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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Yellow ginger, usually pau by now, going strong

By Heidi Bornhorst

Yellow ginger is still in bloom! My friend Larry Smith in Manoa had it in a vase in his gourmet kitchen and blooming all over his classic hillside garden. He was asking us if it was normal, and we all thought not, but we were happy to pick and enjoy the fragile blossoms.

Yellow ginger is in bloom along Nu'uanu Pali. As you come out of the tunnel heading down into Kailua, there is a big patch in full flower on the right, just past the waterfall. I never noticed it while I was driving, but my husband was driving the other day as we headed over to see our friends' garden in Maunawili.

This sure is late for ginger to be in bloom. Our fragrant white-and-yellow gingers, native to Asia, bloom well in the longer days of summer. Usually by this time of year they are pau, with flower stalks withering, waiting to rest for the winter.

I also noticed the pretty baby wood rose flowers along the highway, festooning the trees around lower Auloa Road and Kalaniana'ole Highway. Wild sugar cane (Saccharum spontanaieum) in the swampy horse pasture below was also in bloom. The silvery tassels waving in the wind were a pretty sight. Check out these sights from the bus (a great view) or when you are lucky enough to be a car passenger.

Our friends bemoaned the state of their garden, but I found it quite nice and filled with landscape potential. One really nice spot of "borrowed" landscape that they have is a green-painted, hollow-tile wall (big improvement over concrete grey) with a flourishing bed of dwarf parakeet heliconia, Heliconia psittacorum, set against the green wall. Spilling over from the neighbor's landscape was a deep-magenta and a vivid-orange bougainvillea.

These colors went very well with the parakeet heliconias and made a festive holiday display for their Thanksgiving pa'ina. Other "borrowed" views were the lovely Ko'olau in the background, steep, lush and verdant with native uluhe fern.

The soil in this garden is poor, with compacted red clay. Organic material can improve this, but it's interesting to note that the parakeet heliconia and the pua kenikeni tree were both doing fab in the acidic soil.

Parakeet heliconias are very sensitive to soil and acidity, or pH. This plant usually looks lousy near the beach and in sandy soil. You baby and fertilize it and it never looks quite right. But in this "junky" soil, the colors of the foliage and flowers were deep green and vibrantly colored.