Balboa or Hawaii…I have islands on my mind and the Plumeria to back me up!

As often happens, another blogger has sent me following a particular train of thought. Kevin, AKA Nitty Gritty Dirt Man, posted some stimulating observations about home gardens and the “interesting” choices some gardeners make. I don’t want to poorly paraphrase Kevin’s points, so if you’re an avid home gardener I do hope you’ll pop over and read his witty post here. I think if you read his blog-thoughts you’ll know why I began thinking about my own garden pleasures.

I shared baby shower hosting duties with two friends this weekend, and with an unusually mild summer day, our backyard was put to good use.  We have  had several social gatherings this summer resulting in even more time and attention paid to garden detail and I wish it always looked as well manicured as it does right at this moment. It’s always gratifying to hear others experience the environment as inviting and comfortable, but when I asked several of the most complimentary guests if they, too, had gardens of their own, I was surprised at how quickly they said, “NO!” and shook their heads at how much work it takes, stating their “at home preference” for no-maintenance landscaping–make that lots of concrete!

Why is that? How could it be that the same people who directly spoke to me about how they felt “at peace” or “relaxed” and “unstressed” while sitting in my backyard have NO interest in following through with even simple garden beds of their own? Formal, informal, structured, manicured or just full of color and texture without a plan, a garden adds to my sense of personal well-being. I wonder why everyone doesn’t feel the same?

I took a few photos while walking around Balboa Island. Mild beach temperatures, plenty of sun, air, and water combined with loving attention from the homeowners, results in some beautiful color and very healthy plants.

Rudbeckia, or Black-Eyed Susan, is such a happy flower, don’t you think? One home garden was bathed in the color yellow and just made me smile!

I’m partial to orange flowers, and this confetti-colored hibiscus so caught my attention I’m going to try to hunt one down for my own yard.

I am enjoying the last week or so of my own colorful showstopper!  My Plumeria, or Frangipani, has been beautiful this year. Most of the year it looks like nothing more than a tall, green stick! But from late spring through most of the summer I can count on a gorgeous display of color. I like color!

Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths for pollination purposes! I can attest to the fragrance, but don’t think I’ve noticed any sphinx moths lately. They are easily propagated, and this one was started from a “stick” we brought back from Hawaii ten years ago. You can’t visit Hawaii and ignore Plumeria…the flowers are used in making leis.

There are some interesting folk beliefs that make this beautiful, yet common flower a curious focal point. According to Chinese culture, the Plumeria symbolizes love and portrayal of feelings. In the Vietnamese culture, it represents status, and the Mayans reportedly considered Plumeria flowers to be associated with life and birth. Not quite as cheery as life and birth, but in southeastern Asia the belief is they provide shelter to ghosts and demons. The distinctive scent is associated with vampires in Malay folklore.

A Plumeria plant grows well in pots and is relatively easy to care for, so with over 300 named varieties to choose from, I wonder if you might be interested in growing a tropical plant, even if you live far from the Tropics. If you can protect it in the winter–and that’s when it looks just like a stick–you might just have some success!

I’m thinking of starting some plants to have as gifts! Next time one of my guests vociferously states that they “don’t do gardening” maybe I can jumpstart some container gardening enthusiasm with a gift of fragrant Plumeria. And next time you’re in a Hawaiian gift shop and you see those little sticks wrapped in a plastic bag, bring one home and stick it in some dirt. Sun, water and patience will reward you, I’m certain!

I’m breathing lighter just talking about it!



I saw this beach wreath while walking on Balboa…Isn’t it charming?

50 thoughts on “Balboa or Hawaii…I have islands on my mind and the Plumeria to back me up!

  1. I’m definitely one of those people who ‘doesn’t do gardening’. But after reading this, I might be having second thoughts …..

  2. I love the wreath on your gate. How gorgeous is that! And of course I love all the flowers in your garden and all their amazing colours. I haven’t done much gardening lately but really need to and you have inspired me Debra xx

  3. Such beautiful flower photos, Debra! I can practically smell their sweet fragrance. I actually planned to plant Black Eyed Susans this year, but knowing that my husband’s shoulder surgery would keep him away from gardening for half the summer, I knew I couldn’t manage his outdoor jobs AND my usual flower and veggie gardens. So this year I settled for some veggies, a few hanging flower plants and a row of white, pink, and red begonias in the front. Hopefully next year we’ll be back to normal!

    • You know I never get everything planted I think I will! I have wonderful intentions just like everyone else! I really wanted to plant Black Eyed Susans, too, and I even had the seed. But I also just fell behind! The good thing about a garden is that we can pick up from wherever we are and then move forward to the next season! 🙂

    • I am glad I could share some Southern California flowers with you, and I know the English climate doesn’t make gardening easy! But you have some really beautiful landscape with all that rain! And we could really use some of that rain! Too bad we just can’t share! 🙂

  4. Dear Debra, in Stillwater–Minnesota–I had extensive gardens: rock gardens, perennial gardens, vegetable gardens. But by the time I moved here to Missouri my knees were beginning to give me troubles so I planted only a shrub garden that requires no real tending because of the mulch. During this summer’s heat, I’ve deep-watered it once a week and that seems to be keeping it looking serene.

