Recreating Eden – Bringing the Tropics Home with You

Our thriving Mandevilla

Mandevilla (a.k.a. Apocynaceae), part of the Periwinkle family, is a tropical vine that comes in a many varieties, thanks to cross breeding.  It produces colorful trumpet shaped flowers during the warmer months that do not fade for an extended time period.  If you are looking for a plant to climb a trellis and fill in a plain area of your house or garden, this plant will do the trick and will do so quickly since it is a rapid grower.

Although the Sunset Western Garden Book indicates that they require full sun or partial shade, our Mandevilla only gets direct sun in the first part of the afternoon, yet it is exceptionally pleased with its location.  Having it against the stucco of the house likely helps with providing additional heat.  Also, we were recently in Golden Gate State Park in San Francisco where we saw many healthy Mandevilla.  The plants were thriving even though Golden Gate is often covered in cool fog.

Beware of spider mites!  We have had problems with them since the first month of planting our Mandevilla.  They looked like little yellow bumps on the vines.  Up close it is hard to tell if they are bugs or a fungus.  You can read more about spider mites and how to treat them at this website:

Spider mites on our Mandevilla

Tips and Tales

v  Our Mandevilla likes a good soaking every two or three days when it is hot out.  Having a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot helps to keep the water flowing through so the roots do not rot.

v  Unwind all of the vines before attaching it to a trellis.  This allows you to train the vines to grow in the directions you want.  Simply wind the vines loosely through the trellis opening – the vine will grasp onto the trellis and continue to climb.

v  Contrary to common belief, despite its need for warm temperatures, Mandevilla can be grown in colder climates.  Watch this video for tips on how to do so.

The trumpet shaped flowers


Recreating Eden – The Beginning

8 Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 9 The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit.

15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’”

24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

Genesis 2: 8 – 9, 15, 18, 21 – 24 (NLT)

On June 4, 2011, God joined Dale and me together as husband and wife.  In his divine wisdom, he provided us with a sizeable yard in San Diego (a miracle) that was in need of major landscaping.  One tree graced the front yard, star jasmine

The front of the house when Dale purchased it in fall 2009

grew under the front window, and there were a few bushes in the backyard.  Otherwise it was a clean slate, waiting to be planted, nurtured, and enjoyed.  And so began our journey towards recreating Eden; conceiving a glorious, beautiful, relaxing garden in which Dale and I can enjoy each other’s company, play with our future children, watch the cats do crazy, unpredictable things, and relish the diversity and elegance of God’s creation.

The back of the house before Dale moved in

The Recreating Eden series will chronicle our journey.  I will post pictures and written updates on the status of the landscaping.  With each post I will also provide a tip I learned during my studies – I say studies because I’m working towards applying for the San Diego Master Gardener program in 2013.  To do so, I need to learn and practice consistently for the next two years to develop my gardening resume.

Balinese Beauty

Dale and I honeymooned in Bali.  After traveling for thirty hours, we arrived at our first villa outside Ubud.  Upon entering the room we were greeted by a memorable, fragrant display made of yellow Plumeria flowers.

Our first encounter with Plumerias during our honeymoon in Bali

Plumerias (common name Frangipani) were a constant presence during our time in Bali.  No matter where we traveled, the delicate, ornate trees dotted the roadsides, beautified homes, and were a consistent part of life.  Our food and drinks were embellished by the beautiful flowers.  Dale picked the flowers to use in our large, outside bathtub.  The Balinese men even wore the flowers behind their ears during a traditional dance we attended.

After returning from Bali we went to the El Plantio nursery in Escondido (northern San Diego) in search of a tree to memorialize our union; my friend Michele had given us a gift certificate to the nursery for that specific purpose.  When we entered the nursery, the first display was a series of different sized Plumeria trees.  We selected one to serve as our first purchase towards Recreating Eden at the Harshman household.  It now sits in a planter on our back patio where it enjoys soaking up the hot afternoon sun.

Our patio Plumeria tree

Tips and Tales

–  These blooming beauties need good draining soil.  An easy solution is buying soil intended for cacti.

–  Plumeria trees should not be watered after their leaves drop.  Instead, they should be left to rest in the garage during the winter.

–  For Plumerias planted in the ground, it is important to remember that they will turn to mush (no joking) if the outside temperature approaches freezing.  To prevent this from happening, you can wrap Christmas lights around the trunk and branches.  Turn the lights on overnight and throw a sheet over the tree. This should provide enough warmth to protect it.

– Want to learn more?  Check out the Plumeria Society of America website: