Articles and Publications

The following articles are reproduced from the originals, which are featured in West Hawai’i Today and the Hawaii Tribune Herald weekly.

Revisiting New Year’s Resolutions in the Garden – By Norman C. Bezona

My New Year’s resolutions included seeing “our creator’s hand in all things.” With war and natural disasters, it has not been easy, but I find that it is possible when I take the time to meditate in the garden. Many lessons can be learned by taking time to observe nature, beauty and harmony in the quiet of the garden setting. Take for example, studying what some folks might call a weed.

A weed is sometimes defined as any plant growing in the wrong place. Perhaps an even better definition is that a weed is a plant for which we have not found a use. Just like there is no such thing as a bad baby, there is no such thing as a bad plant. It is just that we haven’t yet figured out why it exists. Unfortunately, we sometimes find that the plants are used in an inappropriate manner.

Then they may be referred to as weeds. Examples of this are the tobacco plant, digitalis and even certain mushrooms. These plants can be used as medicines or poisons. So it is not that the plant is bad, it is that we have misused it. The digitalis plant may be used to poison someone or in the proper amount, it may be used to saves lives.

A banyan tree in the park is great, but when one sprouts up in your roof gutter, it’s a weed. Weeds in lawns are usually the result of poor management. Lawns injured by insects, fungus or nematodes will readily become infested with weeds. Improper mowing, watering and fertilization will lead to a weedy lawn. So, don’t blame the weeds for a poor lawn.

They are often just a symptom of improper maintenance practices. When it comes to turf, high quality, weed-free cuttings or seed, properly established, is important. Using soil that is not infested with perennial weeds like nut sedge or torpedo grass is also a basis for preventing weeds in a new lawn. After that, proper management practices that result in a dense, vigorous turf will aid in preventing weeds. Once weeds get established in lawns, they are difficult to control. Product availability is changing so fast with pesticide misuse concerns that it is difficult to make general recommendations.

Check with your local garden shop or call the Master Gardener Helpline for specific problems. Just like the three “R’s” of learning, we find some very important “R’s” related to the application of herbicides: the right material, at the right time, in the right amount, applied in the right way. Understanding all the instructions of an herbicide label to be sure it will control your specific problem without injuring your plants is as vital as using the right amounts. Safety margins may be smaller than you think.

To apply pesticides in the right way, you must choose equipment that will give proper coverage. Spray jars that attach to your garden hose are good where you need to apply nutritional sprays, fungicides or insecticides to the lawn or garden. However, with weed killers, it’s better to use a small 2- to 3-gallon tank sprayer because hose attachments are not accurate enough. If you end up having to pull weeds by hand, smile. Let’s take a positive approach to weeds.

Plants we often label as weeds are usually types that appear wherever the soil has been disturbed. It is nature’s way to heal wounds caused by landslides, fire and humans. These pioneer species grow rapidly and often compete with what we may consider more desirable species. They mature large quantities of seed, and are often difficult to control.

Weeds are often described as undesired plants, plants growing out of place or plants that are a nuisance. Both the characteristics and the definitions of weeds emphasize that they are plants closely related to man. They come and go as man or his animals disturb the soil. Just as man has traveled and dominated the land, so have these species benefited from his activities.

Because of their origin so close to the activities of man, many weeds have been discovered to be edible or medicinal and indeed are used by diverse cultures throughout the world. So when you go out to pull weeds, don’t forget they could be for dinner. For example, one of our most common weeds is the Spanish Needle. The young shoots may be boiled and used as a vegetable dish, in salads or stews.

The leaves may also be dried and cooked later. A close relative is the Kookoolau which was used by Hawaiians as a healing tea. It is again gaining popularity and may be found at some health food stores. Many grasses are edible, especially the rapidly growing sprout or shoot of larger growing types such as bamboo.

The common purslane or portulaca has leaves and tender shoots that can be eaten raw. They are often used in salads or cooked as a spinach dish. Dandelions and nasturtiums also add to tasty salads. The familiar cattails of swampy areas are a source of several kinds of food. The starchy tubers are edible as young flower spikes. Young leaves are also eaten.

There are more than 100 edible plants we refer to as weeds. Local kahuna, kupuna and some folks who have recently migrated from Asia and Mexico really know a lot about edibles and medicinals that we think of as weeds, so tap their knowledge where possible.


