Zephyranthes or Rain Lilies

Pink Zephyr lilies in gravel mow curb strip in Manoa

By Heidi Bornhorst

Recent heavy rains have brought on the gorgeous blooming of Rain Lilies.  This is an old-fashioned Hawaii garden plant that many of us cherish.

I first learned about them from my Mentor and Hanai Tutu, May Moir.  She always encouraged the golden flowered form in her rock garden, and in an old concrete driveway that served as a rustic garden path. She taught me how to collect and grow more from seeds.

Their Latin name is Zephyranthes and we have several color forms that grow well here in Hawaii.

Moir had the yellow and the white flowered ones in her garden. I have the yellow one in my garden and along my mow curb. When they bloom, I think of May Moir and all that she shared with me.  What a Friendship garden gift!

We were visiting my Aunty Hilda Kaneshiro in Manoa and I noticed some nice sidewalk mow curbs that had the pink flowered one.  Later I stopped to get some pictures of them.

I’ve also been noticing the yellow ones in sidewalk strips along Palolo Avenue and today I stopped to try and get some good pictures of those.

We all want to encourage people not to cover our island with concrete, right?

Concrete and other impermeable surfaces restrict rainwater from trickling down and recharging our aquifers.  Excess hard surfaces like roads and walkways, and cement driveways and even the mow curbs, leads to flooding down slope; freshwater runoff into our oceans and prevents the groundwater recharge that is vital to all our future.

We call these impermeable surfaces  and they are NOT good !  Our aina needs to drain and keep fresh water on land and going down into our AQUIFER.  This is for us and for future generations

On average it takes 25 years for rainwater to land, trickle down through the lava, and past the lava dikes, and down, down to our underground fresh water.

If it all runs off down slope it can cause flooding, and that fresh water is not good for the Ocean and our coral reefs.

Flooding water is not that fresh, its full of junk.  Oil gas yard chemicals and more.  We really don’t want that in our Moana, our lovely ocean….

The mow curb is public property and homeowners are supposed to maintain a grassy strip that will drain.  Some people get tired of maintaining the grass and concrete over this strip.

This is illegal.  They city will come and rip out the concrete and restore drainage.  And charge the expense back to the owner. So please, keep it draining, gangy !

And it is not neighborly, or pono for our aina.  Please everyone, let’s kokua and do the right thing. Water is vital for all of us.

Having a gravel strip with Zephyranthes lilies is a creative landscape solution that is also pretty.  It saves the time and energy, gas oil and noise of maintaining, mowing and edging a grass strip.

You can choose pink white or yellow flowers.  Zephyranthes are a lily and you can grow more from the bulbs.  Ask for this nice Xeriscape garden plant at your favorite nursery or garden shop.

If you don’t like the gravel look, you can grow them at the edge of your lawn.  This is very pretty with the bright flowers Blooming cheerfully amidst the green grass

Or you can grow them in large pot with well-drained soil.

Golden form of Zephyranthes lilies

HOW TO GROW Zephyr lilies :

After a good rain and mass blooming cycle, some of the flowers develop seed pods.  After the three valved seed pods ripen for a bit, they split open, revealing stacks of flat black seeds in each seed pod.  You can grow more plants from these seeds.

Or you can dig out the bulbs and grow more that way.

You can also ask for them at your favorite garden shop, such as Ko`olau Farmers.  

Call a landscape nursery like the Nii nurseries in Hawaii Kai, or Kobas or Sharon’s Plants in Waimanalo.

Zephyranthes are in the lily family Amaryllidaceae.  The Scientific name has Greek origins:  “Zephyrus” is the God of the West wind, “Anthos” means flower.

They are native to the Americas, and there are at least 70 species.  They do hybridize and breeders opt for different colors and enhanced drought tolerance.

Other common names are Magic lily, Fairy lily, Atamasco, and Zephyr lily.

