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Annual plant sale promotes saving water in the garden

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    Rachel Tjoeng looked over the plants for sale at the 22nd annual Halawa Xeriscape Garden open house and Unthirsty Plant Sale. Below, detail of a succulent featured at the sale.
    Board of Water Supply employee Alex Algono shoveled mulch into a bag for Dakota Miller, 12. Miller has been gardening for three years and is now cultivating native plants from seed and cuttings.
    A patron walked away with a bag of plants from the sale, which was sponsored by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and featured plants for sale by 13 vendors that promote water conservation.
    A desert rose plant was among those on sale at the event.

Island gardeners took home dry-weather plants and water conservation tips at the Board of Water Supply’s 22nd annual Unthirsty Plant Sale yesterday at the Halawa Xeriscape Garden.

The one-day event aimed to educate the public on water conservation methods for the home garden, which is especially important as the statewide drought intensifies. In addition to the plant sale, the Board of Water Supply conducted workshops on composting and rain catchment systems, and ran educational activities for kids.

"We want people to think more about how they use water outdoors," said Board of Water Supply spokeswoman Moani Wright-Van Alst. "The drought just highlights how important our water is."

According to the National Weather Service, rainfall levels are down across the state, and are not expected to rebound until the end of the year. The weather service said Thursday that the South Kohala and Kau districts of the Big Island are the only areas in the United States experiencing exceptional drought conditions — its severest drought rating — with some areas receiving just 6 percent of normal rainfall levels.

The Board of Water Supply said single-family homes on Oahu use about half of their water on lawns and gardens. The board estimates that xeriscaping — landscaping and gardening that requires little or no watering — can reduce home water usage by 30 percent to 80 percent.

"(Xeriscaping) helps customers by saving money, and it helps us by saving the water source," said board spokesman Kurt Tsue. "It does lead to a significant amount of savings."

The event yesterday featured activities for kids, including a scavenger hunt to identify water-saving plants. Children also planted a keiki garden in a corner of the property that they can visit and care for throughout the year.

"It’s all about education for our keiki," Wright-Van Alst said. "If we can catch them young, then they’ll grow up being more efficient with their water use."

The board started the xeriscape garden in 1989 to educate the public about outdoor water conservation. Tucked away in a corner of Halawa Valley, the garden features water-efficient irrigation systems, a variety of native and dry-weather plants, and an outdoor classroom that hosts xeriscape seminars throughout the year.

The property is managed by the city with the help of volunteers from the Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden, which came out in force at the plant sale.

"This is a great way to educate the public," said group President Carol McAuliffe. "We all want beautiful landscaping, but do we want to use precious resources for that?"

While xeriscaping experts ran workshops in the garden classroom, hundreds filed through the plant sale, which featured water-efficient plants from 13 local nurseries. McAuliffe said many of the plants sold at a third of what they might cost at larger garden retailers.

"A lot of these plants will just grow with air," said plant sale volunteer Larcy Zamansani. "And the prices are so cheap."

Some customers said they came looking to add a particular plant to their gardens.

"I was into the desert rose," said Sue Nakano. "But you see some very unusual plants."

In addition to their new plants, event organizers hoped gardeners came away with an appreciation for xeriscaping.

"Everyone thinks that (xeriscaping) is just cacti and rocks," Tsue said. "But it’s actually really colorful."


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