A long time ago (15 years)…in a galaxy far, far away (Alewa heights) there lived a man (Mark Yamakawa) with a brand new home and no landscape to match it. Being the calculated risk taker, he willingly placed the fate of his yard into the hands of two long time friends from Waimanālo (Matt and Rick) he met at a native Hawaiian plant sale they organized while attending UH Mānoa. Our dear sista, Kamehaililani (Lani Girl) Waiau conceived the ever so fitting, yet rather lengthy name Hui Kū Maoli Ola (The Organization that Stands up for Native Life) which also includes a piece of Matt’s Hawaiian name KapaliKŪ and my Hawaiian name KaponowaiwaiOLA. Once our name was decided, I promptly made business cards the morning of the plant sale at Kinko’s on University Ave. That plant sale sparked two landmark events for us: the first income ever for HKMO and our very first native Hawaiian plant landscape!
I recently went back to Mark’s house to help him figure out some concerns he had with one of his lehua and when I got there, my mind was blown away from how well his plants were doing! The first thing I noticed was how HUGE his lehua were!
This red lehua in full bloom is over 25 ft tall and regularly attracts ‘amakihi to it which is amazing and the whole reason why we do what we do, it’s our daily inspiration! I just have to get a better camera so I can zoom in on them when they are there….my iPhone wouldn’t be able to do that…save it for a different adventure.
Next to the red lehua is this massive mamo, today there were about 6 mejiro in it feasting on the wonderful nectar. Too bad it wasn’t ‘amakihi but still nice to see serving a purpose of at least helping to pollinate the flowers.
They must be doing a great job at it too because below the lehua were numerous baby seedlings that have sprouted from its sawdust-like seeds.
It’ll be interesting to see what the flowers of these seedlings will be since their parent plants around them are Red, Yellow and Orange flowered lehua. None of the seedlings were as big and interesting as this one below because it germinated and was growing out of one of the Hapu’u that we planted. This truly shows that hapu’u tree ferns are the “mothers of the forest” since they are known to have many other native seeds and spores germinate on them, sometimes getting to the point where the seedling gets too big to be supported by the hapu’u and it falls over sometimes dying.
Fifteen years later this landscape really has become a man-made, yet naturalizing ecosystem with all the plants still thriving, the interaction with native fauna and the expansion of more plants thru their offspring! In addition to the lehua seedlings, one of the coolest plant keiki I saw was this baby hapu’u unfurling!
These guys grow pretty slow but I’ve never seen a hapu’u sprout in any of our landscapes before so I’m excited to revisit this little fern in the future to see how she’s doing! Right now this fern’s stalk is about 6 inches tall and they usually take about 10 years to grow 1 ft of trunk so she’s probably close to 6years old maybe….pretty cool!
Over the years the home owner added a few potted plants to garden and set up a little make-shift nursery bench with a few potted anthuriums on it. To my amazement a palapalai fern sprouted out of one of the pot’s drain holes! Natives taking over!
And this was only one side of the front landscape! Here are some other photos of plants from around his property we planted sooo long ago!
The right hand side of the driveway was also doing very well except I dont have any of the “old” photos showing what it looked like when we first planted it. We did have one lehua fatality in this section but the others were huge and thriving. You can see some of the original landscape plants such as the ‘uki’uki lily bunches, ti leaves and lehua as well as the new rock work and kupukupu ferns we installed.
Behind this section is a little grassy courtyard flanked on one side with a hedge of red ‘ohi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha var. imbricata) with small, tight leaves.
If you haven’t noticed the trend yet, here is yet another section in the back of his home that we also planted. Some of the plants we originally installed were outcompeted by the aggressive vines and grasses but the koa trees were still there and of course these beauties:
These trees were already covered in open blooms but still had even more flower buds ready to burst!
I had a great time revisiting our first landscape and seeing how well the plants were thriving. I really hope that people will take this into consideration when deciding to landscape their home and see that if planted in the right place, native plants really help to bring Hawaii back.
……but wait! The adventure continues! As I was leaving Mark’s house I was driving back down Alewa Heights and something caught my eye!
This beautiful koki’o (Hibiscus kokio subsp. saintjohnianus) was planted at another person’s house. Chances are it came from our nursery where they either purchased it directly or perhaps from the Home Depot. It’s always nice to see more and more of our babies being cared for by others. Ironically, after I sneaked up to this house and took this photo, I was again driving back down ‘Alewa hts. thinking of how cool it was to see more of our plants at other people’s home when AGAIN something caught my eye………..
Another koki’o! This time it was a whole hedge of it….about 50 ft long! I was so impressed with it like a crazy person I left a note in their mailbox saying how much i admired their hedge and if they ever needed it pruned back I would do it for free so we could utilize the cuttings to make more! So I also left my business card for the owner to give me a call if they were interested (and not worried about me being crazy) and low and behold they called me up! Turns out it was a person I knew and greatly admired…..Lilinoe Andrews home! Being the amazing person that she is, she graciously let me prune back her hedge and now we have about 500 more koki’o in propagation! Mahalo Lilinoe Andrews, the other homeowner with the koki’o and of course Mark Yamakawa for taking a chance, without you wanting us to do your landscape who know’s where this company would be, if existing at all?
Rick Barboza, owner Hui Kū Maoli Ola
Native Hawaiian Plant Nursery and Landscaping Company