What will Wild West winds bring? More flowers and fruit?

By Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst

We had such a weird windstorm with those super strong and gusty west winds! So different then normal.

Up in our valley we lost power twice to the wind and HECO did not restore power until 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday 3/8/2023.

Mangoes and avocados were full of blossoms, Honohono orchids were in bud and some in bloom.

My Portuguese Madeira roses, and native Hawaiian gardenia Na`u have been blooming well, loving the cool and rainy winter were are finally having.

As I clean up the storm debris, (Mahalo for nature’s Arboriculture) including blown down dead twigs and branches, and lots of leaves, some I notice are from my mauka neighbors.

One of the tenets of true Horticulture is to OBSERVE nature and plants, to track the moon, winds, rain and other weather phenomena as see how the plants respond.

I am still reflecting on how the plants would respond.

What do you see? How are your plants after the winds?

Did you have any big tree failures? Or just small or dead branches?

The leaves are whipped on my gingers, Surinam cherries, mulberries, and ohia shed a few flowering branches. A young popolo plant got totally blasted on one side, it was just coming into fruit.

So, we shall see!

Honohono orchids had been in full glorious fragrant bloom as they budded and bloomed early this year. Originally I thought the orchids stood the wind storm but after a few days those in the main wind tunnel area of my garden wilted and withered prematurely.

Went to a neighborhood watch potluck pa`ina and a nice lady, Lokelani, that I always say hi to on my walks was there, with a gorgeous papale lauhala. She admired my honohono and said she caught a whiff of fragrance, from way across the yard, and she looked for the source of this favorite old time Hawaii fragrance, and from where? My hair!

Since she admired the orchids, I had to give them to her, along with maire ferns!

Now a couple weeks after the winds, I’m observing some of my favorite flowers and fruit trees in my garden and neighborhood:

• ‘Ohi’a lehua  Blooming profusely, some dead wood branches and twigs broke in the winds

• Native White Hibiscus wind whipped leaves, a few blooms at the very top of the tree

• Tahitian mountain apples were blooming before, still many flowers and now small fruit.

• Gardenias surprise early blooms two on one stem, but no other apparent buds yet. (they usually bloom for me in May).

• Na`u, native Hawaiian Gardenia lots of flowers and buds (also triggered by abundant soft rains before the winds)

• Madeira roses Blooming profusely.

• Mangoes my Friend Dawn Shim from Makakilo brought me a gift of Haden mangoes, super early for this to fruit.

• Mulberries wind whipped leaves, lots of young fruit

• Pua Keni keni usually Bloom less in winter, BUT after the storm mine are full of Buds, flowers and lots of developing green “ball” fruit.  I made some lei for a fundraiser, and plucked and cut off all the young fruit, to encourage more blooms from the tree 

What are YOU observing, in your garden in your unique microclimate? I would love to hear back from my Gardening Readers …..


Nutrition of Mountain Apples

By Heidi Bornhorst

Local Hawaii people are so Funny!

Nowadays people go nuts for Mangos and lychee and `ULU.

Even to far as buying them in the store!

Don’t you all think we should have some fruit trees in our gardens? And share with friends and neighbors? Let’s plant and grow some fruits today!

As kids, mangoes were like stray kittens, people would beg you to take them! We got jobs raking up the fallen smashed ones from super tall trees for elderly neighbors.

I could never get enough lychee even tho the trees were abundant in Makiki where I grew up. Lychee enticed me to move to Wahiawa where we had two lychee trees and then planted a third.

When you offer people mountain apples or `ohi`a `ai some are enthusiastic, some will help you pick and rake up and some meet the offer with distain.


Nutritionally they are great; lots of hydration for your body, and rich in vitamins C, Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and super rich in potassium.

Also known as `Ohi`a `ai, the `ohi`a that you eat (`Ai) they were carried here by ancient Polynesians in their sailing canoes, an important part of our “imported” landscapes and gardens.

What a gorgeous gift to find when hiking the low moist forests. This fruit will keep you hydrated on your hike!

And you can bring home a seed and grow it to commemorate that special hike. Surprise and share with your hiking buddies at the next festive occasion.

They are nice to grow in our gardens too. A small to medium tree with pretty leaves and bark most of the year and then BOOM! in flower so pretty magenta pom poms

A month or two later you will have that juicy ono fruit. Like jewels up in the tree canopy.

Besides eating them straight off the tree, you can slice and add to fruit salads.

Or as my niece Jalene found out for us, you can make pickles from them to savor for another day. 

