This Month in the Garden: Na 'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park Kauai, Hawaii

Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park, Kauai
It’s time to do some more venturing beyond the northeast and this time it is to the beautiful and artistic Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park on the North shore of Kauai. Founded by Joyce and Ed Doty, the gardens started off as a home landscape project. The Doty’s retired and moved from their ranch in Northern California to the island of Kauai in 1982. The project they had started in their front yard grew into a 240 acre area plot of diverse gardens, including one of the largest collections of bronze sculptures in the United States. In 1999, The Doty’s created a Not-for-Profit Foundation, to which they donated the entire garden. Today, the grounds are used for tours and public events. 
Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park Co-Founders Joyce and Ed Doty
The name of the garden Na ‘Aina Kai means “Lands By The Sea” and the gardens are the home of a hardwood forest consisting of 60,000 trees, including Teak, Ironwood, Monogamy, Rainbow Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, Chestnut and Avocado among others. There is also a hedge maze, several water features, including a large lagoon, which is the home to rare birds, including the Hawaiian Gallinulle and the Nene Goose, trails throughout the grounds and a beautiful white sand beach. The hardwood forest was started initially as an educational experiment in forestry, but continues to thrive, while producing a wealth of harvest, used to create revenue to help support the garden.
Heavy Thoughts by John Skurja at Sculpture at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
As you enter the grounds, one of the first of the bronze sculptures encountered is that of “Heavy Thoughts” by artist John Skurja, an over-sized frog that is a take-off on Rodin`s “The Thinker”. This sculpture is joined by a multitude of others throughout the gardens creating a sense of whimsy. 
Rainforest Trail
Tours are available Tuesday-Friday as visitors ride along with tour guide in an open golf-cart style vehicle, which allows oppurtunity to ask questions and request stops along the way. Many of the tour guides are volunteers, who have a good familiarity with the property and deep appreciation for its value and history
Sculpture at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
As we were riding through the hardwood forest, we were delighted by one of the newest bronze sculptures in the garden for 2017. The statue resembling Sasquatch, known in American folklore as a simian-like creature that inhabits forests, stood at about eight feet tall and had a realistic look as if the creature was walking through the forest, as per the popular myth.
Heliconia (Lobster Claw Plant)
Throughout the gardens are tropical blooms including this Heliconia, or Lobster Claw Plant. Heliconia is native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. It’s colorful red bracts are larger than the actual flowers below and the color combination is stunning.
Welcoming Committee Sculpture at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
There are several areas in the garden that are geared towards children. Na ‘Aina Kai ‘s “Under the Rainbow” Children’s Garden opened in 2005 and features a one of a kind 16 foot tall Jack and the Beanstalk sculpture/fountain with mosaic tile story in pictures. The entry gate and mosaic graffiti wall are the creations of talented Hawaiian artist Alex Gurton. The newer, “Horticulture Amusement Garden” greets visitors as they enter with the fun Welcoming Committee bronze sculpture, as seen above.
Alaska Exhibit (Top Photo) and Faces of Hawaii Exhibits (Below)
The newly created Alaska Exhibit gives visitors a true sense of the Alaskan landscape and its inhabitants. This exhibit joins the Faces of Hawaii Exhibit and mosaic tile wall, a creation by artist Alex Gupton, in which the wall and buildings tell the story of early native Hawaiians. Both exhibits serve as educational tools for school groups and garden visitors alike.
Ulu (breadfruit)
Here is Breadfruit or Ulu, known as a staple in Hawaiian culture and referred to as the “Tree of Life” for its life sustaining qualities. Early Polynesians transported root cuttings and air-layered plants over long ocean distances to grow and provide food for their villages. Being very rich in starch, Breadfruit transforms to sugars when very ripe, and when cooked the taste is described as potato-like, or resembling freshly baked bread.
Calabash tree (Watermellon Tree)
The Calabash tree is one of the most unusual looking trees I have even seen, with giant fruit resembling watermelon hanging down from its branches. Pollinated by bats, this plant produces a large, but inedible fruit that has provided Peruvian veterinarians with a cure for mange in dogs. The pulp of the fruit has been used to address respiratory conditions, produce cough medicine and serve a laxative. The flesh of the fruit heals skin conditions, including bruises, and the wood of the tree is used for curing earaches and fever. The leaves are used to make a drug that can reduce blood pressure.
Sausage Tree Kigelia africana 
Here is another unusual looking tree with fruit that resemble sausage. Kigelia africana (Sausage Tree) is native to Africa and grows fruit which are up to 2 feet long. While the fresh fruit of the Sausage tree is poisonous, causing blisters to the mouth and skin, there are many medicinal and cosmetic uses of the fruit with proper preparation, including its use as a central nervous stimulant, painkiller, diuretic, aphrodisiac and skin enhancer. Breadfruit, Watermelon and Sausage Trees are just a few of the beneficial plants grown in the Na ‘Aina Kai gardens.
Conspirators-Joshua Tobey at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
