Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Tropical Paradise of Oahu

Honolulu International Airport gardens
A glimpse of paradise in one of Honolulu International Airport's gardens
As I write this, exactly one week ago I was strolling through the gardens at Hawaii's Honolulu International Airport. 

I first discovered the airport's Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese gardens two and a half years ago during a long layover while awaiting a connecting flight. The gardens are located in an easy-to-overlook courtyard, a tranquil oasis hidden in plain sight. 

Spider lilies (Crinium)
Spider lilies (Crinium) in the foreground
with reflections of tall palm trees in the pond

Earlier in the week my family and I had visited Ho'omaluhia, one of five botanical gardens belonging to the Department of Parks and Recreation of Honolulu.  Ho'omaluhia is located up near the clouds in Kane'ohe. We saw tropical trees - some native species, some introduced. The hala tree is indigenous to Hawaii. Its fruit looks much like that of the pineapple plant, which, although grown commercially on Oahu, is not a native.

Hala tree at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden
Hala tree at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

Earpod Tree
The Earpod Tree, a member of the pea family, shown here
 at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, is native to Central and South America
Just driving or walking down the street in Kailua, where we stayed, I saw both familiar and unfamiliar plants, as well as unfamiliar varieties of familiar plants. Who knew that bougainvillea comes in such a variety of colors? When I see them in South Carolina, I only ever see the solid pink ones. 

Bougainvillea, native to South America, thrive on Oahu
You might recall that several weeks ago I bought two jungle geraniums (Ixora coccinea) after Abide-A-While moved some of their tropicals to the clearance shelves. This plant was new to me at the time. Not any more. On Oahu I often saw it growing in shrub form.

Plumeria flowers are used in the making of leis. After bands of wind and rain pushed through, I observed plumeria blossoms more frequently on the ground than in trees. 

Plumeria growing alongside a busy road in Kailua
Near the end of our stay, my daughter introduced me to the North Shore of Oahu where we visited the amazing botanical garden of Waimea Valley. This garden is the sort of place that makes you wish you lived next door and had an annual pass so that you could wander the grounds daily. I can visualize myself strolling with notebook and pen in hand, taking notes, yes, but pausing to compose lines of poetry, too. 

While at Waimea Valley I made photograph after photograph until my camera's battery exhausted. Unfortunately I cannot post any of those photos until I receive permission from the owners and thus far, perhaps due to the holidays, they have not responded to my request. 

Of the garden's numerous collections of tropical plants, the extensive hibiscus collections were among my favorites. I would have loved to see the cannas in bloom, but none were flowering during my visit.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden
At Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden 
Back at home now, I'm trying to harvest all the Meyer lemons before they freeze outside. With a tiny portion of my harvest, I'm attempting to make marmalade for the first time. Before my trip I froze enough juice to make lemonade every day next summer. Based on the number of lemons I have left, it appears I will be freezing more juice - much more.

Blooming at my place in the South Carolina Lowcountry on Christmas day: camellia Japonica (several varieties), narcissus, begonia, gaillardia, hellebore (budding),  jungle geraniums (one plant sheltered under the carport and the other on the unheated sunporch), geraniums (both on the sunporch and outside), the lavender-colored lantana, alyssum (both the white and the purple ones), marigolds, a descendent of my grandmother's red antique rose, quince...what else? That's all I can think of now.

Wishing each of my readers a wonderful 2013! Thank you for taking the time to visit with me.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden
My family strolls ahead of me as we return to the car
Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

Friday, December 14, 2012

Strolling through Kyoto's Temple Gardens

In Japan, sakura (cherry blossom) viewing is a popular outdoor activity in spring. Momiji (Japanese maple) viewing provides enjoyment in autumn. Kyoto is home to numerous temple gardens, many of them ideal locations for both sakura and momiji. My current favorite Zen gardens are Tenryū-ji, Tōfuku-ji, and Ryōan-ji, which I visited in April 2011, December 2011, and December 2012, respectively.  

Star magnolia at Tenryu-ji
Star magnolia at Tenryū-ji

Tenryū-ji, located in Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto, is famous for its stroll garden. My visit there took place less than a month after the March 11 earthquake. Nonetheless, visitors packed the gardens. The grounds required a separate admission ticket from that of the temple. A stroll through the garden proved worth every yen. 
Sakura at Tenryu-ji
Sakura viewing: Tenryū-ji

Quince at Tenryu-ji
Quince in bloom at Tenryū-ji

Tōfuku-ji (Eastern Good Luck Temple), located in southeastern Kyoto, is famous for its valley of red maples and its moss and stone checkerboard. I've previously written about Tōfuku-ji's moss garden.
Valley of red maples at Tofuku-ji
Momiji viewing: The valley of maples, Tōfuku-ji
Moss and rock garden at Tofuku-ji
Moss and rock garden, Tōfuku-ji
Tofuku-ji Hojo garden
The Southern Garden at Tōfuku-ji's Hojo
The four rock-composites in Tōfuku-ji's Hojo (Abbot Hall) rock garden represent the Elysian islands. Moss covered mounds represent five sacred mountains.

Moss and stone checkerboard at Tofuku-ji
A bit of the moss and stone checkerboard at Tōfuku-ji

Ryōan-ji (the Temple of the Dragon at Peace), located in northwestern Kyoto, is famous for its rock garden. Yet it contains expanses of moss as well. Earlier this week, on Wednesday, two gardeners worked diligently with their small straw brooms near the entrance to the temple grounds, removing fallen maple leaves from the moss carpet.

Buddha at Ryoan-ji
Buddha at Ryōan-ji
At Ryōan-ji camellias and quince are just beginning to blossom. The Japanese irises that grow along the edge of Kyoyochi Pond won't bloom until months from now. Flowers aren't the big draw to the gardens at this time of year - the trees are. Many of the maples have yet to lose the last of their leaves. 

Winter will be here officially in just a few short days. This season is an ideal time to appreciate evergreens and to observe the previously hidden structures of deciduous trees. At Ryōan-ji quite a few trees sport braces to support and shape trunks and limbs. 
Kyoyochi pond at Ryoan-ji
Kyoyochi pond at Ryōan-ji
Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant) at Ryoan-ji
Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant) at Ryōan-ji 
The dry landscape of Ryōan-ji consists of white gravel and fifteen rocks and is believed to have been created by a Zen monk, around 1500 AD, at the end of the Muromachi period. The wall that separates this rock garden from the landscape garden is made of clay once boiled in oil. Subsequent seepage resulted in the creation of patterns along the old wall.
Ryoan-ji's dry landscape rock garden
A corner of Ryōan-ji's dry landscape or rock garden
Tree brace at Ryoan-ji
A tree brace at Ryōan-ji
Stone washbasins at Ryoan-ji
The inscription on this stone washbasin at Ryōan-ji: I learn only to be contented.
Both Tenryū-ji and Ryōan-ji have restaurants on the premises. Reservations are recommended for Tenryū-ji, where Zen cuisine is served. 
Restaurant at Ryoan-ji
Ryōan-ji's restaurant overlooks the garden

Bridge over the pond at Ryoan-ji
Bridge over the pond at Ryōan-ji

Thank you for visiting. Your comments are welcome.

Links to the individual temple websites:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mountain Maples

Kobe, Japan

If I appear to be obsessed with autumn leaf color this year, it's because I actually am. As much as I appreciate the calm that shades of green induce, the crimsons, russets, and golden yellows of autumn are what wow me. 
Blushing maple leaves
Sometimes natural lighting cooperates during field trips. Sometimes it does not. Yesterday a mostly overcast sky provided diffused light. For the most part, the photographs I took lacked the contrast I sought and the colors my eyes experienced differed from those my camera recorded. 

The ginko trees on Kobe's Rokko Island have begun to drop their leaves
 In Kobe the trees at lower elevations have begun to drop their leaves. The foliage on the maples on Rokko-san - the mountain range rising above this city of one and a half million souls - have just begun the transition from green to vermillion. Yesterday my daughter led me up a path above Kobe's Okamoto district so that we could enjoy the early stages of color transition.

