By Heidi Bornhorst
Working at the Honolulu Zoo, we were helping move and relocate plants for the community gardens from behind the zoo on Paki, to a new garden on Leahi and Paki. As we were helping the (unhappy) gardeners, I heard Victorino Acorda, one of our best Gardeners and true plantsman exclaim in delight!
‘Pandan wangi! Makes the rice taste so good Heidi! I’ve been looking for this plant since I moved here from the PI!’
He was almost crying; he was so happy!
Then the other day I was stuck in morning traffic on Mo`oheau St in Kapahulu. To amuse myself I looked closely at gardens along the street. There was a really nice garden with a southeast Asia flavor. First, I noticed nice clumps of lemon grass and some healthy papaya trees.
What was the clumping bright green plant in front of the lemon grass? PANDAN WANGI!
So attractive in this landscape design and so useful.
We have it growing in the southeast Asian plant section at Ho’omaluhia Botanic Garden. One year it was a featured plant at our plant sale, and we hope to feature it again once we can open up our gardens safely once again.
It is fairly easy to grow. You can divide the clump and make new plants.
Those who know this plant usually just call it pandan. There are many ways you can cook with it.
Some call Pandan, the Vanilla of the east, or the vanilla of Southeast Asia.
You can boil with whole leaves and combine them with other ingredients. You can wrap foods in them and then cook them (like we do with Ti leaves).
If you’re handy with your blender, grind some fresh leaves with water and then freeze the juice in a mold or ice cube tray and use it for drinking or cooking later.
You could also add it to GREEN SMOOTHIES
Some just buy a bottle of pandan paste. Lexi had some from Singapore, she had it quite a while I smelled it and then read the label. It smelled really ono. The ingredients not so much.
How do we make it from the fresh leaves that we can grow in our Gardens?
You can just chop it up and add to the rice pot as you cook your rice.
You can make tea with the leaves. You can add your favorite tea like jasmine to the pot. Pour hot water over both and let steep for Five minutes.
I made some with just hot water, poured over and steeped over leaves. it tasted ok
On 9 28 21 trying strip leaves lengthwise in 3s, add Olena and ginger powders, and three mamaki leaves, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or so. It Smells really good!
There are lots of Creative and Foodie things you can do with pandan:
• Twist the leaves into Roses like we do with Ti leaves
• Little cups for deserts
• You can make green smoothies with it
• Pandan Chicken and Pandan Rice
• Grilled Fish stuffed with Pandan are just a few recipes that are popular.
And many desserts, variously featuring coconut milk, and various sugars like palm sugar.
If you look online there are lots of recipes, some quite layered and complex. Some really pretty drinks and you insert a leaf tip to give it that final Flare of Gourmet Drink décor.
It gives the dish a lovely green color and subtle flavor.
I took some in mixed arrangement as a hostess gift for Lexi Hada and Barney Robinson. One of their guests, Teua from the Cook Islands admired it, drew it out of the arrangement and sniffed it.
As he ran his hands over the glossy thornless leaves, we talked about it. He recognized it as a Pandanus, or HALA relative but NO THORNS! We all wondered how it would be for weaving.
The Latin name, Pandanus amaryllifolius refers to this. The growth is much like a hala, but the leaves are soft and shiny with no thorns.
Besides being ONO, it’s a very attractive garden accent or spotlight plant in your garden.
I also like it as an exciting and exotic foliage element in a Tropical Flower arrangement.
We plan to feature it at a Future Covid 19 safe FOHBG plant sale.
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 !
By Heidi Bornhorst
Citrus grow well in our Hawaii gardens, trees come in all shapes and sizes. Many people ask me for smaller fruit trees, or even shrubs and finger lime fits this to a T!
One fun one that I first heard about and got to sample while visiting gardens on Hawaii island (a few years ago) with fellow horticulturist Erin Lee is the finger lime.
It is so Fun to eat! Cut open a ripe one and just squeeze it out like wasabi paste ! Fun for keiki to learn about, grow and eat more healthy fruit.
The little fruitlets inside can be white, green, or pink. The skin of the fruit as well as the insides, comes in different colors.
So pretty and decorative for your Holiday table, whatever the Holiday is! Let’s celebrate being alive and learning to grow and eat new things from our own gardens !
And sharing with friends and neighbors!
Amazing at your next gourmet potluck! (when it safe to have a pa`ina). Imagine pairing it with home made sushi ! or on fish, or in drinks
Lee suggests growing it in a large decorative ceramic pot in full sun. Once it’s growing vigorously, you can shape it as a standard or into a topiary on your sunny lanai or party patio !
It came to us from Australia, a land of many wonderful and unusual plants.
Scientists call it Citrus australasica and it is in the Rutaceae or Citrus Family. It is also sometimes called “caviar lime”.
It is a rambling, very thorny, under-story shrub or small tree, from lowland, subtropical rain-forests, and dry rain-forests in the coastal border region of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.
Happily, we are now growing finger limes in Hawai’i. We need to grow more of them and test varieties and find out which are best for our micro-climates.
