Wanted: trade winds and a cool breeze

Make your own bouquet of tropical flowers

Make your own bouquet of tropical flowers

Always a great selection of island fruits and vegetables

Always a great selection of island fruits and vegetables

Colorful flowers always seem to be plentiful in Kona

Colorful flowers always seem to be plentiful in Kona

In the Midwest, land of temperature extremes, we are dealing with record-breaking heat and humidity this week. Yesterday, the relative humidity hit 79 percent, which we were told made the temperature outside feel like 108 to 111 degrees. As the saying goes: It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

This dry and hot late August weather wreaks havoc on the flowers, trees, vegetable gardens and lawns unless they are watered regularly. Although it’s steamy hot, we desperately need rain. Most of the blooming flowers look exhausted and ready to be replaced with mums or other autumn plants and flowers once the heat subsides.

Yes, we have color everywhere and the farmers’ markets in our region are bursting with vegetables, herbs and plenty from the harvest season. It’s here, and then—poof. It’s gone. So, we enjoy it.

Hawaii residents and visitors are so fortunate to experience color, flowers, nearly perfect weather year-round.  I’ll take the high temperatures any day over the cold and snow of January, February, March and sometimes even April. (Yes, it sometimes snows in April, the cruelest month.) One weather newscaster told us yesterday that the temperature was 140 degrees warmer than our coldest day last winter. Yet, today I dream of the next visit to Hawaii. This time it’s to cool off from the heat.

Kona Farmers Market

Kona Farmers Market

Hawaiian yellow hibiscus

IMG_2586Hawaii’s state flower is the yellow hibiscus. The large flowers are four to six inches in diameter and often have a maroon-colored center. The flowers seem to open and close at certain times each day. Bright, cheery and oh so photogenic, it’s worth taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers when you stumble upon yellow hibiscus in Hawaii.

Orchid memories

IMG_6110It’s May 1 and we are once again bracing for a winter snow, sleet and slush storm. Yes, another winter storm in spring.

The forecast is for six to nine inches of snow. Yes, it’s May 1 and the tulips and daffodils in the Upper Midwest were just starting to make an appearance. Poor things. So, instead of snow, I’ll dream of orchids.

These photos are from March at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The Garden has a fantastic collection of orchids.


To see orchids in a natural garden setting instead of potted is a thing of beauty—something to hold onto until spring decides to arrive.


Blooming bougainvillea

IMG_0217Bright purple, red, white, orange and pink, the bougainvillea colors in Hawaii are unforgettable. They border the highways and add bursts of color to yards, public spaces, beaches and rugged terrain.
They even seem to thrive in fields of lava, which gives a colorful contrast with the black rock and other tropical plants and trees. With deep green leaves, the bracts (the leaf-like structures just below the flower) offer the bursts of color. If you look closely, you will see a tiny white flower inside.


They are most impressive in mass plantings, hedges or barriers and seem to flower the most from September through late spring. Some years we have noticed that they seem to be more vibrant than other years, most likely depending on rainfall as they thrive in slightly dry conditions.

For scent, plumeria is one of my favorite flowers in Hawaii, but when it comes to bursts of beautiful color, bougainvillea never disappoints.

Orchids, orchids everywhere

Orchids at the Keauhou Farmers' Market on the Big Island

Orchids at the Keauhou Farmers’ Market on the Big Island

Elegant, exotic and diverse, orchids are plentiful in Hawaii.

They are often seen in vases at your restaurant dinner table. They are sold at the local farmers’ markets.

They are used to make gorgeous fresh flower leis. Or, they may adorn your dinner entrée or tropical drink.

Personally, I love orchids for the fact that my wedding bouquet was a gigantic collection of orchids—a bursting spray of purple and white dendrobium orchids along with yellow popcorn orchids, and more. I also wore them in my hair, which I highly recommend at least once in your life.

An orchid section at the Kona Costco

An orchid section at the Kona Costco

We even saw an orchid section at a big box retailer on the Big Island. (As often as possible, we try to shop at local, smaller or independent stores while we are in Hawaii, but still I found this a fascinating discovery.)

Soon, I’ll be posting a sampling of the orchids from the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Big Island—an orchid lover’s paradise.

Orchids flourish in Hawaii’s tropical climate. Online, you’ll find many orchid growers in the Hawaiian Islands and many of them will ship—a good way to bring some aloha to your home.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

IMG_6089In the Onomea Valley in Papaikou, on the Hilo side of the Big Island, you will find the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, described as a garden in a valley on the ocean. It’s difficult to describe the beauty of this Garden. You must visit to experience this nature preserve and sanctuary. Over the years, we have taken many photos during our visits, so I plan to do a series of posts on this Big Island treasure.

IMG_6100When you visit, you feel as if you are on the edge of the earth. Along the trail you will discover an orchid garden, an anthurium corner, the Onomea waterfalls, a blowhole, an amazing monkey pod tree and so much more. The boardwalk entrance is 500-feet long and you will want to stop and take it in during your time along the 1.25 miles of Garden trails.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden was founded by the late Dan Lutkenhouse. His wife and co-founder, Pauline Lutkenhouse, continues to be involved and serves on the organization’s board of directors. There is a plaque when you enter the gardens, which describes the vision, mission and dedication of these two individuals to preserve and create such a beautiful setting and world-class attraction for others to enjoy.

IMG_6118The Garden website describes how they discovered the beauty of Onomea Bay while on a vacation in 1977. For 8 years, Mr. Lutkenhouse would spend the days clearing paths by hand, and cleaning and restoring the property without disturbing the environment. The website history states that all of this was done by hand; no tractors were involved to ensure that tree roots and natural plants were not destroyed. I cannot fathom the work involved in restoring this tropical paradise.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden opened to the public in 1984.

A newsletter I picked up on a visit in March of this year describes the founder’s vision that the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden be a self-sufficient entity so that visitors from around the world would be able to enjoy its natural beauty. It is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit entity and the Gardens have never asked for or received government funding of any kind.

IMG_6125The newsletter also reports that they have welcomed 87,000 visitors from across the world in the past year and they have 1,256 members, who help sustain and preserve this treasure. I am always amazed at what can be accomplished by vision, dedication and hard work. To protect Hawaii’s natural beauty is truly something to be admired.

IMG_6134The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is located about 7 miles north of Hilo off Route 19 off the Scenic Route, two miles down on the left. From Kailua-Kona, the drive is approximately three hours. But, it is a lovely three hours with many interesting stops and sights along the way.

Stop and smell the plumeria

ry=400-4Experts say that the sense of smell is closely tied to memory. One of my favorite scents in Hawaii is plumeria. When you step off the plane after a long flight, the smell of flowers is one the most welcoming things about the Aloha State.

You will find plumeria in yellow, pink and other colors. The yellow plumeria flowers are my favorite and they seem to make some of the most fragrant leis. If you find one at a local farmers’ market, you will not regret buying it.

In March, we found a yellow plumeria lei at the Farmers’ Market on Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. The man who sold it to us had just made it. It was, perhaps, the best $7 I had spent all winter. Even after it had dried, it still smelled wonderful.

The Hawaiian people love their flowers. Many Hawaiians wear flowers in their hair. This may be one reason why Hawaii was ranked the happiest state in the country in a recent article in The Atlantic.