    If I end up staying here in Missouri, however, I will plant a perennial garden next year. Not sure where it will be, but I miss flowers blooming throughout the spring and summer months.

    Thank you for the lovely photographs and the explanations of what Plumeria means in different cultures. Life truly is so interesting! Peace.

    • Your previous gardens sound like they were quite special, Dee. I think the time it takes to keep gardens lush and flowers plentiful is really overwhelming at times. We do the best we do! My experience this past weekend was just so amusing to me because of the way the other women were so complimentary and seemed to really appreciate the “end results.” But when I asked more about them, they basically said the work wasn’t worth it! They didn’t use those words, of course, but that was the implication. That really caught my attention and I’ve wondered about it ever since! 🙂 I do think even container plants are nice…anything living! The meaning behind Plumeria flowers was new to me, too, Dee! oxo Debra

  5. It is a shame that people can’t do better than concrete, which is low maintenance, but makes it hard for water to seep into the earth. I should talk though: when we moved here, Mom took out the struggling grass in the front yard and put in lava rock — it is permeable to water, but ouch-y on the feet.

    • Your comment about concrete preventing water from permeating into the soil is right…and we do need our rain water! Claire mentioned that in the UK they are now discouraging concrete for that very reason…and think about all the rain they get. I haven’t heard much talk about that here! I like the look of rock…we have some pea gravel in the backyard and it goes well with our succulents. We have some concrete, too, and I’m trying to figure out how to get rid of it! 🙂

  6. Gorgeous flowers! I have a yard with flower beds and ground cover and I always get the same kind of comments. A few years ago I put a pond in the back. If I had known how easy ponds are to care for I would have done the pond and had less perennials beds around the yard. You don’t need to water flowers in the pond and anything growing around the perimeter benefits from the increased humidity and water nearby. In addition, I find that fish and frogs are so entertaining and not nearly as high maintenance as my cats! I am not yet ready for concrete!

    • I have a water garden, too, Kate, and it is such a wonderful addition to the yard. I haven’t had any success with frogs…I think something ate them! 😦 But fish, yes! My lotus and water lilies were fabulous this year. I think it took them a few years to get going, but now they’re great! Don’t you just love the sound of the water? I’m glad to know you have one, too. I think if we all had the sound of water nearby our stress levels would collectively diminish! 🙂

  7. Oh Debra, what a beautful plant you have. We can’t grow Frangipani here, so for me they are a tropical holiday plant, they are so pretty and that heady scent……I’m drifting off here on a wave of fragrance.
    But what you said interested me about the admiration shown, but th eunwillingness to try. Such a shame. And I HATE concrete – it causes so many problems with rainfall not being able to run-off, the processing and making of it is pretty vile, so environmentallyits a bluergh to me! But more than anything such a disappointment to see. You may be interested to hear that in th eUK they have changed the Urban Planning rule sto discourage too much concrete in front gardens and driveways – largely becuase of the run-off problem from rainwater and the rain not being able to get to the water table!
    And just love your idea of giving plants as gifts… spreading the word and the love 🙂 Definitely breathing lighter with that lovely thought 🙂

    • I have never liked the look of concrete, Claire, but I honestly haven’t given much consideration to the fact that it isn’t permeable to rain water. Of course! That is such an important consideration. I’m indeed fascinated to hear that the UK is giving strong consideration to the negative impact of concrete. I have never heard anything like that here. My attention has been raise, though, and now I want to do a little research on the subject. I am seriously considering the idea of having some plants “on hand” simply as gifts. Anyone can grow a container plant, I think! 🙂

      • I was thinking about you and your gift plants this morning and was thinking of ho wit was such an encouraging and positive way of dealing with your non-gardens – a real positive step there Debra !

        • Thank you, Claire. I have been thinking about the gift plants, too. I’d like to start taking transplants and cuttings and finding simple containers that are interesting, and it would be fun to inexpensively cultivate some living gifts. I’m going to challenge myself to follow through! 🙂

  8. Plumeria. Ahhhhhhh. I can smell it from here.

    I’ve ‘done’ gardening and ‘not done’ gardening. When I’ve made the time for it, I loved to sit outside and enjoy the fruits (and flowers) of my effort. But, if I didn’t have time, or if I went away and let things get out of hand, that same peaceful space would give me no limit of stress until I worked to make it right. I’m glad, for now, that I have my African violets as my indoor garden. They are all blooming like crazy, and they’re so happy in our light, airy space. For right now, it is enough.

  9. You made me laugh thinking of when we lived in Florida and had a beautiful Frangipani growing in our front gardens. My husband always referred to it as the stick tree. Really enjoyed your beautiful photos.