A funny note, to me is that the strange WEST winds we’ve been having lately, (a very odd wind direction for Hawai`i) coupled with rain, did that all trigger the Zephyr lilies to bloom ?  (Note the Latin name !)

Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst is a landscaping consultant, gardener trainer, and specialty VIP garden guide. She has been a professional horticulturist for more than 33 years. She is also a Certified Arborist. You can contact her via email at heidibornhorst@gmail.com or at 739-5594.

Chaya, Togan, Marungay Interesting, Health Boosting Perennials to Grow

By Heidi Bornhorst

It’s amazing to see our Quarantined Community excited about growing vegetables.  I wish everyone success!  Neighbors engaging Keiki, and sharing.

Every day I’m grateful for my ohana, neighborhood and Community.  Mahalo Hawai’i folks !

Who thinks we need more Community gardens, for those with no land? 

Three generations of my neighbors; Sarah, Avery and Alina Rosier, went shopping together and reported 3 stores were out of potting mix!  Some nice big expensive potted plants followed them home !  They did endeavor to persevere and found the potting mix.  They are growing `uala or sweet potato in pots in the back yard.  And sharing rooted slips with our neighbors.

I reminded them gently that vegetables, herbs and most flowering plants grow most productively in full sun and with daily gentle watering.  Morning is the best time to water and now many of us can do that because we’re not rushing off to work or taking kids to school in the morning.

So, get up early enjoy the sunrise and give your plants a drink.

As you water, LOOK and observe your plants.  Turn over the leaves as you water and search for incipient pests.  Rub them off the undersides, shoot with water.  If the insect pests are bad, spray with soapy water (one tablespoon per gallon of liquid Dish soap) this smothers and kills sap-sucking insects like aphids, scale, and whiteflies.

Do a slug and snail patrol :

Don’t touch them!  Teach your Keiki. 

My kolohe neighbor Li’i Pat likes to gleefully salt them or stomp on them and watch their colorful guts come out.  BUT this still exposes him and everyone else to Rat lung worm disease (spread by those yucky aliens: slugs, snails and rats)

Not to be mean, but every one of these pests eliminated, and Cleanly disposed of,  is good for us and our Hawaiian environment.

My landscape architect and Natural Gardener friend, Brenda Lam has the tools and techniques down, and I add a bit of plastic recycling (if you have plastic, use it more than once and then properly dispose):

  1. Small bucket or jar of salt
  2. Tongs
  3. Chopsticks
  4. Plastic bags
  5. Plastic forks (recycled from your plate lunch)
  6. Sluggo Plus
  7. Sanitation – dispose of them, bagged in the rubbish can.
  8. Patrol early or late and after it rains
  9. Capture, salt, and bag
  10. Trash the salted, jarred slugs, in a plastic bag.

I worry that many will have limited success and give up on food gardening.  I have some tricks and hacks to help:

  • Grow perennials
  • Grow plants adapted to Hawaii and to Your micro-climate
  • Buy Keiki starter plants
  • Full sun
  • Hose nearby
  • Daily tending
  • Observation
  • Perennial vs Annuals for Hawaii gardens
  • Daily Slug patrol

What is a perennial

A Long-Lived plant, vs. an annual.   Annual plants grow for just one season or one year.

Here in Hawaii some of them don’t follow those rules !  we could just call them “fairly short-lived plants”.  But we might as well learn the right Horticultural terminology as we educate ourselves and our ever inquisitive and Akamai keiki!

My friend Ben Kam shared Chaya with me.  This must be cooked, boiled for 20 minutes first.  It has milky sap, which is a caution for us, but it is super ONO!  Before cooking it is high in hydrocyanic acid.  Some say you can safely eat up to five leaves raw a day but cooking works for me!

 I made an `ulu lasagna, with Chaya “spinach” the other day.  Lasagna is my husband Clark’s favorite but HO! Lots of work and dishes!  But with Covid 19 quarantine, it is good to practice long slow cooking skills, rather than getting depressed watching TV or online news.