My friend and akamai farmer Deborah Ward makes a mean mountain apple pie and you can also make mountain apple sauce.

Add some slices to your favorite cold beverage.

You can make a lei with the smaller green and white fruit.  Store the lei in the fridge and when you wear it “Fruit cooling air conditioning” !  I made one for my then boss, Sydney Iaukea at a Kupuna Hawaiian studies training session and the lei kept her cool all day.

It’s an unusual lei today.   But easy to make and fun and unusual to wear.

​The scientific name is Eugenia mallaccensis and they are in the MYRTACEAE plant family along with `Ohi`a lehua, guavas, rose apples, Eucalyptus, and more.

Some call them Malay apple as they are native to the Malay peninsula and southeast Asia.

We have different varieties in Hawaii, a pure white one, a seedless one, squat plump Hawaiian variety and long and big Tahitian variety.

Many grew naturally in the wet lowland tropics of Ho`omaluhia Botanic Garden and then we planted more in the “Kahua Kukui” Polynesian plants section of this amazing and FREE botanic garden in Kane`ohe.

They are easy and fun to grow from seeds.  Save a seed from an ono one and plant it right away.

Besides the ono fruit and attractive flowers and tree, bringing shade and birds to yoru garden, mountain apples have medicinal uses.

The bark is a sore throat cure.   If you feel a sore throat coming on or are getting a cold, scrape off some young bark, rinse it and chew it.  It has lots of tannins and this truly can help ward off a cold.

The nutritious fruit will also help keep you healthy !

Espalier your Mango!

With land so valuable in Hawaii, homes and gardens are getting smaller, yet we still want to grow fruit trees, but how can we?

Even with towering monster houses and high-rises blocking sunlight and air circulation, espalier is one solution which can help your garden to be more fruitful.

What does espalier mean and how is it done, you may wonder.

Espalier is a technique that is ancient yet artful.  We think it started with the Romans, and was enhanced by Europeans with Castle courtyards. The French enhanced and grew the technique to they could have fruit year round.

The word is French, with Italian origins. Spalla means something to rest the shoulder against in Italian.

Modern landscape design does look to the French and Italians.  Some of the first beautifully designed, landscaped gardens were in Italy, check them out on your next Continental journey. (Gardens are way more fun to visit than a museum, in my opinion, and you get better outdoor exercise too)

Espalier means”to train a fruit or flowering tree to grow flat against a wall, supported by a lattice, or a framework of stakes”.

Today we can use strong cables to train and attach mango or other fruiting tree branches to keep them low, to get maximum sun and air circulation, and for easy harvesting.  Or we can do something more artful and horticultural in our Hawaiian gardens.

The European reasons to do this apply here too:

  • Walls reflect sunlight
  • Walls retain heat overnight (trees use the heat and then cool the air)
  • Orient the leafy branches to absorb maximum light
  • Train the branches parallel to the equator to get max sunlight
  • Espalier extends the growing season

There are many designs of espalier, from a simple V-shape, to fans, crosses, Belgian fences and many more.  Some are curved or spiraled.

England is known for great gardens and akamai horticulture and they have one called a free-standing step over.  They do it with apple and pear trees and we can adopt this practice for our fruit trees here in Hawaii.

Mark Suiso of Makaha Mangoes is great proponent of mangoes and other fruit trees.  He encourages us to graft good mango varieties, prune them correctly and cherish every fruit. Recently he got us all re-excited about espalier.

Suiso and his ohana and friends have participated in Mangoes at the Moana for the last nine years.  We have learned and grown together and met many mango advocates.  It seems to me that we have more fruit these days and that more people are choosing to carefully prune and nurture their legacy mango trees.  People are planting new trees in their gardens.

It’s so important to support farmers, especially here in Hawaii.  To BUY a mango seems outrageous and not at all sustainable, please buy local!

After all, mangoes are the King (or Queen) of Fruit, just ask Queen Victoria (movie with Judi Dench, featuring her wanting to taste a mango from India)

P.s. I think we should try espalier with `Ulu or breadfruit too!  Horticulturists always love a garden challenge and what better one?

I espalier my mulberries, to keep them low for easy picking and out of my neighbor’s yard (they like the ‘golf course grass’ look) I also can net my fruit and protect them from the ravenous alien bulbuls and green escaped parrots that we have on Oahu.

In other places, such as Japan, Taiwan and Australia they do elaborate kinds of Horticulture including espalier to nurture and cherish every leaf, flower and fruit.  We could do this too!

I would love to hear from my readers, who are practicing espalier to nurture their own special fruit tree.  Please send pictures if you have them, we can all learn from and inspire each other.

