Friday, September 16, 2016

Harold L. Lyon Arboretum - University of Hawaii at Manoa

American Public Gardens Association board members touring the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum

I recently visited Hawaii for a board meeting of the American Public Gardens Association. Our quarterly meeting move around the country and I was very excited that this one took me over the Pacific. Hawaii is of course paradise, but I was also eager to attend the IUCN Wold Conservation Congress. This event is held every 4 years and is a gathering of wold leaders, scientists, non-profit organizations and many others. These great brains get together to discuss current research, policy, and forecasts for the state of the environment. I was only able to attend 2 days of this inspiring conference that lasts 2 weeks and had over 9,000 registrants.

Topical Rhododendron at the Lyon Arboretum
Pinecone Ginger

One of the great things about attending a meeting with other garden lovers is that we all are excited to visit other gardens. During our board meeting, we visited the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Large ficus tree with a very cool buttress roots at the Lyon Arboretum
Bromeliad collection at the Lyon Arboretum

The mission of the Arboretum is "To increase the appreciation of the unique flora of Hawai`i and the tropics, by conserving, curating, and studying plants and their habitats; providing inclusive educational opportunities; encouraging use by the broader community; and supporting the educational, scientific, and service activities of the University of Hawai`i."

Rose of Siam Ginger (Etlingera corneri)

Located on the island of Oahu, in a tropical rainforest with an average of 13 feet of rainfall per year, the Lyon Arboretum is 124 acres of palms, heliconias, gingers, ethnobotanical and native Hawaiian plants, rhododendron, gingers, calathea, hibiscus, and alocasia. It was truly a topical paradise!

After I took this photo of this very cool flower, the Arboretum director told me it was an invasive weed!

In addition a gorgeous aesthetic display, the Arboretum conducts micropropagation of rare & endangered Hawaiian plants, native forest restoration, and its Hawai`i Rare Plant Program has put it on the map as a leader in the field of plant conservation.

These are some of the many, many gingers!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tomatillo Salsa

I've always been slightly afraid of using tomatillos. I like the tangy taste that they give to Mexican food, but I wasn't quite sure how to use them and what was up with that papery covering. Tomatillos are related to tomatoes. They are usually used raw in things like salsa, but they can also be cooked in stews.
In the process of peeling the papery husk off of the tomatillos
I decided that it was time to give this new fruit a try, so I went to the grocery store and stared at them for a while. I had no idea how to choose a good tomatillo, so I started peeling back the papery husks to check the fruit beneath. I found that this was a very good idea because sometimes bad spots were hiding underneath. I picked through the pile and assembled a pound of good looking tomatillos. After figuring out which tomatillos were the right ones to buy, the rest was fairly easy! I made this recipe for a potluck and everyone went crazy over it! Serve with tortilla chips.

Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb of fresh tomatillos (about 12) or 1 can (13oz) of canned tomatillos
1/2 cu finely chopped red onion
1/4 cu coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 can (4 oz) of diced green chilies
fresh juice from 1/2 of a lime
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

To prepare fresh tomatillos, the papery husk needs to be removed and the fruit should be washed before finely chopping them (the small round seeds don't need to be removed). Then mix the chopped tomatillos with the chopped red onion, cilantro, chilies, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. I used canned fire roasted diced green chilies because I like the flavor and I like my food a little spicy, but fresh jalapenos can be used if you prefer that flavor, or peppers can be left out all together if you aren't a fan of spicy food. Cover and refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour to lets the flavors meld.

Tomatillos, red onion, cilantro, and green chilies
All mixed up with olive oil and salt

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Home Brewing: Spent Grain Dog Biscuits

Spent Grain Dog Biscuits

We finally got around to making another batch of beer... almost 2 years after our first batch! This time we tried out a wheat beer.  Right now it is fermenting away and awaiting bottling day.  My dad gave me the idea to use the spent grains in dog biscuits.  I loved the idea of using the spent grains instead of throwing them right into the compost pile, so I looked online for a good recipe.  I found an easy recipe and followed the method described on the 17 Apart blog. 

Spent Gain Dog Biscuits
4 cups spent grains
2 cups flour
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter

Mix ingredients.  Roll out on a floured surface.  Cut with cookie cutters, a knife, or make rounded drop cookies with a teaspoon.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 225 degrees and bake for an additional 2 hours.

Eventually I'll buy cute dog bone shaped cookie cutters, but for now I only have 2- one shaped like the state of Virginia and the other shaped like the continent of Australia.  Our grains were drained,  but still quite wet, so the dough was very sticky.  Because of this, the cookie cutters didn't work out very well.  I quickly found that just cutting them with a knife was my best bet and I found that it was easier to cut if I floured the knife between cuts.
Dog biscuits ready to go in the oven

Australia turned out pretty good, but Virginia is a little wonky.  I'll stick to rectangles!

The dog biscuits turned out great, and our boxer, Timber, loves them!  I even tasted one and it wasn't that bad; like a very very bland and crunchy peanut butter cookie.  I think I'll leave them to the dog though!
Timber, really laying on the cuteness to talk me into giving her more dog biscuits.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Green Walls in Tokyo

Living Columns in a Retail District in Tokyo
I recently took an amazing, two-week trip to Japan.  I was blown away by the gardens, the people, the history, and the food.  It will be hard to summarize the trip, but I thought I would start with a few photos of something that I have always loved- green walls.  In Tokyo, we saw some impressive green walls in public places like retail districts and train stations.  They were wonderful patterns of color and texture, which focused mostly on foliage rather than flowers.
Part of a Flower Show Exhibit
Ferns and Heuchera

Living Wall Planters

Green Walls with ferns, grasses, heuchera, and other foliage plants. Shannon is about 5'6" for scale.

Fancy traffic island.  I think that is mostly hakonechloa, but I didn't run out in the street to check!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Shaw Nature Reserve

In addition to visiting the Missouri Botanical Garden on my trip last month, I also had the opportunity to visit MoBot's Shaw Nature Reserve.  SNR is about 30 miles from the main garden and consists of 2,441 acres of restored habitat and teaching collections.  Needless to say, it was very impressive!  I spent the day with horticulture staff, education staff, and restoration ecologists.  They showed me acres and acres of restored meadows and wetlands, a very cool set of overnight facilities, and a beautiful wildflower garden surrounding the property's historic home.
Native seed collected at Shaw Nature Reserve
Seed cleaning lab and refrigerated seed bank
Wildflower Garden

Fancy cabins

Restored wetland
Restored prairie
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