Monday, July 3, 2017

Hawaii - The Next Chapter

For years I have been dreaming about going to the island state of Hawaii.  From the early days of working in the tropical nurseries of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England to my first adventure of living in the tropic's of the British Virgin Islands and later Nevis, I constantly dreamed of Hawaii.  For me, I've always perceived these islands to be a mecca for tropical horticulture and so far it hasn't disappointed.  A year ago, almost to this day my family and I put our feet onto its shores to start the next chapter of our life's.

Our home on the island of Lana'i is one of a few lesser known islands that make up the Hawaiian chain.  Oahu, with Hawaii's capital of Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii are probably the best known of the archipelago of islands. Lana'i, Molokai and the forbidden island of Ni'ihau make up the rest of the in-habitat islands.  Lana'i is best known as the Pineapple Island following its glory days as being the worlds major pineapple exporter.  The crown has since gone to the Philippines but evidence of these years can still be seen on the landscape.  A little known fact outside of these islands is that 98% of its 140 sq miles is privately owned, but don't worry there's very few places you can't go on this island.

The position I've had for the last year is Director of Landscaping for the Four Seasons Resorts, a company I became familiar with from my time on Nevis.  It is a high end, luxury resort and hotel chain that can be found in many of the worlds most desirable destinations. However, the property is owned by the same person who owns the majority of the island with the Four Seasons providing the management and branding of the resort.  This partnership has lead to the creation of probably one of the best resorts you'll find in the world, with the Four Seasons exceptional high level of service paired with the owners desire and financial capacity to provide the best guest experience in the world.  

During 2015, the resort was shut down for extensive renovations before reopening in the beginning of 2016.  No corners were cut in the makeover and its evident when you wonder around the resort.  One of the aspects that appealed to me was that the landscapes were considered just as important as the buildings in the renovation and went through a major change.  Gone is the standard arrangement of hotels plants and generic landscape designs seen in so many places today and in its place is a collection of plants mostly seen in Botanic gardens or private collections.  It is almost like you are a guest staying in the private home of the owner than at a resort.

From the moment you arrive on the main driveway to the resort, you are enveloped by lush tropical landscapes.  Every corner of the landscape has been improved on and addressed.  Gone were the labor and material intensive lawnscapes and in its place a jungle of palm, cycads, gingers and many other iconic tropical plants.  No expense was spared in creating this dream landscape.

This year sees the start of renovations to the islands sister resort, The Lodge at Koele and it promises to be just as exciting as the Manele Bay makeover.  While Manele sits at sea level and provides the heat needed for many exotic plants, Koele has higher amounts of rainfall with cooler temperatures that broaden the types of tropical plants that can be used. These are exciting times for an island that hasn't seen much development since the building of the two resorts after the pineapple years came to an end.  

Who knows, with all the investment happening to the islands properties maybe Lana'i title of being a Pineapple island will change to the Island of Gardens.