Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Visit to Paradise: Kauai's Flora and Fauna

Kauai Flora and Fauna
I'm going to start off this post with the word "Dream".  While temperatures have plummeted along with significant snowfall here in the northeast, I am sharing a recent trip to Kauai, a place of dreams where the imagination can go wild and magical experiences can occur around every corner.  As an avid gardener and designer I found myself to be in the ultimate paradise surrounded my a multitude of colorful and fragrant tropical blooms and magnificent foliage everywhere.  Come along for a visit!
Tunnel of Trees
On the southeast coast of Kauai along Maliuhi Road is the beautiful Tunnel of Trees, a canopy consisting of five hundred Eucaloptus trees that were planted over one hundred years ago as gift to the community by Walter McBryde in 1911. The stunning canopy rises to over one hundred feet above and is the passageway to Kauai's south shore town of Poipu. It doesn't matter how many times you drive through this tunnel as the view continues to be just as breathtaking with every encounter.
Dream Tree
A lone tree stands along the side of the road on the same route. Each time my husband and I would pass by this location we would have the same conversation about how the tree reminded us of the tree in the opening scene of the 1998 movie "What Dreams May Come" and how Kauai was such a magical place.
To our amazement someone else had the same memory.  A sign with the word "Dream" has appeared and now hangs on that very tree. The sign points to the majestic mountains along the highway's east side and breathtaking view along the drive. If trying to describe paradise I couldn't think of a more perfect place and the sign hanging on that very tree just makes everything complete.
Kauai Rainbow
 On the same day right after discovering the sign, a light shower had passed overhead and a full rainbow appeared along the highway at that very moment...words cannot describe its beauty.
Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta)
There are many wonderful areas to visit on Kauai. Keahua Arboretum is one of the island’s hidden treasures. Located about six and a half miles from Wailua and a drive through some lush tropical rainforests and across Keahua Stream, the site is the home to these beautiful Rainbow Eucalyptus trees that display swirls of reds, blues, greens and golds all blended to complete an amazing pallette of color. The ride to find this hidden away place was quite the adventure and the trees that exist there are indeed a beautiful work of nature.
Waimea Canyon
A natural wonder is the Waimea Canyon, also known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." This 14 mile long and 3600 foot deep canyon formed by the collapse of the crater that formed Kauai and erosion from the Waimea River displays breathtaking views from its summit. The thrilling ride up to the top of the canyon is an ear popping experience with narrow winding roads and majestic views along the way. There are many lookout spots on the way up to the canyon but it is best to get to the top early in the morning (before 10:00 am) before the late morning fog rolls in and do the stops along the way down.
Wailua Falls Kauai
Wailua Falls are located on the south side of the Wailua River just north of Lihue.  This 173 high foot high double waterfall is known for its appearance in the opening credits of the long running 1970's television series Fantasy Island. If you look closely at the bottom of the falls you can see miniature rainbows forming from the mist below.
Bird of Paradise ( Strelitzia reginae)
Besides the beautiful views, Kauai is known for its diversity of beautiful tropical blooms and foliage. It wouldn't be the same without a sighting of the magnificent Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) which thrives on the island of Kauai.  Its vibrant blue, red and orange feather-like blooms are a sight to behold and this work of nature never ceases to amaze me. 
Tropical Hibiscus
Tropical Hibiscus is not native to the island but can be seen everywhere in an assortment of colors including hues of yellow, red and orange which are just breathtaking.  These beauties will survive for a number of years as houseplants at home but they thrive outdoors all year long in Kauai.
   Aechmea Orangeade Bromeliad
 Originally from Brazil, this fiery reddish-orange giant bromeliad can be seen growing in many places on the island. The vibrancy of their color is stunning!
