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The trees are getting their six-month trim. The professional tree trimmer who is overseen by Greg Telles is Kilifi “Cliff” Finau of Aloha Greens Landscaping. The trees look nice all the time since they were cut back to their new, miniature size.

40 Wiwoole Street Hilo, Hawaii 96720


“I learned from the old timers on O’ahu how to maintain large canopy trees like banyans and monkeypods,” said the Wai‘anae High School graduate. “So I went to management here and told them the trees could be saved and made into an asset by reshaping them into a size appropriate to the property.” With the blessing of Royal Sea Cliff management, Greg organized a plan with Aloha Greens Landscaping to get the trees to a desired size. Similar to the principles of bonsai, the Japanese art of trimming trees grown in containers, Telles planned on eventually managing the trees by judiciously cutting back the roots, limbs and canopy on a regular basis. But first he had to get the huge trees down to their new, much smaller size. “The first cut we did was very drastic, taking about threefourths of the top of the tree away,” said Greg. “But we knew it would be okay because ficus trees are resilient.” With other types of trees, he says a rule of thumb is to never cut off more than half of a tree or the shock may kill it. While Greg admits he didn’t know exactly what genus of ficus he was working with—for example if it was ficus benjamina or ficus benghalensis, the latter considered the Indian banyan tree—he was confident in the plan of action. With the trees reduced to a quarter of their original size, the ficus were basically 12-foot tall stumps with a handful of ascending limbs. They were allowed to rest and recover for about a year. All the trees gradually showed life, sprouting new vertical branches. “During the second year, we started the first shaping of the tree,” continued Greg, who explained the growing canopy was trimmed close and compact to the base of the tree’s main trunk. Greg also addressed roots that were growing vertically out of the dirt. The exposed roots were cut back and covered with fresh, sterile dirt. In the next year or so, each tree’s canopy thickly filled in to the desired height and width of about 16 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Roots growing under the ground beyond the tree’s drip

September-October 2011  
September-October 2011