    • I liked the colors on the flowers I found on Balboa Island. They were very cheerful and I hope I can find some of the same in my local nursery! I also have to find plants that are mostly drought tolerant…I know you sometimes have what seems to be too much rain, but then we don’t have enough! Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could share our weather back and forth! 🙂

  10. Your climate allows for such a larger variety of flowers to be planted and enjoyed in your gardens. That Plumeria is indeed beautiful but I’ve a soft spot for hibiscus — and yours is a beauty. On my way to the farmers market, someone has planted hibiscus in the corner of their front lot. With it’s giant ruby red blooms, it is really a site to see.

    • I think it’s pretty great you have hibiscus, John. I would have thought it quite temperamental for the extremes of weather, but you seem to have a true green thumb! You might want to give one a try…you do a great job with roses! I’m going to try to find the orange hibiscus I saw on the Island…it made me think of tie-dye! 🙂

      • There are a number of Hibiscus that will grow in climates as cold as Zone 4, Debra. I’m in Zone 5. They are called “Hardy Hibiscus” and can survive our winters. Their flowers are usually larger than the “Tropical Hibiscus” that you’re most probably familiar with. EIther way, it is one beautiful plant and that orange one is spectacular.

        • I’m very surprised to learn about Hardy Hibiscus, John. I would think following a cold winter they would definitely cheer away the frost! I have commented to a couple of other midwesterners who have made comments about the ease of the west’s climate that you also can grown some gorgeous flowers, like Peonies and Lilac…we don’t get cold enough! I really do appreciate and celebrate our vast geography…every region has such beauty, and so much to offer! I always really enjoy seeing what grows across the country. So thank you for sharing yours!

    • You can get Plumeria in most nurseries in very small containers. I think I’m going to get another one soon. It was fun to grow one from the stick, though. I think you just need to go back to Hawaii, don’t you? 🙂

  11. We’ve always had a small garden patch or two . . . for veggies and flower cuttings. Like you, wandering or sitting in the garden relaxes me.

    Black eyed susans are one of my faves. Such happy plants.

    • I always feel better after I work in the garden. It’s a wonderful way for me to shake off stress! I, too, just love the Black Eyed Susans! The ones I photographed on the Island were probably the most beautiful I’d ever seen!

  12. I enjoyed Kevin’s point of view (especially concerning plastic gardens, though I had a friend who lived in a townhouse and the only way I knew which house was hers was by the plastic flowers) and I am sitting here envying your plumeria. Unfortunately, they can’t handle our midwestern winters, though I know a few folks who have green houses and have success that way. It is such an exotically intoxicating scent, isn’t it Debra. What we can have in common is black eyed susans. Mine are showing off right now and are, dear Debra, very happy flowers. I loved this post.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed Kevin’s point of view. He often makes me chuckle! I didn’t plant Black Eyed Susans this year, and I’m sorry I didn’t. I won’t let that opportunity pass me by again, Penny! The ones on Balboa just thrilled me! I have the Plumeria, and you have those Peonies! 🙂 I guess I’m mainly unsure as to why everyone isn’t at least growing something, and truth be told, I have many friends who really don’t. In a more urban setting I think we need to do our part to soften all the surrounding hardscapes. It’s almost a duty! 🙂

  13. I didn’t know that frangipani is the same plant as Plumeria and I didn’t realize that our gardens in S CA are warm enough to grow them. I love the scent and I’d love to be your friend and get one as a going away gift. I can reciprocate with a night blooming cereus – which coincidentally and very excitingly just bloomed last night!

  14. Gardening: one of those profound pleasures, working with the globe to produce beauty and food, Debra. I love it, but I’m erratic, depending on the time I have to spend out there and how the weather has been. This summer has been a washout for those of us in the UK and many of our plants have suffered accordingly. I’m planing to put some late season dahlias in to brighten up our own home patch.

    LOVE the rudbeckia.

    • I completely understand how difficult it would be to do any significant gardening when the weather is cold and wet, Kate. But you have your forest, and not a lot of concrete, I’m imagining! As long as we find a way to connect with nature I think we’re whole! 🙂

  15. Outstanding captures of the flowers. My favorite part of the post are the people who love the peace and relaxation of your backyard, but intentionally live the opposite.

    Several years ago we put our home for sale (during the crash) with hopes of moving. While we were looking, we didn’t see another home or lot that even came close to our current setting. So, not selling has its benefits.

    • I’m glad you caught what I was basically saying about other people, Frank. I wasn’t intending to in any way question that not everyone wants to put time into gardening, but some of the women were so sure they just couldn’t be bothered at all, I was a bit surprised. I need to have some connection to a garden. Even a variety of potted plants would be satisfactory! I hope that it has been well for you to remain in your home after all. I know a number of people who seriously considered downsizing and it seems like it has been hard to even do that in this current climate! I think we are all going to continue to find it a bumpy ride for a while, don’t you agree? New lessons for all of us!

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