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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Photos by Author – All Rights Reserved
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 holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.