Last year, Plumerias.com had the pleasure of interviewing Richard and Evelyn Toba in preparation for a story in the Plumerian section of noted plumeria people. Sadly, we have recently learned that Richard passed away earlier this year in 2007.
Here is our article on Richard and Evelyn Toba.
The Plumerian visits with Richard Toba and his wife Evelyn on the red sands of the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Richard, now 70 is the embodiment of the the aloha spirit. Recently having won the Outstanding Older American for Maui County, Richard is all about giving.
During the plumeria high season months of April thru July, Richard wakes up every morning seven days a week, at 3 am to pick flowers from their one acre plumeria grove. Richard jokes that he feeds the plumeria trees with special glow in the dark fertilizer, so that he can see the flowers in the early morning hours.
Its an amazing story of dedication, as he then gives the flowers away for free to the senior citizens center. Richards wife Evelyn and others at the Senior Citizens Center then string the flowers together to make leis for sale in the local community to generate funds for local high school scholarships. It takes Richard five to six hours a day to pick the 5,000 plus flowers needed to create the 100 leis.
The Tobas have a wonderful home on their one acre of 100 plumeria trees. Richard is quick to note that he planted most of the trees from cuttings with some seedlings that he has raised as well. Some of the older trees were planted by Evelyns mother, who used to live there before. Most of the trees today are 6 to 10 feet high, with 8 to 10 foot diameters.
Richard has some amazing new seedlings that have become great new bloomers. Some are seedlings of Duke and others of Kimo, but there is one seedling that we are calling “Tobas Fire”, a beautiful new cultivar, it is a bright lava orange with deep red borders on the petals.
Richard and Evelyn, both natives of Maui, have a long tradition of the aloha spirit, he is quick to note that all of his plumeria cuttings and seedlings were given to him with no cost. “If you see a wonderful bloom and ask a Hawaiian for a cutting, they will never turn you down or take your money” that is the Hawaiian way of giving back.
Richard tries to keep his plumeria trees low, so that he can pick the flowers easily, but as you walk with him talking about each tree, its heritage and the differences of the blooms, you can’t help but get lost in the middle of the grove being surrounded by thousands and thousands of multi colored blooms. At one edge of the property, you can see an innovative technique that Evelyns mother used to try and keep the plumeria trees shorter, by tying long rubber straps to mid section of the branches anchored by concrete cylinders on the ground. I have never seen this method before but it definitely caused the tree to fan out more.
Richard offers simple advice for the rooting of cuttings in Hawaii:
1. remove all of the leaves from the cutting
2. let dry (usually only needing a few days)
3. plant the cutting in a pot with soil
4. water once
5. DO NOT WATER again until you see additional sprouting
Richard has run PVC piping to all the trees, he has a simple method of putting 3/16 inch holes in the pipe at each tree location. He generally waters twice a week for 15 min a time during the plumeria season. Then when the leaves are gone, he doesn’t water at all.
Richard talks about his thoughts on over-watering and how that may create too many leaves but not enough blooms, he mentions that its seems to be a fine balance of watering just the right amount. Over-watering seems to make the plants weaker.
One can’t help but notice the red top soil that exists on the entire property. Richard notes that their used to be a sugar plantation mill nearby next to the property and that the red dirt comes from the cleaning and processing of the sugar cane.
I ask Richard, the youngest of thirteen kids, What is the most important thing that you would say to other plumeria people? “Don’t be afraid to share!”