Workday adds more native plants to UH Law School courtyard

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Aug 3, 2015

UH Law School staff, faculty and students at work greening the courtyard.
UH Law School staff, faculty and students at work greening the courtyard.

To spruce up the already welcoming and green UH Law School courtyard, an industrious group of staff, faculty and students spent last Friday afternoon weeding, mulching, replanting and cleaning out dead leaves from the attractive and meaningful courtyard plantings. Donning work gloves and wearing shorts and T-shirts, they focused on indigenous and culturally significant native Hawaiian plantings.

“This helps create a beautiful environment that you see every day when you come to work,” said Jenn Young, event planner for the William S. Richardson School of Law.

 “Walking in here you see things blooming and growing and it’s calming,” said retired Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge James Burns, who has been involved in caring for a section of the courtyard for years, and who added indigenous Hawaiian plants as well as a kalamungay tree. The tree is valued in the Filipino community both for its nourishment and its medicinal properties. “Every Filipino household has one,” he explained. Judge Burns is married to Emme Tomimbang, a leader in Hawai’i’s Filipino community.

Jameson Ramelb, head of landscaping for the UH campus, provided native plants for areas cleaned out by the staff, noting that while student groups often form work parties in their own colleges, it’s unusual for staff and faculty to work on their school’s grounds.

“Because this is staff and faculty and directors, there’s more of a long-term interaction that sustains the courtyard,” said Ramelb.

Associate Dean Denise Antolini, former director of the Environmental Law Program (ELP) and an enthusiastic gardener herself, led the work party, including guiding the positioning of two new native Loulu palms that were gifts from the ELP.

“We have two ‘ohi‘a lehua trees that are a tribute to the Ulu Lehua Program,” said Antolini. “We are trying to start a dryland kalo garden and we have an edible garden that’s tended by the students.”

The inspiration for the latter came from famed Philippine environmental lawyer Antonio A. Oposa Jr., who spent the spring semester teaching at the Law School as the 2015 Daniel and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals. Oposa has planted edible gardens along Manila streets, and planted several in Honolulu with his class during his time here.

Law School Dean Avi Soifer wielded a shovel to dig new holes for additional plantings, joining other staff members who climbed into the three giant planters that form the Law School’s beautiful central core, gathering place and leafy study areas.

Dean Soifer explained, “We are very fortunate to have a palpable sense of community provided by the staff and faculty as well as the students at our Law School. With the key help of UH Mānoa staff, we have been able to add to the beauty of our important shared, welcoming environment.”

As the group worked under a blazing sun, Judge Burns evaluated the planter that has been primarily under his care. Also an enthusiastic gardener, Burns began planting native ti and native hibiscus at the Law School more than five years ago, and has continued to spend time pruning, weeding, watering and adding more indigenous plants.

“It brings life and a good feeling to the whole building,” he says of the green and thriving courtyard gardens. “It improves the whole learning process.”  Some of the ti leaves Judge Burns nurtures came directly from the celebration of life event for the late Chief Justice William S. Richardson, the Law School’s namesake.

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