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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

Silk Road flower show travels historic route

By Heidi Bornhorst

The pink rhododendron is among several plants originating in China that now are grown in Hawai'i.

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THE SILK ROAD

The Garden Club of Honolulu flower show

10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. April 28-29, 1-5 p.m. April 30

Honolulu Academy of Arts

Free

532-8700

www.gchonolulu.org

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Don't miss the Garden Club of Honolulu's The Silk Road flower show, which opens next Friday at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

The exhibits at this competitive event for horticulture and flower arranging are breathtaking and educational. This year's show evokes the days of Marco Polo, when traders' caravans headed west along the Silk Road, traveling from Ch'ang-an (modern Xian) to the Black and Mediterranean seas. In exchange for desired silks from China, traders returned laden with exotic products.

In addition to the The Silk Road flower and plant display, there is a photography exhibition by elementary school students and the Founders Fund display.

Agricultural products once traded along the Silk Road can be found in Hawai'i today. For example, silk-worm caterpillars eat the mulberry plant's leaves to produce their precious threads. This legacy plant, found in Hawai'i gardens, is just one example of the Chinese heritage of economically important plants. You can read the history of this plant in the exhibition's educational section.

Incoming garden club president Moira Knox and her volunteer team have been learning the plants' histories and uses as they prepare for the flower show and education exhibits.

Knox says the process has been fascinating. Research included visits to Chinatown herbalists and drying Hawai'i-grown plants and herbs for remedies that herbologists taught them. For example, different parts of bamboo, lotus, honeysuckle and chrysanthemum flowers can be used for medicinal purposes; on show will be 20 samples of herbs used by the Chinese in Hawai'i.

"We're trying to make it like all one shop that has everything. We will have a part of the store dedicated to herbs, a section on silk and then live plant materials that are found here in Hawai'i that originated in China. Plants like narcissus, chrysanthemums, rhododendrons, and many kinds of citrus all came to us from China," Knox said. (The staff are waiting eagerly to see if the narcissus will bloom at this time of year they are usually a New Year plant in Hawai'i gardens.)

For all you water gardeners, lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), with its gorgeous textural leaves, will be on display. Lotus is used for food, herbs and medicine; flower arrangers love its fragrant blossoms and intricate seed pods.

Garden-club plant labels will include all the relevant languages: English, Latin and Cantonese, one of the common languages of Chinatown.

Heidi Bornhorst is a sustainable landscape consultant. Submit questions to islandlife@honoluluadvertiser.com or Island Life, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802. Letters may be published or distributed in print, electronic or other forms.