Chaya is also called Tree spinach and scientists call it Cnidoscolus aconitifolius and place it in the Euphorbiaceae plant family.

 It is easy to grow stick a big cutting (1/2” wide by 6-12” long into the ground or a big pot and water daily.

Togan or Green long squash.   Retired Fire Captain, John Drake grew one and was excitedly asking when to harvest it? You want it not too big or it will be junk, too tough and woody  for eating.  

One name is Tabugnao according to Gourmet chef and gardener Carol Hasegawa

The Smooth one is Hyotan and the Fuzzy one is Togan  according to  Corliss Yamasaki

Long green squash

Recipes from Carol Hasegawa  5/28/2020: 

Filipino style

Tabugnao Carol Hasegawa

  1. Brown pork (or use roast pork – I like this better) in garlic and little oil till caramelized
  2. Add sliced squash w/a  half-cup water
  3. Let steam till squash slightly cooked
  4. Add sliced tomato (gives flavor to dish)
  5. add some shoyu for final flavoring
  6. Simmer till soft to your liking 

Japanese style: 

Add dried ebi (dry shrimp) in water ( not sure how much you are making but maybe 1 c of water)

Add sliced squash – cook till slightly cooked

Add ¼ c shoyu and 1/8 c sugar

Simmer

Marungay, Kalamungay or Moringa, the Ben tree native to India but now a “new” superfood for all

You can grow it from Seeds, I did this for my Dad when he mentioned that all the great native Hawaiian plants, I was growing were not much good for human food and that Food plants were important to him.

Generally, we grow Kalamungay from Cuttings,   Jimmy Lorenzo, my  Epic Waianae farmer mentor recommends one-inch cuttings about two feet long.  Poke them directly into the ground and water daily.

Once it is growing well, harvest regularly and keep the plants in pick-able reach.

Traditionally we eat this in stews, in soups and so on.  As Robin Sunio taught me, add the leaves to your soup at the end.  Just a gentle simmer for a minute and they won’t be bitter, and this preserves more nutrients.

The Green juicers discovered Moringa and add it to juices and smoothies.  I thought, Yikes!  You can’t eat that raw!  But you can, the young tender leaves are fine.  Ono and nutritious.

You can eat the flowers, leaves, and young seed pods.  The root is also edible and tastes like horseradish.

Nobody that I know of in Hawaii has eaten the root, we are too busy growing and eating the other good parts !  But we do love horseradish, so one day I plan to sample some of the roots.

Leafy Compost

By Heidi Bornhorst

Leaves are valuable for our gardens and for living soil.  Akamai farmers of old used and valued leaves to create and maintain good soil.  Good soil is “alive” with beneficial microorganisms.

Some people rake up and throw away their leaves.   To me, leaves are way better for our gardens than chemical fertilizers.

I consider them to be GOLD for the garden.  Do you need some exercise at a safe social distance?  GO out and rake up some leaves! Raking is good for your arm muscles.

Its fun for keiki and ohana too, just keep your distance from each other, if anyone has been traveling or exposed at work or school.

What is the best kind of leaves?

  1. Monkeypod
  2. Koa
  3. Fine leaved legumes like Kiawe
  4. `Ulu
  5. Whatever you have!

Nitrogen fixers like monkeypod, koa and kiawe are great.  The smaller the leaves, the more surface area, and the more rapidly they decompose, releasing nutrients that are available for plants to uptake and use.

`Ulu or breadfruit leaves make excellent soil building compost and they are so petty too!

Any leaves will work.  Bigger leaves like those from Mango, Lychee, mountain apple and Avocado can be cut up or shredded to make them decompose more quickly.

 If you grow Anthuriums, these big leaves that don’t break down quickly are useful intact.  We grew up using hapu’u, Hawaiian tree fern trunks for Anthuriums and orchid potting medium.  But its not sustainable to use hapu`u, it better to let them grow in our gardens and rainforests.  SO, a trick I learned from my old Foster Botanical Garden Boss and sensei, Masa Yamauchi: use lychee or mango leaves for potting medium in your anthurium pots.