Longer Days Mean Active Plant Growth and Time to Fertilize – by Norman C. Bezona

Recent rains all over the Big Island have made conditions ideal for applying fertilizer. Hawai’i really doesn’t have a winter, but plant growth tends to slow as days get shorter and cooler. Now, longer days and rains are causing active growth. This brings about heavy flowering in most gardens.

Our native trees like ohia, and alahee are beginning to bloom as well. Even Kona coffee, macadamia, avocado, citrus and other fruiting trees are beginning to bloom. Plumeria, shower trees, orchid trees and many others should follow soon. But remember, you don’t get something for nothing. If plants are too hungry, they don’t perform as well, nor do they easily recover from stress.

Active growth requires a good supply of nutrients to assure abundant crops and healthy plants. So if you have not applied fertilizer recently, now is an important time. As a general rule, established plantings should receive fertilizer every three to four months. However, it is helpful to have a soil analysis done to give a more accurate picture of what the plants need. For a soil analysis, bring about one pound of soil, without rocks, to the nearest University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service office and it will be sent to Honolulu for testing.

Presently there is a nominal charge. There are also private labs that can analyze soil in a shorter time. The basic soil analysis will test for calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and pH. The tests may show your soil is too acid and needs lime. The term lime usually refers to calcium carbonate. This is what makes up crushed coral and dolomite.

Dolomite is also composed of magnesium carbonate and is the material of choice where magnesium is deficient. When soil is too acid, plants do not respond to fertilizers as well. There may even be some dieback if conditions are severe. Some soils require as much as two tons of liming material per acre if conditions are very acid. Acid soils are found most frequently in high rainfall areas along the east side of the island.

Dry areas like South Kohala may actually be quite alkaline with high calcium levels. Materials referred to as top soil may be too alkaline or too acid, so it is best to ask about the source of the material and its analysis. The ideal pH of the soil should be slightly acid for most plants, but common gardenia, hibiscus, ixora, hydrangea and azaleas prefer an acid soil. If planted in soils high in calcium, they will suffer from nutrient deficiencies.

This often shows up as chlorosis or lack of chlorophyll development in the leaves. Some plants prefer an alkaline soil. These include most plants found growing along the coast like coconuts, Tahitian gardenia and naupaka. For folks who want to have luxuriant landscapes and gardens, here are some additional fertilizer tips. Be sure not to over fertilize, nor wait too long between applications. Of course, the correct amount to use depends on the formula.

The higher the formula, the less should be used. A formula that contains the three major fertilizer elements — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium — in a 1-1-1 ratio is a common one that is sufficient for many uses. For example, you might use a 16-16-16 or 14-14-14 or 8-8-8 for shrubs and other ornamentals. Use according to directions on the label.

Most ornamentals and fruit trees should be fertilized three to four times a year. For the lawn, turf specialists usually suggest enough fertilizer to give one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. The formulation used for grasses and their relatives like bamboo is usually high in nitrogen such as a 21-7-14, 16-6-8 and 28-3-5. The first number in the formula represents nitrogen.

The number of applications per year depends on type and grass and soil. Centipede grass does well with two or three applications, but hybrid Bermuda may need six to 12 applications if you want a golf course quality lawn.

“Weekend farmers” are sometimes confused by the vast array of fertilizer brands and formulas available. However, most plants are not so specific in their nutritional needs that they can’t use and thrive on the same or similar fertilizer mixtures. The numbers represent the percent of nutrients in a bag.

Some folks are upset when their garden supply dealers suggest a 10-30-10, 18-5-12, 20-10-10 or some other formula than a 1-1-1 ratio fertilizer. Plants will respond about the same for 18-6-12 as they will for 16-16-16. However, the middle number, phosphorus, is sometimes locked up in certain types of soils and is not available to plants.

Phosphorus is the element that encourages strong roots and cell development. Homeowners who use lots of fertilizer containing phosphorus may over a long period of time build up too much in the soil. They would do better to use a low phosphorus fertilizer, if it has been supplied year after year in high amounts. This is especially critical when fertilizing plants in the protea family like macadamia trees.

