Proper maintenance of gardens is key to success


A recent drive around the island with visiting friends helped me see the beauty of our island through their eyes. At the same time, they pointed out how some landscaping appeared to be tattered and deteriorated. Many palms along the Kona Coast seemed to be dying. Lawns were brown and coffee trees wilted. I defended our island by letting them know that we had an extremely dry year in 2012 and we were still in the throws of one of the worst droughts in years. In reality, that was an excuse for a lot of home and commercial landscapes that simply were not being properly maintained. Some commercial sites seem to be trying to save dollars by shutting off water and even cutting down shade trees.

This might be a short term solution, but in the long run it contributes to the deterioration of our environment. This is important because we depend on the beauty of our communities to attract visitors and enhance our lives.

We are fortunate that there are several opportunities to connect with folks who make it a point to beautify our lives through landscaping. The Outdoor Circles, University of Hawaii Master Gardeners and especially the Hawaii Island Landscape Association or HILA are making great efforts to keep Hawaii clean, green and beautiful. On Friday, March 1, from 5-7:30 p.m., HILA is having a members and potential members program at Kukio Kona’s Kaupulehu Interpretive Center.

The program will focus on the historical, cultural and spiritual aspects of our landscaped environment. Guest speakers are Flynn Baggs and Ka’uhane Morton. This is an opportunity to network with other folks who are creating and maintaining the green life around us. To make reservations, call HILA president, Chris McCullough at 808 938-3695 no later than today. You will also have a chance to see the beautiful transformation from lava desert to urban forests at Kukio and Hualalai resorts.

HILA is part of the “green industry” that plants and beautifies homes, hotels, golf courses, roadways and parks. One of their concerns is that so many wonderful landscapes have been lost due to lack of proper maintenance. With that in mind, I also recently flew to the Honolulu airport and drove around the island through Waikiki. It was sad to see that much of the beautiful landscaping at the airport and along the highway to town had noticeably deteriorated. However, the new landscaping going into downtown and Waikiki had been greatly improved. Waikiki has really had a tropical landscape facelift. It was impressive and gives visitors and residents alike a reason to visit Waikiki and appreciate the beauty created.

So when you take a close look at your garden, neighborhood and community, remember that proper maintenance is a key factor. Spend some time to redesign the landscape where necessary but never forget to take loving care of what you have created.

Now let’s look at what you might do to make life a little more beautiful this spring. Put a little frosting on the cake by using colorful annuals. A list of the popular garden annuals of today reads like a page from the past— coleus, impatiens, geraniums. But when you start talking varieties, they are as modern as today.

New coleus plants, for instance, are a far cry from the tall, spindly, dull coleus most of us remember. Plant breeders have developed varieties with improved form and a wide range of color combinations that add color and texture to shady areas.

Grandmother’s begonias, too, left something to be desired. Today, thanks to intensive breeding efforts, fibrous-rooted begonias have come out of hiding.

Originally a shade-loving plant, they can now be grown in sun as well as shade.

How about impatiens? Today’s hybrid varieties are giving petunias a run for their money as the leading flowering annual across the country. This is due mostly to the development of large-flowered, compact varieties. And to the great show they make in shady areas.

And geraniums! With the advent of hybrid geraniums, you can expect this popular Mother’s Day and Memorial Day plant to emerge as a true garden perennial, performing well, even through the heat of summer and cool of winter.

Available as small plants in packs, they can be used in mass plantings without straining the budget.

Petunias, too, have come a long way from Grandma’s garden. Still the leading flowering annual for dry conditions, petunias are one of the most versatile and colorful plants available to the average gardener. Planted en masse, in hanging baskets, tubs, window boxes, in a choice of colors to complement any decor, they are hard to beat where conditions are dry and hot.

Annuals have added color to our gardens for generations, but in Hawaii, we are not limited to these alone.

For us, the sky is the limit. Take a drive through our island communities. One thing I noticed in Waikiki was the use of bromeliads. Often used as air plants, bromeliads may be a tropical substitute for flowering annuals.

If you like colorful plants that don’t require a lot of attention, you are missing a bet if you don’t consider the bromeliads.

This group of plants has been popular in Europe and South America for years. In mainland America, interest in the bromeliads has been limited to houseplant or interior garden use. In Hawaii, they grow easily outdoors. Many of them are more colorful than orchids and their leaves and plant forms are interesting at all times.

There are hundreds of different kinds of bromeliads. The most common Hawaiian bromeliad is the pineapple plant.

The bromeliads, as a group, are tropical plants.

But most of those in cultivation can withstand more extremes than orchids. Many bromeliads do best when grown in filtered light, but some varieties may take full sun. When grown in containers they are potted much like epiphytic orchids.

They must not be over watered or the roots and the tip of the plant will decay.

Except for very large plants, nurserymen like to pot them in very small pots, half filled with coarse cinder. These small containers are in turn placed in larger containers so that the top-heavy plants can stand alone.

Both feeding and watering are done mainly through the foliage rather than through the roots. But these plants don’t require much of either. The leaves hold water and for this reason should be potted so that they stand straight up, or nearly so. Fill the crown with water until it runs over.

Fertilize once a month with one of the organic types of fertilizer such as is used on orchids. Or, follow closely directions given by the nurseryman who sells you your plants.

Learning about bromeliads and how to grow them is much easier than growing most annuals. In fact, many types can be attached to trees or grown on the ground in mulch with about as little care as cactus in Arizona. Check around the area for nurseries and garden centers carrying bromeliads. Used as houseplants, attached to trees, or grown as colorful bedding plants, they are plants you can enjoy for years to come when they are properly maintained.

 

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