Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

Maui: Ali`i Kula Lavender Farm

June 10th, 2016

There's a slow change taking place in the hills of Kula, Maui. There, at the 13.5 acre Ali`i Kula Lavender Farm (AKL), owner Koa Chang is part of what he believes is a sea-change in the Valley Isle's agriculture industry.

Ali`i Kula Lavendar Farm. Courtesy: AKL

Ali`i Kula Lavendar Farm. Courtesy: AKL

Sure, he grows lavender- approximately 45 different varieties of purple-flowered plant. His team of gardeners tend to more than 55,000 plants which bloom year-round on the cool, arid slopes of Haleakala.

Ali`i Kula Lavendar Farm. Courtesy: AKL

Ali`i Kula Lavendar Farm. Courtesy: AKL

What's different, though, since his father Ali`i founded the farm in 2001, is that it's gone from a botanical garden to a sustainablility-focused agricultural-tourism venue, working with a network of partners developing the new paradigm defining Hawaii's modern agriculture industry.

Courtesy: AKL

Courtesy: AKL

"We partner with other local businesses to manufacturing value-added products. For instance, we share lavender from our farm with a local jam and jelly maker. They make a high-quality lavender jelly which benefits both companies," explains Chang, whom I meet while touring the gardens; he's in the middle of renovating the deck of their former gift shop that overlooks the farm's nursery.

Another example he shares involves partner Ocean Vodka. Some of Chang's lavender plants are growing at the vodka headquarters' herb garden, and on special occasions, the mixologists will create a special drink (like a Lavendar Lemon Drop). There are myriad ways to support each other, Chang says. Conversely, Ocean Vodka gifted some of its organic sugar cane for the lavender farm to enjoy on its premises as well.

More importantly, it hews to AKL's mission to practice aloha. "We don't want to compete with our neighbors; instead, we want to empower and help them grow," furthers co-founder Lani Weigert. "For us, this is a true win-win. Currently, we have partnerships with more than 25 local businesses."

Chang remembers what his late father always said: "It is our responsibility to take care of our communities." He's committed to offering an experience that helps people reconnect to the land, to each other, and to themselves.

Chang took over the business in 2011 after his father's unexpected passing, and the farm needed a new leader. "I've always liked gardening but it became front and center for me when I returned. And I love it. I love evolving agriculture here into a community activity."

Other changes he's made to the farm include adding  a chicken coop for a sustainable source of organic fertilizer used across the farm, three different fruit orchards focusing on citrus, apples, and stone fruits, multi-tiered vegetable gardens, and an aquaponics system. "These things may never be for commercial production, but we could use it on a small scale for our own uses; maybe the next time you come back you'll see a bowl of our apples sitting on the gift shop counter," Chang elaborates.

Ali`i Kula Lavendar Farm. Courtesy: AKL

Ali`i Kula Lavendar Farm. Courtesy: AKL

The man is sure is busy. This summer, he's also re-doing the lavender beds. They have to rotate the crops to ensure constant blooms. Plus, the commercial life of a plant is about ten years before it's time to replace it.

Koa Chang and dog Seven

Koa Chang and dog Seven

I leave him and his dog 'Seven' continue renovating the deck he is working on. I suggest they make a bed & breakfast out of the little cottage, but our tour guide Sarah votes for day spa, using, of course, all the farm's lavender products.

Either way, I'm positive it'll be fully booked. Other than the fact that the farm has a wonderful, serene, tranquil, meditative, healing energy, it felt to me like about half the visitors are local, which feeds a steady stream of clients.

AKL's Sarah Adams

AKL's Sarah Adams

The lovely Sarah Adams continues our tour, explaining about the history of lavender, its uses, and the differences between the varieties. Lavender has been traditionally used in aromatherapy to help soothe and relax folks for thousands of years, dating back even to ancient Egyptian and Roman times.

The gift shop is home to a variety of "Lavender Lifestyle" products to enhance one's day-to-day, ranging from culinary delights to luxurious lotions and even "dryer bags," small fabric bags filled with dried lavender buds to freshen up one's linens.

Lavender Coffee and Lavender Tea are available to purchase by-the-cup to pair with its famous Lavender Scones. Be sure to sample the scone with the Lavender-infused Liliko`i Jelly or Lavender Honey!

The farm offers 30-minutes guided walking tours of the gardens daily for $12 per person, or you can save $2 by booking in advance. If you are wondering when the best of the year to visit the farm is, lavender actually grows year-round at Ali`i Kula Lavender! However, the peak season will always be in July and August, if you are looking for the large purple fields.