Excess phosphorus in the soil can be toxic and will actually cause a condition referred to as phosphorus-induced iron deficiency. A formulation high in phosphorus and potassium like 2-8-10 has less nitrogen than most other formulations and has a tendency to stimulate flowering and fruiting of many plants. This type is commonly referred to as “bloom aid” or “fruit trees special.”

These are best for bougainvillea and citrus. If for example, you use a high nitrogen fertilizer on citrus, you may get few flowers and fruit. The fruit will often be puffy and dry. A 21-7-14 or 28-3-5 is quite high in nitrogen and has a tendency to stimulate leaf development. This type is often used on ornamental shrubs, trees and grasses.

The elements magnesium, manganese, zinc and iron are also important and should be included in some fertilization program. Organic and other slow-release sources of nutrients seem to have added benefits, since they last longer and do not over stimulate growth that is as susceptible to insect and disease. Check out these types at your local garden shop or nursery.

The soil should be moist when fertilizer is applied, and the fertilizer should be watered in immediately after application. Also, care should be taken to ensure that the fertilizer material is applied broadcast over the entire root zone of the plant. Allowing clumps of fertilizer to stand in spots under plants or against the stems may cause excessive burning.

During times of heavy rainfall, an extra application of fertilizer may be necessary, especially in rocky or cinder soils. Organic and slow-release fertilizers generally do not leach out as readily. On the other hand, unless you’re equipped for irrigation, fertilization should be withheld during periods of drought.

Many ornamentals need extra applications of the minor elements, especially ixora, gardenia, citrus and palms. Royal palms, queen palms, loulu, arecas and pygmy date palms in particular need applications of magnesium, zinc and other minor elements each year. Without it, bleached pale green leaves may occur. This is an unnatural condition of the leaves. Remember, the farmer with a real green thumb is the one who knows how to fertilize properly. Top of Page


Have Merry and Wary Holidays this Year – by Norman C. Bezona

It is the season to be jolly, but remember to be wary during the holidays. Drunk drivers and increasing crime require that we take more precautions than back in the good old days. That lesson was amplified this year by my car being robbed on Thanksgiving Day.

I parked in front of my Mom’s house in Kaloko Mauka for lunch and in less than 45 minutes, someone had broken into it and stole some items. When it comes to gardening, be sure to be considerate. Poinsettias especially in Kona are in spectacular color now and may last through March. East Hawaii poinsettias are also making a show, except where heavy rains or soggy soils have done damage.

If you want flowers for the holidays and into the new year for your home and garden, then get plants now. Purchasing potted stock from a garden center or nursery is the easiest way to establish plantings of the holiday ornamental. However, some green thumb operators scavenge the neighborhood for hardwood cuttings when fellow gardeners prune their poinsettias following the flowering season.

Please don’t take them without permission. Getting plants this way can make you feel like a turkey if you are caught stealing or you choose cuttings from disease infected plants. If you get healthy plants, you can be sure to avoid “fowl” play. There are a number of poinsettia colors available. They come in traditional reds or you can enjoy color combinations indoors and in the garden if you mingle the red plantings with white and pink varieties. Since poinsettias supply color through March, mixing plants in the garden will brighten things up for more than just the holiday season.

Poinsettias will grow on a wide range of soils, including sand, rocky soil and clay. In spite of the wide adaptability, the plants will present you a better show of color if you take proper care of them. For best results next year, here are some success tips:

  • In massed beds, fertilizer application is important. An application of fertilizer in August should now be producing vigorous flowering plants. If you haven’t fertilized, use a bloom aid formula low in nitrogen. A light application is best and be sure to water after applying. The plants will need repeat applications of plant food in early spring, again in June and perhaps during mid-summer if there are heavy rains.
  • For best results, prune poinsettias back in late winter or early spring after blooming is over. Cut them back to within 12 to 18 inches of the ground.
  • You’ll find that a compact plant will furnish more color than a plant with few unbranched stalks. To promote a riot of colored bracts, prune the plants several times during the growing season. Nip the new growth back after it is 12 inches long, leaving four leaves on each shoot. Be sure to stop the pruning in early September, because the flowering buds are set in early October.
  • Poinsettias show their color according to the day length and temperature. A plant near a lighted window or a street light often refuses to color up like a neighboring plant in a nearby darker corner. Dreary skies in September and early October will shorten the days causing plants to set buds and flower before the holiday season.
  • You’ll find that temperature is a limiting factor for a good show of flowers. If the night temperatures are much above 70 degrees, bud forming will be retarded. Freak periods of hot weather during this critical time may not permit buds to form at all. The best flower development is when the night temperatures range from 60 to 68 degrees.
  • For plants in your garden, one problem to watch for now are mites. Dryer conditions are ideal for this pest. Spraying with a miticide will take care of the little stinkers. If you want to avoid sprays, sprinkling the leaves daily with the garden hose is helpful. This will also minimize whitefly attacks. Avoid sprinkling in the heat of the day or evening. Plants that go to bed wet often develop fungus problems like powdery mildew. Check with your local garden center to select the right fungicide for this problem.

