Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December garden in Orchidland




Its time for garden bloom day again, I haven’t participated in quite awhile due to recent travels and holiday gatherings with friends that have kept me occupied.


But, this morning was a clear and sunny day, a nice change from a cool rainy night seeing the Christmas parade in Kea’au town last evening.




After a month’s travel in Japan, I was greeted by large grass, junky castor bean plants and various weeds popping up in my new back yard garden bed almost full grown within a month’s timeframe.


The weeds below are already taller than my six foot height – things grow exceptionally quick here – especially the weeds that love the new garden beds below.





After clearing out one section of the garden, I can finally see the bones of the garden I planted the month before starting to appear again- its looking pretty good again.



In the jungle area behind, I was able to find a variety of my bromeliads hidden in the tall grasses. I only spotted them because of the bright yellow blooms from this beauty brom below peeking out through the thick grass.




The area around my water catchment tank is another area that needs to be weeded completely, here you see it crowded out with ferns, grasses and the ever present purple princess flower (no blooms in the photos)– tibouchina urvilleana – a real pest that reseeds everywhere.





The front yard is still in decent shape, even though I haven’t tended this part of the gardens in also because of the holidays. A beautiful spike from a group of bromeliads are at their third month of blooms now. My bright yellow croton adds more color and is one of my favorite yellows in garden.





Here’s a sweet bloom from one of my ti plants, they are pretty up close, but insignificant at a distance.




Not too many of my hibiscus flowers in bloom at this time of the year except for my stalwart yellow dazzler at my side gardens.





I think its time to start trimming the leggy impatiens, they are so easy to propagate here, especially this orange variety below.




This is the 3rd round of blooms from my white bauhinia orchid tree…yeah!




I have large swathes of pink flowers coming out from my medinilla magnifica, almost the size of miniature trees in my front yard.




More colorful impatiens, red ti and strobilanthes to add a full spectrum of color.




A last sweet bloom to great me this morning, one of my favorite purple hibiscus flowers.





Hope you enjoyed the tour, to visit other gardens around the world for bloom day, go visit

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A visit to the West Side of Hawaii Island

(Early morning view at the Marriot Waikoloa)
Where has the year gone already? It seems like I just got back from my Japan trip and celebrated Thanksgiving and now Xmas is just around the corner.  I always have these "How did the year go by so quickly" thoughts at this time of the year. Oh well, at least I'm enjoying it by visiting the west side of Hawaii Island at one of the nicer resorts with a beautiful sandy beach to relax and explore.
I'm up early and the light is gorgeous looking out from the balcony overlooking Anaeho╩╗omalu or A Bay as locals call this gorgeous stretch of skinny beach front. A large anchialine pond is on the other side of the bay used by early Hawaiians as a fish pond to grow a variety of local fish.

The resort at Waikoloa has preserved the ponds nicely and placed a variety of signage to explain the ancient Hawaiian's use of this area, various sea life found at the fish ponds and information about Waikoloa. Native plants, grasses are planted on the jagged lava rock areas around the ponds with the requisite but still nice coconut palm.

The morning light is just spectacular now and I have to take a few more photos while I'm also enjoying the wonderful vistas and soothing morning breezes along the trails.

There were already quite a few yoga people doing their morning sun breaths along with the joggers, quite a nice way to softly start the morning, don't you think?

The sand is cold and firm, unlike some of the soft and super sandy beaches in many parts of West Hawaii. No matter - its still a spectacular scenery and you can see the entire Mauna Kea mountain range in the background. I walk quite a distance along the shoreline to various coves and rocky beaches.

The blue, blue skies and ocean are really amazing this morning and I'm almost ready to jump into the water and go snorkeling, but I decide to take a longer walk along the shoreline and enjoy the views - hopefully I'll be able to spot some migrating humpback whales this morning, this is one of their favorite hang out spots very close to the shoreline.

The sailboats are loading up with tourists for their morning whale watching tours. Unfortunately, I was not able to spot any whales along the shoreline this morning. Still, it was a very pleasant hike enjoying the west side of the island - I'm always ready for some pampering at any of the resorts on this side of the island for a change of pace to the east side.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nikko National Park, Hikes and Fall Color.

Autumn in Nikko, Japan is the best season to visit the Unesco World Heritage sites and the Nikko National park in Tochigi Prefecture. Targeting the end of my adventure in Japan to see these historic sites along with getting to see some fall colors, I imagined, would be the perfect capping of my Japanese Odyssey. After researching extensively on the heritage sites and the transition to the fall season (which occurs more in the later part of November), I hoped the timing would be perfect to capture both experiences.