  Ixora (Jungle Geranium)
Ixora, or Jungle Geranium displays delicate clusters of pink, orange, yellow or red blooms on evergreen foliage. As seen by the name, it resembles our northern geraniums in structure of the bloom. These can be found in the botanical gardens on the island and are planted as landscape plants at the resorts.
In the rainforests of Kauai ferns are abundant as well as giant philodendron plants.
Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant) 
This magnificent Monstera deliciosa has leaves spanning over three feet in length, unlike the more petite leaves we are used to seeing on houseplants in the north.  Unfortunately the philodendron population has grown to such an extent that it is now considered to be an invasive species in Kauai.
Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata)
Hawaiian Red Ginger is a beautiful plant with leaves over twelve inches in length and bright red flower bracts that sit atop of long stalks. Ginger blooms can be in shades of red, pink or white.
  Pandanus tectorius (Hala Tree)
The Hala Tree is an interesting plant native to the Pacific Islands that has various uses. It was brought along by early Polynesian settlers, as the fruit served as a food source, and it is also known to have medicinal uses including the use of the juice from the aerial roots to treat infection.
Plumeria is known for its beautiful and fragrant delicate flowers in the making of Hawaiian leis. I learned that there are different types of Plumeria, these which are blooming in the "cooler months", and another variety which becomes dormant during Kauai's winter season.
 Crinum Lily White
I photographed this Crinum Lily while visiting one of the rainforests on the island. From a distance I spotted its delicate pure white bloom peeking out from within large elongated foliage surrounding it.  It took some patience to get a good zoom to capture it, but I was on a mission, and could not let this one go by.
Crinum augustum (Queen Emma Spider Lily)
Here is Crimum (Queen Emma Spider Lily) with spider-like blooms on long reddish stalks above elongated green foliage.  This magnificent flower was named after the wife of King Kamehameha IV. I am in awe every time I admire this piece of nature's artwork.
Albizia Tree
Along many of the roadways on the east side of Kauai one gets the sense of traveling through the savanna.  These large open looking trees I have learned are called Albizia and are considered to be very invasive. These fast growing trees can quickly develop a canopy of over 150 feet in width.
Kauai Cows
There's a funny story behind these cows.  One day as my husband and I were riding along during our trip I asked him to stop by the side of the road so that I could take some photographs.  These cows were in the distance from where I was standing so I used my telephoto lens to capture some views.  The alpha male saw me and started coming forward.  As I called to them and continued clicking away the next thing I knew was that all the others had followed the leader. All were lined up in a flawless row for this once in a lifetime striking pose and photographer's dream come true!
   Egret and Naupaka (Scaevola sencea)
Other than cows, there is some interesting wildlife to be seen on the island. Down by the beaches these Egret are commonly seen.  I was able to get a capture of this one standing alongside a popular island beach plant called Naupaka (Scaevola sencea).
Kauai Rooster
Last but not least is the unofficial state bird of Kauai...the wild chicken. They were brought over by the early settlers and have no natural predators so they can be seen everywhere  on the island in an array of different species and colors. This striking male rooster was exceptionally colorful.
Puff the Magic Dragon Kauai Landmark
Since this is the island of dreams and fairy tales...this is the infamous "Puff the Magic Dragon" who lives by the sea in the land of...well you know.  If you find the maroon-red eye of the dragon to the center-right that is its head and the body goes to the left. The darker green area by the sea (Bay of Hanalei) are his feet.  Thanks to our friends who live in Kauai who pointed this out to us, Puff the Magic Dragon, is now very easy to see!
Kauai Flora and Fauna
 While gazing out at the winter wonderland beyond my back door I hold onto these memories of a beautiful paradise.  I hope that you enjoyed the journey.

