When the invitation to join an old friend on Kauai for a week appeared, I hesitated. I haven't taken a "vacation" in years. I have taken time off, but mostly stayed home. And it's been 20+ years since I visited Kauai. Still, the lure of warm weather proved irresistble and I opted to join her. Around here people have just been waiting for the tulips to bloom and the crowds of tourists to arrive, so a week away seemed like a good plan.
My first shock upon arrival was how brilliant all the vegetation was. It's been so long since I have been in a tropical climate that everything - and I mean everything - from grass to palms to hibiscus - looked brilliant to my eyes. I kept ooohing and aaaahhing over and over and over. And, even familiar plants, like philodendron, were transformed - so large in the tropics they appeared to be on steroids!
In fact, when we did a short (but strenuous) hike on the Na Pali coast trail, Elaine swears I stopped to take a photo of every single flower. I beg to differ. I left several alone. (That's me, looking closely at the scenery - and the blue flower is what I was looking at through my lens.)
This was a vacation, but my friend Elaine has a business that takes her to Hawaii. In fact, she has a couple of Hawaiian themed businesses. So, it was convenient for us to visit her customers when we were in the neighborhood (and that was often!) However, one of her customers in Kauai was just a wee bit off the beaten path. I'm talking about the National Tropical Botanical Garden gift shop. Are you getting an idea where I'm going with this? Of COURSE I wanted to go visit this customer with her. And, lucky us! We were invited to join a tour of the Allerton Garden. I, of course, was thrilled - and, conveniently, had my camera in tow.
Elaine was a good sport about it. I think she even enjoyed it.
Kauai is an interesting mix of laid back locals, earnest granola types, artists and farmers. We heard that Monsanto is growing a lot of GMO crops on the island, and people were pretty unhappy about that. But at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, there is a completely different focus. They are working hard to save plants that were brought over on the original canoes and so-called native plants (although no one is entirely sure how things evolved here.) They have even begun exploring how to share breadfruit with the world, to help feed the hungry. Their Breadfruit Institute recently received a grant from the Gates Foundation, so look for more information to emerge about the great work they are doing.
We didn't tour the institute, or the McBryde Garden (although our tram did go through it), we focused on the Allerton Garden. So many plants, so little time!
Everywhere I looked there was something new and different. I was particularly fascinated by the varieties of bamboo and their textures. In the Allerton Garden there is a large stand of golden bamboo that makes wonderfully loud clacking noises in the breeze. Apparently Allerton was hard of hearing, so he really liked this sound. I hear just fine and I liked it too! (Left to right: golden bamboo stand, new shoot, close up - each shoot has its own, unique, green markings.)
Hibiscus are brilliant and seemingly ubiquitous throughout Hawaii, but the National Botanical Tropical Garden on Kauai is working to save native species that includes a hibiscus without petals (The green plant in my photo below, right). There are only eight of these left in the world. How lucky I was to be there when they were blooming!
I had such a great time wandering through all the plants and taking pictures that I was a little startled when I came face to face with a few locals.
In typical, laid-back Hawaiian fashion, they didn't seem to mind my presence at all....