Mommy & Olivia in the meditation garden.

Mommy & Olivia in the meditation garden.

Adams clips a few stems of the blooming lavenders and other herbs throughout the garden. At  the end of our tour, she bundles all of our cuttings up with a pretty ribbon (purple, of course) for Olivia and me; a beautiful souvenir of our visit, and a tantalizing reminder that we need to return - soon and often.

More at

Maui: Banyan Tree Bed & Breakfast

June 8th, 2016

There's a lovely bed and breakfast retreat in the middle of Makawao that my daughter and I found to be a wonderful place to stay for all our Upcountry activities. We found it completely by accident and feel lucky to have stumbled across such a great place!

Cato the cat at the office.

Cato the cat at the office.

The Banyan Bed and Breakfast Retreat, originally built in 1927, is a historic plantation house formerly owned by Ethel Baldwin of the famous Baldwin family. She married Henry Alexander Baldwin, a sugar cane plantation manager, US Representative of Territorial Hawaii, and one of the earliest leaders of the Hawaii Republican Party.

The center of all the cottages.

The center of all the cottages.

Ethel Baldwin lived here from the early 60's until her death here on property in 1967. Incidentally, her granddaughter was Mary Cameron Sanford, former owner and publisher of the Maui News.

Marty Herling

Marty Herling

Fast forward to 1998, when the property was up for sale. Marty Herling was a San Francisco restaurateur with a three decade history before that as the owner of a construction company. He was looking for change, and fell in love with Maui on a vacation here.

View of our Hibiscus Cottage.

View of our Hibiscus Cottage.

He bought it, and converted it into a bed and breakfast, with seven individual cottages and suites. The largest is the Historic Plantation House which can be rented as a a two, three, or four bedroom house.

All the rentals have their own entrance, private bathroom, and kitchenette. Breakfast is served every morning to guests of the suites and cottages, so you dine privately in your own space. It's quite lovely.

He chose to keep the charming plantation feel when he remodeled the property, and it's something Sanford, who he says he kept in touch with, thanked him for.

Herling's past work experiences all fold nicely into the skills needed as a bed and breakfast owner; his personality is perfect for a job that requires one to be a people-person.

"I love it. I love when new people come and I can help share a slice of old Hawaii with them. I love that this is a spiritual place where people can reconnect with nature and themselves," Herling says. "It's important to me that I create a sense of community, be a part of the community, and give back to the community."

He has a calm, quiet persona, but once you get him talking, he's a fountain of spirituality, with conversations somehow all revolving back to his study of Hindi wisdom. He practices Vedanta, a school of philosophy that stems from the Vedas or Hindu scriptures.


Yoga philosophy is derived from the Vedas, so it's this connection that made it a natural decision for him to build a 700 sq. ft. yoga and meditation studio, accessible to the guests as an amenity. (It's popular for yoga retreat groups.) You know I love that! It's fully equipped with yoga props and an audio/video system.

Pool, early morning.

Pool, early morning.

Large banyan, monkeypod and jacaranda trees create a peaceful, shady oasis amidst the many fruit trees, flowers and sunny, wide open lawns. Several swings and hammocks hang from the trees offering comfortable private places around the two acre property.

My daughter loved the 50' salt water swimming pool and hot tub, with gorgeous, sweeping views of the Maui landscape.

Herling's own mother came to live at the property at the end of her life. Addled with dementia, she stayed here in hospice.

For this reason, it was important to Herling that the facilities be handicap-accessible. There is a stand-alone handicap accessible full bath in the plantation house, and the two bedroom, two bath Sue's Cottage (where she lived) is fully handicap accessible. The pool and yoga studio are also handicap-accessible.

Hi, Cato!

Hi, Cato!

Herling lives on property with his family and two cats, friendly Cato and skittish Popoki. I knew it was going to be a good stay when the first thing we saw was the cats. Olivia and I are big animal lovers.


We spent a lot of down time just hanging out in the room, walking around the grounds, playing in the water, and being in nature. It's so peaceful and quiet, with just the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees. Nights are completely dark and restful. It's the perfect vacation: just the way Herling hopes to make his guests feel.

More at

DIY Fairy garden

May 27th, 2016

Olivia and I saw a fairy garden display and wanted to have one for ourselves. Of course, I've seen adorable little worlds of miniature gardening before, but it struck a different chord with me as a mother of a girl.

Our fairy garden!

Our fairy garden!

It's a great DIY project - far better, I think, than buying one. The joy is in the journey of making it, spending wonderful quality time with the kiddo.

Fairies welcome!

Fairies welcome!

I'm a gardening hobbyist, so I have a lot of what we need at home on the plant front. She's eight, so she has a lot of what we need at home on the decorations end.

However, there were still a few things we wanted to pick up specifically to make it enchanted, so we drove to Ben Franklin Crafts Hawaii to buy some fairies, bridges, wishing well, and LED lights. (We failed to find a woodland home.)

SKy, Olivia's fairy

Sky, Olivia's fairy

Violet, my fairy

Violet, my fairy

You can make a fairy garden simple with just a couple of figurines, and it will still be charming. Or, you can get crazy like we did, which adds up unexpectedly fast. I wasn't looking at the prices and we just excitedly threw things in the basket.


If you're inspired to DIY, you've been reminded! Little things can cost a lot. $80 later...

Including travel time to the store, the project took us about four hours. We loved it so much, we played with it for the rest of the day and night.


We invented a whole fantasy world involving a quest riddled with challenges- a bit like the Hobbit. Every little item in the garden has a role and a backstory. So much fun letting out my inner child!


She suggested we make this our new hobby and that we keep an eye out for accessories all the time. I love the idea.



Olivia was so happy about this. "Best day ever! You're my best friend!" she chirped. My heart melts 🙂

And for me, that's the real magic of the fairy garden.


Have fun making yours!

Corpse flower attracts hundreds to experience its smell

May 16th, 2016

It's a beautiful flower that emits quite an awful smell: the so-called "corpse flower," or Amorphophallus titanium, is attracting hundreds of people to see and smell it. It was just on bloom at Foster Botanical Garden (FBG) in Nu`uanu.


The plant, originally from Sumatra, Indonesia, is such a draw because it only opens up every two to five years. It's a slow grower, too. It takes 10 years to blossom from seed. When it opens, it's just for one or two days.

This novelty is what draws people to line up at the Garden and experience the odor.

FBG horticulturist Scot Mitamura

FBG horticulturist Scot Mitamura

FBG horticulturist Scot Mitamura muses, "Everyone's curious about the smell, but it is the plant kingdom's largest flower and largest leaf, and it only blooms overnight, so it's on a lot of people's bucket list to see."

The smell, described like a rotting fish or dead rat, attracts insects that feed on dead animals. Its aroma gets stronger the later it gets in the night, when carrion beetles and flesh flies are active. The smell then fades as it creeps towards morning.

KHON2's Jai Cunningham was live there on Wake Up 2day on Thursday (May 12), the day it bloomed. As he said on air, from the flower's perspective, "Ha ha. Tricked you into pollinating!" We giggled at his cute description.

The flower is huge. It has a large spathe (the baguette-looking protrusion coming from the middle). The petals are deep red, which adds to the trickery by appearing like dead meat to a beetle.

I had to go check it out. I've been delivering news reports on this unusual flower for 15 years and have never experienced in it person. I tried the last time in 2013, but I was a day late. I was determined not to let that happen this time.

There were a crowd of curious folks standing around a a little line to see it. There were people with fancy cameras and a whole lot of phone cameras pointed at this rock star of a flower.

It's impressively large, and quite pretty. The deep red petals look even more vibrant in person, and the size itself is best appreciated when actually in its presence.

It is shaped like a calla lily, but so much larger. The staff removed a couple of the front petals so people could see the pollination area at the base.

The scent? It didn't knock my socks off. I had heard so much about the "rotting flesh" odor, but I was standing two feet from it and didn't smell anything. I had to move over a couple feet to catch the downwind.


It was somewhat faint, and to me it was like musty cabbage... past-its-prime kim chee. I'm sure, though, time-of-day had a lot to do with it because I was there at 1 p.m. and, as mentioned earlier, it's at its peak overnight. I'm not going to drag myself to stand at the outskirts of the closed garden at midnight, so I'll take Mitamura's word for it.

It takes so much energy to blossom, it even generates heat, which also adds to the illusion of flesh and possibly helps intensify the fragrance. Mitamura explains, "For it to flower, it takes so much energy for the bulb. The top of the spathe heats up to around 96 degrees F - around human skin temperature. There's actually a photo online where it's steaming at the top, but that was in New Hampshire when it was cold."

