A Message from The Outdoor Circle President
Due to the continuing pandemic, the past year has been full of continuing challenges, not just for The Outdoor Circle, but for all of us collectively. I am pleased to report that, even with these challenges, The Outdoor Circle was able to maintain its ability to be proactive in many areas.
The Development Committee continued its efforts toward effective financial stability for the organization and how we can best meet our needs. We recently undertook a membership survey and marketing study with the aim of better meeting member needs and expectations. We hope some of the results will be an increased public awareness of The Outdoor Circle, growth in our membership, and offer more ways for community participation and involvement in the stewardship of our islands.
Much of our work this year was, as it often is, “behind the scenes” pushing for protection or promotion of green spaces and quality of life issues. This involved testifying to ban noisy and polluting leaf blowers, working with the counties to staff and constitute their Arborist Advisory Committees, and working with the Board of Water Supply to repair damage to Diamond Head and prevent it from being marred with garish fencing. We also testified against zoning variances, opposition to encroachments on setbacks, and exceeding maximum building areas, all of which impact the character of our neighborhoods. We worked with city and state agencies to oppose and prevent unnecessary removal of trees in houseless encampments, pressing for community clean up events and reclaiming parks for public usage.
As The Outdoor Circle was instrumental in enacting the strict statewide signage laws that banned the billboard, this effort continued in revisions made to our policy positions to include murals that are increasingly becoming a part of our visual landscape. We will see more work in this area to come, as the challenges to our visual landscape are never-ending.
We remain forever dedicated to trees, not just for all the environmental benefits they provide, but for the many ways they beautify our streets, our parks, as well as our own backyards. The relationship we have nurtured with the Arbor Day Foundation enabled us to do another substantial tree planting at Camp Palehua, hold another hugely successful tree giveaway in Hilo with the East Hawai‘i Branch, and allowed us to maintain trees we planted at Windward Community College in 2019, which are now thriving.
Our branches kept up safety precautions during the pandemic while continuing their beautification projects and advocating for preservation of areas across the state as we continued to work with them to ensure that activities were safe for all those participating.
I am grateful and appreciative of the work of The Outdoor Board of Directors and our dedicated staff: Winston Welch, Executive Director; Jackie Wah, Operations Director; and Myles Ritchie, Programs Director. Together we maneuvered through a year of starts and stops, which was felt acutely as we mourned the loss of one of our trusted Board members, Jennie Peterson, who will be especially missed for her kindness and grace.
I want to thank all our members and donors who helped sustain us this past year. You are an important part of our organization and your support has helped our Circle to expand and grow.
Scott R. Wilson
President, The Outdoor Circle
In July 2020, a mural artist painted a bold message on the side of a 16-story building in Honolulu to make a statement about the importance of voting. Immediately people started calling The Outdoor Circle wanting to know how such a billboard could be allowed in Hawai‘i where The Outdoor Circle worked to ban billboards over a hundred years ago!
As a result of this incident the Public Affairs Committee and TOC staff went to work researching and advocating for definitions, limitations and standards to make sure that outdoor murals enhance the built environment while protecting Hawai‘i’s natural beauty and scenic view planes.
Upon hearing our concerns, the artist kindly agreed to remove the mural in question for now. However, several additional large murals have been proposed or installed on public and private property within the last year highlighting the need for a policy framework to protect the scenic landscape from being overwhelmed with visual clutter the way many cities are overwhelmed with signs and billboards competing for public attention.
TOC’s Board has amended our Public Policy Positions to add our support for limits on the placement and number of outdoor murals to ensure that individually and collectively they aesthetically enhance the built environment while protecting Hawai‘i’s natural beauty, scenic view planes and urban view corridors. Additionally, TOC advocates for protecting the tranquility and natural beauty of public parks and recreational areas.
Kathy Whitmire, Treasurer, The Outdoor Circle
On November 20 and 21, 2021, The Outdoor Circle returned to Camp Palehua to partner with Malama Learning Center and planted over 900 native trees. The event was funded by the Arbor Day Foundation and FedEx and saw 14 species planted on two sites located on the property. The tree planting acted as an educational learning center for elementary and high school students.
This restoration project saw 905 native Hawaiian plants (301 trees, 253 shrubs and 351 ground cover) go into the ground and were selected based on the complementary and symbiotic functions they have with one another. While our original total was intended to be 250-300 plants, we were able to surpass this amount by nearly three times due to the hard work of all those involved and that the plants themselves were grown on site, rather than being purchased by a third party as was originally anticipated.
