Category Archives: Plants

My tropical garden

A tropical garden in Port Townsend, Washington

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Fabulous Florals.’ See more responses here. For this, I’m taking a short jaunt off the island to revisit the first tropical garden I planted. That was in Washington State. Now, I’m aware that Washington State isn’t in the tropics, but I like a challenge.

My goal was to create a garden of hardy tropical-looking plants, with colorful flowers and/or big, bountiful foliage. The first summer, I laid the foundations with three Windmill Palms and a wall of bamboo alongside one fence. Colorful canna lillies and big foliage gave an inkling of what was to come.

The second summer was when the garden took off. Ground covers spread. Vines took off. Pots provided focal points.

And of course, there were those fabulous florals.

One corner of the garden featured a Dicksonia Antarctica tree fern, which was soon joined by a Dicentra Scandens-Golden tears vine, Eccremocarpus scaber – Chilean glory vine, and a Clematis Armandii. There’s less than a month between the second and third photos in the gallery below, and the following summer the area was rampant with color and growth.

But it is Washington State and there are winters and in the winter it can snow. The palms and bamboo bent low under the weight of the snow, but they survived. The tiki torch looked distinctly unhappy with the weather, possibly jealous of those lucky plants that were moved indoors for the winter.

Dwarf Naupaka

Endemic Dwarf Naupaka plants at Mauna Lani fishponds in Hawaii
Endemic Dwarf Naupaka plants at Mauna Lani fishponds in Hawaii

Beach Naupaka (Scaevola sericea or Scaevola taccada) is relatively common here, often seen in coastal areas because of its salt tolerance. Dwarf Naupaka (Scaevola coriacea), on the other hand, is on the federal endangered list. It used to be seen on all the main islands, but these days it’s only seen on Maui and then not in many places. The flowers of Dwarf Naupaka are a little different and the leaves are considerably smaller, just one to two inches in length.

These endemic plants were spotted alongside one of the fishponds at Mauna Lani, on the South Kohala coast, by a friend who knows a lot about native plants. When he told me about them, I headed down to take a look and get some photos. I agreed with his identification and got a confirmation on Hawaii Plant ID.

It’s likely that the plants by the fishpond aren’t naturally occurring, but were deliberately planted, though by who or why is not clear. Still, it’s encouraging that at least one small pocket of these extremely rare plants still exists on the island.

Endemic Dwarf Naupaka plants at Mauna Lani fishponds in Hawaii

Walking Iris

A walking iris flower at Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
A walking iris flower at Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

The lovely blue color of this Walking Iris caught my eye when I was last at Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. Not only was it striking in its own right, but it was also a distinctive splash of color against a predominantly green background.

For more information about Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, go to

Bees on coffee flowers

A bee forages on coffee flowers in Hawaii
A coffee plant in flower in Hawaii

A couple of years ago, a hedge made up of several small coffee plants was planted along the edge of the old homestead. The plants have had mixed success thanks to uncooperative weather and a surfeit of chickens and pigs in the neighborhood.

However, several of the plants have thrived and this year, for the first time, produced blooms. When I noticed them, I immediately walked over and stuck my head down there to see if they had any scent. I didn’t notice much, but what I did notice was a loud buzzing noise and I realized that, scented or not, the bees were having a field day.

So I withdrew my head and took these photos. I’m glad I did because the flowers were short-lived and a couple of days later they were gone.

A bee forages on coffee flowers in Hawaii

Wandering Tattler in a tree

A Wandering Tattler in a tree in Hawaii
A Wandering Tattler takes off from a tree in Hawaii

I saw this Wandering Tattler at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park and realized that I’d never seen one in a tree before. Usually I see them wandering over the rocks in search of food. I’m not sure what this one was up to, but it took off not long after I saw it, probably heading for the shoreline.