Spring gardening gets launched this week


As February begins, many gardeners start planning their spring gardens. Dreams of new flowering plants, more edibles and some summer shade trees crowd our minds. In honor of the coming season, two local organizations are sponsoring events that can help move dreams into reality.

Kona Stories in Keauhou Shopping Center will devote this month’s Wine and Words event to “Celebrating Hawaii’s Gardens.” The monthly event usually features local authors who give short talks about their books and their particular area of interest. At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the bookstore will host authors Clear Englebert and Craig Elevitch, who will talk about feng shui in the garden and edible landscaping Pacifica style, respectively. I will also speak on selecting plants for your spring garden. This will be an opportunity to decide what you’d like to plant in the coming season. Wine and pupu tastes are also offered.

Once you have some idea of the plants you might like to incorporate into your garden or landscape, attending Saturday’s annual Pua Plantasia will offer the opportunity to get the plants you want. Kona Outdoor Circle’s 35th annual plant bonanza will fill the Old Kona Airport Park’s Makaeo Events Pavilion with thousands of plants. Twenty vendor booths will offer an assortment of plant material for shoppers to view and choose from. Read about this and other organization issues and events at konaoutdoorcircle.org.

You’ll find edible and ornamental native Hawaiian plants at Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden’s booth. Quiendembo Nursery will be in attendance with bamboo plants. Kari Hagerman from Pomaikai Nursery will sell herbs and Tropical Edibles Nursery will offer an assortment of fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. Royal Palm Enterprises will display exotics, such as ginger, heleconia, costus and calathea, as well as gardenias, bananas and coffee plants.

Big Island Day Lily will offer a selection of day lily cultivars, some quite rare, while the Kona Ti Co. display will include ti plants in a wide variety of leaf shapes and colors. Orchid People and Pele’s Island Plants will have unusual and spectacular orchid varietiesand as some interesting succulents. Protea will be offered by Kaloko Protea and the KOC booth will sell donated plants at bargain prices.

All in all, it’s a great day for plant lovers, but more than the plant bazaar is offered. A collectibles booth will showcase items donated by KOC members for the event. The Kona master gardeners will be in attendance to offer free plant advice and Worms-Hawaii will be on hand with information and presentations on worm composting.

A special feature of this year’s event will be a “Little Floral Extravagance” with Scott Seymour, known for his lively and creative presentations on flower arranging. The arrangements he produces during his 10 a.m. presentation will be offered for sale following the demonstration.

Pua Plantasia has been a fundraiser for Kona Outdoor Circle for most of the last 34 years. It has also served as an annual gathering place for plant enthusiasts and nursery owners. One of the goals of the event is to “pave” Kona with plants. This, of course, ties into the organization’s founding mission to “keep Kona clean, green and beautiful.” The event is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tropical gardening helpline

Tina asks: I bought a small clumping bamboo at Pua Plantasia about 10 years ago. It has practically doubled its expected size and I need to get it out. I have cut, poisoned and starved it to no avail. Any suggestions on getting it out? I have about three inches of soil and the rest is rocks. Digging is not a realistic option.

Answer: Bamboo can be a very tenacious plant. There are online forums filled with people giving advice, such as using full-strength Roundup, boiling water or salt. Smothering, clear cutting and inflicting constant damage to new shoots are all listed, as well, to varying degrees of success.

The American Bamboo Society recommends the following steps to get rid of unwanted bamboo.

1. Cut the bamboo shoots down.

2. In a few weeks, cut down the new crop of bamboo shoots resulting from the cutting and flooding.

3. Repeat the process until no new shoots appear.

The society suggests this will exhaust the energy stored in the underground rhizomes. Without green leaves to photosynthesize and produce new energy, they will not be able to send up new shoots. The remaining rhizomes will eventually rot away.

There is a Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society. Email Norm Bezona at hi-chapter@bamboo.org. He may have some additional advice that will be both effective and nontoxic.

If you need to resort to herbicide use, the following approach is recommended though it works best one shoot at a time: First, cut a shoot to six inches above the ground. Within 15 seconds of cutting, paint the herbicide onto the newly cut shoot. Rapid application is a must since you want the herbicide to be carried down as the sap retreats into the rhizome. If your timing is good and the herbicide effective, you will kill the rhizome. A University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources publication with good information about using herbicides to control and suppress invasive woody species including bamboo could be helpful at ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/WC-10.pdf.

Good luck, and note that bamboo in the tropics can get quite large when planted in an ideal location and cared for well. In these circumstances, you can almost always expect it to grow beyond expectations.

Email plant questions to konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu for answers by certified master gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant with an organic farm in Captain Cook.