Additionally, the event featured immersive education sessions where each group of participants learned about each of the native species being planted, why they were selected and how they will improve the former pasture land they were being planted on. The education component went beyond botanical and environmental concepts to include the invaluable cultural benefits these species provide and how these future native forests will restore the ‘aina.
This was one of the first planting events conducted since the COVID outbreak began which forced volunteer events to halt. There were groups of up to four volunteers (usually from the same household) in two-hour sessions that amounted to over 40 volunteers planting at the site over the two-day span.
Volunteers indicated their joy at being able to not only enjoy nature once again, but also participate in this educational restoration event that met all County and State COVID requirements.
Without the support of the Arbor Day Foundation and FedEx this extremely successful event would not have been possible and we are extremely grateful for their support.
Myles Ritchie, Programs Director, The Outdoor Circle
Wailoa State Park Beautification Project
The East Hawaii Branch held a planting event on March 6, 2021, Wailoa State Park in Hilo, to replant an area that had two beautiful healthy monkey pods cut down by the state because of complaints from the community.
We partnered with the JROTC from Hilo High School and were able to put in 2 golden trumpet trees, 10 brunfelsia, and 36 mock orange. Once they become established, there will be beautiful purple, yellow and white blossoms for everyone to enjoy.
The 22 high school students and their Sergeant Ryan Taniguchi, who was quite enthusiastic because it was a good educational event for the students, are interested in doing another event, perhaps with students from the athletic department.
We gained 3 new members that day and a mention in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. And the ducks supervised!
Joan Gossett, Secretary, East Hawaii Branch
For more information on the East Hawaii Outdoor Circle, visit their website at East Hawaii Outdoor Circle.
East Hawaii Outdoor Circle Tree Giveaway
On October 24, 2020, the East Hawaii Outdoor Circle conducted a follow-up tree giveaway with funds procured by The Outdoor Circle Statewide organization. The event provided trees to residents of the East Hawai‘i community as a direct response to the natural disasters 2018, while also beginning to address the widespread food insecurity caused by COVID. By giving away over 655 trees consisting of 14 desirable fruit and native species, the community will now be able to help replant following the volcanic eruption, hurricanes and flooding that took place three years ago, which has produced negative impacts that continue to linger to this day and have been exacerbated by COVID. These trees will be able to help mitigate future natural disaster impacts, especially when flooding occurs and begin to provide food security for residents of Hawai‘i Island who received these trees.
This event also allowed us to reach-out to numerous demographics in the community to let them know about the wonderful work The Outdoor Circle is currently undertaking, as well as that of the Arbor Day Foundation and International Paper who sponsored the event. A third iteration of the event is scheduled for November 2021, and will once again be supported by the two aforementioned entities.
Myles Ritchie, Programs Director, The Outdoor Circle
LKOC Beautification & Educational Outreach Projects Continue During the Pandemic
Pali Palms Triangle
Landscaping is a dynamic entity, and sometimes designs must change over time to meet the needs and challenges of the environment. The Pali Palms Triangle on the corner of North Kalaheo Avenue and Mokapu Road is a good example. That plot goes from full shade to extreme sun and is exposed to car exhaust due to its location on a busy thoroughfare. The Pali Palms Triangle landscaping was originally designed and installed by the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle (LKOC) in 2011 to beautify this barren traffic triangle. Hele Mai Lawn & Garden has been maintaining the landscaping and irrigation for LKOC since then. LKOC is committed to making sure their projects continue to be sustainable and beautiful. In August 2020, over one hundred new bromeliads of three varieties were donated by our members and planted by Hele Mai in the triangle. Hele Mai also donated the mulch that they added in the planter beds to help the landscaping retain moisture. LKOC is happy to report that the drought tolerant bromeliads have been flourishing!
Alala Point 2020
Alala Point is the highest point at the entrance to Lanikai. In July 2019, LKOC completed a landscape refurbishment project in the upper parking lot across the street from the stone pillar overlooking Kailua bay. New lawn and wax ficus hedges were installed. The Community Service Workline (CSW) from the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC) had been continuing its long-standing maintenance of the entire Alala Point area under LKOC auspices. Then with the arrival of the pandemic, WCCC was forced into a lockdown, and the new landscaping at Alala Point suffered. In the interim, a small group of LKOC volunteers and community members kept the area weeded and mowed. A spraying of the invasive grasses by our contractor, Steve Dewald, was also extremely helpful, and as a result, the new wax ficus hedge and lawn continued to do very well. In November 2020, the CSW women were back on line, and the area is once again beautifully maintained.