The shrub is variable in height and its leaves and mixed in with thorns. Buds are purple, petals are white . The flowers are tiny . The fruit is cylindrical, 4–8 inches long, sometimes slightly curved, and shaped like a fat finger. Finger limes come in a range of colors, both inside and out
HOW DO YOU EAT IT?
One fun way to prepare eat this fruit is to cut the ends off and use a rolling pin and roll out the small, caviar-shaped vesicles. The fruit caviar can be used wherever you would like a squeeze of citrus. Or just cut and squeeze out the fruitlets like a tube of wasabi paste.
For a fun family pa`ina, have your keiki help you prepare your gourmet fruit platter and let them open and squeeze out the tart juicy insides.
In France they call it “lemon Caviar’ and it commands a very high price in Gourmet restaurants. They must grow them in greenhouses there.
This could be a model for us in Hawaii. A rare, pretty and flavorful gourmet treat sold for a good price. We could develop our own varieties that do thrive here.
This is true Horticulture and why the U.H. could sure use a Tropical fruit specialist to help grow our farms and support farmers.
I spoke with amazing ex UH extension agent Jari Sugano. She was growing finger limes as a hedge crop at Waimanalo experimental station. She mentioned how thorny they are.
Clients do ask me for thorny plants to help secure their homes and gardens. This could be a plus for farm security but does make harvesting tricky.
Tree crops are good for the land as they are perennials and you don’t have to work over the soil like with veg crops. This is the concept of permaculture,
Frank Sekiya and Lynn Tsuruda of Frankie’s Fruit Tree Nursery in Waimanalo are growing finger limes. I talked to them about their experience with this interesting citrus fruit.
Douglas Himmelfarb was living at the Marks estate in Nu’uanu and he gave Sekiya some varieties. The California varieties do fruit well in California but not always here in Hawaii.
Some in the field that Sekiya planted got huge, and never bore fruit. Some only a few fruits; Sekiya relates that there is so much variability.
Ken Love, a major Fruit advocate on Hawaii island, gave Sekiya some cuttings, and he say it fruits all year, and it’s the slightly pink one. The outside of the fruit is kind of purple and matures to green, if it gives a little, that’s how you tell its ripe enough to pick, the fruit will have sort of a spongy feel.
We have so many micro-climates and soil types in Hawaii, that we all can experiment with which ones grow and fruit best in our own ecosystem. People have had them in their yards for a while, says Sekiya and some grew well, and yet barely fruited,
They graft finger limes and can also start them from cuttings. Grafting is quicker, but it’s a practice and skill that not many have today. (Something to learn and practice, while we stay safely at home ?!)
Root stocks (the bottom part of the graft) are important. As many people prefer smaller trees, for semi dwarf trees ‘Rubidoux trifoliate’ were advised at one time for their dwarfing effects, but as Tsuruda says, ‘We don’t use the Rubidoux trifoliate anymore since citrus trees grow fairly slowly in Hawaii and are easily pruned’.
‘Heen naran’ is a good root stock. It’s from India, U.H. highly recommends it. It’s Good for most citrus here in Hawaii. The Botanical name for Heen Naran is Citrus lycopersicaeformis. (The fruits of this root stock are small, round, super seedy inside, and look something like a tomato, Lyco is a Latin name referring to tomatoes, as in the healthy lycopene, we’re encouraged to eat more of)
‘Some people like it it for New year’s décor, as the size and shape fits very well on the mochi stack since it’s an inch in diameter. It’s very productive and very seedy’, says Sekiya.
The U.H. has had Trees at Poamoho Experimental Station for 30 years, all grafted with the Heen Naran root stock, which seemed to survive over 30 years while some others were grafted to different root stocks.
Most Citrus of the good, preferred varieties are sweet all year not only summer. Only the pummelo seems to be sweeter in summer than in winter.
Sekiya says that Tristeza virus is what can weaken and kill Citrus trees, the root stock helps them be stronger and more resistant and vigorous. Life of a citrus is 20-30 years here in general, and with heen naran maintains good growth.
Sekiya as Chef, says he just put some finger limes on fish the other night, ‘on salmon and saba, and says that it tastes really good and adds some crunch!’.
Some people put it in beer, and it doesn’t dissolve like limes so at end you have these fish egg like things to chew on’.
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?
- Fine leaved legumes like Kiawe
- 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:
- Food plants
- Rare Hawaiian banana variety that is struggling
- Rare gingers
- `Ohi`a lehua
- Palapalai ferns
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Spray them, and the whole plant with water before you pick
- Take the buds and pua inside and rinse them
- If they have thrips, drip soapy water on them or dunk them in soapy water
- Let the bugs get smothered by the soap for a few minutes
- Then rinse them off
- Cut or pull off lower leaves
- Display them in Deep, cool water in a vase
- Change the water daily
- Rinse the stems and recut the base
- Put the gardenia flowers back in cool fresh water
- 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!”
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.
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.