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Dig This
Friday, March 10, 2000

By Stephanie Kendrick

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Miltonia blooms from March to August. The burgundy Miltonia
"Hajime Ono," above, is laced with a white pattern.

Prize Miltonias
at Kunia show

The delicate blooms of the Miltonia "Hajime Ono" resemble a fantastic burgundy sea creature jeweled in white and gold. Big enough to fill the palm of a woman's hand, it is an elegant creation.

Though the orchid is named for its breeder, it is not his first hybrid but his latest. How many preceded it? "It's hard to say exactly, 30 years is a long time," says Ono.

The 77-year-old has always lived in Wahiawa or Kunia, where he worked for Del Monte for 39 years. He was among the founders of the Kunia Orchid Show, which hosts its 46th annual event next weekend at the Del Monte pineapple camp gymnasium.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
This Miltonia hybrid has a colored pattern against white petals.

Ono chose the Miltonia because it is a challenge. "Not too many guys know that much. It's harder to grow," he says. He may be the only breeder of the cool-weather orchid on Oahu, though there are others on the neighbor islands.

Wahiawa, at 900 to 1,000 feet above sea level, is cooler than other parts of the island and better suited to the plant, says Callman Au, chairman of this year's Kunia show. Ono further cuts the heat with two layers of shade cloth over his growing tables.

Ono uses a potting mix of equal parts fir bark, peat moss and sponge rock. It holds moisture so the plants stay cooler and he doesn't have to water as often, he says.


Bullet When: March 24-26, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Bullet Where: Kunia gymnasium, off of Kunia Road
Bullet Cost: $2 donation

Ono, who has won many awards for his plants, also is an experienced judge.

He has worked with both the American Orchid Society and the Honolulu Orchid Society, which will judge the Kunia show.

At the height of his career, Ono judged shows in Hawaii and on the mainland, as well as in Japan, Taiwan and Australia. "Those days was good 'cause they paid all your travel," he says. But he's had enough. "I'm too old already," says Ono.

Orchids are scored by averaging the marks of three judges for size, color, shape, number and alignment of flowers. Certified judges go through six years of training, but ultimately it is still a subjective process. "Some people might say, 'oh that is junk,' other might say, 'oh, that is nice,' " said Ono.

While Ono enjoys his work, it is a business as well. "I cannot only grow them for fun 'cause I have to get my money back," says Ono.

He was exporting orchids until a few months ago, but sells mostly to the local market. The paperwork involved in shipping the plants is daunting, says Ono, and now that he has stopped driving, the logistics are tough.

Ono gets some help with his backyard nursery from Ernest Laboguen, who has known Ono since they both lived at the Del Monte pineapple camp at Kunia.

Laboguen got interested in growing orchids about five years ago and Ono has been his mentor.

He does some of the heavier chores, like helping Ono raise his growing tables to the regulation 24 inches for exporting, and Ono teaches him how to breed the delicate plants.

"I'm just like his sparkplug, that's what his wife says. I make him laugh," said Laboguen.

Unlike Ono, however, Laboguen has not specialized within the orchid family.

"Ernie, he grows everything," says Au.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Ono grows a couple of other orchid types as well,
including the purple epidendron above, right.

"I just want to see flowers all year I guess," says Laboguen.

If you like to see flowers, head into the pineapple fields of Kunia next weekend.

"We have thousands of people that come in and enjoy the show," said Au. The 2,000th visitor to the Year 2000 show will be honored with prizes. The members of Oahu orchid societies will vie for 50 to 55 awards. Orchids, anthuriums, other plants and nursery supplies will be for sale. The Kunia Community Association will sell fresh produce and prepared foods. And the Samoan Christian Church next to the gymnasium will be the site of lectures and demonstrations.

Not least, Ono's work will be featured at the show.

To get there, exit H-1 headed for Kunia Wal-Mart, but stay on Kunia Road. The drive through long stretches of Oahu's vanishing pineapple fields helps to make up for the plantation road you'll need to take up toward the Waianae mountains when you reach Kunia Store. If you think the potholes are bad, try taking the unpaved back road on the way out, but only if you have an adversarial relationship with your car.

Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar in Do It Electric!

Stephanie Kendrick's gardening column runs Fridays in Today.
You can write her at the Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802
or email

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