Garden Improvements

Although we lost the Garden’s Visionary Founder,  Dan Lutkenhouse in 2007, his work ethic and high standards continue to be upheld.  Led by Co-founder and wife Pauline Lutkenhouse, efforts to maintain and improve all facets of the Garden continue apace.

The Boardwalk at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Boardwalk at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden


The first and most pressing task on our list was to upgrade one of the Garden’s defining features, the spectacular 500-foot long Boardwalk Entry.  The Garden’s Boardwalk provides each visitor with a memorable and sensational introduction to Onomea Valley. Following the natural contours of Kahali’i Stream, the boardwalk meanders downward into Onomea Valley, revealing its botanical wonders to visitors a little at a time until at last the end is reached. All along the descent visitors are regaled with a symphony of color and shape.  Brilliant flowers from Tropical Rhododendrons, Gingers, and Heleconia compete with rare palms, towering bamboos and exotic ferns for the visitor’s attention.
Unfortunately, due to the intense forces of erosion present in Onomea Valley, keeping the boardwalk presentable and safe had been a continuous and costly process.  The wind, rain, brilliant Hawaiian sun, and the heavy foot traffic required us to replace boards on a regular basis. Thus, early this year an exhaustive search for a better more sustainable solution was begun.  Fortunately we were able to find American Plastic Lumber.  Their plastic boards are extremely durable and are not porous so they will not absorb stains or water. This makes them able to resist rotting, cracking, splitting or warping from the constant rainfall or discoloration from heavy traffic and plant material.  Plastic lumber is less slippery wet than dry. The material has a paraffin base and just like surf boards that are waxed they are more tacky when they are wet.  Best of all, the plastic lumber still has an organic wood look to fit in the garden’s aesthetic.

The boards are created from recycled plastic milk jugs. One foot of 2×4 contains hundreds of used milk jugs so the Boardwalk construction has removed thousands of plastic jugs from the waste stream.

The boards were replaced one by one, allowing visitors normal access into the Garden and the project was completed in just two months.  Soon after, the staircase to Palm Jungle was also reconstructed with plastic lumber.   The Garden’s Boardwalk entry  and Palm Jungle staircase are now more secure, less costly to maintain and should look as good as new for many decades to come.

Another Garden feature in need of attention was our beloved statue of the Hawaiian God KU.  Hewn from an old Monkeypod Tree by Hilo’s own Master Carver Rocky Vargas, Our statue of KU had been standing guard over the Alakahi Stream Trail for the past twenty years.  Unfortunately, those years of exposure to the elements had begun to take a toll.  Pauline Lutkenhouse invited Rocky to come back and carve a new KU out of a block of

Rocky Vargas and KU at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Rocky Vargas and KU at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

wood from a recently fallen Monkeypod Tree. Fortunately, Rocky happily obliged and began coming to the Garden in the early mornings to start carving.  After about three months Rocky had finished a fantastic new KU which would be erected as the centerpiece for the recently expanded Banyan Canyon area.  The new KU is 12 feet tall and wieghs 3 tons!  To complete the installation a bronze plaque was erected alongside the statue which provides some background on Hawaiian Mythology and Master Carver Rocky Vargas.

The Garden gives thanks to Mr. Vargas whose passion, reverence, and respect produced this masterpiece.


Turtle Point Renovation

At the Corner of Turtle Point, not too long ago, there stood an impressive specimen of Pandanus tectorius ‘Variegata.’
Unfortunately after a severe rainstorm with high winds the plant was found uprooted and fallen over with the surrounding pavement also broken up.  After the remains of the plant were removed it was decided to leave that area as an open space with a picnic area as it provides an amazing panorama of ocean views.

The entire Turtle Point area to the end of Alakahi Stream Trail has been repaved and widened allowing for easier access for those with limited mobility.
Marian Kobayashi who, as a tribute to her late parents, donated $10,000 to establish this collection of the famous Anthurium andraeanum, has again generously donated for its expansion.  Hundreds of new plants including old new and rare varieties have been planted, leaving the entire jungle understory in this area awash in vibrant color.

The Garden has also established a Fruit Tree Orchard made possible by a kind donation from recently retired UH Professor and Garden Board Member, Dr. Yoneo Sagawa.

Trees acquired and already planted include the Siam Sweet acerola, Cashew, Siam Seedless Guava, Petsakon Longan, Pui Fah Santol, Bangkok Santol, Giant Vietnamese Sapodilla,Tikal Sapodilla, Rheedia edulis, Long Kong Langsat, Stol, Sugar Apple, Mamey Sapote, Soursop, Mangosteen, Marang, Permsimmon ‘Fuyu’, Giant White Guava, Nutmeg, Ice Cream Bean Tree  and Ficus dammaropsis (Highland Breadfruit.)

Someday, the bounty from all of these tropical trees will be readily available to educate and share with Garden Guests.
Thank you Dr. Sagawa.


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