Poinsettias can be used as cut flowers if the stems are treated to coagulate the milky sap and reduce wilting. As soon as the flowers are cut, immerse the cut ends in hot water for about a minute. Then place them in cold water. Be sure that the steaming water does not damage the bracts.

An alternate method of halting the oozing sap is to singe the cut ends of the stem over a flame for a couple of seconds and then place the stems in cold water. For best results and longer lasting beauty, cut the poinsettias about 18 hours before they are to be used in an arrangement. Store the cut “flowers” in a cool, draft-free place during the waiting stage.

If you want to experiment with this year’s potted plant, don’t toss it out when the last leaf drops. The plant will show brilliant color next Christmas season if you follow these tips:

  • First, store the pot, plant and all, in an out of the way place. This treatment is intended to hibernate the plant during the cool days while the shriveling top feeds the sleeping roots.
  • Only water the plant to keep it from getting bone dry. Avoid giving it fertilizer. Try storing the sleeping plant in the shady corner of the carport.
  • Toward the end of February, tenderly awake the plant by cutting off the dead top. You can grow the new plant in last season’s pot, but the poinsettia will be happier if you set it in the ground where it can flex its roots better than in the confines of a pot. Make sure you plant it where it will get lots of sun and a well-drained soil.

Big Island’s Stone Walls Unique and Historical – by Norman C. Bezona

Good fences make good neighbors goes the saying, and maybe in the old days it was the case. Today, we have so many choices of fencing besides our Hawaiian stone walls that the wrong fence might create all kinds of neighbor problems. It is hard to beat lava stone walls. They always look great, but some kinds of fencing can be unsightly.

Take the case of the two fellows who got into a feud because the chain link fence one put up made the other feel like he was in the county jail. When you think about it, chain link, concrete block and many other fence and wall materials do look kind of harsh. They just don’t give us that luxurious tropical feeling, so here is where vines and hedge materials make ideal landscape additions.

Concrete and chain link make ideal supports for the many types we have available like the red passion flower, jade vine, flame vine Kuhio vine, potato vine, bougainvillea, creeping fig and many others. Vines serve many purposes for the gardener. Take the one that produces egg-like gourds — it’s ideal for the practical joker. Then there is a vine that specializes in dishcloth production, called the luffa.

As food sources, there are chayote and other squash relatives as well as several species of passion fruit. For higher elevations consider kiwi fruit, and climbing roses. Bird lovers like vines because they attract birds and are good nesting locations. Other lovers like the privacy vines give them when sitting on the lanai. Youngsters and young at heart like vines because they harbor geckos and chameleons.

Last but not least, vines are fine because of their attractiveness both in foliage and in flowers. Vines lend contrast and character to landscape plantings. They accentuate architectural lines, especially the closely clinging species. Many of the creepers are adept at introducing color, form and texture onto otherwise uninteresting objects, fences, arbors or non flowering trees.

Avid gardeners say that vines are the best plants to give their homes an air of tropical living by using them to cover passageways or to form patio walls. Ornamental vines, as a group, are well adapted to a wide range of soils. Most of them thrive in sand, clay or rock land, provided plant food and moisture are adequate. Soil preparation is most important in a vine planting project. Time spent improving the soil will produce vigorous plants and possibly have trouble-free care later.

To get a project underway, spread about 4 inches of compost, peat, leaf mold, or well decomposed manure over the area where the vines will be planted. As a topping, sprinkle the area with a balanced slow release fertilizer, and then mix the organic material and soil with a spade. The soil at the base of masonry construction often contains trouble-making lime, paint and other debris, so remove the contaminated soil to a depth of 18 inches.

