Cover Story: Maintaining paradise

The North Shore of O’ahu is known for annual televised surf competitions at Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach, but it’s also home to some of the most naturally beautiful property in the world. Many visitors to this storied tropical paradise choose to stay at Turtle Bay Resort. Located in the heart of North Shore, the resort’s 880 acres includes 5 miles of unspoiled beach and 12 miles of oceanfront hiking trails.

But tropical beauty aside, paradise can be tough to maintain. Salt, drought, wind and crashing waves take a constant toll on the resort’s landscaping, and it’s Director of Facilities Patrick Bolt’s job to ensure none of those become a problem for the guests.

He has other responsibilities as well. “It’s my job to come up with ideas for new landscaping projects and new plant selection, as well as make our landscaper aware of any problems we have,” Bolt says.

Native know-how
Darryl Barbadillo, division manager with Honolulu-based Landscape Hawaii, has been maintaining Turtle Bay’s landscape for about four years. A native Hawaiian and certified arborist, he is well-versed in native foliage and diseases both foreign and domestic.

“We have a lot of variegation here, but are not able to install and sustain a ton of color,” Barbadillo explains. “Saltwater kills broadleaf plants, so we have to seek alternatives that can survive in such a severe climate. Seashore paspalum, for example, loves the salt and grows very quickly; we have a lot of it, but it’s labor-intensive and we have to hand-weed it.”

A crew of two interior plant experts and seven exterior employees are staffed at Turtle Bay seven days a week. The crew arrives at 6 a.m. daily and conducts a two-hour debrief of the property, including trash pickup and leaf patrol. Barbadillo says he has a master schedule for daily work, but that often changes based on the season.

“The guys assigned to this crew are the ones who have been with the company the longest and have specialty certifications or knowledge,” Barbadillo says. “We have to be very careful who we bring to work at Turtle Bay; we hand-pick each employee.”

Managing micro-climates
When you stand on the beach at Turtle Bay and gaze out to the horizon, there’s nothing standing between you and Alaska except the Pacific Ocean. The strong ocean currents, coupled with the island’s mountainous terrain, create many micro-climates on and around the resort – and present a multitude of challenges for the landscapers who must deal with them.

For half of the year, the resort is pummeled by sea winds, and the other half of the year winds come down from the mountains. Average annual temperatures range from 75 to 85 degrees, and trade winds blow year-round.

“As natives, we know the traditional weather patterns on the island,” Barbadillo explains. “We’ve been through three major storms in the four years I’ve been at Turtle Bay, and we’ve had to do major replantings and quickly change out battered plants each time.”

Barbadillo uses naupaka, one of Hawaii’s most common beach plants, as a salt and wind break. Naupaka is extremely aggressive and resilient. At the resort, it is used as a border between the ocean and the pool to keep the saltwater out. The pool area is where Barbadillo focuses a lot of his effort. It’s the center of the resort, presents a popular photo opportunity, and can be seen from many of the guest rooms.

“In the pool complex we use spider lily, hibiscus varietals, plumeria and wax leaf ficus,” Barbadillo says. “We also use a native fern called Lauae. It’s not wind tolerant, but it makes a nice groundcover and base for other plants.”

The crew mows the grass every week during the summer and every other week throughout the remainder of the year. Because some plants like the plumeria drop their leaves in the winter, there is plenty of maintenance work to do in the off season.

Bolt and Barbadillo meet every Wednesday, conduct an hour-long walk-through of the property and talk about long-term planning.

“Patrick [Bolt] is a great chief engineer; he has a great sense of creativity,” Barbadillo says. “I like to see that kind of intelligent thinking

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