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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 21, 2007

Nasty storms actually do some good for your plants

By Heidi Bornhorst

How's your weather? Strange? Wild kona winds? Lots of rain and wind? Some people now want to cut down everything. Big trees are scary, right?

Actually, trees are very strong and well-rooted if we care for them in an akamai manner. Trees that got topped or whacked or had their roots cut and cement poured around them? Some of those fell over in the storms. Trees that were topped and had a lot of water sprouts and weak growth? Those failed in the wind. For lots of trees, the dead wood came out, and we all saved time and money.

Some nasty pests were also blown and blasted away by the winds and rain. I hope to see some of the last of the papaya mealy bugs on plumeria and hibiscus. The plumeria were ready to do the fall/winter dormancy leaf-drop anyway, and the winds and rain just helped the process.

Plumeria are native to Mexico and beloved by old-time kama'aina gardeners, lei makers and fragrance lovers. We have many wonderful Hawai'i hybrids. So rake up those fallen leaves, and the pests will be gone.


Has anyone noticed, once again, that odd things are in bloom? We have white, yellow and hybrid apricot fragrant gingers still blooming. I couldn't believe my eyes, but my nose told me the truth when I found a flowering kiele, or Chinese double gardenia.

Gardenias that we bought a few months ago from a really good nursery continue to bloom, too. The "horticulture magic" that we do for this is to prepare the soil well (mix in coarse cinder and organics) and try to plant them by a security or night-light. This makes them "think" its still the long, warm days of summer, and they keep blooming.

'Ohi'a lehua in all their color variations seem to be blooming early. Red, yellow and orange flowered varieties, with myriad kinds of liko (the new leaf buds) are gorgeous in gardens, as well as for hair adornment and special-occasion lei.


I love poinsettias in pots for decorating and giving this time of year, and did you know that the old-fashioned kind make tall, red epic hedges? You can still find these in older gardens; ask for a cutting in the New Year and grow one of your own. It's nice to perpetuate these older varieties.

Its sounds odd, but purple crown flower, Queen Emma spider lilies or crinum, and recycled poinsettias, make a very cheerful, colorful, free-flowing hedge for winter in Hawai'i. They all do best in full sun, with good air circulation.

A nice garden combination is red poinsettias with red or orange shrimp plant. The colors are nice and cheerful together, and both plants are tough, needing little care.

The white poinsettia (Euphorbia leucocephala) is very pretty, planted in combination with the shiny green leaves and pure white followers of our native na'u or Gardenia brighamii. Tiare or Tahitian gardenia is epic for those near the beach with sandy soil.

As always, gardeners are the easiest to shop for during the holidays. Buy us a nice plant, an orchid, poinsettia, herb or native Hawaiian plant, increasingly well-grown by local nurseries. We like garden supplies, nice clippers from Japan or Germany, or a nice pair of garden gloves. Long-reach gripper pole pruners for us short girls with tall flowering plants, or a good new Hawai'i-based garden book work, too.

Visit your garden shop, nursery or neighborhood farmers market, and support your local growers and farmers. What a green and glowing Hawaiian Christmas we will have!

Mahalo, faithful gardener readers, I do love the gift of writing Hawai'i Gardens.

Heidi Bornhorst is a sustainable-landscape consultant. Send questions to: Island Life, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Hono-lulu, HI 96802; or islandlife@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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