Cut them up with clippers and soak them in a bucket for a while.  If you have a chipper or shredder those make nice fine leaf cuts.  You can also run the leaves over with a lawn mower to get them into smaller pieces.

If you trim get your trees trimmed professionally, have them chip the leaves and branches too.  This makes excellent mulch and compost.  Make sure the chipper has sharp clean blades. 

Or mix fine textured and large leaves

I went up to my neighbor Cindy’s and harvested leaves out of her green bin.

She likes a neat yard and does daily raking. And even though she’s my good friend, and a very good tidy gardener, she THROWS THEM AWAY!

Her gardeners (grass cutters) had been there and they dumped a bunch of grass in the bin too.  I DON’T want the grass!  It might have weedy seeds and has too much nitrogen.  So, I had to separate it all and lean down into the bin to get the good leaves. And then the rain and wild winds came too!

All in all, it was quite a workout !  I loaded up the bags, buckets and boxes of leaves and brought them home to my garden.

I had priority plants that I want to give extra nurturing to:

  1. Food plants
  2. Rare Hawaiian banana variety that is struggling
  3. Rare gingers
  4. `Ohi`a lehua
  5. Palapalai ferns
  6. Rare native Hawaiian Hibiscus, koki`o ke`o ke`o, H punaluensis.

I distribute the leaves, and watered them in.  

Adding water helps “stick” the leaves in place and starts the decomposition process. With this wild wind I don’t want them blowing all around.

Fruit + Nut Trees | Hawaii Gardens

By Heidi Bornhorst

  One of our goals for simple sustainability, is a Fruit tree in every yard, even on your apartment lanai.  For years Mark and Candy Suiso and their extensive extended ohana, participated in the epic Fruit sharing event known as Mangoes at the Moana.

This was Mark’s simple message for all the ten years we staged this educational and fun, Ono for Mango fruit, local fun foodie event.  Remember when every yard had at least one fruit tree, lots of vegetables, all kinds of things for the family to eat and to share?

Share with ohana, gifts for the neighbors, take a generous bag to work, etc.

Kupuna Pua Mendonca of Hawaii island shared some simple wisdom with me at an Aquaponics training conference in Hilo: survival trees to grow are avocado, niu or coconut, and `ulu or breadfruit.  Those healthy fats and oils will get you through times of hardship and scarcity.

You’ve heard the scary news that we have one week of food on grocery shelves in Hawaii.  Should we get cut off from imports, its handy to have some degree of self-sufficiency.

So, lets grow some survivor supplies in our gardens.  I was visiting my great gardener neighbor Joan Takamori and admiring her plush and fruitful garden.  She always has something to share and we learn from each other as we talk garden story.

Takamori asked me about a macadamia nut cracker.  She had an abundance of macadamias from her mother’s garden.

I laughed, recounting our nutcracker as kids.  It was a big pohaku in the dry stack rock wall, that was flat on top and had an almost perfectly sized mac nut puka.  We would set in a nut, and hit it “just right” with a small sledge hammer.   Sometimes it cracked open perfect, sometimes we smashed too hard and sometime the nut went flying!

This is how I learned (without knowing it) about scarification, a technique to help tough thick shelled seed to germinate and grow.  The nuts we nicked that flew down the side sloping yard, were able to grow into seedlings.

Once when we had a cousin swap, I took a big paper bag of macadamia nuts to my Aunty Ruth in California (what a hostess gift, such an elegant bountiful paper bag!)

I told them how we cracked mac nuts at home.  But no!  Californians have a better plan!  And my Uncle Merle was an Engineer.  He had a vise in the garage.  It was a big thrill for my cousins’ many friends in their neighborhood, to come over and everyone got a turn cracking a nut. (Sort of like Tom Sawyer getting all his pals to paint the fence, I later thought, with a laugh!)  Akamai uncle Merle!

