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Monday, October 20, 2014         

The Urban Gardener

Legumes are known for their high protein content and the symbiosis they form with rhizobia bacteria, which provide them with free nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Puu Mahoe literally means "the hill of twins," but it is so much more. Puu Mahoe is a cinder cone on the eastern flank of Haleakala. You have to go through three locked ranch gates to get there. It's worth the trip.

Today my oldest nephew, Travis Choy, is getting married to Youna Choi. This article about stephanotis (Marsdenia floribunda), known as pua male — "wedding flower" in Hawaiian, is dedicated to them.

Mock orange hedges, once the toughest thing in town, are dying; they are drying up. What's going on? Mock orange is one of Hawaii's best drought-tolerant and attractive hedge plants. It is in the orange family, Rutaceae, and comes from driest parts of India.

This article celebrates the legacy of King Kamehameha I by exploring the solitary native Hawaiian plant that is scientifically named in his honor.

Q: There is a koa meadow along the H-3 freeway. The meadow created by construction had lots of sprouting koa seedlings, but they were soon overtopped by weeds growing rapidly and smothering them. The weeds were recently cleared. Who is doing this?

Since yesterday was Mother's Day, and last week my mother's birthday, this article is for Mom, who passed away at home earlier this year.

Maybe we should grow some ko. That's the Hawaiian name for sugar cane. Did you know that it's a canoe plant? Ko was carried here by the ancient seafaring Polynesians, who developed many wonderful and ono varieties here in Hawaii.

One of my all-time favorite excursions when I lived on the island of Hawaii was four-wheeling down an old Jeep road in Keopuka to go snorkeling and exploring at the Captain Cook monument fronting Kealakekua Bay.

Loulu palms are the only palm native to Hawaii. People think coconuts (niu) are native, but they had to be hand-carried here by early Polynesian voyagers. In fact, coconuts were very hard to get to Hawaii in a growable condition, but that's another moolelo (story).

The Hawaiian language employs an elegantly logical approach in naming non-native plants. It will use the name of a Hawaiian plant with similar characteristics and add either the word "haole" (foreign origin) or "kahiki" (foreign; abroad).

Hawaii gardeners have the advantage of a year-round growing season that allows us to pick up plants any time of year and add them to our backyard collection. And local garden centers carry an abundance of ornamental shrubs, trees and herbs from which to choose.

"Oh, hello, ohelo!" said the happy hikers to the ohelo berry plant. Hikers love them because they are so pretty and tasty. They are not very common on Oahu, especially at lower elevations. We saw some on a ridge hike in the Waianae Mountains recently. There was one ripe shiny red fruit that we refrained from picking and took pictures of instead.

Personally, pakalana — also known as Chinese violet — is synonymous with Valentine's Day because it was the favorite flower of my first valentine.

Although roses are thought of as plants for temperate climates, they have long been grown in Hawaii. For many years the University of Hawaii's Kula Station in Upcountry Maui has participated as a demonstration garden for the independent plant-testing organization All-American Selections by displaying its yearly rose winners.

Hala are bold, beautiful landscape trees, great privacy screens and a perfect Hawaiian xeriscape plant — tough and "unthirsty." Hala can "drink" pure salt water and survive, but like us, they prefer fresh water.

This first article of the new year is about a discovery: the virtues of the modest Hawaiian plant that looks and grows like a common weed: the unpretentious uhaloa (Waltheria indica).

Mushrooms are appearing in Hawaii's home gardens, a common occurrence as our winter brings increased rainfall and humidity. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies, or reproductive structures, of a fungus.

The whimsical and primeval appearance of alula (Brighamia insignis) makes it one of my favorite endemic Hawaiian plants. Other Hawaiian names include olulu, pua ala, haha, ohaha and pu aupaka.

Poinsettias can transition from Christmas into New Year's decorations with some additional flair. Get dried, curly ting ting plant branches from a florist or craft supply shop, and place the stems into the pot and among the poinsettia foliage.

Q: Are sweet potatoes hard to grow? Like many people in Hawaii, diabetes runs in our family, and I just got diagnosed with pre-diabetes, so we want to eat some more healthy, resistant kinds of starch.

Trees function as a natural recycling machine. Tree leaf surfaces take in moisture from the air (in the form of carbon dioxide) and heat from the sun to make food, a process called photosynthesis.

How would you like to grow yourself a surfboard? What kind of gardening is this? Surfboards today result from a toxic manufacturing process involving epoxy, fiberglass and resin.

Spiraling, aerial fireworks remind me of the flowers of the Malay apple, or as it's known in Hawaii, the mountain apple (Syzygium malaccense). Its Hawaiian name is ohia ai.

After more than 28 years of free public service to home gardeners in our communities, the University of Hawaii Master Gardeners will host its first statewide conference Oct. 15 to 17.

Your urban horticulturist recommends watering your garden plants slowly and deeply in the morning hours to keep plants hydrated throughout the day. Morning watering is not only the optimum time for plants to drink, but also conserves precious water resources.


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