Metropolitan Kobe glimpsed through the trees
Maple leaves
 Along the way we encountered Japanese hikers, middle-aged and older, usually alone, sometimes in pairs - these hikers also there to absorb the beauty. Often they would stop to tell us about special places further up the hill. I understood nothing beyond "Konnichiwa." Fortunately, my daughter is able to understand more of the language. 
Bits of blue sky
 As we descended the hill, a pair of elderly women motioned us toward them. At first we thought they wanted us to hurry down and vacate the path. Only when we reached the spot where they stood, and allowed our eyes to focus on the scene above, did we realize their intent - to share a beautiful display of color we might have otherwise overlooked. 
The recommended view, even more lovely in real life


For me, the wild boars we saw during our urban expedition were a bonus.
Wild boar warning
One of several wild boars we saw, this one seemed more laid back than scary
Information in Japanese about Rokko-san:
Information in English:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Cupola House Gardens Revisited

Thursday as I drove along US Highway 17 through North Carolina I began to taste Thanksgiving flavors a week early. I wasn't actually eating anything. The leaf color, though, so thoroughly autumn, brought to mind the flavors of turkey gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie. I could almost smell the cinnamon and nutmeg seasoning in the imaginary dessert. I salivated as I drove past leaves the color of butterscotch and persimmon.  

The Cupola House
Detouring from Highway 17, I headed to the Cupola House in Edenton, the location of the colonial revival gardens I first visited and photographed in May. Mrs. Torres at Emilio's General Store & Take Away on South Broad Street told me I was in luck - the garden volunteers had just finished weeding the previous day.   

These pink roses might seem to belong to spring or summer
According to the Cupola House Gardens brochure "Donald Parker, a landscape architect with Colonial Williamsburg, designed these gardens based roughly on the second of C.J. Sauthier's 1769 maps of Edenton."  

Cyclamen emerge amongst autumn leaves 
Claude Joseph Sauthier, a native of Strasbourg, France, trained in surveying, architecture, and landscape gardening, and was brought to North Carolina by Governor Tryon. In an essay entitled "People and Plants: North Carolina's Garden History Revisited" (British and American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert P. Maccubbin and Peter Martin, 1984, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia), author John Flowers writes "Some have suggested that the garden plots that appear in most of [the] town plans were used merely to decorate the maps...But Sauthier was too careful a draftsman and accurate surveyor to ornament his work so casually." 

Yellow - an expected color for autumn flowers

Not all of the plants placed, in accordance with Parker's design, at the Cupola House Gardens survived. Over the years garden volunteers have made changes as necessary to the landscape with a pleasing result.

A ginko tree with bright yellow leaves grows beside the house and next to Broad Street

The herb garden with pomegranate trees in the background

My Garden Update
Some species of insect that loves tomatoes also feasted on the skin of my pomegranates this year. Better luck next year, perhaps?

The leaves on my dogwood trees never turn such a vibrant red but where I live we don't usually have a cold snap before the leaves have dropped. (Crape myrtle tree on the left, dogwoods center and right.)

To learn more about Edenton's Cupola House, visit the website:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wandering through Butterfly Gardens

An aging Gulf Fritillary rests on a zinnia
Cypress Gardens in Berkeley County, South Carolina

Here's where I admit that I'm not a great butterfly photographer. Even if I had a more professional camera and a high quality macro lens, I wouldn't be a great butterfly photographer. These most beautiful of insects habitually flit away before I can focus or, if I'm lucky enough to focus, they take off just as I depress the shutter. Countless times I end up with a blur of motion smeared across the frame. Also, often when butterflies are out feeding, the sun is bearing down, creating too much contrast, bleaching color from blossoms and leaves. Such difficulties don't stop me from trying, yet for every decent butterfly photograph I've ever taken, there must be at least half a dozen that are embarrassingly inadequate. 

These days I use digital cameras and don't have to worry about the cost of each attempt. Back when I used a film camera, an SLR, I once dedicated an entire roll of film to trying to capture the various species of butterflies on the family farm in Northeastern North Carolina. The results? Costly and disheartening. 

 Blue Triangle butterfly visits an Ice Plant during the summer
on Rokko Island, Kobe, Japan
During my only summer visit to Japan, I never did manage to satisfactorily capture the Blue Triangle butterfly on a memory card. The one above is sadly out of focus.

But occasionally I manage a shot I'm pleased with. This one that I took of a Gulf Fritillary last week, with a new point and shoot camera, rivals any I've taken with an SLR or DSLR over the years. A tad bit too much sun perhaps, but....
Gulf Fritillary sipping nectar from a lantana in my front yard

So what plants attract butterflies? 

