Once upon a time in paradise, Makato Nitahara transformed a 20-acre papaya patch into a tropical dream. I don’t know what inspired him – perhaps just the joyful satisfaction of creation. Nitahara called his garden Nani Mau – Forever Beautiful. In 1972 Nitahara opened his garden to the public, and it’s been a favorite destination of Hiloans and visitors ever since.
In 1999, controversial local entrepreneur Ken Fujiyama purchased Nani Mau for $2 million. It was not a happy time for the garden. But since Ms. Helen Koo bought Nani Mau in 2012 for $2.2 million, good times have returned. I visited Nani Mau last month, sampled the café food, and strolled the grounds. It was an idyllic experience.
The Japanese Bell Tower is a garden landmark, recalling Nitahara’s vision. The tower is built with 20,000 boards, and has no nails or screws. Only three towers in the world utilize this technique. The other two are in France and Canada, respectively. The Bell Tower highlights a large bamboo grove.
Nani Mau is known for its 2,300 orchids, many in an Orchid Pavilion. The garden hosts one of the world’s largest collections of the Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, Epiphytes, Oncidium and Cattleya orchids. Since I don’t know one orchid from another, I’ll have to accept that claim on trust.
There’s a Ginger Garden, Hibiscus Garden, Fruit Orchard, Anthurium Grove, and several varieties of palm trees, including Ceiling Wax Palms, Royal Palms, Manila Palms and Areca Palms.
Nani Mau also has several resident peacocks, one of whom was kind enough to put on a show for me. The male peacock’s brilliant colors and ability to fan his beautiful feathers is enchanting. His raucous call less so.
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Nani Mau Gardens, 421 Makalika Street, Hilo HI 96720
Nani Mau Gardens Website – http://nanimaugardens.com
John Burnett. Nani Mau Gardens Sold, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, August 2, 2012. http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/local-news/nani-mau-gardens-sold.html
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Rama's Labyrinth, a biographical historical novel available on Amazon. Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general. To get periodic updates, sign up for the eNewsletter or follow Sandra on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Better yet, subscribe to Sandra's blog via RSS.