Monday, May 25, 2015         

Hawaii Gardens Premium

I wore a fragrant yellow plumeria lei to dinner with my mom, Marilyn, and sister, Mimi. I had gotten it the night before at the Ka Palapala Po‘okela Awards, the annual Hawaii Book Publishers Association's awards ceremony.

Don't you just hate it when your orchids shrivel and die from mysterious causes, or when your line of potted plants looks like death row for daisies, or when your favorite water lilies lie submerged under toxic algae scum?

Q: My parents' tangerine tree, which fruits faithfully every New Year, is looking very sick. What can we do? It seems to be dying and I can't tell why.

Many of us want Hawaii to be more self-sufficient — growing and eating locally grown food. Farming in Hawaii takes a lot of aka­mai hard work, skill and, of course, land and water. Do you wonder whether you are up to the task?

Do you know the story of how macadamias came to Hawaii? The original grove is up Tantalus in the area called Nutridge, planted by two sailors, Edward and Robert Jordan, who traveled to the islands from Brisbane, Australia, with their pockets full of nuts in 1892.

A source of healthy food from a beautiful Hawaiian tree growing in your own garden or a community garden — now that is a gift worth giving (or receiving)! Ulu, or breadfruit, is something we should grow and eat more of in Hawaii.

Kale is all the rage today, in green drinks, sauteed with garlic and in all kinds of ono preparations. One plant that is even easier to grow than kale and has many of the same health benefits is Okinawan spinach.

Hummingbirds, while amazing, are very aggressive for their small size. If they were brought to Hawaii this would be another nail in the extinction coffin for our rare native Hawaiian birds.

Bromeliads are interesting, diverse and unusual plants with varieties ranging from the wispy Spanish moss to the huge Vriesea imperialis to the one edible bromeliad: the pineapple.

It's been a wet year, but we still need to be conscious of ways to conserve water. Using techniques and the right plants in our gardens is wise planning for the future.

Flowers of every hue adorn Hawaii's trees in June, and the weather we've experienced has made for a particularly glorious year.

Do you like to grow plants on your lanai or inside your home or office? Every lanai is different as far as plants that will thrive there, and so are interior spaces.

Question: What plants can we grow to help save our native Kamehameha butterfly, or pulelehua, for our moopuna (future generations)? It's so pretty and becoming rare. — MK, Kalihi

Question: We have a mystery for you: There is a weird silvery growth on a super tall tree in mauka Kalihi. It looks like Spanish moss to me. But how in the world did it get up the tall tree?

Succulent plants can be fun and easy to grow and care for. They are less thirsty plants, perfect to conserve on water in our gardens and grow a Hawaii-style xeriscape. Some are perfectly adapted for our humid Hawaii climate.

QUESTION 1: I live in Keeau and was going to help chop down an invasive albizia tree for my elderly neighbor. Then we noticed it was infested with little fire ants, and we bailed on that. It seems the pesky alien albizia trees are like an overhead freeway for this vicious pest to travel and spread.

"Wait a minute, that's not even the real garden," said Duck Gambill, as a visitor admires the lush vegetation, thick with palm trees, cactuses and other plants that grow along the driveway to his Kaneohe home.

On a quiet back street in Hawaii Kai, stepping through the door of the waterfront home of Bob and Kay Hampton is stepping into Christmas Central.

Thinking about gifts and decor for the holidays? They go hand in hand for creative local gardeners. I have a large patch of golden Heliconia caribaea that was a gift to isle floral arrangers from the late May Moir.

QUESTION: My mauka neighbor is building a BIG house, and now they are pouring concrete in the entire front yard. Is this legal? Already it's hot here, and they cut down all the trees, too.

Q: My son just started at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and we were walking around the pretty tree-filled campus. We noticed a bush or small tree with what looked like eda­mame. Do you know what these might be? Do soybeans grow on trees?

At first glance you might think Malcolm Chun's yard in Wai­alae Nui is an unkempt jungle, with tall weeds growing along the sidewalk out front.

Q: There is a beautiful, tall white-flowered bush on Kamehameha IV road in Kalihi. There are some really pretty, well-tended walled gardens with these very striking plants in the neighborhood. Is it some kind of plumeria maybe?

For food security, health and beauty, ulu, or breadfruit, is a great tree to plant in your garden or on your farm. If we want to plan for a sustainable future, let's plant breadfruit trees for ourselves, our ohana and our communities.