Butterflies need both host plants and nectar plants. The preferred host varies by species. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. Some of the skippers use oak trees as hosts. Others use wisteria, members of the pea family, amaranth, cockscomb, or hollyhocks. Some swallowtails use Queen Anne's Lace and related plants. Others use magnolias. Many of the sulphurs prefer legumes as hosts. Gulf Fritillary prefer passion vines. (Perhaps this explains why I see so many Gulf Fritillaries in my yard - each year caterpillars devour the leaves of my passion flower.)

As with host plants, different butterfly species have different preferences for nectar. Here's what I'm seeing in my own garden: The Gulf Fritillaries sip nectar from any one of the three varieties of lantana I grow. Until the last blooms dropped from my red cannas earlier this month, the Cloudless Sulphur could be seen feeding there regularly, holding their wings together, flattening themselves in such a way that they appeared like bright yellow leaves. The Long-tailed Skippers seem equally happy with zinnia that's growing in a flower bed or lantana or the pot of Sceavola I bought last week.

A long-tailed skipper feeds on Sceavola in my front yard
Just over a week ago I served as a garden docent during the Charleston Horticultural Society's Gardens for Gardeners Tour. The gardens on display during the tour included those of a luxury hotel, The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island.

I regret to report that I have no photographs of The Jasmine Porch butterfly garden at The Sanctuary. When I stopped by on my way to the house to which I had been assigned, I was in a hurry and the sun shown brilliantly. In short, I forgot to pull out my camera. As I recall, the plantings included lantana and various other popular plants that attract butterflies in the South during autumn. What I clearly remember is recognizing a single Ixora coccinea. I recognized this plant because I had recently discovered it on the clearance rack at my favorite local nursery, Abide-A-While, and bought two of these jungle geraniums for my own garden. 
Ixora coccinea aka jungle geranium
Close up of Ixora coccinea

According to an informational sheet provided by The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island during the tour, the landscaping crew removed nearly all existing plant material from the butterfly garden at the beginning of this year and supplemented the soil with cotton burr compost and other amendments. Each plant in the new design is a known butterfly host or nectar plant. 

The Kiawah Island garden is a work in progress. During the year , due to problems with aphids and mealy bugs, the crew removed coreopsis. They also removed agapanthus because it attracted deer.

Red Admiral in Scotland's Inverewe Gardens
To see a larger version of this photograph follow the link:

Inspired by viewing The Sanctuary's butterfly garden, I took a field trip to Berkeley County, South Carolina's Cypress Gardens this past Thursday to visit the butterfly house and garden there. This time I remembered to pull out my camera. 

Gulf Fritillary on Bird of Paradise inside the Butterfly House at Cypress Gardens

Butterfly Garden outside the Butterfly House at Cypress Gardens

The Butterfly House was staffed by two friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. In addition to butterflies, and host and nectar plants for the butterflies, the building housed a glass beehive, a wood duck, a painted bunting, several red-eyed doves, several small quail, and a pair of turtles. 

Emerging from the chrysalis
Butterfly House at Cypress Gardens
This Julia butterfly blends in
Butterfly House, Cypress Gardens

Cloudless Sulphur on azalea on an October day
Cypress Gardens
Gulf Fritillary on pink zinnia at Cypress Gardens
Long-tailed skipper on camellia
Cypress Gardens
Gulf Fritillary feeding on asters at Cypress Gardens 
Cloudless Sulphur on pink zinnia
Cypress Gardens
Inside the Butterfly House at Cypress Gardens

A Long-tailed Skipper waiting for a turn at a cosmos
Cypress Gardens

Cloudless Sulphur tucked inside a hibiscus blossom
 Butterfly House at Cypress Gardens

Monarch on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina during autumn migration

Author Mary Alice Monroe, who often addresses environmental issues in the novels she writes, has written about Monarch migration in The Butterfly's Daughter. Not only did she raise awareness of the Monarch's diminishing habitat, but during a book launch event she gave milkweed seed to readers to help combat that loss. Monarch butterflies also appear in Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's new novel, which deals with climate change.

For more information about Cypress Gardens, visit their website:
Laying eggs? Gulf Fritillary inside the Butterfly House at South Carolina's Cypress Gardens