his own blog the other day. Don’t they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

140711 Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Cistus Nursery

Cistus Nursery

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Heading to the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, OR

pdx_fling_logoI’ll be offline until next week because I’m heading to Portland, Oregon for the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling. This is the 7th gathering of garden bloggers; most of them are from North America, but a surprising number will come across the Big Pond.

To give you an idea of what we’ll be doing, here is the official itinerary. Three days jam-packed with garden and nursery visits and hanging out with liked-minded individuals from all over the country—and indeed the world. It will be fantastic!

Starting next week, I will have extended coverage of all the wonderful places we visited. Please check back then.

One of our destinations will be the Portland Japanese Garden. Check out my previous posts about this stunning place:

  • Portland Japanese Garden: Design
  • Portland Japanese Garden: Plants
  • Portland Japanese Garden: Ornaments
  • Portland Japanese Garden in the fall: Part 1
  • Portland Japanese Garden in the fall: Part 2
  • Portland Japanese Garden in the fall: Part 3


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cousin Itt moves in

Yesterday started out on a sad note as I removed yet another potted bamboo. This Sinobambusa tootsik ‘Albovariegata’ had been growing for years in a large bowl (29” wide by 14” tall) next to the family room slider. With its beautifully variegated leaves it was one of my favorite bamboos. Unfortunately, I had never been completely happy, most likely because of our high heat and low humidity.


This year, at the peak of the drought, I simply hadn’t watered it enough and it had been in a tailspin for months. I finally decided to put it out of its misery.


This freed up a prime spot in our backyard…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gerhard’s extracurricular bloom day

When I posted a bunch of photos of the front yard the other day, several people were surprised that I have so many flowering plants—which is understandable because I rarely write about them. I vowed to be better about it, so here are some more photos of plants in flower right now. Since I seem to always miss Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, which is on the 15h of every month, consider this an early July Bloom Day post.

I should preface this post by saying that it was 103°F (40°C) here just two days ago. In light of that, these plants are holding up quite well, I’d say!


What better way than to start out with a mystery plant. In April, I scattered the contents of a “dryland seed mixture” on parts of our new desert bed. This is one of the plants that came up. The flowers remind me of Berlandiera lyrata, but that’s definitely not it. Does anybody know what it might be? UPDATE: Based on reader feedback, I’m fairly certain it’s plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria).


Our compact Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Compactum’) is in bloom. I find it it difficult to photograph this extremely heat-tolerant shrub in an attractive way, but take my word for it, it’s beautiful!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cactus flowers to brighten a hot Tuesday

Work’s been keeping me busy, cutting down on the time I have available to spend in the garden. But even on a hectic day like today I found a few minutes to putter around. Look what I found:


My Parodia magnificus, a ball cactus from southern Brazil, has two flowers! I love how delicate and fragile they look.