Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

R & R IN RAROTONGA

I have just had the good fortune to have spent the past eight days on a beautiful tropical island. The white coral sand right up to the front deck of our bungalow and coconut palms everywhere. Coconuts, Cocos nucifera, would have to be one of the signature plants of the tropics. Unfortunately they will not survive outside this environment, however there is a palm very similar in characteristics to the coconut,
C. nucifera, Parajubaea cocoides. This palm is a native of the mountain regions of Ecuador, and will tolerate cooler conditions and in fact requires cooler nights to grow successfully. P. cocoides has nuts similar to C. nucifera but smaller. P. cocoides should be available from palm nurseries these days.

Another commonly spotted palm was the golden cane palm, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (syn. Areca lutescens) which forms compact clumps with slender trunks. It is often sold as an indoor plant and may be to sensitive for our climate, I for have not tried
to grow this palm outside here. There is though another alternative which will certainly grow here and this is Dypsis baronii which is native to Madagascar. I have one growing and it too forms a clump of multiple trunks with slender arching leaves.

My favourite palm though would have to be the Royal Cuban palm, Roystonea regia, with a very stout pale grey trunk growing straight up topped with a large plume of fronds. In appearance it most closely resembles the Queen palm Syagrus romanzoffiana (syn. Arecastrum romanzoffianum, Cocos plumosa), which are in common cultivation here.

Enough about palms! Another favourite plant seen widely around Rarotonga, was the indigenous tree hibiscus, Au, Hibiscus tiliaceus. This tree produces yellow flowers nocturnally that during the day change to a deep red colour which then fall to the ground as the day ends. These spent blooms were to be seen at the each of the beach lying face up and fully open, very beautiful I thought. The foliage of these trees
is bright glossy green and heart shaped, an altogether beautiful tree.

Along the roads the boundaries of the properties are marked often by large Crinum sp. (this is a large genus and unfortunately I don’t know the specific name of the ones most prevalent suffice to say their foliage had a yellowish tinge.), various types of ti, Cordyline sp. and Croton sp.

All and all, Rarotonga is a very beautiful place with towering peaks inland, where you can take treks to the top of these precipitous mounts and a beautiful lagoon
almost all the way around. At Muri beach are group of small islands set right in the lagoon itself. Ah what a wonderful holiday, I am now once more injected with
the passion for a subtropical garden, never mind roses now. I will let my three go another season, but they may well be struggling for their place in my garden in
the future!

2 Comments:

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
gardening gloves

 
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