By Lois Taylor

Friday, August 16, 1996

The torch ginger Rose of Siam is now available.
Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin

Lyon's share of new flora

QUESTION: Why do people go to plant sales?

ANSWER: To buy plants.

While the surprise factor of this finding hardly ranks with the discovery of life on Mars, it was a topic of discussion at the May meeting of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta in St. Louis.

The session on "Plant Sales: Profit or Loss?" determined that people don't go to plant sales to buy crafts or a plate lunch. They buy plants, particularly the new, the unusual and the natives.

The Lyon Arboretum Association is taking this to heart, with a minor reservation. At its big sale next week, they will also be selling a few carefully selected, garden-related crafts.The emphasis, though, is on plants.

The door-buster this year is Bob Hirano's selection of a new torch ginger, Rose of Siam. Hirano, associate specialist at the arboretum, is releasing the ginger for the first time. It was collected in Thailand by Alan Carle and David Carli, and Hirano says it is an excellent choice for the home garden.

The ginger's leafy stems grow to about 6 or 8 feet, while the separate flowering stalks are 2 to 2.5 feet.

"The flowering heads have light green outer bracts and red bracts within, giving the impression of a green chalice with a red rose inside." The flowering heads are about 3 inches in diameter.

A 12-square-foot area will produce more than 30 blossoms. The plant blooms from April through June, and the cut flowers will last for at least 10 days. Hirano said that Rose of Siam will grow wherever gingers do well.

The other introduction is a garden plant that has been blooming continuously at the arboretum greenhouse since February, 1993. Medinilla scortechenii has bright orange flowers and can be grown as a small shrub or a potted plant. It prefers moist, semi-shaded conditions.

Its release has been delayed until Hirano could be certain that the plant, a clone, is not self-pollinating. It belongs to a family which has several renegade members that have become noxious weeds, including clidemia and Indian rhododendron.

"We have made repeated attempts at hand pollination, and plants on the grounds of the arboretum have been exposed to various pollinators for three years. Not one fruit or seed has ever been produced," he said.

Lyon Arboretum's collection of palms is one of the largest among the inventories of botanical gardens worldwide. Five of them, medium sized and suitable for moist, shady, wind-protected areas, will be sold. Two have single trunks with stilt roots, and the other three are clumping palms.

That takes care of the new and the unusual, as suggested by the plant sales panel. Their third suggestion was native plants.

"A good native hibiscus for most gardens is Hibiscus kokio, a vigorous shrub or small tree," Hirano said. It bears red flowers more than 2 inches in diameter. It is native to all of the islands in a range of habitats from wet to dry.

Hirano also selected Kanani Kea, a hibiscus plant native to Tantalus. It is a shrub or small tree with saucer-sized white flowers, each with a red stamen about 6 inches long. The plant produces flowers in profusion, which last on the plant for two days.

The third hibiscus is native to Kauai's Waimea Canyon. It bears fragrant white flowers that fade to pale pink as they close.

Early shoppers will also find ukiuki, a native lily; there is a limited supply of these. It has long, narrow leaves and large clusters of small white to pale blue flowers. But more interesting are its berries that range in color from translucent navy blue to a soft sky blue.

The lily is native to all of the islands in dry to moderately damp areas, and can be grown in full sun or partial shade.

Stan Ishizaki, a commercial grower, will offer some of his outstanding collection of ohia lehua, including trees that are 8 feet tall, in a variety of flower colors.

And to surprise the neighbors, you might want an anthurium superbum that looks like the anthurium that ate Aiea. It's shaped like a bird's nest fern with broad, upright leaves that are more than 2 feet long. The flowers are an afterthought, but the tiny violet fruit look like amethysts.

A native of Ecuador, this giant anthurium grows best in well-drained soil in partial shade. It needs air movement, but not heavy winds.

For the heavy spenders, there will be volunteers to carry your plants to a pick-up area where they can be claimed.

New, unusual for sale

What: Lyon Arboretum Association plant sale
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 24
Where: Blaisdell Exhibition Hall
Cost: Admission free, but there is a $3 fee to park at the Blaisdell
Call: 988-7378

Send queries along with name and phone number to: Evergreen by Lois Taylor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802. Or send e-mail to features@starbulletin.com. Please be sure to include a phone number.

Evergreen by Lois Taylor is a regular Friday feature of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin. © 1996 All rights reserved.


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