The Green Box Garden

Island Style Gardening & Plant Based Living

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Gardening is More Fun with Friends

Many years ago when I was spending a lot of time in a ceramics studio, someone made the comment to our teacher, “Why do you still commute over here? Don’t you have a studio in your home?”

I will never forget what he said.

“Yes, I do. But then I’d be that lonely guy just throwing teacups in my garage. This is more fun.”

There’s so many hobbies, pastimes and in fact occupations that can be done on your own. But I’m an extrovert and a social person and while I do occasionally love the quiet solitude of my gardening endeavors, most of the time I would love someone to chat with.

I was so pleased to find that a local Facebook group I belong to was having a “seedling swap” this morning. In my experience, there are few “online” communities which become real communities, so this seemed fun. And it was! I brought home a bunch of papaya, some varieties of basil, daikon and an unusual tree, the chermoya.

Seedlings on the curb, waiting for the swapping :-)

Seedlings on the curb, waiting for the swapping :-)

And look! They even blog about stuff!! Have I finally found my peeps? :-)

Aloha friends, and happy gardening!

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More Monarch Rescue Saga

wpid-20140731_114304.jpgI feel a bit like the dog who chases cars and then one day, actually catches one. Now what do I with it?

Our crown flower is HUGE. And I started noticing a lot of bird activity on the plant and I felt super mad all of a sudden. No! This is not a buffet for birds! Those little caterpillars are endangered and there’s plenty of other bugs, fruit and berries for you to eat over there in the forest. Get out of here!

So I took my scissors outside and started cutting leaves to rescue all the little caterpillars I could find. And today I found 7. There’s evidence of many more, but I’m afraid I was too slow.

They are in various stages of growth but I think in the next two weeks we should be releasing seven new butterflies! :-)


Our countertop is now a hatchery! And if you ever wondered what do to with those old diskette boxes from the 90’s, here’s a plan:


For earlier discussion on our mission to save as many monarch butterflies as possible:

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Gardening is Cheaper Than Therapy

It’s 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning and I’m dripping with sweat. My feet are filthy already, I’m digging California grass spikes out of my fingers, and the 9 month old baby Kara is complaining that Mommy isn’t moving fast enough with the morning nurse-snack. She doesn’t care that I’m covered in dirt and grime. She just wants her milky-snuggles.


All the things I’m “supposed to be” doing are running through my head. The piles of stuff in our carport that need sorted, priced and put in neat little garage sale piles. The laundry that is already piled and calling my name. The couch covers that need washed- again. And yes, Her Room.  All of this sorting, cleaning, piling is related to the fact that I haven’t touched my mom’s room since she died.  It’s been 4 months tomorrow. I’d like to just pretend it isn’t there. But keeping the door shut makes the rest of the house that much hotter, so airflow prevails over emotions. And so I stare at it. Every time I walk down the hall, come out of the bathroom, go to our son’s room…it’s a small house. There’s no avoiding it. Just like there’s no avoiding her dog, her turtle, or the millions of crocheted items we still use in this house every day. She is here.

But this morning I have found a justifiable distraction. Plants. Gardening. Stuff I haven’t done in months. Folks who know what it’s like to battle the fog of depression know that Depression takes your spirit. It comes in and eats your ambition, steals your motivation and fills your mind with every excuse under the sun as to why you can’t/won’t/shouldn’t do the things you used to love to do. Because Depression is a life-sucker. It is a parasite on your soul and there’s no one-shot remedy to pick up at the local garden store that will get rid of this bugger. It’s case by case, and it’s a slow road back to health; more like hand-cultivator than gas powered tiller.

Today I battled with the big D by avoiding that Room for another day. And in the mean time, brought some more life back to our little yard.


Kara helped me plant seedlings on the morning-shade side of the house. We put in chard, kale, rosemary, lemongrass, bell peppers, basil, lavender and zucchini. She was a great helper :-)


A couple days ago we put in a Red Mountain Apple tree. I’m super excited about this one because mountain apples are so delicious. They are a smallish fruit with flavor that is sort of cross between a pear and an apple.


And finally, the tomato plant. When I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Death, No Fear all I could see was this tomato plant and I could understand that nothing dies. Life will manifest when conditions are right and will hide when conditions are not right. The story of this tomato plant is the story of my mom’s life with us. She thought I was silly for digging up a volunteer tomato plant from our old house and moving it over here. Then it sat in a pot for MONTHS until we finally put it in the ground. Then it became plantzilla- taking over half our backyard, until we cut it down (like the tree it was). But then the same variety of tomato (which I had not planted before) popped up in our garden beds. A “volunteer” tomato that was pumping out little red beauties 5 or 6 a day which kept my mom and Ethan in backyard snacks for months.  That plant, now gone, along with the bed it was in, has now re-manifested itself on our hillside. Conditions are better there. :-)

THE Tomato Plant. Because Nothing Dies :-)

THE Tomato Plant. Because Nothing Dies :-)


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Late Working Bees

At sunset, there were about a half-dozen bees working hard on our crown flower.  I typically only see bees in the yard in the early morning and usually on the gigantic-overgrown basil. However, I cut back the basil (it was taking over walking paths!) so the bees are now more interested in the other flowers we have. They were so calm and let me photograph them for about five minutes. Thank you pollinators for all that you do.

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Home Again

“I wanna live where the green grass grows, watch my corn pop up in rows….”


For two months my kids and I watched epic sunsets while we visited Iowa. They lasted for 2 hours and always put on a show of colors, shapes and cloud formations.  I love Iowa sunsets.

IMG_1245I also love visiting my tree. It really is my tree, since I planted it as a little helicopter seed with a kitchen spoon about 30 years ago. My grandpa told me there was a tiny tree inside that little propeller that flew off our backyard maple and I didn’t believe him. He said, “Go dig a little hole, put it inside and wait. You gotta be patient though.” So I did. I even built a little fortress around it with popsicle sticks to keep my mom from running over the spot with the lawnmower. And wouldn’t  you know, he was right. There was a little tree inside, and though it has been ripped apart many times over the past 3 decades by windstorms and tornadoes, it soldiers on. :-)

My Tree <3

My Tree <3

…and more trees! Walnut trees that our family planted as seedlings are now a proper forrest. With so many corn fields that go on forever and heat in the Iowa sun, this little oasis was about the coolest place for miles. (I always think of that saying…”The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago. The next best time is today.”…or something like that.)


And bunnies. Who doesn’t love chasing bunnies? We don’t have little wildlife critters like this in Hawaii…mongoose don’t count. They are a nuisance! (Of course bunnies are a nuisance too to gardeners, but darn in, they are so cute.) :-D

IMG_1367But Home is also where our organic papaya trees have started pumping out fruit! Yippy! I was so happy to come back to see these beauties.


And home is where our crown flower plant doubled in size in two months and had literally dozens of caterpillars who were on their way to making their debut as butterflies.


Home is also where dear friends share organic avocado with you and your babies and let you lounge around in their backyard for hours on Sunday doing nothing at all. <3


Our family will always have a complex understanding of Home. I’ve come to think of it more as a state of mind than a place…your heart is happy at home. Wherever that is. And this Happy Hearted Gardener has a lot of work to do to get my plants back after a 2 month hiatus! Stay tuned for more growing news. Aloha.




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