Island of Hawaii Week: Flowers by Kona Scent

KHON2’s Wake Up 2day and Living808 present a special series from the Island of Hawaii. Trini Kaopuiki went exploring and found the joys of a staycation on Hawaii’s largest island.

Proteas are not your garden-variety flowers. Their cone-shaped flower heads and rigid geometric leaves give them strong, visual impact that is prized by florists. They bloom in many colors, including pink, red, and a pale yellow, and they don’t have much of a scent. But what they lack in fragrance, they make up for by being long-lasting as cut flowers, often for several weeks.

Usually found in South Africa and Australia, this unusual plant family can’t be grown in many parts of the United States, but they flourish in Hawaii gardens and commercial farm operations thanks to the ideal mix of climate and mineralogy found in many parts of the islands.

Sam and Tony Bayaoa operate Flowers by Kona Scent in Oceanside on Hawaii Island. For the past 17 years, they’ve grown thousands of bright red, yellow, and pink protea flowers on their two-acre farm, and are among the foremost protea farm authorities in the district of Ka‘u.

But there are hazards to farming near an active volcano. Tony Bayaoa says crops are easily damaged as sulfur dioxide from Kilauea wafts over and envelops them in vog, or volcanic smog. Proteas can be severely impacted by prolonged vog conditions.

In 2008, the Bayaoas lost 98-percent of their field to vog-induced burn and nearly went out of business. “It comes in and burns the plant, literally burns the plant to a crisp, like a brown paper bag, in a matter of four to six hours,” Tony Bayaoa said.

The Bayaoas were able to work with government agencies and come up with a program that provides financial assistance to farmers struggling with vog-related problems.

Despite the challenges, Hawaii Island still provides one of the best locations for growing gorgeous protea blooms that are sought after by floral markets around the world.

Flowers by Kona Scents provides blooms, greenery, and finished arrangements to clients here and abroad, including KHON2 in Honolulu. Its beautiful protea arrangements can be seen each weekday on the set of Living808, and can be purchased on Oahu at Paiko in Kakaako.

For more information, call Flowers by Kona Scent at (808) 929-9224.

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