As we rode along the gardens we passed by another fun sculpture called “The Conspirators”, by artist Joshya Tobey, a trio of bears plotting their next plan! I enjoyed the playfulness of this artwork, which can only made you smile!
Rambutan Fruit
This unusual looking plant is Rambutan, a fruit that looks and tastes like giant grapes. To get to the fruit, the spiny-looking outer skin had to be peeled away to expose the almond-shaped white grape in the center. I had never experienced anything like this before and the fruit was absolutely delicious! Rambutan is native to the Malay-Indonesian region, and other regions of tropical Southeast Asia. It is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the lychee.
Carambola (Star Fruit)
Starfruit is another popular fruit found in Kauai which has a sweet-tangy flavor and is rich in vitamin-C, antioxidants and nutrients. It ripens very quickly (as in overnight) so it should be eaten as soon as it is ready.
Bird of Paradise (Top), Ginger (Left) and Bat Flower (Right)
Along with fruit trees, a number of flowering species of plants including Bird of Paradise, Ginger and Bat Flower can be seen growing among the gardens. The later, Bat Flower has a scientific name of Tacca chantrieri, but it known as “Bat Flower” due to its unusual bat-shaped flowers that are up to 12 inches across, with long spikes resembling whiskers that can grow up to 28 inches. 
Home Delivery by Blair Muhlestein at Sculpture at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
Further into the gardens are a series of garden rooms, this one representing a desert garden, with a collection of agave, cacti and various other succulents. 
Desert Garden Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens
The interesting foliage and blooms seen here are those of Aechmea blanchetiana, an orange variety of bromeliad.
Male Cycad Reproductive Cone
Here is a male Cycad reproductive cone. Cycads are among the oldest seed plants known, existing for approximately 320 million years. Being gymnosperms, Cycads reproduce by cones, in which the unfertilized seeds in the female are open to be directly fertilized from the male, with fertilization made possible by the action of insects. To distinguish between the two, the cones of the male plant are longer, while the female cones are noticeably shorter and rounder. 
Pool Area Sculpture at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
Next, we passed by the living area of the Doty’s. A beautiful lagoon-style natural pool exists with rock formations and waterfall. Behind the pool area is a wooded backdrop with a man-made river to complete the gorgeous layout. A bronze statue of a young boy greets you as you enter the area.
Orchids at Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens
Orchids grow in the gardens and thrive with the warm tropical climate. I love the brightness on this yellow variety.
Hearts on a Swing-George Lundeen Sculpture at Na Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
As the tour came towards an end, we passed by and admired this enchanting bronze sculpture by artist George Lundeen, called “Hearts on a Swing”. A beautiful woman welcomes visitors to the garden as she relaxes under a tree in a swing that is embellished with heart cut outs.  
Hawaiian Yellow Hibiscus (Official State Flower of Hawaii)
Near the sculpture is the Poinciana Maze Garden. The Poinciana Maze was designed by Joyce Doty in 1987, inspired by a trip to England. Using Joyce’s sketch as a guide, Ed positioned the mock orange plants in 1989, which then matured into a maze of tall hedges. Various sculptures and topiaries were added to the maze to add some whimsy. Due to the age of the maze, the garden was just re-planted this past year. 
 Poinciana Maze
Pritchardia or Loulu Palm (below) is a native palm to Hawaii and is officially listed as a critically endangered species. The name “Loulu” refers to “umbrella”, because the leaves were once used as protection from rain or sun. The leaves were used by ancient Hawaiians for thatching. Below the palm, attached to its base, are giant Staghorn Fern.
Pritchardia (Loulu) Palms (Native Hawaiian Palm)
Right next to a Japanese Tea House is this playful replica of children crossing a log by artist Jane DeDecker. Out of the almost 200 bronze sculptures in the garden, it was one of my favorites.
Sculpture Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
Visitors are welcome to visit the inside of this quaint Japanese Tea House. Adjacent to the Tea House is a large waterfall that was built by John Groark and his team.  
Japanese Tea Room
Behind the Japanese Tea House is Rainbow Eucalyptus. These trees are grown for their extraordinary bark, which shows a multitude of  colors including green, red, blue, purple and orange. The bark peels to show an ever-changing piece of nature’s artwork.
 Rainbow Eucolyptus
Other plants we observed on the tour included date palm, Bismark Palm, coffee bean, clumping bamboo, Cook Pine, Potato Tree (Solanum crinitumand Palavra tree, with its interesting bark that resembles that of Sycamore. 
Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park

The Foundation’s mission is to support and promote tropical horticulture, agriculture and forestry, in addition to maintaining of a constantly changing garden and art experience for visitors of all ages. Our visit to the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park certainly made for an enjoyable experience, while discovering a combination of gardens, sculptures and special exhibits. It is amazing how what once started out as a home landscape project turned into the wonderful gardens that exist today. 

For more information visit 
Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park

Linking with:  Floral FridaysMacro Monday 2Friday Photo JournalImage-in-ing Weekly Photo Link-Up and Dishing It & Digging It, Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

Author: [email protected] Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.