Ever Green

By Lois Taylor

Friday, April 9, 1999

Photo by Linny Morris Cunningham
The tour includes a view of Luakaha Falls
from the Nuuanu house lanai.

Nuuanu landscape
lush, lovely

NA Kuleana Kamaaina, A Garden Tour, on April 24 is a fund-raiser for The Outdoor Circle. What better way to have a close look at four wonderful old kamaaina homes surrounded by glorious gardens? At the same time, you are supporting Oahu's oldest and most powerful nonprofit environmental organization and getting good ideas for your own garden.

The houses are located on the beach off Kalanianaole Highway, at the top of Maunalani Heights, high in the Nuuanu rainforest and on the back slope of Diamond Head. The Outdoor Circle refuses to give further hints on addresses. The idea behind this isn't so much to provide a surprise or to protect the home owners, but to avoid a parking disaster among the anticipated 400 ticket holders.

Instead, the group has chartered buses that will leave Hunakai (also known as Sticker) Park in Kahala, where ticket-holders can leave their cars to be shuttled to the first three gardens. A horticulturist will be aboard each bus to answer questions and explain what to look for at the next stop.

Everyone will meet at the final house on Diamond Head where lunch will be served and the Castle High School Choir will entertain. No private cars will be permitted on the tour. Tour profits will support the more than 50 statewide projects to conserve the natural beauty of the islands.

One of the four homeowners represents the fourth generation to live on the property in Nuuanu Valley, a section called Luakaha or "place for relaxation" in Hawaiian. It was acquired by her great-grandmother who arrived in Honolulu with her husband aboard an early missionary ship.

The area had been used for mountain homes for Oahu chiefs, and on a hill beyond this property are the remains of King Kamehameha III's summer residence. Only a few stone walls are visible of Kaniakapupu where in 1847 the king gave a luau for 10,000 people. Records show that they ate 271 hogs, 482 large calabashes of poi, 602 chickens, three whole oxen and 4,945 fish, among other treats.

Where did he get all the fish and how did he get the stuff up a dirt road in the back of the valley, let alone 10,000 people? Think of parking all those horses.

Now the roads are paved, and the driveway into the Luakaha property is lined with spider lilies. This is a plant that, like the hula hoop and the ash tray, has been phased out. They are rarely used by landscapers and are hard to find in garden shops, but the spider lily and its relative, the Queen Emma lily, may be ready for a comeback.

They're big, and fill a lot of space with a minimum of care. Either one has blade-shaped succulent leaves and blooms almost continuously with large sunbursts of star-shaped flowers, white on the spider lily and pink on the Queen Emma. They grow easily from root offshoots or from seed, and do best in hot, dry areas. However, they are thriving in the Nuuanu rainforest.

The driveway is also lined with palms planted by the owner's grandmother, who was a knowledgeable collector of imported plants. So was her husband, who introduced a beautiful bamboo from Japan that in time threatened to take over the garden. Wandering plants were pulled out with great effort.

When planting bamboo in your own garden, be very sure that you have chosen the clumping variety rather than the ones with traveling roots or you will find shoots where you don't want them. Once they start moving, it takes a backhoe to get them out.

Although this will not be the case at all of the properties, tour participants will be invited into the Luakaha house where from the enclosed lanai they can admire Luakaha Falls.

The falls are an overflow of Reservoir IV that collects water along the Nuuanu Pali, and then feeds Nuuanu Stream. The mountains behind the falls are conservation land with no public access, and are covered with trees in more shades of green than can be imagined.

The area below the house once held an anthurium garden, but it was wiped out by the recent blight. The plants were replaced by a colorful collection of bromeliads and orange ti. The walkway through this part of the garden was built by the owner's oldest daughter, a professional photographer who designed the individual stepping stones and inlaid them with broken china from garage sales while the cement was still wet.

A variety of fruit trees grow on the property, and the owner has found that citrus and guava do best. "It's too wet up here for the mango tree to bear fruit. I consider two mangoes to be a bumper crop," she said. But all varieties of ginger thrive, as do gardenias, azaleas and hydrangeas.

And the reason everything grows so well is the rainfall, so remember if you go on the tour to wear flat, rubber-soled shoes and comfortable clothes, and to bring a camera and notebook to record good garden ideas.


Great gardens

Bullet What: Na Kuleana O Kamaaina, a tour of four exceptionally landscaped gardens in Honolulu
Bullet When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 24
Bullet Where: Ticketholders meet at Hunakai Park in Waialae-Kahala where they park free and board buses to the gardens
Bullet Cost: $50 ($25 is tax deductible) and includes transportation, lunch and entertainment
Bullet Call: The Outdoor Circle, 593-0300. Space is limited, reservations are required.

Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar in Do It Electric!

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Evergreen by Lois Taylor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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