The gardener as artist

17 11 2015

This is the first weekday morning in 40 weekdays that I didn’t hear a gentle knock on the front door signaling the arrival of the new, cheerful, smiling gardener. Instead, I am greeted by a light warm rain on the newly landscaped yard, a work of art completed yesterday.

Allow me to set the stage. My injured hand, from “overuse,” prevented me from tending plants as before. DH and I had the mature mango and avocado trees cut back, as we need to do every two or three years, because they are close to the house. That let in more sun, and then there fell a lot of rain. The best way to describe the resulting look was, we lived in a jungle.

I searched for a person to clean the yard—because as wise daughter says, “Hire the professional”—but I could not find anyone who was willing or who would show up way out here in the country. If the yard was already cleared of its jungle-y aspects, fine, perhaps someone could keep it trimmed. Word got out that I was looking, and two of my Hawaiian lady friends recommended their man.

They had good things to say. “Oh, he could probably do your yard in a day.” “He’s a hard worker.” “He works in the sun.” “Now he comes just once a month; that’s all that’s needed.” “Give me your number, and I’ll have him call you.” Great!

Hailama

Hailama

Enter Hailama, a sturdy Hawaiian from Kahana Valley, who said he would work every day “’til pau (finished),” that meant a 5-hour day, rain or shine. Touring our jungle, I attempted to describe the original garden plan, now obscured with the overgrowth, and Hailama asked, “What do you want to keep?” Ah, a new perspective!

We agreed to keep the mango, the avocado, and calamansi trees for the fruit they produce;  the vegetable-and-herb boxes; the red hibiscus for their petals used for Mexican jamaica tea; and the kou tree, ginger, and ti plants to make lei. We wanted to keep as much of DH’s native Hawaiian plant collection as possible.

One of the features of the land we mālama (care for) is that there is not much soil. Only rocks. A lot of rocks. We are near a stream, and some people think our street is where the stream used to be, because it lines up with a natural ocean channel. I think so, too. It turns out that Hailama loves to work with rocks, or pohaku in Hawaiian.

Mauka side yard has a new, curving rock border with a cascading variegated green/white/purple cover in front of a new red hibiscus hedge that will grown up like the mature hedge on the right against the wall. Upper left: breadfruit tree. Middle right: alahe‘e tree. Foreground: a sitting rock.

This garden path has a curving rock border with a cascading variegated veridian/lavender/purple cover in front of a new red hibiscus hedge that will grow up like the mature hedge in the middle background of the photo. Upper left: breadfruit tree. Middle right: alahe‘e tree. Foreground: one of the “sitting rocks.” Red ti leaf accents.

Starting at one corner and then proceeding to the next adjacent area, in a continuous flow, Hailama took advantage of a blank canvas to transform the garden. Every day brought a new surprise. For the most part, he worked with what was already on the property, relocating and rearranging the elements with new lines and shapes. In doing so, he made room for energy to flow freshly.

“What is your vision?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he shrugged. Looking up and moving his arms from above his head and down the sides of his body, he said, “Every day I ask God, and He helps me.”

Detail of garden path. After the mature hibiscus hedge (left) was trimmed to half its height, the tops were made into cuttings to form a new 25-foot-long hedge (top of photo).

Detail of garden path. After Hailama trimmed the mature hibiscus hedge (left) to half its height, so I could see the waterfall again from my studio window, he saved the tops and made cuttings to form a new 25-foot-long hedge (top of photo).

We started to have small discussions. He liked flowers. I liked food. “Do you like color?” he asked. “Yes, and pathways and focal points.” As he worked, Hailama began to re-grade the lot. He liked curves, where previously there were straight lines. In the way he used the rocks he dug up from the ground, the garden started to look zen. That I liked!

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Every rock is hand-picked, considered for its “face” and painstakingly set into the ground by hand. A row of the veridian-lavender-purple plants is on the lower terrace for a color repeat. Behind it is a row of white ginger that will eventually take hold; Hailama brought them from his own garden. In the background, Hailama trimmed the old panax hedge to a manageable height for maintenance.

 

Fronting the panax hedge in alternating plantings are flowering red and pink ginger and ti leaves of various colors. Upper right: raided veggie and herb beds. Foreground, ʻaeʻae ground cover around the base of the avocado tree.

Fronting the panax hedge in alternating plantings are flowering red and pink ginger and ti leaves of various colors. Upper right: raised veggie and herb beds. Foreground: ʻaeʻae ground cover around the base of the avocado tree. Hailama explained the rock borders will prevent a weed whacker from cutting the plants. He designed the new garden for ease of maintenance.

 

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View of the front entry from the street. Paths meander around the calamansi tree (foreground), sweet potato and aloe beds (middle ground), and the kou tree. The trees are pruned to resemble lollipops. You can see the windows of my second-story studio.

Weʻre looking forward to a carpet of green grass in the back. The brown lath will extend down from the deck. the "keepers" are the avocado tree, left, and the mango tree, at right.

We’re looking forward to a carpet of green grass in the back. DH went to buy grass seed today. The brown lath will extend down from the deck for a nicer backdrop for the border of colorful ti. The “keepers” are the avocado tree, left, and the mango tree, at right.

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Curving steps

Hailama took great pride and pleasure in designing the curving steps to the mango tree. One of the large rocks is a piece of coral that he found while digging the surface. The steps leading to the banana are also coral!

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Coral rocks found on site

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One of several sitting stones

The rest of the story is that ours is the first property that Hailama has completely re-landscaped. He said, joyfully, “I am making this garden as if it is my own! This is the best one I’ve done!” Indeed, it is Hailama’s Garden. What a beautiful, extraordinary labor of love. The creatures love it. We love it. Our visitors will love it. Hailama is our angel, our new friend, and DH and I are so blessed and so very thankful! Mahalo piha, a hui hou, mālama pono!

(Copyright 2015 Rebekah Luke)

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