Replace it with a good soil. Planting season for vines is any time the notion strikes you, provided the vines are small, thrifty, container-grown plants. In planting, dig a hole, which is several times larger than the ball of the earth about the roots. If the plant is in a container, carefully remove the plant without disturbing the roots and settle it in the hole at the same depth it was in the container. Partially fill in around the plant with soil. Water thoroughly. Finish filling the hole and water again.

When two or more vines growing side by side become hopelessly entwined, the effect can indeed be attractive. Vines can complement one another in several different ways: An evergreen vine hides the bareness of a deciduous vine; vines blooming at different seasons extend the flowering season. Vines blooming at the same time can display handsome color contrasts or blends.

There are dozens of tropical vines available here on the Big Island. The Bengal clock vine, with its sky blue or white flowers, the garlic vine, flame vine, bougainvillea, confederate jasmine and philodendrons are just a few. Green jade and red jade vines are rare and spectacular. Check with local nurseries and get acquainted with what is available. If that fence is harsh and ugly, you can screen it with hedge materials as another alternative.

Chain link is relatively inexpensive and can secure an area very nicely. However, large expanses of chain link as we have at the Old Kona Airport Park playground in Kona and many places in Hilo would be much better if screened with a row of clumping palms, hibiscus or other appropriate plants materials. So take a look around your neighborhood. See what can be done to beautify those troublesome and unaesthetic trouble spots. This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.


What’s a weed? Any Plant That’s in the Wrong Place – by Norman C. Bezona

A weed is sometimes defined as any plant growing in the wrong place. Perhaps an even better definition is that a weed is a plant for which we have not found a use. Just like there is no such thing as a bad baby, there is no such thing as a bad plant. It is just that we haven’t yet figured out for what it is good

Unfortunately, we sometimes find the plants are used in an inappropriate manner. Then they may be referred to as weeds. Examples of this are the tobacco plant, digitalis and even certain mushrooms. These plants can be used as medicines or poisons.. So it is not that the plant is intrinsically bad, it is that we have misused it. The digitalis plant may be used to poison someone or in the proper amount, it may be used to saves lives.

My grandmother often used to say that God created all, and it was good. I think she must have read that somewhere. A banyan tree in the park is great, but when one sprouts up in your roof gutter, it’s a weed. Weeds in lawns are usually the result of poor management. Lawns injured by insects, fungus or nematodes will readily become infested with weeds. Improper mowing, watering and fertilization will lead to a weedy lawn. So, don’t blame the weeds for a poor lawn. They are often just a symptom of improper maintenance practices.

When it comes to turf, high quality, weed-free cuttings or seed, properly established is important. Purchasing and using soil that is not infested with perennial weeds like nut sedge or torpedo grass is also a basis for preventing weeds in a new lawn. After that, proper management practices that result in a dense, vigorous turf will aid in preventing weeds.

Once weeds get established in lawns, they are difficult to control. Product availability is changing so fast with pesticide misuse concerns that it is difficult to make general recommendations. Check with your local garden shop or call the Master Gardener Hotline on Thursday mornings at 322-4892 for specific problems. Just like the three “Rs” of learning, we find some very important “Rs” related to the application of herbicides. These “Rs” are: the right material, at the right time, in the right amount, applied in the right way.

Understanding all the instructions of an herbicide label to be sure it will control your specific problem without injuring your plants is as vital as using the right amounts. Safety margins may be smaller than you think. To apply pesticides in the right way, you must choose equipment that will give proper coverage. Spray jars that attach to your garden hose are good where you need to apply nutritional sprays, fungicides or insecticides to the lawn or garden.

However, with weed killers, it’s a better idea to use a small 2-3 gallon tank sprayer. A tank sprayer is vital since hose attachments are not accurate enough. If you end up having to pull weeds by hand, smile. Let’s take a positive approach to “weeds.” Again remember that many of those pesky fellows are actually edible or medicinal? Plants we often label as weeds are usually types that appear wherever the soil has been disturbed. It is nature’s way to heal wounds caused by landslides, fire and humans or their “misadventurous” activities.