Having just finished some extensive tours of heritage sites in Kyoto, Nara and Kamakura, I was a little bit "templed out" from seeing more sites which were starting to blur from the multiples of artwork and detailed carvings at each site. In order to prevent a fast burn out, I decided to take a more laid back approach and follow my B&B host's tip on a more sedate hike along the Daiya river, passing the iconic red Shinkyo bridge, and the gateway to the national park grounds. Even though the bridge is on everyone's first "Must do photo shot", I thought it was quite beautiful framed with the first hint of autumn's glory and the range of pale blue mountains in the distance.
Walking along the river, I start seeing more fall foliage with the pyracantha, aralia and japanese maples starting their colorful transformation to burnt oranges, ochres and indian red leaved foliage. Even though this area is just getting starting to transition to autumn, I can already envision what this whole view will look like a few weeks filled with vibrant fall colors all along the river banks and into the hillsides.

Continuing along the trail, I trudge onward through a forested area. The river gets very narrow and is hidden from view from thick jungle, but then suddenly becomes dramatically visible against huge and rounded boulders lining the curved banks. The river is swirling into aqua blue pools and short waterfalls cascading down their banks. Its stunning, and I breath deeply while taking in all the woody and pastoral views to this scenic panorama. 

Continuing along the solitary path,  I pass by a few locals walking around the paths with their dogs, conversing (I imagine) about the day's happenings and some juicy gossip while the dogs run around aimlessly through the graveled areas.  Finally, I reach my destination and walk through the dilapidated wooden arbor into the Jizu shrine - its mostly a string of almost seventy Buddha-like statues lining the banks of the Daiya river.  Each Buddha is donning a fuchsia red bib and matching crochet hat. I didn't really know the significance of these Buddha's until I researched and found out that they represent Bodhisattva who console those that are traveling or deceased souls awaiting rebirth, hence the formations along the pathways and river banks greeting travelers in their midst.


 In Japanese they are called Bake-Jizo or Hyaku-jizu. This solo Bake-jizu seemed to have lost its cap but gained a pair of white miniature straw slippers.  Enveloped with a verdant green body of thick moss, lichen and ferns, I almost wanted to take this and bring it back home (I wish) and make a perfect addition to my zen garden.

 On the other side of the river is the Nikko botanical garden, and you could just see some small  waterfalls,walking trails and a variety of maples turning colors along the river bank. Unfortunately, there were no crossing to the other side so I could not visit the garden on this tour, but getting a glimpse from the other side was a nice visual treat.
Climbing over some boulders to a small pagoda overlooking the river, I sit a spell to take it all in and cherish this special moment  - knowing that my trip will be ending very soon. I'm quite content to have started the last part of my visit in Nikko with an easy walk just to reflect on my travels in Japan and enjoy the panorama around me. This spot was also perfect for capturing some great photos with a nice vantage point of the riverbanks and valley.

The trail continues climbing through some stone walkways all the way to the top of this hillside where there is a small waterfall.  At this point, I decide to head back down to the city because dusk is falling quickly and I want to make sure that I wouldn't get lost in the dark on the way back into town. It was a fantastic hike and I was ready to enjoy the heritage sites in the following day ahead.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Visit to Nagoya in Central Japan

Nagoya doesn't seem to be on most visitor's wish list in visiting Japan, outside of making train connections to various places of interest within the region. In fact, I was just doing that and making a one day/evening excursion before I head out to the foothills around the Japanese Alps.

Surprisingly, there is alot to see in Nagoya. I had a very tight schedule of places to visit in just one  day including the local shinto shrine at Atsuta, just outside of the main downtown area.  Shinto, which is the indigenous religion of Japan followed beliefs of sacred spirits forming from organic and natural representations of rain, wind, mountains, rivers and other organic matter. In adhering to these principles, the areas around the shrines are also organic and utilize wood, stone and other natural materials for building structures, walkways and their gardens.

(Beautiful walkways and bridges passing multiple streams and rivers along the
route to the main temple)

The approach to this shrine is similar to most Shinto shrines with long and contemplative gravel paths leading to the main shrine and other adjunct buildings. Old trees are revered here especially the ancient cypress trees that rare in these environments and were used in building the temples. The large tree below is wrapped in heavy cord and paper to symbolize entering a holy and spritual place. Large casks of sake sometimes made around the shrines or donated by local groups are assembled and displayed as offerings to the shrine.

