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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 15, 2010

Color-bursting trees trumpet springtime in Islands

By Heidi Bornhorst

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A flowering trumpet tree is seen along the freeway. Trumpet trees were first brought to the Islands by plant propagator Paul Lee and have since been planted widely across the island.

Gay Kim Midkiff photo

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Foster Botanical Garden's Spring Plant Sale is coming up, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 29 at the garden, 180 N. Vineyard Blvd.; 537-1708.

Admission to the garden is free during the sale, garden tours will be offered, and the selection will be wide: native Hawaiian plants and ferns, including young hāpu'u (seldom available) from native Hawaiian fern grower Kay Lynch; terrariums; lotus; air plants; orchids; heliconia; gingers (including Dancing Girl gingers); drought-tolerant succulents; plants suitable for apartment living; loose and mounted tillandsias and bromeliads; ti plants; anthurium (20-plus varieties); even worms, worm bins and vermicast.

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It's spring all over Hawai'i, and the flowering trees are just going off. As you drive around town, the colors of new spring trees are everywhere.

Lots of readers have been e-mailing and writing about the marvelous gold, silver and purple trumpet trees along our streets, freeways and near our public schools. Many of these are in the plant genus Tabebuia.

Tabebuia trees of many species grow in Foster Botanical Garden. Harold Lyon, the akamai botanist, orchidist and first director of the garden, thought these were ideal for Hawai'i. Tabebuia are native to dry and monsoon climates of central and South America, and they are a pretty asset in our flowering gardens.

Many of the trees originally planted still grow in Foster Botanical Garden, and are majestically in bloom at this time of year. Come check them out. You can even see some of them from the freeway. (Try look at them on Google Earth!)

Paul Weissich, director emeritus of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, told me how Lyon promoted trumpet trees at the site and also how they came to be planted widely around the island. Credit plant propagator Paul Lee, who worked at Foster Botanical Garden, then became horticulturist for the Department of Education. Lee collected seeds from the garden to grow trumpet trees at our schools. He wanted tough, pretty trees, and the Tabebuia were an ideal selection.

Many of these trees now grace public schools all over Hawai'i.

Central Intermediate School has some deep purple trumpet trees, and readers ask me about them every year. They are not too big, but the purple just grabs your eye as you go along Vineyard Boulevard.

Roosevelt High School has purple and lavender trumpet trees in at least three different shades. We planted them for Arbor Day when I was a student there, back in 1975. You can see them as you go along Nehoa Street.

Lee, who first brought the trumpet trees to Island schools, was part Hawaiian, played a mean 'ukulele and was a good singer too. Weissich said Lee was always a big hit at Foster garden Christmas parties and other pā'ina.

Gardening must run in the family: One of the best gardeners and tree trimmers at the Hale Koa Hotel is George Cadd the grandson of Paul Lee.