The Halawa Xeriscape Garden is worth visiting. It's a well-planned, pretty landscape with lots of interesting plants. You can learn a lot about conserving water through landscaping by visiting the garden and going on a guided or self-guided tour.

Driving out to the Windward side, destination Hauula Community Association, with breadfruit expert Diane Ragone was an eye-opening experience. As we drove along the green coastline, Ragone called out the names and conditions of breadfruit, or ulu, trees spotted along the way.

What do Hawaii gardeners love to grow the most? Based on my interactions with plant lovers, landscape clients, farmers and keiki, the top answers are fragrant flowers, native Hawaiian and medicinal plants and food crops.

Imagine our increasingly hot, voggy, traffic-congested city transformed with broad, tree-lined sidewalks and bikeways separated from cars and trucks. Imagine safely biking or walking to work and school. Imagine feeling safe about your keiki riding bikes.

Akulikuli is a favorite old-time lei, a Hawaiian kama­aina adaptation. It grows well only in certain higher elevations of the islands, such as Lanai City, Wai­mea on Hawaii island and Upcountry Maui.

The biggest problem for your lychee (without actually seeing the tree and your yard) is that "nice green grass." Grass is competitive. It takes strength away from your tree.

Question: I bought some hapuu tree ferns at a home improvement store. What do I do to grow them? Put them in water? I live in lower Kalihi and my soil is kind of clay like. Should I add cinder to the planting puka? — Raymond, Kalihi

Who decided what Christmas should smell like in Hawaii? Do we really need to import more pests, such as stinging nasty wasps and yellow jackets, alien slugs carrying deadly paralyzing diseases like rat lung worm, or even Oregon tree frogs?

Q: How did they thicken coconut cream to make haupia in old Hawaii? I know they didn't have cornstarch. I heard about pia. Is this plant hard to grow? Does it go moemoe (sleep) in winter in Hawaii?

Pua kenikeni, a favorite garden and lei plant, is not native to Hawaii, nor did the ancient voyagers bring it on their great voyaging canoes. It got to Hawaii only in the late 1800s and became widely popular in about 1920.

A reader called to marvel about two summer­time spectaculars in Hawaii gardens: the rainbow shower trees in gorgeous bloom around town and the night-blooming cereus along Wilder Avenue at Punahou School.

Q: My keiki and I are so worried about bees disappearing. We hear there is something attacking the hives. What can we do? What can we grow that they like to eat?

Would you like to grow some maia (bananas) in your garden? How about some of the older Hawaiian varieties that are becoming rare or even extinct? Have you ever eaten maia poi? Would you like to learn some new recipes for cooking bananas for your next ono potluck ohana gathering?

Do you love gardenias? May is the month when they bloom most profusely here in our Hawaii gardens.

Mark your calendars now for an inspiring flower show with something for everyone. The Garden Club of Hono­lulu's Major Flower & Horticulture Show returns to the Hono­lulu Museum of Art on Mother's Day weekend, May 11-13.

You know it's almost springtime in Hawaii when the fragrance of hono­hono orchids is in the air. Once common in any respectable kamaaina garden, hanging from coconut planters or fat hapuu fern logs and watered with rice-rinse water, gardeners really grew them well.

Give your yard some CPR and help protect our most precious resource: wai, or fresh water. CPR is the acronym the Surfrider Foundation uses to describe the process homeowners should take to achieve “ocean-friendly gardens” through conservation, permeability and retention.

Q: We want to grow roses here in Manoa, fragrant ones with no use of chemicals or pesticides. Is this doable? A: If you walk around Manoa (and many Hawaii neighborhoods), you will see good gardeners growing all kinds of roses without pesticides.

Plant a fruit tree for a loved one this Christmas and share the gift of beauty and locally grown fresh food for years to come. There are so many varieties to choose from, and they come in many sizes and can fit into any garden, even your condo lanai.

On a recent Sunday morning beach stroll, my mother, Marilyn Bornhorst, noticed that the lovely old kiawe on the well-tended lawn and music stage at the Halekulani is still there.

Hawaii gardeners love orchids and fragrant flowers, and some varieties of orchids even combine the two with exotic beauty and a delightful perfume. Though we have grown orchids in Hawaii for years, there is always more to learn.

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