WASH your plants! Uncle Griff amazing Waialua Garden

By Heidi Bornhorst

Interesting to learn something new from my honey Clark, the other day, after all these years, fresh kewl stories! And about plants and gardens, my fave !!

We were out at the Uluniu beach house in Laie.  Colleen and Randy asked Clark and I about growing some plant out there.

We discussed various plants and what would grow in strong salt winds.

Clark mentioned Uncle Griff and how he grew things out in Waialua,  right on the beach. That nobody else could grow.

Or his looked and thrived better than others.

Clark said Griff’s secret was to wash the leaves.  Rinse off the salt water residue on the leaves.  Daily, lovingly.

So interesting! And to think about. Rinsing my leaves more now too. It gets bugs and eggs off

Nothing like a big rainstorm to clean the air and our plants and gardens …..

Why to rinse and bathe our plants with Fresh water (WAI)

  • Salt water has major nutrients
  • Rinsing gets wai in the stomates?
  • Rinsing cools us all
  • Washing off pests
  • And potential incipient pests

What did he grow?  Clark?

I remember a nice big lawn, with a view of the surf and beach, a better pa`ina spot than our sandy front yard with a bit of grass and a big Hau tree.

I think we have pics with Elaine, Clarks mom and Iliahi, our cutie poi dog, maybe at Griff’s house.

Hawaiian wife named …. Aunty Mary, silver hair in a flip, wore mu`u mu`u elegantly.

Last name ? Panker! We both remember at the same time.

Is Butch their son?  Or in-law? Carpenter lived in Wahiawa,  daughter swim team …

Clark would go out there and immediately trim down the Hau tree, and do other heavy yard work to help  out and hopefully get invited again.

The good yard at Crozier loop was out by the street but too hot in the day, perfect for a wedding like Rachel and Peter’s!

Rinse your Gardenias and `ohi`a lehua

We love Gardenias and so do various pests:

  • Sooty mold
  • Aphids and scales
  • Ants which spread and protect the sap suckers
  • Thrips, the little black pests in the blossoms

The “cure” for all of these Gardenia attackers? SOAP and water !  Gardenias are the one plant that I also fertilize with liquid Miracle Gro fertilizer.   (use Miracid, the one in the blue box if your soil tends to be alkaline)

Gardenias are acid loving plants, so they like our red dirt soils and leafy compost too.

When I fertilize them, I add some liquid soap to the sprayer.  Dish soap like Palmolive or Dr Bronner’s peppermint if I’m feeling rich. I spray this on the leaves and let it drip to the roots too. (if you see pests on the stems and leaves, they are probably attacking the roots too.)

After spraying wait an hour or so and you can then wipe the sooty mold off the leaves with a soft rag.  Or you can just let the soap do its job.

Rinse the leaves well the next time you water.  Dead, sap sucking pests like scale, mealy bugs and aphids will slough right off if they have been effectively smothered by the soapy water treatment.

MAY is usually when Gardenias bloom.  I had buds earlier this year, but the cool LOVELY weather of April must have delayed them.  Green buds for a long time.

Now its HOT and they are blooming gloriously.

How to have epic Gardenia blossoms:

  1. Pick them daily. (if you leave them on the plant, the pests will love you, they will have a pa`ina <party with good food> and they will multiply.
  2. Spray them, and the whole plant with water before you pick
  3. Take the buds and pua inside and rinse them
  4. If they have thrips, drip soapy water on them or dunk them in soapy water
  5. Let the bugs get smothered by the soap for a few minutes
  6. Then rinse them off
  7. Cut or pull off lower leaves
  8. Display them in Deep, cool water in a vase
  9. Change the water daily
  10.  Rinse the stems and recut the base
  11.  Put the gardenia flowers back in cool fresh water
  12. Inhale and enjoy!

Since hearing this Uncle Griff rinse your plants and gardens story I have been doing my early morning or evening watering a little differently.

I look at the plant or tree and wonder if it will benefit from a rinse.

If it’s hot I don’t mind getting a rinse myself !  I think like a gentle rainstorm, or sometimes like a rainy windy storm is needed.

I have been rinsing my `Ohi`a lehua which are full of blossoms.  I rinse the flowers and know it will benefit the birds and bees that visit and pollinate the flowers.  Bees get thirsty too! `Ohi`a are from rain-forests so the more wai the better. 

As I rinse and spray off my banana leaves, I visualize the washing away of any leaf hoppers. I also remind friends and neighbors to get rid of their clump thoroughly if it gets this disease.  It’s like getting a measles shot, it protects all of our community of banana growers.

Rinse your mock orange and Bougainvillea after a kona storm.

I learned this one while working as Honolulu Zoo Horticulturist.  I forget from who, maybe my working foreman Seiko Tamashiro, or epic Retiree and Volunteer, Tony Kim?

A nice big fat thick, and very xeric Mock orange hedge surrounded the whole zoo. Periodically we would have to trim it, and this was a big process involving the whole crew, trusted CSSP workers and scaffolds.  It took at least a week.

There was a big drought and we were forced and encouraged to save water.  I read the night logs, some of my staff worked at night as security, food prep and irrigators.  One guy Bob would turn on the sprinklers for the mock orange hedge and run them for several hours.  I told him, “Bob, you are watering the ocean!”

What?

Bob, we have sandy soil, by running those sprinklers for hours you are wasteful. So please, just about 20 minutes will be fine for the hedge!

‘OK boss whatever you say’ he said with some skepticism  (what did a 25-year-old with a nice fresh B.S. degree know, right?!!)

Well, we reduced our irrigation budget significantly and the zoo gardens were still green enough and healthier. Someone even wrote a letter to the editor about how great the grounds looked!

Mock orange is in the citrus family and it comes from driest India.  Super deep and wide spreading,  tough roots and shiny leaves help make it drought tolerant. They also come from monsoon areas so after a big rain we see fresh growth and fragrant blossoms.  This is how they would respond when the monsoon rains come to India.

Somewhere along the way in this discussion, came the fact that mock orange is sensitive to the sometimes strong salty kona winds we would get at the zoo.  When those came we deployed the sprinklers to wash all the leaves.

Same is true of Bougainvillea.  We didn’t have a lot at the zoo, but I had tons of lovely roof planters of Bougainvillea ‘Miss Manila’ at the Hale Koa hotel. These we would diligently rinse leaves after kona wind storms.

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