My Aunty then roasted the nuts in the oven and covered them with chocolate.  Back home we generally just ate them raw.

I told Joan all of this and how my friend Nyna Weisser had researched nut crackers online and found a great one.  Not cheap but perfect cracking.  Nyna would hand us nuts and the cracker at a party.  Fun for all the friends!

Joan Takamori and I also spoke about how macadamia nuts are another tree that more of us should propagate and grow.

They are a pretty tree with deep green ruffly leaves and very pretty and fragrant flower stalks.  If you look closely at the flowers you will see that they look like miniatures of one of our favorite modern-day Florist ornamentals: Proteas.

Mac nuts are in the Proteaceae plant family and they are native to Australia.

 I asked Joan about where her folks got their macadamia tree.  She didn’t remember it being in the yard forever, and She has a theory. 

‘My dad did bonsai  my mom didn’t drive; she knew how to catch bus everywhere. I think she stole that tree from him and set it free in the yard’ says Takamori.

We never had it growing up.   I think mom planted it, maybe about 10-15 years ago.  She wanted to see it flower and fruit, although it would’ve made a kewl bonsai. Its now a very fruitful tree. I want to grow more of them, so I’ve been collecting seedlings, from under her tree to grow and share and plant in my current garden.

Mac nuts need to be scarified to germinate.  The thick hard shell is nicked or filed down a bit so water can penetrate and activate the embryo of the seed to grow.  Plant them in pots with quality potting mix, and water daily, until they get big enough to go into the ground.

You can also buy them already growing.  Ask for them at your favorite garden shop.  Or for even more fun, call ahead and visit a fruit tree specialty nursery.  Buy some mac nut trees to grow  and maybe another fruit tree for a friend or neighbor to grow.

Deadheading Benefits for Hawaii Plants

Tiare benefit greatly from deadheading

By Heidi Bornhorst

Q: What is deadheading and which Hawaii plants would benefit?

A: Deadheading is where you remove spent flowers to increase blooming and benefit the health of the plant.

Pua Keni Keni comes to mind, as cutting or snapping off the green and orange “balls”, AKA the developing fruit, will increase blooming.

Fruit formation and seed development take a lot of time and energy for the plant, just like a woman being pregnant.

So, if we want more flowers, don’t let the fruit form.  In the case of Pua Keni Keni, the fruit on the stems makes for great décor in a flower arrangement.  You can even string the “balls” into lei, as my akamai lei making buddy Dede Replinger Sutherland does.

Tiare or Tahitian gardenia nowadays needs deadheading.  We didn’t use to have a pollinator for Tiare but now it seems we do, as the old flower calyces (the bottom green part of the flower) don’t fall off after blooming. They now form fruit and it takes about a year to fully develop and form mature seeds inside.

We need to snap off that part on a daily or weekly basis or Tiare plants will have fruit developing and fewer blooms.

Tiare buds make an epic lei, that can last for several days or nights with a most heavenly perfume.  When you pick the buds, pick the calyx too and save yourself some time and energy.

My friend Donna Chuck has a prolific and sunny garden with many flowers for lei. She collects the Tiare buds and stores them carefully in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel in the fridge until she has enough for a special lei for a special someone.

We spent some time cleaning up and deadheading her plants and now she gets way more Tiare flowers for her lei creations.

I first learned the word and horticultural practice known as deadheading when I was an apprentice Gardener at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, in my junior year of college.

‘Go deadhead the Rhodies’, I was instructed by the Horticulturist at Longwood.

I wondered if it was something about the Grateful Dead; and had to ask what was deadheading and what are Rhodies?

Rhodies are Rhododendrons, related to the Azaleas that we grow here. They bloomed massively in spring there and general good garden practice was to deadhead them in early summer, to promote lots of blossoms for the following Spring show.

Some use sharp needle-nose clippers for this and some use sharp well-placed fingers and thumbnails to snap off the spent blooms.

Roses are another plant that will bloom better if you deadhead, or you can just harvest and use every flower.  Or you can let the fruit develop and you get rose hips which can be made into jam or tea.