At the main Asuta shrine, various activities are practised daily outside of personal visits to the shrine. Fortunately on the Sunday I was there, a wedding was in progress and there were families visiting with their children dressed in elaborate costumes of beautiful geishas and little shogun lords. 

Large ornate lanterns are found throughout the shrine area for illumination at twilight and night time. This huge lantern along the pathway leading to the main shrine is over twenty foot tall, one of the largest lanterns I've seen on my journey.

I was able to photograph this happy couple posing for a special moment next to the shrine with their elaborate and gorgeous wedding outfits. ( I happened to be standing right next to the official photographer so the timing was perfect!)

I happened upon another special celebrations occuring that Sunday, a Japanese tradition with families bringing their young girls between 5 and seven, and young boys between three and five to have their young children blessed and attend special ceremonies at the shrines. The children are dressed in colorful outfits for the blessing ceremony at the temple, and of course alot of picture taking. Japanese people are not shy about taking pictures and allowing others to take pictures of their children unlike other cultures that do not like photographs being taken of their children.
Entire families come regularly for pilgrimage to the shrine and receive blessings and good luck from religious practitioners at the shrine.
What an excellent visit, this last photo shows a sweet girl who wanted to sing me a little song which I couldn't understand but still enjoyed.
I enjoyed my visit to the shrine at Atsuta along with a buddist temple and a visit to a reconstructed castle in the center of the city, alot to see in one day. I wish I had more time to see some of the other attractions that were on my list, but the timeframe was limited to places I had already planned out for my intinerary.  For a very limited timeframe, Nagoya is a perfect place to visit and see some amazing sites only to be found in this region.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Konichiwaaaaah, Japan Here I come

Konichiwa.....A Plant Fantatic is going to be on a short hiatus for an autumn vacation to Japan.
Its going to be a fun explorating the ancient capitals seeing all the amazing sites in Japan. I'm really looking forward to the autumn colors and festivals that maybe occuring along my journey, not to mention all the beautiful gardens that will be in their primary fall colors. (Although I keep reading that peak fall throughout Japan happens in the mid-November timeframe - so we shall see)

Stay tuned for some amazing updates from Japan. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with an authentic tea ceremony  performed at our local tea house in the Queen Liliuokalani gardens at Hilo.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Taste of the Hawaiian Range–A Foodie Extravaganza


For foodies living or visiting Hawaii island, this Friday’s Taste of the Hawaiian range at the Hilton Waikoloa Village was an amazing tasting event to experience.

(The audience awaits anxiously for the conch shell to announce the start of this tasting event)

With over 35 of Hawaii’s best restaurants participating, the entire event was a feast for the eyes and of course the tummy. Each restaurant was given a different portion of locally grown grass-fed beef and they delivered amazing tasty pupus (appetizers) to wow the audience.

(Town restaurant presents its Hawaiian version of shepherds pie with mutton)

The Taste of the Hawaiian Range is an event that focuses on promoting and educating audiences to support local production and visit markets, restaurants and providers of locally grown produce and sustainable grass-fed beef.


A few audience members were skittish about trying beef mountain oysters that were presented by the Honolulu Burger Company, but those that were brave enough to take a bite were pleasantly surprised by the onolicious and varied textures from this pupu (appetizer)

(Mountain oysters from Honolulu Burger company)

There were many produce providers and growers in attendance including local CSA’s that service the West Hawaii county markets. The variety of food grown in Hawaii is outstanding and quite amazing when purchased fresh from the market to prepare a meal.


The Mauna Kea Beach Resort Hotel presents their cut of beef, oxtail soup and just-poured broth that smelled and tasted amazing – its all about the broth in this soup!


(A detail shot of the oxtail soup below, what a taste!)


Even edible fuschia flowers were presented on this delicious manapua dish from 
The Blue Dragon made with sweet guava and bok choy kimchee.


Lots of vendors were participating at this locally grown event including coffee and tea growers, candies, fruit and vegetable farmers, honey and even a saddle maker Ka Hana No’eau showing their hand made saddles below.


This popular event seems to be getting bigger every year and support for locally grown produce, providers, markets and restaurants is clearly becoming a norm on Hawaii island. When there are so many amazing restaurants supporting island growers, it’s a nice way of keeping the local economy thriving – one tasty bite at a time.
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