Tuberoses for our friendship garden

By Heidi Bornhorst

The fragrance of tuberose! One of my Mother’s favorites, as a lei of tuberose and yellow roses are what my dad got her for their simple wedding ceremony. She also loved the smell of pineapple, because my dad gifted her with those too!

I like them in a lei, combined with other flowers like roses, carnations or orchids.

Florists carry this fragrant lei and if you grow your own, imagine what flowers from your garden you can combine with tuberose?

It’s an old-fashioned flower.

We used to grow a lot of them here in Hawaii. When I worked at Evergreen nurseries in Waimanalo, in 1978, one of my friends there, was working a second job, harvesting tuberose.

Her name was Estralita, and she was from the PI and recently married.  I think her new family really made her work hard!  At two jobs and at home.  She said they harvested in the dark using headlamps.

She told me that her named meant “star” and how appropriate that she worked at night when the stars came out!

She taught me the saying ‘Mabuhay las Philippinas !!’  Long life to Filipino women!

I wonder what happened to her, as she was kind, nice FUN and hardworking.

Tuberoses remind me of her, and I say a special prayer for her happiness. 

I got some from Estralita back then and grew it in our family garden in Makiki.  It did well for a while and even sent up a flower spike.  But then it got a very bad infestation of mealy bugs.  I treated it but they were too severe, and the plant died. I was sad.

Maybe tuberose does not like Makiki black sand as a potting media? Or it needs cooler conditions. Time to do some research and find out!

​The other day I got an email from my friend Ruth Fujita, another great gardener.

She was offering us, her Budleys, tuberose bulbs. She had a big plant and dug it up, dried out the bulbs a bit and had some to share with da girls.

So, Rachel Morton and I went up there, after a visit to Foster garden to see the Triennial art exhibit.

Ruth shared how she got the tuberose bulbs:

Our niece Tia C. had gone traveling.  She needed omiyage for her epic Aunt Ruth and so in the airport she bought a bulb in a package.

Ruth grew them and was now sharing them with Lynne, Cheryl, Doris Susan Young, Annie, and me and Rachel.

Such an epitome of the Friendship Garden: Grow something with love (and good horticulture!) and then share it with your friends.

With rare plants, this is a Botanic Gardenconcept: Share it and keep good records. If yours dies, you know right where you can get a replacement.

With plants of sentiment like this tuberose, its mainly sharing the wealth and the stories.  But it will be epic for us all to see them grow and Bloom!

People call it a bulb but the roots are actually a rhizome (just like our fragrant gingers)

Fragrant, showy flowers in the late, HOT summertime lead many to plant tuberose bulbs. The scientific name is Polianthes tuberosa, and it also called the Polyanthus lily. It is in the Lily family, LILIACEAE.

Florists and nurseries sometimes “force” tuberose to bloom year round with artificial lighting.  

Tuberose has a strong and enticing fragrance makes it a popular plant in our Hawaii gardens. Clusters of large white blooms form on stalks that can reach 4 feet (1 m.) in height and rise from grass-like clumps.

Tuberose was discovered by explorers in Mexico as early as the 1500’s.  It was one of the first flowers to be imported to Europe, where it was very popular in Spain. 

It likes well drained, compost enriched soil.  It likes FULL SUN especially hot afternoon sun (which not all plants do) 

Plant them 2-3” deep.

In cold regions they dig out the roots in winter.  In Hawaii we can dig them out hand let them rest but not for too long or they will dry out.

There are single and double flowered varieties and now we are seeing them in different colors like yellow and pale pink.

Pandan Wangi

By Heidi Bornhorst

Pandanus amaryllifolius
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.
 

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.