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 and she is a Certified Arborist. You can contact her via email at heidibornhorst@gmail.com or at 739-5594.

`Ulu aka Breadfruit, Healthy Food Production for Hawaii

Dear Governor Ige, Famers, and back yard gardeners, do you want to increase local Healthy food production?  Eat more nutritious locally grown safe food?  Breadfruit is one of the best solutions for sustainable Food security, better health, and natural beauty.

Breadfruit aka`Ulu is a beautiful tree with great Cultural significance here in Hawaii, and across the Pacific.  Hawaiians and many other local cultures have a long tradition (including varied recipes and preservation techniques) with breadfruit.

`Ulu has many

healthy body benefits, it is rich in fiber, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and pro-vitamin A carotenoids. It is a “resistant starch”, it does not spike your blood sugar like white rice or white potatoes. If more people ate breadfruit we would cut down on diabetes and other health issues related to refined starch and high sugar diet.

When people tell me they don’t like the taste, I figure they have not had it properly cooked, or it was picked at the wrong time – too green or too ripe.  Yes, the over ripe smashed on the ground ones from an over tall non-pruned tree, are not too ono!

As a Certified Arborist, I recommend keeping backyard trees at a medium height for safe and easy harvesting via careful pruning starting after the first harvest (about three to five years in the ground).

If you have a farm, and a tree climber or cherry picker you can let the tree grow larger, but keep in mind, well-managed trees are far more productive.

Ulu or Breadfruit Tree

Ulu is a beautiful and simple tree to grow, harvest and care for. It’s easier to grow, harvest and cook than kalo (taro). There is no need to dig up and replant like root and tuber crops. `Ulu are highly regarded as pest and disease resistant, especially when grown in mixed plantings with other crops and useful plants.

For a number of years I have worked with and learned from Dr. Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute (BFI) of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG).  We have given away over 12,000 keiki trees here in Hawaii and sponsored numerous breadfruit cooking contests. Our local participating chefs and gourmets are so talented and creative.


Chef Sam Choy is one of our amazing and totally giving back to the community Chefs.  For such a famous chef he is so humble, hard-working and just plain fun to partner with. We did the Wai’anae Eat Local Food Challenge, cook off and Breadfruit tree give away with him, Ragone, the Ho’oulu ka ‘Ulu project, and other community partners.

I have participated in numerous Arbor Day breadfruit tree giveaways over the years, these can be  like a feeding frenzy, everybody wants a free tree. Unfortunately not everyone who took a tree actually planted it.

Because our precious `ulu trees are propagated by tissue culture, we decided to make the process of getting one similar to adoption, hoping to attract people committed to and able to grow the trees. We asked people to promise to plant them in the ground within a few months, this gives the family time to make a decision about where in plant and to properly prepare the planting puka (clear away grass and weeds and use compost or stone mulching to make a clear area for the baby tree to thrive).

We utilize social media by sharing pictures and posts to reflect how well the keiki ulu trees are growing and producing healthy ono food.

Mahalo for all those who adopted a tree, keep sharing your feedback and great posts!

Helpful Growing Tips

How to plant:

  • Find a sunny spot away from wires
  • Clear away grass and weeds
  • Use hot mulch to help kill off the grass and weeds
  • Plant the keiki tree
  • Make a ring of mulch
  •  Water daily to establish
  • Replenish the mulch every few month

How to cook:

  • Harvest at mature firm green stage
  • Gently scrub and clean the skin (no need to peel)
  • Oil a big sharp knife
  • Slice ‘ulu into quarters
  • Steam for 20 minutes (or until fork tender)
  • Cool and freeze for future use

Or you can cook to your own liking, I make a simple curry with sautéed onions, garlic and Olena (turmeric).

Please check out the Breadfruit institute page on-line to learn even more about planting, harvesting cooking and the various varieties of ulu that we can grow here in Hawaii.

If you received a tree, please participate in our survey to let us know how your tree is doing.

You can also visit NTBG, they have gardens on Kauai, and Kahanu Garden in Hana that have amazing breadfruit collections for visiting and for inspiration. You can also join and support the NTBG in its important work on our “living library” of valuable trees and plants.

Learn more about when fruit is ready to harvest and how to handle in the Breadfruit Production Guide by Elevitch, Ragone, and Cole. 2014.  Available free   Download: http://ntbg.org/breadfruit/resources/cms_uploads/Breadfruit_Production_Guide_web_edition_2014.pdf or http://hawaiihomegrown.net/breadfruit-publications

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.