These pioneer species grow rapidly and often compete with what we may consider more desirable species. They mature large quantities of seed, and are often difficult to control. Weeds are often described as undesired plants, plants growing out of place, or plants that are a nuisance. Both the characteristics and the definitions of weeds emphasize that they are plants closely related to man.

They come and go as man or his animals disturb the soil. Just as man has traveled and dominated the land, so have these species benefited from his activities. Because of their origin so close to the activities of man, many weeds have been discovered to be edible, or medicinal and indeed are used locally by diverse cultures throughout the world. So when you go out to pull weeds, don’t forget they could be for dinner. For example, one of our most common weeds is the Spanish needle (Bidens pilosa).

The young shoots may be boiled and used as a vegetable dish, used cooked in salads or stews. The leaves may also be dried and cooked later. A close relative is the kookoolau which was used by Hawaiians as a healing tea. It is again gaining popularity and may be found at some health food stores. Many grasses are edible, especially the rapidly growing sprout or shoot of larger growing types. Bamboo is an example.

The common purslane or portulaca has leaves and tender shoots that can be eaten raw. They are often used in salads or cooked as a spinach dish. Dandelions and nasturtiums also add to tasty salads. The familiar cattails of swampy areas are a source of several kinds of food. The starchy tubers are edible as young flower spikes. Young leaves are also eaten. There are more than 100 edible plants we refer to as weeds.

If you are interested in these and other useful plants, check at the local library for “Edible Leaves of the Tropics “by Franklin Martin and Ruth M. Ruberte, Mayaguez Institute of Tropical Agriculture, P.O. Box 70, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 00708. Local kahunas, kupunas and some folks who have recently migrated from Asia and Mexico really know a lot about edibles and medicinals that we think of as weeds, so tap their knowledge where possible. The ‘Rs’ of herbicides

  • Right material
  • Right time
  • Right amount
  • Applied in the right way.

Hawai’i Bamboo Society Making its Mark Here – by Norman C. Bezona

If you are interested in learning about the more than 1,000 species of bamboo found in the tropics and subtropics of the world then get involved with the American Bamboo Society. The Hawai’i Chapter is most active on the Big Island and is making a big impact on landscaping in the decade since its formation.

Most members reside on the Big Island but members on Oahu, Maui and Kauai are educating the public on which of the more than 1,200 species to grow. In the past bamboos have had a bad reputation here, but that was due to the experience folks had with the early bamboo introductions brought from China and Japan.

These were mostly types that are considered invasive running species. Of course in Asia, folks use them for almost everything from food to crafts and construction thus they are of great value. Running bamboos are especially important in erosion control where hardwood forests have been destroyed. When brought to Hawai’i by early sugarcane workers, these soon escaped from camps and covered large areas of disturbed land.

The Bamboo Society has focused on the many non aggressive clumping species that fit well in the tropical landscape. Bamboo nurseries like Quindembo in Waimea and Hale Ohe near Hilo, have introduced more than 100 de-sirable species over the last 10 years and they are beginning to be used all over the island.

I just returned from the annual meeting of the American Bamboo Society along with Big Isle members Kim Higbie and Lenny Lundstrom. The meeting was held at Huntington Gardens, Calif. Members from all over the country requested that Hawai’i have the 2006 annual meeting in Hawaii since it is the best place in the United States for growing bamboos.

Kim Higbie of Hale Ohe nursery will be chairing the event which will probably be held in October 2006 on the Big Isle. If you want to get into bamboo sooner, then be sure and attend the Big Bamboo Show and Plant Sale to be held Saturday at the Holualoa Imin Center in Kona. There will be society members there to help you select the right species for your needs.

If you are inter-ested in a booth related to bamboo, or for further information call Kim Higbie at 963-6882. There are hundreds of species of bamboo. Some are only a few inches high and some well over 100 feet tall. Most folks in Hawai’i are familiar with bamboo in several forms. We eat bamboo shoots in many local dishes. We use bamboo tools and utensils.

We may even have bamboo furniture in our homes. Unfortunately, most bamboo used in Hawai’i is still imported from Asia. Aside from a few species used as garden ornamentals or erosion control, we see little else. In many part of Asia, bamboo is essential in everyday life. Confucius was reported to say that man can live without meat but he would die without bamboo.

