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: