Stories by Norman Bezona

Living sustainably has been called many things over the years

Back in the 1940s, progressive and futuristic farmers were aware of the big mistakes farmers and ranchers had made in the earlier days causing lands to deteriorate. Today, we are still trying to improve our relationship with the environment Terms like sustainable agriculture, integrated pest management, organic farming and permaculture are used by folks concerned about minimizing our negative impact on the planet. We now focus on minimizing our carbon footprint as we experience the effects of global warming.

Mood enhancing drugs nothing new

Coca, opium, marijuana and hundreds of other plants used to alter our perceived reality are nothing new to earlier cultures and civilizations. We often think of mood altering drugs with trepidation but they have been part of the human condition for thousands of years. Marijuana, opium poppies and coca leaf have been used as were certain mushrooms and even the sap of the angel trumpet tree. As in the case of the angel trumpet, it can be also very poisonous so only the shamans of South and Central America might be trusted with its use. Many of the substances derived from these plants are now illegal in some countries due to the possibility of dangerous misuse. In the case of angel trumpet sap, it can easily kill you if ingested. Others are so much a part of our culture that we hardly give them second thought. These include coffee, tea and chocolate.

Edible landscapes to reduce food bills

Looking for a way to save on food bills? Then plant vegetables. For many backyard vegetable gardeners on the mainland, spring means the beginning of their gardening efforts. However, this is Hawaii so we can plant our vegetables anytime depending upon the microclimate. There are many vegetable gardening activities for the entire year.

Composting and mulching to build healthy soils

When weather conditions are dry, it is a good time to explore ways to conserve water. Organic material is essential to good soil. Well-decomposed organic matter helps increase water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Undecomposed material like leaves and clippings used as surface mulch can help conserve moisture and keep weeds under control. Nematodes, those little microscopic worms that feed on your roots, will do less damage in a high organic soil. Organic matter may also increase the minor element and microbiological activity of your soil.

Building soil from scratch

The young soils of our island vary from ash deposits to a’a and pahoehoe lava. There are a few exceptions where volcanic materials have had the time to decompose like the Kohala Mountain region, but it is hard to find soils as they are defined on older continents of the world. Most folks here have to start from scratch.

August is a blooming treat with flowering trees

Summer is a great time to enjoy Hawaii’s flowering trees like the royal poinciana, tabebuia species, cassia shower trees, narra and many more. Speaking of narra, this beautiful yellow flowering tree from tropical Asia is rare but should be planted more. There is a beautiful specimen at Hale Anuhea in South Kona and another in the Lanihau shopping center by the old Bank of Hawaii site. The royal poinciana, Delonix regia, usually has flowers of crimson red to burnt orange. A rare form with yellow flowers is also available at some nurseries.

Plants for home foundation

Foundation plantings are like spandex garments. They smooth out bumpy features and add a dressy look. When properly used, a foundation planting serves definite purposes. It connects the structure with the grounds and adjacent ornamentals so that the building and grounds appear to have grown together into an eye appealing design. Shrubs and vines also tend to soften and blend architectural lines. Such plants give the home a finished look.

Urban forests keep Hawaii green

Urbanization of Hawaii is impacting Kona and Hilo, but Puna, Kohala and other population areas are showing signs of construction and a trend toward removing trees.

Fragrance and color of Hawaiian gardens often due to ginger blossoms

Summer means many fragrant flowers blooming in abundance. Most noticeable is the family of gingers. Gingers are coming into flower a little late in forests and gardens this year due to cool weather conditions in some areas of the island. Visitors to our islands frequently comment on how fragrant our air smells with the abundance of flowers in bloom. Kamaaina often take for granted that which we have in abundance. When we are in good health, we sometimes we don’t appreciate it until we get sick.

Celebrate Independence Day by planting bananas

Even though we talk a good story about being independent by growing our food and buying locally grown fruits and vegetables, it is not an easy thing to do. One exception is by growing and eating local bananas.

Dangerous diseases and pests pose potential hazards to travelers

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, folks worldwide have fantasized about travel to all kinds of exotic places. It is forecast that the travel industry will soon be booming. However, some caution should be considered. Hawaii is a great choice for most mainlanders, but what about residents of Hawaii that have dreams of Machu Pichu, Tahiti or Southeast Asia?

Hawaiian chocolate and orchids are perfect gifts for Mother’s Day

We just celebrated Cinco de Mayo and Boys’ (Childrens’) Day a few days ago but don’t let that distract you from the really big day. It is Mother’s Day, and if you forget any of those favorite women in your life, you are in real trouble. Trying to wrack your brains for just the right last-minute gift can be frustrating. Don’t panic — relax and be creative at the same time. If you plan a restaurant brunch or dinner to celebrate, be prepared for crowds and a long wait unless you have made reservations well in advance.

Fragrant flowers add to May Day weekend

May Day in Hawaii is Lei Day as well. We celebrate Lei Day on May 1, but continue with leis throughout the year. Now there is also a noticeable spring fever effect when it comes to local gardeners, because many flowers start heavy blooming at this time.

Hawaii’s master gardeners are the Peace Corps of the tropical garden world

When it comes to community outreach, the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Extension Service is comparable to the way Peace Corps reaches out to folks in other countries. The Master Gardener program is an important component of the CTAHR Extension Service. That program is set up to assist local folks with home gardening issues. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this service has been severely limited, but is again available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Kona Office in Kainaliu.

Celebrate Easter with a gift of life

Easter reminds us that life is a cycle of what appears to be death and rebirth. In cooler climates, it is what we learn by observing plants that go dormant in the winter only to sprout anew in the spring. Bulbs like crocus and daffodils are examples.

Volunteers help in Kona’s cloud forest

Spring in Kona’s unique tropical cloud forests and East Hawaii’s rainforests is heralded by abundant new growth of ferns, especially our endemic cibotium treeferns. If you want to get a sense of what life was like during the time of the dinosaurs, visit the Kona Cloud Forest above Kailua. The area abounds with ferns that once were dominant millions of years ago.

Spring is almost here: Now’s the time to plant flowering bulbs

Spring officially occurs when the sun reaches the equator as it appears to move northward. Of course, what is actually happening is that the earth is tilting toward the South Pole and will continue to do so until June 20. Then it is officially summer. Since we are roughly at latitude 19 degrees north, the sun will appear to move northward for a short time and then move toward the south until Dec. 21. Many plants respond to day length including plants that form bulbs.

Find a connection with the natural world

The old saying that March comes like a lion and leaves like a lamb usually holds true but this year only time will tell. Spring flowering trees are on schedule like the cherry blossoms of Waimea. The annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is not be happening this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the trees are still creating a great show. Check them out soon before they disappear for another year. As they begin to fade, blue jacaranda, silver oak and ohia will begin to brighten the landscape. Coffee trees in Kona and other parts of our island are in bloom as well. Later in the spring royal poinciana and rainbow shower trees will brighten our streets and gardens. The African tulip trees will also be making a spectacular display of red, orange and the rare yellow form as the weather warms.