Some kinds of Hibiscus, especially our fragrant native white Koki`o ke`o ke`o will form seed pods if you let them.  This is how early gardeners made new hybrids as they found the native Hawaiian whites were excellent “mother” plants.

Again, if you want blossoms, pluck off and clean up the old flowers.  Another benefit to this is we have lots of recent alien insect pests like scale and mealybugs that love to hide in the developing seed pods and suck sap and juices from the plants.

Deadheading helps you groom your plants, so you can rub off or cut off the pest-infested parts. Get rid of insect eggs and small sap suckers before they form a full-on infestation.

Lei rainbow pua melia tiare buds
Lei rainbow pua melia tiare buds

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.

Hinahina, Kipukai, Beach Heliotrope and relatives for LEI DAY

By Heidi Bornhorst

For many, many years I have been a Lei Day Volunteer at the Mayor’s Celebration at Kapi`olani park.  It is such an amazing event and I’ve learned and seen so much every year.  Since 1984 in fact !  Yikes

I was first asked to kokua with plant ID when I was working right across the street at the Honolulu Zoo as Zoo Horticulturist.  I was reluctant to leave work, even for a few hours,  as some of my landscape crew were on the kolohe side.

Kupuna Beatrice Krauss, our famed Ethnobotanist, was a fellow lei plant identifier and any time with her was a precious learning experience.  As she got older, she would ask me to drive her, and again, more time with someone so akamai and kind, a Hawaii woman Scientist, ahead of her time.

I told myself when Aunty Bea is pau I will be pau too.  But over the years I have realized what a gift it is to volunteer with this job.  We get to see all the contest lei as they are delivered at 7 a.m.   So amazing, creative and so much time and energy to grow, select, clean and prep and then craft the lei.  Timing is vital for freshness and for flowers, like ilima buds to be open.

One year there was a City-wide strike and we had to move the contest at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, they also roped me into being a judge.  Never again!  To me , all of them are winners.  Identifying the flowers, ferns, nuts and lei fibers is challenging but way easier for me!

This year there were some stunners, plants with mixed silvery patterns, in the Heliotrope family Boraginaceae.  We had native Hawaiian Hinahina, the lei flower of Kaho`olawe, an endemic native Hawaiian plant;  combined with Kipukai, an indigenous Hawaiian plant, and Beach Heliotrope Tree or Tahinu, which is an import, that looks and acts like a native coastal and xeric tree.

This twisty silvery lei combo was so amazing!  After doing our volunteer ID job  in the early morning we sometimes get a chance to talk to the lei makers.

I was talking to an inspiring and creative young lei maker, Mary Moriarty Jones.  I asked her where she collected all those lovely plants or if she grew them herself.  We talked about them all being in the Boraginaceae plant family.

One characteristic to identify this family is that the flowers are arranged in a helicoid cyme.  It twists to open like the fiddlehead of a fern, and the flowers bloom one by one along the curving floral stalk.

They also tend to have silvery hairs on their leaves.  These reflect light and give the silvery Hinahina color.  As a xeric adaptation to thrive in dry salty climates the silvery leaf hairs reflect light and also trap moisture and conserve it for the plant as it respires.

This silvery beauty to our eyes is how the plants have thrived for the millennia in harsh dry salty environments.

To grow them for the long term it’s good to understand where they came from and adapt your garden methods accordingly.  They need well drained soil and full sun.  They are more difficult to grow in pots than in the ground as they really need to spread their roots far and wide (not deep). They like daily watering to get established and then less and less water as their roots spread and adapt.

As my old boss and mentor Masa Yamauchi would say,  “Observe your plants closely and water only as needed”.

This is a skill we can all learn and cultivate.  Just as we can learn to grow our own rare and wonderful lei plants.