Oneawa Street Tree Project
Newly Planted Silver Trumpet Trees
The Oneawa Street Tree Project is LKOC’s latest beautification venture. In mid-August 2020, at LKOC’s behest, a city crew installed eight new white Tecoma and silver buttonwood trees along Oneawa between Kawainui Street and Kuulei Road to replace those that had been removed over the past twenty years due to age and deterioration. Each tree was fertilized, mulched, staked, and a water bag was installed. Thanks to Island Landscaping and Maintenance who did the installation for the city. Now we can all look forward to a nice bower of trees along the street.
Learning to Grow
Goats in the Garden
During the pandemic, LKOC’s “Learning to Grow” (LTG) students at the Women’s Community Correctional Center were still able to produce hydroponic lettuce crops for sale at Foodland stores on Oahu, even though the facility was in lockdown for eight months, and our volunteers were unable to enter. This is a wonderful testament to the outstanding job the dedicated LKOC volunteers have done over the years in providing training and expertise to these students who maintain LKOC’s garden nursery on the prison grounds. The students have handled the whole planting cycle from seed to harvest, and LKOC volunteers have continued to deliver the boxes of lettuce to Foodland.
In addition, the LTG students continued to grow vegetables for the prison cafeteria, as well as nurture and care for a small herd of four goats in LKOC’s “Goats in the Garden” program.
LKOC also owes a debt of gratitude to the prison staff for supporting the LTG program and the garden nursery in their absence. In November 2020, LKOC volunteers were once again allowed access to the facility on a limited basis, and they look forward to enhancing the program once pandemic restrictions are fully lifted.
Kalama Beach Park Clean-Up
Before and After Photos of Kalama Beach Park Green-Debris Cleanup
Despite the pandemic, LKOC continued its landscape cleanups on the grounds of Kalama Beach Park (the iconic Boettcher Estate) in Kailua, which it performs through the city’s Adopt-a-Park (Hoa Paka) program. In February, 2021, Pali Lions Club volunteers provided us with a workforce to tackle the removal of invasive elephant grass, as well as the removal of a large green-debris pile that had collected over time. Four truckloads of green waste were hauled away. More cleanups are scheduled for late Spring.
Diane Harding, President, Lani-Kailua Branch
For more information on LKOC, visit their website at Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle.
Rendering of UH Atherton Redevelopment Project
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu gently guides, “Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow; whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die.” Seemingly inspired by the ancient Chinese wisdom, the Mānoa Branch of The Outdoor Circle had to make strategic changes as Honolulu went back into a lockdown and “safer at home” orders. Wishing they could revel in the success of the 1,000 Tree Giveaway in July 2020, and saddened that the invasive vegetation removal days at Kamānele Park had to be canceled, the Mānoa board members voted to focus attention on other meaningful projects that would benefit the community.
Over the course of many months, the Mānoa Branch collaborated with the consultants of the UH Atherton redevelopment project, Lori Lum of Watanabe Ing and Mike Lam of Hunt Companies, reviewing the landscaping plans. Via Zoom meetings, the board members, as well as the TOC Executive Director Winston Welch and Operations Director Jackie Wah, offered numerous suggestions for improvement. The consulting team genuinely listened and incorporated the necessary changes in the plan revisions. It was a positive experience to be involved with the planning process, and the Mānoa Branch is very excited to see the project completed in the next couple of years.
Another significant pandemic pivot for the Mānoa Branch has been partnering virtually with nine other local nonprofit community organizations to form a coalition called the “Mānoa Stakeholders.” The powerhouse group includes Be Ready Mānoa, Mānoa Chinese Cemetery, Mānoa Heritage Center, Mānoa Japanese Language School, Mānoa Lions Club, Mālama Mānoa, Mānoa Neighborhood Board, Mānoa Valley Church and Mānoa Valley Theater.
With the ambitious goal of community synergy, the first project was working together on a comprehensive community needs assessment survey. Faith Rex of SMS Consulting is facilitating the group to ensure the proper methodology of the confidential online survey, and the data was collected in aggregate for the various organizations to use the information in their strategic planning to better serve the community. The Mānoa board members are interested in the answers to their important environmental-minded questions since the results will shape their post-pandemic decision making.
Vanessa Distajo, Vice President, Manoa Branch
Kamānele Park Clean-Up
Thank you to our Secretary, Jackie Osumi, and her boyfriend, Jeren Nishimoto, for joining me to volunteer at Kamānele Park on July 24, 2021. We had fourteen volunteers, including an archaeologist from OASES, participate in the invasive vegetation removal at the heiau site. It was an ideal, collaborative service project because we had volunteers representing various organizations including Mānoa Outdoor Circle, Mālama Mānoa, Blue Zones Project 4M, and the Army National Guard. Council Member Calvin Say and the City officials in charge of the Adopt-a-Park Program even came out to join us for a while.
