Friday, February 22, 2019

These days, the Garden of Eden is on Kauai

To find the Biblical, life-giving Garden of Eden, you'll need to deep-dive into historical and religious research materials. But to find where this garden exists today, you'll need to get on a plane to Kauai and head to the South Shore Visitors Center for the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.

Here, you can tour two of the nations five gardens: Allerton and McBryde

National Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai, Kauai

In between these two botanical dreamscapes is the beating heart—and thoughtful brain—of the facility, the horticultural nursery. Every day, endangered plants are literally given new life by manager Ashly Trask (pictured above) and other horticulturists, who painstakingly plant tiny seeds and provide conditions for them to grow. The new plants are then re-introduced in the gardens, including a third NTBG garden, Limahuli, which is on the north shore of Kauai.

Sometimes the work is downright heroic. The alula plant (upper right above) was down to its last gasp until workers repelled down a cliff on the Napali Coast to pluck one of the last known survivors. The alula has flourished in the nursery and replanted elsewhere, including conservatories around the world.

Volunteers are welcomed:

National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai

The 200-acre McBryde Garden covers the upper portion of the Lawai Valley. The place is pure eye candy, most of it under caring cultivation. But there's more than meets the eye: garden workers install GPS tags to keep track of individual plants and trees, and then corollate that data with detailed weather information to hone in on optimum conditions and gain knowledge.

On the lower left above is an authentic canoe hale (hay-lay), one of the accents in the Polynesian 'Canoe Garden.' Growing here are the 30-or so plants and trees the Hawaiian brought with them on their 2,500-mile sailing canoe voyages some 1,500 years ago. The valley is cleaved by Lawai Stream. 

McBryde's Biodiversity Trail takes you on a stroll through the history of plants on earth over the last 4.5 million years. Interpretive signs tell the tale without being overly wordy, and the mist tunnel coveys what words cannot.

National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai

If you walk too fast, you will miss details. There is too much to perceive at a glance—everywhere. The Spice of Life Trail is a side trip into a world of glistening fronds and flowering shrubs. Usually, the only soundtrack will be provided by birds and running water.

National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai

Though much is to be learned from the garden's displays, most visitors will find that the experience is the best teacher.

Allerton Beach, NTBG

Allerton, the more famous of the two gardens, is the 80-acre lower portion to the Lawai Valley. It was the stomping grounds for Queen Emma, and later for Robert Allerton who bought the place. Allerton and his lifetime companion, Gregg, planted botanical "rooms," with fountains and statuary. The Allerton Estate is known also for being the site for TV's Fantasy Island, as well as a number of Hollywood movies.

The visitors center offers several options for guided tours. Independent travelers can take a bus to McBryde for a self-guided walking tour. Admission fees not only provide a memorable day's event, but also go to support the people who are actually getting their fingernails dirty to keep plants on the planet.

National Tropical Botanical Garden

4425 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

Read more about them here: