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line were severed. This helped ensure the tree wouldn’t grow back as fast. The trees were controlled by trimming—similar to the art of bonsai—but other factors like nutrition and water couldn’t be as regulated in the outdoor landscape environment. Greg notes that the many birds which roost in ficus provide a continual source of fertilizer. “We have been consistent—and that is key—in trimming the trees to the exact same size every six months for several years now,” he says. “We give the outside of the canopy a trim all the way around, taking off two-to-three feet of green, and then go inside the canopy and cut back the dead leaves and their branches. This helps in preventing rubbish from falling from the tree.” The same can be said about controlling errant roots. Once they start poking out of the ground again, they too need to be cut back as needed. “What’s good about the ficus is that you can aggressively control the roots, and that’s a big deal, because a lot of damage can result from out-of-control tree roots,” says Telles. When asked how the tree maintenance plan affects the health of the tree, Greg says he thinks it’s better to gradually and consistently trim the tree, rather than shock it with drastic cutting every so often. He admits, however, that some landscape colleagues don’t agree with him. “They think the constant trimming, similar to bonsai cultivation, is torturing the tree,” he says. “But for our situation and to keep these trees, that is what we have to do and we think it’s working fine.” The cost of maintaining the trees bi-annually is also less than having to come in with large boom trucks and do extensive cutting, according to Greg. “This way, the grounds always look manicured and the trimmings can be recycled at the county green waste.” The neatly trimmed ficus tree by the pool recently caught the eye of Big Isle resident Bridget Rapoza of Pepe‘ekeo. She took the time to write to Ke Ola about Greg and his efforts in patiently preserving and maintaining Royal Sea Cliff’s banyan trees. In an email Bridget exclaimed, “I could not believe how beautiful and un-banyan it looked relative to every banyan tree I have ever seen here on the island… It is awesome to see. And Greg is saving the functionality, the benefit of the banyan for the condo community there, and still accommodating the view goals…” She continued her praise, writing, “Many people have told me don’t ever plant a banyan—they take over everything, will break up concrete, etc. Similarly, many developers have cut down majestic banyans for all sorts of short-term reasons. Instead of following that common, but misguided thinking, Mr. Telles re-shaped them. Never before have I seen a bonsai banyan at that scale. Or maybe you’d call it topiary banyan. It was pretty cool. Cool enough that I thought you might want to share his thinking, to educate others to the usefulness of it. Far better to patiently shape it than to obliterate it. Most of us don’t have that patience, but I have great respect for the gardeners who do.” You can easily see the lollipop-shaped “bonsai banyans” fronting the Royal Sea Cliff from Ali’i Drive. One is Ka’ū side of the resort’s entrance, while several others sit off to the Kohala side in the front yard. ❖ Contact writer Fern Gavelek at

September-October 2011