Wasabi Plant

By Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst

“Here Heidi, try taste this, we call it “Wasabi plant”, said Ecologist John Gilardi, AKA “da bird man o Wake”.   He plucked some leaves from a little plant, on our way sunset walking to the bird meadow on one of the islets of Wake Atoll.  It was near dusk and very hot, no wind, and water barely quenched our thirst.

wasabi plant Lepidium

At first it just tasted a bit green and refreshing and then my mouth got happy, almost exploding with a definite wasabi taste.  I got all excited, asked him more about the plant and took some pictures of it.  It looked like a weed, but with papery transparent seeds.  It looked very cute in my pictures.  It was one of many interesting and intriguing native plants on the very remote Wake Atoll, where I was fortunate to be performing some contract Arborist work.

When I got back home, Happily, to cool green high volcanic lush green Hawaii, I did some research about this plant which scientists call Lepedium.

Another name for it is “Garden cress”.  We have one that is a weed and one that is native to Hawaii.

The non-native one is L. latifolium, and it’s been here a long time.  Its mentioned in the flora by Dr William Hildebrand, the original botanist who grew Foster Botanical garden.

Maca root which is found in health food stores, like our beloved KOKUA Market, and said to be good for wahine and for sleep is L. meyenii. (when I was googling for pictures, to see which species grew here, these adds for tinctures of maca root kept popping up!)

Our native Hawaiian wasabi plant is known to scientists as Lepidium bidentatum var. O-waihiense.

Turns out is has many Hawaiian names: kunana, naunau, `Anaunau and `Anounou; and lots of English ones too: Kunana pepperwort, peppergrass, pepperweed, and scurvy grass.

Wonder if its high in Vitamin C?

It is a good source of vitamin C, A, K, and some of the B-vitamins, as well as calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s also rich in fiber, like most green leafy vegetables or herbs.

It is endemic to all the Hawaiian Islands except Kaho`olawe and Ni`ihau, and it is found in Kure, Midway and some of the other islets of Papahanaumokuakea, or the northwest Hawaiian Islands.

It is in the Brassicaceae plant family, along with turnips or daikon, cabbage, mustard greens and our favorite: Wasabi !

The root was used as medicine in old Hawai`i, and in other parts of Polynesia too.

The scientific plant genus name, Lepedium, has kewl descriptive origins too. Lepis is scale in Greek and refers to the pretty papery, scale like semi-transparent seeds. The species name bidentatum comes from the Latin name for tooth, the leaf edges are serrated or toothlike.

I started looking for it and trying to grow it.  Such a fun taste and we do love wasabi here in Hawaii!  I thought it would be fun to grow and to gift for my fellow gardening gourmets!

So far it hasn’t been easy to grow, but we endeavor to persevere.  I find it in surprising places and have been trying to figure out its ideal habitat.

Sometimes it’s in a lawn like at UH Manoa or Kapiolani park. Sometimes it’s by the beach.  Visiting Sweetland farms with my horticulture buddy Rachel Morton, we found it outside the barn where keiki goats were being nurtured.  I got all excited and had Rachel, and co-owner Mary Bello taste it.

Ono yeh? And isn’t it a cute plant?  Imagine if were grow more and had the goats eat it.  Would their milk then be wasabi flavored?

We collected some to grow and so far, so good.  I think that because it’s a very xeric or drought tolerant plant, it must have a deep root and far spreading roots. When I casually pull it out, I might not be getting all of the roots.

Growing it from seeds is a good option.  Horticulture with native Hawaiian plants is so much fun and a great gardener challenge. We always learn something by growing plants and observing our gardens and nature in general.

Has anyone else tried to grow this?

One reference suggested that it would grow best in an herb garden, as compared to a general landscape.  It really does look like a weed until you get up close and see what a pretty plant it is.  Plus growing healthier and possibly medicinal and ONO plants in our gardens is always a plus!

I potted mine up in a mixture of good potting soil and coarse cinder and put them in pots.  Rachel planted hers directly in the soil in her mother’s herb garden in a sunny spot up Tantalus.  We shall see how it all GROWS!