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved

Friday, January 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day & Foliage Follow Up January 2016: A New Year in the Garden

January 2016 Garden
Welcome to a brand new year and first Bloom Day of 2016 in my Long Island garden! There is always a beauty to the garden, and if you look even closer you can find it anytime of year, even in the midst of winter. Come along with me to take a look. 
January Garden
It's almost like on the first of January "Mother Nature" throws a switch to say winter is officially here.  After an extremely mild November and December with record high temperatures, the thermometer has plummeted almost overnight to daytime highs struggling to get out of the 30's.
Hellebore 'Shooting Star'
Many of the plants in the garden are confused.  The Hellebores are blooming now instead of in late winter and yes...that is a hyacinth emerging from the soil in January!
Hyacinth Bulb in January of 2016
There has not been any snow to insulate the bulbs so hopefully the colder temperatures will allow the garden to go to rest without any harm. I had covered them a bit with a little mulch but they insisted on showing as if spring were here.
Blue Globe Spruce Foliage
At this time of year the highlight of the gardens are the evergreens, as they are the backbone of the landscape.
Skylands Golden Oriental Spruce and Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
I especially appreciate the wispy needles of dwarf Eastern White Pine and golden hue of Skylands Oriental Spruce along with the weeping nature of Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar and Weeping Norway Spruce.
Weeping Norway Spruce and Dwarf White Pine
There is also an inner beauty to the Weeping Japanese Maple as the leaves disappear and the structure of the tree can be noticed.
Weeping Japanese Maple
The twisted trunks appear to me as if they are of a piece of artwork.
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar with Variegated Liriope and Mugo Pine
As the temperatures fall and there is less of a food source for birds they are enjoying the feeder I keep out for them.  I also get great pleasure from watching them feast throughout the day, with especially high traffic in the morning hours.
Northern Cardinal
I am so pleased that the Cardinals have been over-wintering here during the past number of years.
Hydrangea 'Nikko Blue' Dried Flower
There are still a few gentle reminders of summer past as some of the dried flowers still remain, as the winds have not yet carried them away.
Garden Whimsy 
Now for a little whimsy...I purchased this amazing wind spiral in Vegas on a recent trip and am enjoying it as the fixed ball magically appears to move up and down the spiral in the wind and I can view it right from my window.
Garden Wind Spiral
I also have this other copper spiral which I have enjoyed for a number of years and it has formed a natural patina which I think gives it a little more character.
Garden Statue
As we complete the tour we pass by one of the pieces of garden statuary I have gotten much enjoyment from over the years. Much of last winter it was covered in snow so it is a pleasure to be able to view it still in January.
January 2016 Garden
I hope you enjoyed your walk through my January garden. If you stop by leave me a note so I know you were here and I will be sure to visit you as well.

And remember... "The gardening season officially begins on January 1st. and ends on December 31."  ~Marie Huston

Thank you to our hostesses Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it is possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up.  I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Today's FlowersFloral FridaysMosaic Monday at Lavender Cottage, I Heart MacroMacro Monday 2, and Nature Notes at Rambling Woods.  Also check out What's Blooming This Week Garden Update

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Long Island Garden - A Year in Review