After the flower dies, one single leaf comes up in its place. It looks like a small tree, but that's actually one big leaf with leaflets at the top.

FBG has three plants on display in different stages of growth. Mitamura stands by the one in the "leaf" phase of its life.

This is one big leaf.

This is one big leaf.

To make his point that it might look like a tree but it's actually not, he knocks on that part that looks like the trunk."It's hollow like a watermelon. Inside, the fiber is like a loofah. This leaf can get up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet around. It's up for six months, absorbing the sun's energy, then it collapses in two to three weeks."

He says a collapsed leaf looks like it just melted. Then what? "All the energy goes into the bulb. It will repeat that cycle several times before it flowers again."


When its ready, it sends a bulb up. He points to the third pot, and this one has a little nub sticking out of the middle. "As the bulb initiates, it stays in that initiation phase for a while, but once it expands it goes really fast."

Apparently, most conservatories have just one corpse flower plant, but FBG is lucky to have ten, which means you're lucky to have more chances to see this rare blossom.

"They bloom between the months that start with A; April and August," he says, hinting that maybe those interested should watch out for a FBG alert about another blossom this summer.

Reach FBG at


Venus Fly Trap

September 4th, 2015

At the garden shop, Olivia wanted a Venus Fly Trap. I used to see them all over the grocery stores when I was a kid, but I hardly see them nowadays. Why is that?

I bought her the flytrap knowing I've killed the last few I bought as an adult. When we got home, we researched its care on the Internet.


Firstly, it's native to the Carolinas and needs a winter season to go dormant. I guess I need to bring it to work and let it live in the cold studio for a few months to approximate fake-winter.

Secondly, if you feed it insects, you have to make sure the whole body fits in the mouth, or the digestive juices will eventually leak out, attract bacteria, and kill the trap. It will blacken and die.

Olivia really wanted to see a trap close, so she caught smallish spiders to feed it. This is a very tiny plant and even those spiders are too large for the small trap.


This then becomes a family project. The list of things in my life that I never imagined doing grows longer and longer with parenting.

She asks me to cut the arachnid up so we can feed it an appropriately sized piece. Now, I'm not a spider-lover, and I've killed my share of bugs, but I feel bad for some reason pulling a Jeffrey Dahmer on this hapless creature.

I pawn the task off on my husband, who is fine with it. Except he's not good with detail work.

The spider body is about one eight of an inch long. He holds one leg with a needle nosed plier and tries to first cut the legs off with a kitchen scissors: Meaning, the blade is thick and unwieldy for this work.

I don't know what gave him this idea, but he also thinks he can pull this off cleanly, because he held the spider over the trash can as if the legs would fall neatly into the garbage. What happened was, the whole bug stuck to the scissors blade and when he tried to wiggle it off, it fell into the trash.

He and my daughter peered into the full can and tried to find it amid coffee grounds, mango peels, and hamburger tray Styrofoam. I'm watching this just wondering when they're going to give up.

This poor, mutilated arachnid which is certainly dead by now. The two of them finally collect the spider out of the trash, a little worse for the wear, after a couple of failed attempts.

I finally go over and take it and offer to slice it up. Hey, I bead and I craft. I can do detail work.

I carry it over with the pliers and put it on the cutting board. I get a knife and try my hand at it.

Except I'm tired and I don't notice until it's too late that it's a serrated knife and the spider is so small it rolls back and forth under the arched blade.

I am ruining it even more. This is a horrible way to die.

I feel terrible. Now I feel like we have to get this right to honor the life of the spider who died in service of a Venus Fly Trap.

Then my husband tries it again. He had actually gone down to my bathroom and helped himself to my tweezers. My eyebrow tweezers. The tweezers I put right on my face on a regular basis.

I do not know why men think this is OK, but it seems like a man thing to think, It's metal! Just wash it and it's like new!

I said nothing because I know he meant well, but the eyeballs inside my thought bubble are rolling so high towards the ceiling they could've done a 360.

What goes through my head is the visual of the sadly disfigured insect hanging off the tip of my no-longer-sanitary tweezers. I see bug guts now when I look at this instrument.

He actually succeeded, and then the stupid fly trap didn't even close. Something is defective about this one trap because I found myself coaxing it to shut by stroking the cilia in the tiny mouth using a pointy chopstick. It didn't respond.

Now this trap is going to blacken and die, and I've had my good tweezers ruined for nothing.

I'm done trying to catch food for this plant!

Recent Posts

Recent Comments