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Contractor in Paradise






Tropical Images Inc., wanted to maintain the "old Hawaii" feel of the Michael Estate project on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, while creating an updated contemporary look as well. Contractor Greg Lee and his crew did a complete overhaul of the site, removing nearly all of the existing foliage aside from the older trees, which were pruned and trimmed to maintain this view of Diamond Head crater.


A contemporary, tropical Hawaiian resort-look reminiscent of old Hawaii was the idea Greg Lee had in mind when his company, Tropical Images, Inc., began work on the Michael Estate project on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

The home sits on the oceanfront with views of Diamond Head and Koko Head craters that the homeowner wanted to keep open and visible. The project covered the entire perimeter of the home, including the oceanfront. The main areas of concentration were a coral waterfall in the main entryway which became the visual focal point of the area, and the rear of the property with its lush foliage and pristine views of the ocean.






This 6' x 6' coral fountain became the focal point of the main entryway of the property. Glass lights were installed around the base of the fountain to illuminate the entryway at night and hi-light the natural beauty of the coral.



Lee and his crew began by re-establishing healthy native shoreline plants. In order to maintain the spectacular views, Lee and his crew brought in arborists to trim and prune the older foliage that had become overgrown. While much of the old vegetation was removed and replaced, Lee wanted to utilize some of the older plants and trees on the property, such as the 80-year-old coconut palms that had grown to more than 65-feet-tall. "The project was part restoration and part redo," said Lee. "It was a home built in the 1930s, but they did a total redesign and renovation of the home. The only thing that was left that was original were the coconut trees. Everything else was redone--yard, irrigation- everything. It was time to come up with an overall theme for the yard and at the same time, use native plants to help control erosion."

Digital Imaging






Light-colored quartzite was installed around the pool with copper pathway lighting to illuminate the walkway and hi-light the tropical foliage on the property. The soil near the coast of the island is largely made up of volcanic material and sharp, hard coral which meant that tough tools had to be used to dig down into the ground. A Toro Dingo was used with carbide tipped attachments that included: a 30 auger bit with power head, carbide tip trencher, rotodarien, palet fork, box scraper, and small and large dump buckets.


Since their beginnings in 1991, Tropical Images has been a successful full design and landscape company. But in 2000, business really picked up when they began using digital imaging. "We were then able to give customers a true visual design of what we're doing," said Lee.

Tropical Images uses digital imaging to present their clients with a picture of the finished project before work begins. Lee says that due to digital imaging, many clients have chosen Tropical Images over other contracting companies, including the Michael Estate project.

"The homeowner looked at different contractors before making a decision," said Lee. "We were able to show him what the finished project would look like through digital imaging and it helped us win the bid."

The Right Tools for an Island Job

Working on an island in the middle of the pacific presents unique challenges that most contractors will never have to contend with. Digging into earth that is largely made up of volcanic material and coral requires tough tools.

"Since we use technology to our benefit, we use the best equipment possible," said Lee.

"We used a Toro Dingo with various attachments which included: 30 auger bit with power head, carbide tip trencher, rotodarien, palet fork, box scraper, and small and large dump buckets." Trenchers with carbide teeth were essential to dig into the sharp, hard coral.






The large sweeping lawn of St. Augustine grass dotted with coconut palms over 80-years-old and 65-feet-tall helped to keep the overall design of the landscape simple and easy to maintain. St. Augustine grass seed was planted using hydro-mulching, with recycled telephone books used as part of the mulching mix. Seaweed and sugarcane residuals were used as fertilizer to ensure that no chemical byproducts were leached into the ocean.


The hot and dry weather conditions of the area had to be taken into consideration when choosing plants. The rear of the property has constant wind change from trade winds and salt spray as well as stronger southern winds. Plants were chosen not only for esthetic beauty, but for sustainability as well.

Screening from neighbors was created using a variety of native plants. Hao trees, hala trees and hapu ferns were used to create privacy and also helped reduce road noise by creating a sound buffer. The variations in height, color, smell and open grass areas created wonderful visual appeal throughout the property.

Because the home is located on the oceanfront, organic fertilizers such as seaweed and sugarcane residuals were used to ensure that no byproducts were leeched into the ocean. Recycled mulch was used in all of the planting areas to keep moisture and heat near the base of the plants to reduce watering times. St. Augustine grass seed was planted using hydro-mulching, with recycled telephone books used as part of the mulching mix. Edging used for planting borders were made from a heavy, recycled plastic composite.






Native tropical plants such as coleus, hapu ferns and areca palms were installed to create a natural privacy screen from neighbors as well as to help buffer noise from passing vehicles. Using plants native to the island helped minimize upkeep as well.


"The homeowner looked at different contractors before making a decision. We were able to show him what the finished project would look like through digital imaging and it helped us win the bid."- Greg Lee, Tropical Images, Inc.

The types of plants and materials used were selected in order to fit the budget of the project and also to stand up to the environmental conditions, which helped to keep the design very functional. Copper pathway lighting was installed and used to highlight hapu ferns and the coconut palms.

Lee and his crew were able to incorporate all of the project objectives into the design. Integrating existing native and tropical plants and adding varieties to create color, texture and height variation, gave the finished project a polished and updated look and feel.

Transforming an overgrown landscape that had not been maintained by keeping the design simple using large areas of open lawn space and native tropical plants created an esthetically beautiful yard on a one-acre property that is maintained only twice a month.







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December 7, 2019, 3:37 am PDT

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