One of my favorite things to do since I have started garden blogging is to keep a monthly diary capturing the year as a whole, so that it would be possible to go back, re-visit  and compare happenings in the landscape. The year of 2015 certainly did prove to be more unusual than those of the past with very erratic weather patterns and seasons out of sync like I have not experienced in a long time.  After a very mild November and December of 2014, the first two weeks of 2015 proved to be bitter cold with temperatures plummeting into the single digits and chill factors below zero.  On January 6th we got our first light dusting of snow (about an inch or two) which reoccurred on the 9th. The year of 2015 came in fiercely, looking and feeling a lot more like winter.  
By mid-February several storms had passed and the late arriving winter conditions were in full swing. After Blizzard Juno on January 27th delivering 20 inches of snow, and with temperatures in the 20's, the gardens had been covered in a blanket of crystal white.  While yet another blizzard warning was in effect for here on Long Island, the snow was too deep to walk out into the property without sinking knee deep.  The garden was a winter wonderland, magical, with nature’s artwork. 
MARCH 2015
  March was no ordinary month. While spring temperatures should have been right around the corner,  March came in like a lion with snowfall on the first, followed by winter storm Thor on the fifth, adding another 19.7 inches of snow onto the landscape.  Our winter snow  accumulation had reached a grand total of 56.6 inches, enforced with record low temperatures.  With snow still embracing the landscape, spring initially seemed to be so far away.  March went out like a lion with snow once again on the 29th.
APRIL 2015
The month of April started with a layer of white blanketing the first buds and foliage.  It had been the snowiest March on record for Long Island which brought a white covered landscape into spring. The transition from a season of dormancy to one of new life had been slow moving. By the end of April temperatures had finally started climbing into the low 50's and memories of the past winter gradually faded from mind as crocus, daffodils and hyacinths started to emerge.
MAY 2015
 The month of May arrived with a warming trend that rapidly turned into a premature summer. With temperatures rising into the 80's for a few days, an explosion of intense color suddenly made its way throughout the garden. By mid-May the warmer temperatures had settled into a regular pattern with upper 60 to mid 70 degree days.  The prior burst of heat was just enough to set the garden back on track and all the blooms seemed to be arriving at once! 
JUNE 2015
 June came in with 80 degree days and an abundance of color in the garden. Something can be said for two record cold winters in a row and the way perennials perform.  It could be my imagination but this years blooms seemed to be an intense explosion of color like I have never experienced before, especially magnified for the purple blooms of May Night Salvia and Allium.  As Spirea and Peony also jumped in all was right again in the landscape and the thought of snow seemed so far away. June was certainly "busting out all over" in 2015!
JULY 2015
By the start of July temperatures were cooler than normal, ranging in the upper 70's to low 80's.  Hydrangea,  Astilbe  Visions and Coneflowers all kicked into bloom joining the ranks of other perennials already in bloom from the month before.  The cooler temperatures were a benefit, for as the month progressed, things took a turn for the worse with record high temperatures in the 90’s and virtually no rain. The blooms were able to hold out and by the end of July we received some very much needed rain, which helped to rejuvenate the gardens. 
Once August rolled around the 90 degree temperatures finally broke as severe storms moved into the area mid-month, lowering temperatures into the more normal 80 degree range.  It was time for Crape Myrtles, Platycodon and Hydrangea Tardivia to flower. Despite the drought the gardens managed to thrive with the overall cooler than normal conditions the month before.
 Even with the few passing showers rejuvenating the garden the drought still continued into a warm September.  The long dry spell was finally broken on the 10th with a day of torrential rain, making up slightly for the moisture that was so desperately needed.  By mid-month there had been hints of autumn, signaled by late blooming Sedum and temperatures fluctuating between the 70's and 80's with cool breezes off the water...the seasons were starting to change.
 The start of October remained on the mild side with temperatures in the 70's as autumn was underway. With the rain replenishing the landscape all the changing colors of the garden become more and more vibrant by the day.  By the end of October as temperatures started to drop into the 60's, blooms from late summer held out as long as they could, as hues of orange and yellow appeared in the landscape. The combination of the two seasons, summer going out and fall coming in were spectacular. On the 20th we received our first overnight frost.
  The month of November brought temperatures in the mid to upper 50's, usual for the time of year. On some days there was an invigorating chill in the air and the landscape had turned into a piece of colorful artwork.  The fall changing of the leaves was indeed spectacular this year with all the right conditions leading up to it. The seasons seemed to be finally following a more normal pattern.

Did I just say the seasons were back on a normal track? Well, December ended up being one of the mildest on record with weekly stretches of 60 degree days, feeling more like April than the official start of winter.  Winter made a guest appearance on the 19th and 20th with two blustery days in the 40's, but record warm temperatures quickly returned for the remainder of the month to bring in the new year. With a delayed winter going into record cold temperatures and a late cold spring, a cooler than normal summer (well...until the drought) and December temperatures in the 60's, I would have to describe 2015 as "the year of the unexpected". It will be interesting to see what the start of 2016 brings around.

With that I bid 2015 farewell and wish all of you a very Happy 2016!

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved


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