Dana Anne Yee, Landscape Architect, LLC.


Project Name:Hokulani Elementary School Peace Garden Phase 2
Location:Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Client:Hokulani Elementary School

Seven years after the initial successful Hokulani Elementary School landscape project, a new revitalization has taken place. Funds were provided through a Kaulunani Urban Forestry Grant Program. This brought Hokulani students, parents, neighbors, staff and many volunteers and supporters together to give the garden a much needed fresh beginning. Here is a little history of this public school located at the base of Saint Louis Heights: In the year 1999, from a patch of mowed grass and weeds which was void of any character, or spirit, a Peace Garden was created at Hokulani Elementary School. The students had expressed a need for a garden that they could enjoy. They wanted a tranquil place where they could read and gather and a welcoming entrance to school. So after years of planning and brainstorming of fresh ideas at student meetings, the Peace Garden developed. Many groups of people were involved in the planning phase of this school project. Planting days were formed in which students, parents, support organizations, staff, teachers, volunteers and the community worked together. Fund raising was done through grants and generous donations. A Peace Garden grew. This Peace Garden centered around the creativity of the student’s, one-of-a-kind artistic stepping stones that radiated in a circular pattern. This circular pattern represented; growth, challenge and the future. After seven years, some of the original Native plants that had been very rare and were seen as valuable native plants had soon disappeared, while other plants had become overgrown and difficult to maintain during long summer school breaks. It took their toil on this garden that once was their pride and joy. There was even an incidence of workers, while pruning the trees, ran over most of the original children’s stepping stones and damaged and cracked them. Jackie Ralya from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife called me for help. She soon realized that I had once worked with the students of Hokulani School to design the Peace Garden. When she discovered that a master plan existed for the entire campus, we began a year long re-design of the Peace Garden and the Hawaiian Garden with an added extension of the planting at the school parking lot.

With the support and donations from the Kaulunani Urban Forestry Grant, irrigation suppliers, landscape architects, certified arborists, landscape contractors, native Hawaiian plant growers, the University of Hawaiʻi, the City and County of Honolulu and many helpful hands of students, parents, teachers and staff, the Peace Garden and the Hawaiian Garden were brought to life again. Two work days with over 100 volunteers showed up to plant native trees, shrubs and groundcovers. A new automatic irrigation system with new headers that separated the grass from the native groundcovers was completed. New soil and new plants helped to revitalize the gardens. Certified arborist and landscape architects provided expertise in the proper planting, pruning and caring of the trees and shrubs. Students and volunteers were taught the proper way to grade and to plant the native plants and to identify, learn and care for Native plants. The stepping stones were patched up and once again placed in the circular pattern shape that represented the Peace Garden.

Outdoor classroom spaces were designed for teachers to gather with students under the shade of a native Kou or the ‘A’ali’i Trees. The flat land was graded into berms to create spaces for the new native plant material and to add special areas for the outdoor classrooms. The grassy play and sitting areas are surrounded by Native plants that the students helped select, plant, care for and watch grow. Swales and drain inlets were added to solve the drainage problems. Native plants and plants used by the Hawaiian Culture were added to the parking lot to extend the planting area for a variety of plants for the students to learn from and it also served as a screen from the existing residential neighbors. The Peace Garden continues to be a work in progress, with planned future art sculptures, continuation of the stepping stones for garden pathways, children’s height concrete seat walls for an added outdoor classroom, and unlimited imaginative ideas enthusiastically envisioned by all of the students who pass through the campus.

Learning from the past, an orange colored fence was placed around the new garden areas for the first three months to protect the newly planted grass, groundcovers, shrubs and trees. It was emphasized through the interaction with plants, the students, parents, teachers and staff could see the importance in taking care of their garden. Future lessons with a Certified Arborist provided further expertise to teach the school how to care for their garden. I have encouraged the students to weed and to especially to “talk” to the plants so as to perhaps instill a peacefulness in their hearts through the love of plants.

With the planting of many native plants the students not only are seeing how the plants grow but they are learning about the uses of the Native plants, such as the Kou Tree. Students are learning that the wood as once used and continues to be used to make calabash bowls. The seeds of the ‘Uki uki plant was used to make a blue dye. The ‘Akia aril fruit was used to stun fish in the ocean. Some of the Native plants are indigenous or endemic to Hawai’i, while other plants were Polynesian introduced. These introduced plants were widely used in the Hawaiian culture, such as the Kukui Tree for the oil from the Kukui Nuts and the Hala Tree for leaves that were and are still used to make lauhala mats. The use of the native plants will help to preserve some rare and endangered plant species and help establish more natural habitats that will attract the indigenous insect life. Now that the native plants are well established they are more self sufficient, thereby creating less of a demand for water, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The use of the native plants in the landscape is helping to encourage, promote and educate our young students on how important the native plants are to the health of our environment while at the same time providing them an invaluable learning opportunity.

Many of the native plants and plants used by the Hawaiian culture are also drought tolerant. The use of drought tolerant plants combined with the native plants is helping to create a landscape that uses much less water.

The planting of native ground covers and grass rather than the use of hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt, helped to lower the temperature in the environment by providing a cooling effect. This helped to keep the moisture in the soil from evaporating, thereby saving on irrigation. The native ‘Ilima, Akulikuli and Naio Papa, ground covers helped to prevent erosion by slowing water run off and they helped to encourage water to penetrate into the soil decreasing run off into storm drains.

The planting of the Kukui Nut shade trees in the parking lot will help to create a cooling effect for the students as they walk to school on the paved walkway and it also cools the parking area. Native shade Kou and ‘A’ali’i Trees provide this cooling effect for the students as they sit under the trees to read.

Hokulani Elementary School is proud to help to create a sustainable landscape that will preserve our limited natural resources and help to plan for future generations. And most of all, the Peace Garden is helping to continue to teach a whole new generation of children to protect and nurture our beautiful Hawaiʻi.

The students of Hokulani once again take pride in their new Peace Garden and Hawaiian Garden as they watch their garden grow. They share in the pride that the garden is a product of their own creation and imagination. They are now excited to see their garden grow are continuously learning more about native plants.