In two hours, we filled 25 bags of green waste, each weighing about 20 pounds. Also, we were able to stack up a large number of dead branches that we had found on the ground throughout the site. It was a very productive day! Imua!
Mahalo nui loa for your support!
Kānewai Community Park Clean-Up
Fourteen people of all ages volunteered at Kānewai Community Park on August 21, 2021, to pick up litter. Special thanks to everyone who helped, including our Mānoa Outdoor Circle board members Jackie Osumi and Gerry Ralston. I really appreciate them making time on a Saturday morning to join me at the park clean up.
Vanessa Distajo, Vice President, Manoa Branch
For more information about the Manoa Outdoor Circle, please check their website at: Manoa Outdoor Circle.
Kokua Learning Farm Tour
On July 15th, 2021, the North Shore Outdoor Circle had its first field trip since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020. It was very exciting to be with a small, but devoted group.
Joe Wat, Kelly Perry, and Daniel, gave us a tour of their facilities, and the grounds. They told us how they are following their mission to provide students from grades K through 12 with hands-on experiences which will enhance their appreciation for and understanding of their environment.
Ke Ala Pupukea
The North Shore Outdoor Circle maintains the bike path from Three Tables to Backyards. We became aware of tour groups using the bike path, and took steps to discourage this, so the path would remain available to community members. We make sure the trees and foliage are trimmed and maintained. We monitor the population of chickens which cause damage to plantings and, by scratching, can cause erosion to the path. We also monitor and discourage the dumping of green waste along the path. We are still hoping to replace the ugly concrete barriers that line the path by the entrance to Ehukai Park with a continuation of the rock wall. We’re well on our way to raising the almost $7,000 needed for this project.
Vera Stone, President, North Shore Branch
For more information about the North Shore Outdoor Circle, please check their website at: North Shore Outdoor Circle.
Waikoloa Village Community Garden
The Waikoloa Village Outdoor Circle's Community Garden has 72 - 10' X 4' garden plots. Several gardeners have more than one plot because it's hard to stop once you start planting.
Although the gardeners try almost every known warm weather species of fruit and vegetable with varying degrees of success, several species grow best in our harsh environment. Most garden plots have windbreaks attached as the trade winds can gust up to 50 mph.
Eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, Swiss chard, kale, herbs, moringa, pigeon peas and okra are successfully grown year-round. Lettuce, peas, cilantro and other cool weather loving plants do well during the winter months.
One of our gardeners built a butterfly house, growing milkweed & crown flower to feed the Monarch caterpillars in a secure environment away from the deadly wasps.
Liberated Monarchs fly drunkenly around the garden.
Our perimeter hog-wire fence excludes the goats and pigs that frequent the area. So far, so good as long as no one leaves the gate open.
Visitors are welcome to stroll about and often do. Only rarely do fruits and vegetables 'disappear.' Our garden is a pretty happy place where everyone seems to get along in spite of our differences.
Kapiolani Park photo by Miguel Minhalma
Did you know that 100 years ago, The Outdoor Circle was instrumental in the
establishing the Honolulu Shade Tree Commission with The Outdoor Circle's President named as one of the five Commissioners?
In the early years of The Outdoor Circle, neighborhood groups of volunteers concentrated on planting shade trees in their parks and on their streets. They soon realized they could not do all of this planting by themselves, so, in 1922, lobbied the City to form the Shade Tree Commission to help. This group eventually transitioned to become the City Parks Board in 1931, with its work later incorporated by the Division of Urban Forestry in the Honolulu City and County Department of Parks and Recreation under the new city charter. Thanks to our efforts, shade trees line our city streets and grace our public parks.
In 1914, The Outdoor Circle also hired Honolulu’s first tree trimmer, Mr. Olivera, (for 25 cents an hour) to properly maintain the trees they had planted. It also became apparent that these trees needed protection, and in 1920, at the behest of The Outdoor Circle, a City ordinance was passed making “cruelty to trees illegal.” This ordinance is still in effect today, stating “It shall be unlawful for any person to injure or destroy street trees in any manner or by any means.” Thanks to our early efforts efforts, vandalism of trees along our streets is illegal and punishable by fines of up to $500.
Did you know that cruelty to trees in public parks and along City streets
is illegal thanks to The Outdoor Circle?
Amusing anecdotes exist regarding our volunteers and their attempts to see that trees were properly maintained back in those days. In one incident, as reported in notes at the time, volunteers told of meeting resistance of men from the Harbor Commission in getting fronds removed from the coconut trees the Outdoor Circle had planted. “The man in charge refuses to take off all the leaves, saying the trees will grow better with them there… As he is armed with a gun, Mrs. Von Hamm cannot insist on carrying out her wishes.”