Traveling in Asia, one becomes very aware of bamboo used in a thousand ways, especially house construction. Homes are built with it as are bridges, fences, rafts, farm sheds and animal shelters. Bamboo welcomes the newborn with a crib and carries the dead in a coffin. Until recently, we have had very few of the hundreds of useful species available in Hawai’i.

Our common Gold Striped Bamboo is susceptible to rot and insect damage so is not usually used for crafts or construction. However, when properly harvested and cured, it can be used even to make furniture. The keys to success are using the right species, proper har-vesting and preserving techni-ques and, of course, designing, engineering and constructing in an appropriate manner.

Presently there few building codes that allow for the use of bamboo, except for flooring material and plybamboo. If you want to build a house entirely of bamboo as is done in Asia, the present codes would not allow it. Several architects are working with building depart-ments to make the necessary changes. On Maui the superior species of bamboo are now allowed in construction.

Even without a change in codes, the building department does allow farm and garden structures, as well as fences. Of course, bamboo may also be used in the home as long as it is not a structural element. Some of the best clumping species for construction include Guadua angustifolia, Dendrocalamus asper, D. brandisii, D. strictus, D. latiflorus, D. membranaceus, Bambusa bambos, and B. oldhami.

These bamboos all have common names but they are in native dialects so are more confusing than the Latin names. Unlike our local Golden Stripe Bamboo, which is of poor construction quality, the species mentioned above are notable for their insect and disease resistance as well as the strength of the culms. Most are also utilized for their edible shoots.

Even though the species used for construction are tough, it is still important to follow time tested rules to harvest and cure the culms for best service. For information on grow- ing and proper harvesting, be sure to get connected to the Bamboo Society through the Bamboo Net and local meetings.

Further in depth-details may be found in several excellent books on bamboos available through the American Bamboo Society, P.O. Box 215, Slinger-lands, NY 12159-0215. A good start is the “Book of Bamboo” by David Farrelly, which is also available through local book-stores. Another great book is “Bamboo World” by Victor Cusack.

When it comes to highly ornamental species my favorites are Sacred Bali Bamboo (Schizostachyum brachycladum), Lumpy Noodle Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris wamin), Timor Black (Bam-busa lako), Giant Clumping Black Bamboo (Gigantochloa atroviolacea). If you want to get the hottest bamboo on the market now look for the Indonesian Black “Hitam” (Dendrocalamus asper var. Hitam).

It is so rare right now that a small plant sells for around $500. I have been on a list to get one for two years now and still don’t have it.


Bamboo

There are hundreds of species of bamboo. Some are only a few inches high and some well over 100 feet tall. Most folks in Hawaii are familiar with bamboo in several forms. We eat bamboo shoots in many local dishes. We use bamboo tools and utensils. We may even have bamboo furniture in our homes. Unfortunately, most bamboo used in Hawai’i is still imported from Asia.

Aside from a few species used as garden ornamentals or erosion control, we see little else. In many parts of Asia, bamboo is essential in everyday life. Confucius was reported to say that man can live without meat but he would die without bamboo. Traveling in Asia, one becomes very aware of bamboo used in thousands of ways, especially house construction.

Homes are built with it as are bridges, fences, rafts, farm sheds and animal shelters. Bamboo welcomes the newborn with a crib and carries the dead in a coffin. Until recently, we have had very few of the hundreds of useful species available in Hawaii. Our common Gold Striped Bamboo is susceptible to rot and insect damage.

The keys to success are using the right species, proper harvesting and preserving techniques and, of course, designing, engineering and constructing in an appropriate manner. Presently there few building codes that allow for the use of bamboo, except for flooring material and plybamboo. If you want to build a house entirely of bamboo as is done in Asia, the present codes would not allow it.

Several architects are working with building departments to make the necessary changes. Even without a change in codes, the building department does allow farm and garden structures, as well as fences. Of course, bamboo may also be used in the home as long as it is not a structural element.

Some of the best clumping species for construction include Guadua angustifolia, Dendrocalamus asper, D. brandisii, D. strictus, D. latiflorus, D. membranaceus, Bambusa bambos and B. oldhami. These bamboos all have common names but they are in native dialects so are more confusing than the Latin names.

