After an eleven hour flight, we had a day of rest to acclimate ourselves to the six hour time change. We officially kicked off N.A.X. with a packed day on the island of Oahu. We were met at our hotel by Dr. Richard Criley, a horticulture professor at the University of Hawai’i and native Pennsylvanian. He has lived in Hawai’i for thirty-nine years and is very familiar with the flora of the state; he was also kind enough to set-up our travel destinations for the day. Dr. Ken Leonhardt, another University of Hawai’i professor, joined us for the day.
Our first stop was the home of Leland Miyano. As Leland toured us around his one-acre garden, which encompassed his entire property, we all began to see the true beauty of this naturalized, “experimental landscape,” as he would say.
The garden is a true gem! What stood behind his fence cannot be given proper justice with words. Leland, trained in the discipline of fine arts, is an accomplished stone sculptor, creating pieces of life-like and abstract art. Although Leland has a fine arts background, he has always been interested in nature, and thus began to branch out in the world of garden design. The garden, started twenty-five years ago, has grown from a common backyard into a lush tropical landscape containing many beautiful plants including some endangered native Hawaiian species.
We walked along the dry-laid stone paths. Many stone sculptures were placed with precision and care to be integrated into the plantings. Leland described the issue of using exotic versus native plants in the landscape, something which many of us are familiar. Leland tries to stay more in the middle of this issue, but his personal home garden is definitely showcasing the beauty the natural Hawai’ian plant life has to offer.
After the garden tour, we were treated to a wonderful brunch prepared by Leland’s wife, Karen, an accomplished chef. Leland described some of the accolades his garden has been given, including a xeriscape award, articles in many garden books, and even a visit from the staff of Martha Stuart Living magazine, who is featuring his garden in an upcoming magazine article.
After touring Leland’s we headed to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, one of five botanical gardens run by the city of Honolulu. While walking through the garden, Ken and Richard took us on a tour pointing out trees, some beautiful, and some in danger of extinction. One such endangered tree is the Erythrina abyssinica, which is currently combating a nasty Kenyan gall wasp, which lays its eggs in the foliage and defoliates the entire tree. The University is currently investigating ways in which to counteract these predators, and has located five potential solutions in the form of parasitoid wasps. In the not too distant future the University plans to release two species of wasp, and record their effectiveness in controlling the defoliation issue.
We made a quick stop at the garden’s visitor center where we toured their art exhibit space. This area features a constantly rotating exhibit of local artists who display paintings and photography work of Hawai’i’s flora and fauna.
After this restful stop it was on to the garden’s large lake, which was formed in the early 1970s when the US Army Corps of Engineers created a dam in occurrence with a massive flood that sweep the area. In fact, the botanic garden itself was formed as a byproduct of the Army’s damming effort. While at the lake we saw many more trees species. There were also locals enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning in the garden while feeding Tilapia fish.
Our last stop of the day was H & R Nursery, a tissue culture and orchid production facility run by orchid growers Harry Y. Akagi, and Roy S. Tokunaga. H & R has close connections to Longwood, as Roy has traded orchid species with the organization, and Harry has attended the Longwood Orchid Show put on in the spring. He plans to go back this year, so keep an eye out for their booth; the nursery was unbelievable!
With a minimal staff of twelve, H & R are able to house anywhere between four to five hundred species of orchid and over one thousand hybrids in their facility. H & R’s orchids undertake from seed to sale is a ten to twelve month, three-step process. These growers are not supported by fancy equipment or technologically advanced greenhouses. Old fashioned know-how and surviving while being economically conscious was the philosophy Roy shared with us.
Roy and Harry took us around their facility showing us many of these unusual and delightfully ornate plants. We were more and more amazed as we traveled from the seed production room up through to the experimental house that Roy uses as his orchid playground. The highlight of this genuinely awesome nursery was arguably one of the world’s largest orchids, a towering Grammatophyllum scriptum specimen, which gave off countless flower stalks and rose vertically to about five feet.
Our first day was a full day, but an educational and exciting day; a perfect start to what is surely to be a never forgotten, North American Experience.