Rock and water elements add to garden enjoyment

Hawaiian landscapes certainly have enough lava rock but may be lacking in water elements like streams, ponds, lakes and ocean frontage. In many other parts of the world, rock and water elements are used in the landscape to create a natural feeling and add interest to the design. Balinese gardens usually include not only naturalistic forms, but often, sculptured elements as well. In Japan the stone water basins that stand outside the teahouses are an example of rock and water used on a small scale. In almost any garden, the gentle sound and sight of water running over cool stones is refreshing.

New non-native specie found in Kona

Phenax hirtus is a tropical shrub from Central America that will grow rapidly to 15 feet and can spread quickly. At first glance, it looks like a small-leafed version of mamake, to which it is related. It is a pioneer specie that quickly invades areas sprayed with herbicide, like along the forest reserve trails and in areas along roadsides where soil is exposed. Since Phenax is closely related to mamake, it may have some medicinal value.

You are in trouble if you forget your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is just upon us so it is important to tell your loved ones how much you care. Shopping for gifts during the pandemic is limiting our options. On the high end, some consider diamonds and on the low end, a cheap box of candy. Here in the islands, we have a living option that can be enjoyed for years without destroying our bank accounts or adding more pounds on what we weighed before the lockdown.

Celebrate the 10th annual Wiliwili Festival Feb. 12-13

Our forests and landscapes can change rapidly. A very warm, wet period or dry one can drastically alter the species makeup of a forest. For example, our ohia forests are now suffering from Rapid Ohia Death, and from other diseases as well.

Preserving old Hawaii with Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden

Even though we are still dealing with COVID-19 isolation, 2021 is definitely giving us hope for a better future. We still have to be careful about wearing protective masks and keeping a safe distance from crowds, but there are many reasons to be optimistic. It is a great time to do something fun. What better way to get out of the house and experience nature than to visit public parks and gardens.

Global warming means palms in surprising places

A visit to Hawaii is the treat of a lifetime to millions of people a year, and many folks who come are friends or relatives of those of us who live here. One of the highlights for them is to experience the lush tropical gardens and forests that are unlike any place in the continental United States.

Composting and mulching to build healthy soils from scratch

The beginning of a new year and the death and destruction that occurred in 2020 teaches us that life in general goes in cycles. Madam Pele manifests this phenomenon as Kilauea erupts again. With thousands of acres covered with lava in the last few years, it is hard to imagine they will ever support vegetation again at least in our lifetime.

Mele Kalikimaka and aloha go hand in hand

No matter how crazy and chaotic 2020 was, it seems the Christmas Spirit in Hawaii continued all year thanks to the constant reminder that we choose to live Aloha. The basic teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and other spiritual leaders all come together here in our Islands. Diversity is mostly respected. Faith, Hope and Love are emphasized in Judeo Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu ethics. This is the essence of living Aloha.

Try easy-care plants like cactus, succulents and bromeliads

As the days will shortly get longer folks like to brighten up their home with bouquets of colorful cut flowers, but for most kamaaina, living plants are another option. Instead of lasting a few days, many plants like cactus, succulents and bromeliads can last for years. If you like interior or exterior gardening the easy way, then you might consider a group of easy care plants often referred to cast iron plants. They are so tough that even if you don’t think you have a green thumb, you will have success with these tough guys.

Celebrate a safe Thanksgiving

These are strange times. For the last several months, it seems many folks have been focusing on the negative, especially with pandemic covid 19 and politics. We should not have big family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations this holiday season. Avoiding large gatherings will be necessary to keep our friends and families healthy and alive.

Tropical vireya rhododendrons thrive in Hawaii

Tropical Asia is well known for its spectacular rainforests loaded with many species of palms and carnivorous nepenthes pitcher plants but it is easy to miss the tropical vireya rhododendrons growing as epiphytes high in the tops of gigantic trees. Most folks spend their time looking at terrestrial plants, or avoiding leeches, snakes and other jungle critters.

Poinsettias for holiday color

The holiday season usually begins with Halloween and extends to Easter, but this year’s COVID-19 pandemic means we need to be careful of gatherings like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Perhaps a safer endeavor would be to focus on our gardens!

Fall colors abound even in the tropics

Some folks living in Hawaii miss the four seasons of more temperate regions, especially if they grew up in a region that has summer, fall, winter and spring. Here we have rainy and dry seasons. This is somewhat confusing since West Hawaii is beginning its dry season as the east side of the island is beginning its rainy season! Whether rainy or dry, fall is now and we do have fall colors if we look for them.

Hawaii Island famous for its palms

When we think of the tropics, the first trees that come to mind are coconut palms gracing white coral sand beaches. Truly, these palms have been carried by humans throughout the tropical world over thousands of years.

Create fall gardening color with flowering annuals

Sorry, it looks like no trip this year to enjoy the fall colors of mainland landscapes. The East Coast, especially New England, is famous for the brilliant riot of forests trees getting prepared for winter’s dormant season. Even deciduous trees of the Western United States are beginning to brighten landscapes as days grow shorter.

Cloud forests abound in tree ferns

If you want to get a sense of what life was like during the Carboniferous period some 300 million years ago, visit the Kona Cloud Forest above Kailua. The area abounds with ferns that once were dominant millions of years ago.

Your lawn may be hungry and thirsty now

Global warming has made forecasting weather a big gamble. Generally speaking, Hawaii’s rainy season is usually November through April. The exception is Kona that has a summer rainy season with a dry winter. Other variables include elevation and the effect of moisture-bearing tradewinds. Thus mauka areas of the windward side may receive 200 or more inches of rain while coastal South Kohala may receive very little rain throughout the year. On the leeward side, coastal Kona may receive 30 inches of rain in the summer, but at 2,000 to 4,000 feet elevation, summer rainfall may be 60 to 100 inches. Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary at 3,000 feet in Kaloko Mauka has recorded no dry season for almost three years while the windward side has experienced unusually dry weather.

The cucumber that ate Kona is back again!

Way back in 1995, a mysterious vine began to pop up all over the lowlands of West Hawaii. It also showed up on Oahu about the same time. The University of Hawaii Agricultural Extension offices began to get calls that Kudzu Vine was sprouting up all over and covering shrubs and trees.

Legal mood enhancers like chocolate nothing new in Hawaii

We sometimes think of mood enhancing drugs with trepidation but they have been part of the human condition for thousands of years. Marijuana, opium poppies and coca leaf have been used for centuries as were certain mushrooms and even the sap of the angel trumpet tree. Many of the substances derived from these plants are now illegal in some countries due to the possibility of dangerous misuse. In the case of angel trumpet sap, it can easily kill you if ingested. Others are so much a part of our culture that we hardly give them second thought. These include coffee, tea and chocolate.