Incidentally, tree-trimmer Mr. Olivera went on to work at The Outdoor Circle’s plant nursery at Kapiolani Park for the next 28 years!
The nursery eventually was turned over to the City Parks Board in 1946, and remains there today as the Honolulu City Kapiolani Nursery. But that is a story for another day!
To this day, The Outdoor Circle continues to work closely with the Department of Parks and Recreation, municipal agencies, legislatures and councils to protect and plant trees in our communities and grow our urban tree canopy statewide.
If you are looking for some dramatic beauty in your garden, you might want to consider planting a rainbow shower tree. Though the blossoms are lovely and colorful, the name rainbow is not really an accurate description. Instead, imagine a Japanese brush painting of yellow with steaks of pink and orange. Add colors like cerise and coral to the palette and you’ll likely conjure an image that closely matches the beauty of these flowers.
The rainbow shower tree is actually a sterile hybrid of two shower trees in the Cassia genus. The genus includes about 30 species. Several of the shower tree varieties can be found in local landscapes as well as in parks or along streets. Trees in the Cassia genus are members of the very large Fabaceae (Bean) family, known for their leguminous seed pods. The pods produced by some shower varieties can be a litter problem in public places. This issue makes the nearly pod-less rainbow shower a popular choice. In Honolulu it became so widely cultivated that the multicolored cultivar “Wilhelmina Tenney” was declared the official tree of the City and County of Honolulu in 1965.
The tree is scientifically named Cassia x nealiae honoring Marie C. Neal. She was a well-known Hawaiian botanist and author of an early botanical reference book, “In Gardens of Hawai’i.” In her 1928 original as well as her 1965 revision, she refers to the rainbow shower as the cross Cassia javanica x C. fistula. Her propagation advice is that it is best done by cross pollinating blossoms of the pink-and-white shower tree with blossoms of the golden shower tree and using seeds from the resulting cross. These trees are each lovely landscape trees hailing from India and South America respectively but they do produce littering seed pods. The original hybrid cross was done here in Hawaii around 1916 by David Haughs. The resulting sterile rainbow shower is usually the preferred species.
Many trees available in the trade today are actually Cassia x nealiae grafted onto C. fistula rootstock. Though air layering is also a successful propagation technique for the rainbow variety, it does not produce strong roots making the resulting trees subject to toppling in heavy winds.
Four distinct color variants have resulted from the original cross, they include ones that are predominantly yellow, white or gold as well as “Wilhelmena Tenny” which produces the streaked yellow and cerise flowers described earlier. The flowers on the rainbow trees are produced on long pendulant racemes that appear on branches that bear stems of inch-long dark green leaflets. The trees tend to bloom most of the summer, losing blossoms and sometimes leaves in the fall. When in bloom the tree can appear quite full and very colorful.
Though shower trees can get as large as 50 feet tall and equally wide, they can be judiciously pruned to control their size and their naturally irregular growth habit. Careful, professional pruning is recommended to keep these trees attractive in small spaces.
Rainbow shower trees can tolerate many soil types but prefer to grow in soil that drains well. The tree is fairly drought tolerant and can make a nice addition to a xeriscape garden. It is not, however, very salt or wind tolerant so should be grown away from the ocean and in areas of low wind.
The tree attracts few pests and diseases. Those that do arrive can usually be treated with pesticides including soap and oil mixes or other organic compounds based on the identity of the pest. It is always important to positively identify the pest and match the treatment to the problem.
This tree will thrive with occasional deep watering in dry times and regular fertilization with slow-release fertilizers that include micronutrients. Follow fertilizer package instructions for amounts and frequency of applications.
Rainbow shower trees can provide a very attractive and interesting addition to a landscape. If you have lots of room, plant several. For small gardens, be prepared to train a single tree to be size appropriate. Call around to local nurseries to locate trees, choosing smaller specimens that can be trained is best for small gardens. Whatever size you choose for your property, you will certainly enjoy the annual display of colorful blossoms.
Diana Duff, Plant Adviser, Educator, and Consultant; Lives in Manoa Valley
[Editor's note: Starting in 1912, and continuing through the 1960s, TOC planted hundreds of shower trees along Honolulu's streets, including Vineyard, Piikoi, Pensacola, Makiki, and Nehoa. Our Branches statewide planted them as well. In 1995, TOC sponsored the "Shower Tree Festival" at Kapiolani Park, which grew into an annual event to heighten public awareness of Hawai‘i's trees and natural beauty.]
Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.