Unlike our local Golden Stripe Bamboo, which is of poor construction quality, the species mentioned above are notable for their insect and disease resistance as well as the strength of the culms. Most are also utilized for their edible shoots. Even though the species used for construction are tough, it is still important to follow time tested rules to harvest and cure the culms for best service.

For information on growing and proper harvesting, be sure to get connected to the Bamboo Society through the Bamboo Net and local meetings.

Further in-depth details may be found in several excellent books on bamboos available through the American Bamboo Society, P.O. Box 215, Slingerlands, NY 12159-0215. A good start is the “Book of Bamboo” by David Farrelly, which is also available through local book stores. Another great book is “Bamboo World” by Victor Cusack. Top of Page


Exotic Edibles Show Potential in Hawai’i – by Norman C. Bezona

Thanksgiving is officially just around the corner, but in Hawaii every day should be a day of thanks. My work in Africa, the West Indies, South and Central America and Asia has taught me the best lesson. There is no place like home. Hawaii is blessed with a variety of climates and people from many cultures with many different tastes.

We live together in harmony with a form of government that is stable compared to most of the world. Each culture has added to Hawaii especially when it comes to foods. For example, we probably grow more different kinds of fruits than any other state. Many local folks have visited Asia recently and have been bitten by the tropical fruit bug. So have many Big Island farmers. Not only do we have folks trying new fruit introductions, but we now have a statewide tropical fruit growers group to study and produce exotic fruits.

One of the crops of interest is the famous durian. There is no other fruit in the plant kingdom that can conjure up such an elaborate mythology or generate so much controversy. In the fruit’s homeland of Southeast Asia, it has been revered for centuries. It’s first exposure to western palettes brought forth a divergence of opinion that continues to this day. Charles Darwin hated it, but his contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace, loved it. This has been the typical response of those who have tasted its bizarre qualities.

The Durian is a lowland, forest tree of the Malay archipelago and adjacent islands. Its mature height can range between 90 to 120 feet although in cultivation it rarely grows more than 30 feet. The fruit resembles a medieval battle mace covered in spikes, weighing from one to 18 pounds. For an object to be called “The King of Fruits” you would expect a whopping flavor upon first eating, and here the Durian is full of surprises.

Skillfully cut open to avoid its spines, the hard outer shell slips off in sections to reveal a sulfur-colored pulp with the consistency of peanut butter. The flesh has so distinct an odor that it causes some to salivate while others get nauseous. The flavor itself is so complex and bizarre that few have ever come to a consensus as to just what it tastes like.

The first flavor is a strong garlic taste, then some onion, avocado, jackfruit and so on. The fruit has been grown in Hawai’i as a curiosity for almost a century. The tree is quite handsome and is worth trying simply for its orna-mental value. Durian are avail-able at some local nurseries. There are other Asian introductions that have potential in Hawaiian gardens.

The loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, is originally from Japan. The large stiff leaves, glossy green on the upper surface and whitish underneath, give this tree unusual character. The fruit is firm fleshed and juicy, excellent for fresh use as well as pies and preserves. The loquat is an excellent source of vitamin A.

This tree is best adapted to cooler areas of the island. For an eye-catching attraction and something different, try the carambola, Averrhoa carambola. Popular in China and India, this tree is symmetrical in shape with a covering canopy of dense leaves of very attractive color. The fruit is a golden yellow with a shiny, waxed appearance when ripe.

They are ellipsoid and average four to five inches in length with four or five prominent longitudinal ribs, the cross section having a distinct star shape. The fruit taste is like strawberry Koolaid and is high in vitamin C. A must for a taste treat is the lychee, Litchi chinensis. The tree is attractive in shape and color and is most eye-catching when in fruit.

The bright red fruits hang in clusters throughout the tree. They are most tasty when eaten fresh. The fruit supplies vitamin – and niacin. Plant lychee trees where they are protected from wind and can get plenty of water. Several varieties are now available at local nurser-ies. One of the best is Kaima-na. Other close relatives to try are the rambutan and longan. Of course, the famous mango is popular throughout the tropical world. Most folks don’t realize the origin of this species is Southeast Asia.

There are hundreds of varieties. Some have been grown in India for thousands of years. Some new varieties are now available locally. By planting types that fruit at different seasons, you can have delicious mangoes from May through October.