Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Momentous Occasion

Earlier this week we had a momentous occasion with the harvesting of a ripe pineapple from our Pineapple Welcome Garden located immediately to your right as you walk across Kona Kai's entrance footbridge.  Given that it takes about twenty months from planting for a pineapple crown (the top "leafy" part of a pineapple) to grow and produce a ripe fruit, it is an occurrence worthy of celebration: a parade, piƱatas, lengthy speeches, a ribbon cutting, cakes with candles, face-painting, fireworks, and clowns making pineapple-shaped balloons are all things I will be considering for the next time a pineapple ripens.

These days, we (or at least I) take for granted that I can walk into almost any supermarket in the U.S. and take home a pineapple to enjoy.  In the recent past, however, the pineapple was a great delicacy.  It was discovered growing in the Caribbean by the Spanish in 1493 and Columbus brought one of the fruits back to Spain.  Because of pineapple's delicious and sugary taste as well as the difficulty in transporting the fruit from the Caribbean to Europe without it rotting, it became a gift highly prized in Europe, even by the monarchs.  As colonists established in the New World, the pineapple retained its prestige on our shores because it was still very difficult and expensive to acquire a pineapple from the Caribbean for a dinner party in most parts of what is now the United States.  The pineapple was the center and star of dinner party spreads and would cause the utmost delight in guests, who came to regard a host able to procure a pineapple for the event as someone of great class and hospitality because of the great lengths and expense he/she incurred to acquire such a treat for his/her guests.

When I learned about this, I imagined if I were to travel back to my hometown in Ohio and invite friends and family over for dinner today.  Eager to show off my hospitality, only after much to-do at the dinner, I would unveil a perfectly ripe pineapple I had acquired for my guests from here in the Caribbean, confidently expecting it to be the highlight of their lives.  Even after looking proudly back and forth from my guests to the pineapple with a big smile on my face and the occasional prompting ("welllll???") waiting for the profusion of excitement and gratitude to come forth, song and dancing to begin, etc., all I would probably get is shoulder shrugs and maybe: "a pineapple? ok...."  Alas.  Perhaps a couple hundred years ago I would have been a host of highest regard and the talk of the town because of my ties to tropical America, but modern-day transportation has made pineapple just another common grocery store item, along with many other exotic fruits that used to hold positions of great honor at dinners and parties.

Even though you can find pineapples at the grocery store, the fruits you find there are picked when they are mostly green; they ripen off the plant.  Our pineapples here at Kona Kai, however, are only picked from the plant when they are golden-yellow all over.  The taste is amazing and even richer and sweeter than pineapples from the grocer!  We prepare all the fruits that grow here in our gardens for our guests to enjoy after they ripen on the plant, and the pineapple was no exception.  Here are a few pictures of the preparation:

Ripe for the picking.

Perfect color.

Pineapple poolside.

After the last picture was published on Kona Kai's Facebook wall, I was contacted by several five-star restaurants with job offers because of my clearly exemplary preparation and presentation skills, but breathe easy, I have turned them all down.

Because of the pineapple's historical importance discussed above, it has become a symbol of a warm welcome and great hospitality, which is why we have chosen it to be the first plant you see as you come through the gateway to our resort.  Perhaps eventually we'll have a pineapple calendar on our website so you can plan your vacation to coincide with a ripe pineapple and then spend the day by the pool imagining it's 1494 and you're the envy of kings as you leisurely sample the tastiest, most in-demand and impossibly hard to acquire fruit in the world.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

P.S.  A reminder - you can now follow this blog on Twitter.

Friday, July 1, 2011

2011 APGA Conference in Philadelphia

Last week Joe, Ronnie and I headed to Philadelphia, PA for the annual American Public Gardens Association (APGA) Conference.  It was my first time attending an APGA Conference and also my first time in Philadelphia.  With over 600 registrants from institutions all over the U.S., there were plenty of people to meet and network with.  There were also plenty of presentations to attend in multiple fields including: Education, Leadership & Innovation, Marketing & Guest Experience, Horticulture, Volunteer Programs and Donors & Members.  In addition to presentations, there were also a number of optional tours of gardens in Greater Philadelphia.  The theme of the conference was "More" and for me, it lived up to the theme as there was MORE than enough of interest to choose from to fill up each day.  If anything, the theme was too good as there seemed to be no end to the usage of that one word and puns that could be played with it in the weeks leading up to the Conference (see previous sentence).  Indeed, it was almost MORE than I could handle!  The conference not only served as a great introduction to many aspects of public gardens but provided the opportunity to go more in-depth into areas of particular interest.  Below is an example of one of the round-table presentations:

I attended sessions about collections interpretation, augmented reality, marketing, surviving financially in tough economic times, providing visitors with excellent service, implementing a landscape consulting program, managing a volunteer program and sustaining collections in the face of adversity and change.  I particularly appreciated the opportunity to learn more about areas in which I have not had extensive experience, as the management of a botanic garden requires knowledge in a number of diverse disciplines.  In addition to attending presentations, Joe, Ronnie and I toured Bartram's Garden and Chanticleer, the latter being an especially exceptional garden in my opinion.  While there, we were fortunate enough to see one of the most spectacular flowering plants in full bloom - the rare hot-air-balloon-flower plant:

The Exhibits Hall at the Conference was a highlight for me; it allowed us to see some of the latest products/services being offered, try out these products first-hand and meet the people behind the products.  We have been looking into making our collections information available to our guests on their mobile devices, so we were especially interested in booths by Guide by Cell, GuideOne and BG-Map, each of which has something to offer in this arena.  ESRI also had an exciting program called the Public Garden Data Model on display, which bridges the gap between ESRI's mapping software and BG-Base, providing a much-desired connection between the two.  A parade of clearly lost festively-clad musicians accidentally found its way into the Exhibit Hall and livened up the atmosphere before being redirected to the annual Festively-clad Parading Musicians Conference, which was next door:

Overall, it was an excellent experience that has given us many ideas, valuable networking and helpful advice as we continue to lay the groundwork for the Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai during its first official year.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director
(Photo Credits - APGA)