Landscape Architecture

The International Tropical Garden – Maui Edition

The Hawaiian Landscape

Hawaii is a natural hub for the exchange of culture and commerce. From its settlement by Polynesian sailors to its incorporation as the 50th state of the USA, Asian and Western influences have profoundly shaped these islands. Most famously, classic Hawaiian dishes are influenced by the kitchens of its Japanese, Portuguese, and Filipino residents, among many others. But a less well-known example of such international influence can be found in Hawaii’s gardens and landscapes. From roadsides to resorts, the most beautiful plants of the world’s tropical and sub-tropical regions are found here. Some of the most stunning gardens are rarely seen as they can only be found behind the gates of Hawaii’s private residences.

An Interactive Garden Guide

The home ‘Makana Ola,’ which means ‘a living gift’ in Hawaiian, is one such property. Currently for sale, we can explore its gardens via a special feature on its website, Although access is usually restricted to registered visitors, readers of the Hawaii Life blog can access it directly by clicking here. An extensive plant glossary, including Latin names, photos, and descriptions celebrate this attractive feature of the property. There are ferns from the Pacific Rim, citrus from the Philippines, flowers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Madagascar, and palms from Australia and South Africa. Every plant has it’s own unique history and symbolic meaning. But, of course, the main effect is one of beauty, color, scent, and tropical experience. The gardens are both intimate and private while also showcasing their oceanside location and Kaho’olawe and Molokini views. Below are a few of my favorite plants included in the online glossary. With 48 varieties included, I hope you’ll visit the site to discover your favorites.

Plant Glossary

From Left to Right:

Calamansi – Citrus Microcarpa – from the Philippines. This tart lime makes a great garnish for cocktail hour, or juice it and use it the same you would any lime. Picked while it’s green, the orange flesh inside makes for a delicious surprise and unexpected effect.

Laua’e Fern – Phymatosorus Scolopendria – from the Pacific Rim (Fiji, New Caledonia, Polynesia, and more). The native laua’e fern, Microsorum Spectrum, is very rare and has been replaced by this common laua’e fern imported from the South Pacific. This fern shares the ‘maile’ fragrance of the native fern and replaces it in leis and hula ceremony. It’s a great addition to the subtle, scented, sensory experience.

Giant White Bird of ParadiseStrelitzia Nicolai – from South Africa. This dramatic flowering plant displays enormous white flowers amidst a fan of wide banana-like leaves. Exotic and exemplary, these tall plants make bold appearances throughout the landscape. A strange fact about this plant: it contains bilirubin, a pigment that acts as an antioxidant for cells in animals. What it does for this flowering plant is a little more of a mystery.

To visit the interactive plant glossary, click here. To learn more about the home, visit, or contact listing agent Josh Jerman.

Poolside Ohana & Gardens. Listed by Peter Neu & Josh Jerman.

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June 4, 2020

Hi Pete, thanks for this post. Love how the plant glossary turned out!

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