Ever Green

By Lois Taylor

Friday, June 20, 1997

ByKen Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
A 60 foot strip at Hamilton Library was "adopted" by
Joy Watson, planning coordinator for Library Services,
who planted croton, flowering pentas and bromeliads.

Better campus
rooted in planning

THE Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii, like many public universities, is of the chop suey school of architecture, a little of this and a little of that. When you put it all together, though, it's pretty good, and what makes it special is the landscaping. Mainland universities look good in the spring and fall, but are dried up in the summer and leafless in the winter. The Manoa campus is at its very best right now with all of the flowering trees in blossom and the lawns green from the recent rains.

But there is a committee that has been working for seven months to make it look even better, and they report progress. The Landscape Advisory Committee, which is one of the zillions of campus committees that deal with everything from snack bar menus to Chilean politics, knows where it's going and what it wants.

Sheila Conant, a professor of zoology, Ted Enoki, landscaping manager in the Buildings and Grounds Management office and Bob Hirano of the University of Hawaii's Lyon Arboretum met earlier this week to talk about the committee's plans.

"Our goal," said Conant, "is the development of a campus environment that is attractive, safe, acceptable to everyone, convenient to use, easy to maintain and that serves as an outdoor teaching laboratory." That was followed by a silence as one wondered if it could also do windows. "I am not at all sure we could ever meet that goal of having an environment that is acceptable to everyone," she added, "but the rest seem like reasonable goals."

Enoki explained that the committee had very modest beginnings. "It all started over concerns about tree-trimming," he said. "We trim heavily because we have to, and faculty members and students didn't like the results. We are understaffed, we have to meet the OSHA requirements, and we try to make the leaves and flowers accessible to botany and horticulture students."

That means that the trees are severely trimmed once rather than lightly pruned many times within the same time span to save labor. OSHA requires that the lowest limbs be above the heads of pedestrians and that they do not extend over the sidewalk into automobile traffic. The botany and horticulture departments often use plant material from the campus in classroom study, and want it to be in reach of students.

"We are finding our way through this," Hirano said. "One thing we hope to do is to be involved in landscaping plans for buildings still in the blueprint stage." He mentioned the landscaping plans for the new agriculture building that included an ornamental hibiscus hedge. "We asked that they substitute the native white hibiscus for the introduced hibiscus because it is less susceptible to disease and it would serve the same function."

The committee urges the use of native plants whenever possible, and it also wants to be involved when the Buildings and Grounds department decides to move a tree. "We aren't advocating destroying trees, but there are trees that simply can't or shouldn't be moved," Conant said. "We say 'Don't waste the money. Take it out and plant something else.' "

An example was a planting of nonnative coral trees near Dole Street that died. The committee recommended replacing them with shower trees rather than more coral trees because showers provide better shade. The landscaping on Dole Street, University Avenue and Maile Way, Enoki readily admitted, is a priority because that's what the alumni and other taxpayers see from their cars.

"People who don't work on campus have few complaints about the landscaping," Conant said. "But if you do, and you walk through, you see the bald spots. Landscaping is a marketing tool, for recruiting faculty and staff as well as for students. The first impression is hard to forget."

In the same way that volunteers are encouraged to "adopt" sections of local highways, the committee is hoping to locate students and faculty to adopt sections of planting around campus buildings. In addition to simply keeping them clean as with the highway program, they would be encouraged to update the planting.

Joyce Watson, planning coordinator of Library Services, has replanted and maintained a 60-by-3-foot strip at Hamilton Library. Enoki's staff upgraded the watering system and dug out the dying shrubs two years ago, and Watson replanted croton, pink and blue flowering pentas and a few bromeliads. It is a bright spot, and well maintained.

"A lot of the landscaping here is boring," Hirano said. "Mock orange, lauae fern, MacArthur palms and pothos for ground cover. These are what people put in 30 years ago, and it's getting tired. We want to encourage students as well as faculty and staff to replant some of these areas around the buildings where they work. We haven't the manpower to do it ourselves, but we will give them full support by supplying plants, compost and irrigation."

Planting projects by volunteers are monitored for maintenance, and the planting is approved before it goes in. "We can't afford the maintenance of coconut trees, for example," Enoki said. "For safety, they have to be trimmed regularly and coconuts have to be removed. Or they might put a plant in the wrong place -- that needs sun planted in the shade or one that grows best at the beach."

Shade is an important factor in campus landscaping, Enoki said. Trees also soften the look of the buildings, not all of which are architectural gems. The two main thoroughfares, Maile Way and East-West Road, are planted with shower trees -- those with pale yellow and white blossoms grow on Maile, and the rainbow showers are planted on East-West Road.

They are all in full bloom now, and worth a drive through the campus to admire them. Hirano isn't quite sure why the flowering trees, including the gold trees and all of the showers, are so late in coming into flower this year. "We think it's because we had such a dry winter, and then all of a sudden the rains came several weeks ago and the trees flowered." Many of them came into full flower all at once, which makes them spectacular.

The committee is particularly pleased with the planting at the new Hawaiian Studies buildings on Dole Street. "The plans had already gone out to bid, so we couldn't make any changes, but they chose nothing but native plants. It worked out really well," Hirano said.

They are less enthusiastic about the planting at the new Student Services Building, which has won an architectural award. "For what?" one of the committee asked, requesting anonymity. "The ground floor is fine, but they put planters outside on the second floor, all out of reach. Already they are full of weeds and the original plants have died. Nobody thought about how they would be maintained."

If only they had asked the committee first.

Gardening Calendar

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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