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Ha‘ikū Maui Orchids

A greenhouse laboratory in paradise.

February 24, 2011
Trisha Smith

This special nursery thrives on the altruistic love and thoughtful expertise of its creative caretaker, Alan Davidson. This passionate practitioner may not have a degree in botany or agriculture, but with decades of experience—from indoor, city growing to a greenhouse laboratory in paradise—Alan cultivates the patience and multifaceted intellect it takes to maintain sensitive ecosystems such as Ha‘ikū Maui Orchids.

A kind and humble man, Alan is extremely easy to talk to, and he is more than willing to answer all your plant queries, no matter how simple or complex.

Strolling along the serene, organic aisles in the indoor jungle of Ha‘ikū Maui Orchids, it’s difficult to imagine that the origin of this green venture blossomed in a house within the bustling metropolis of New York City. Alan and his former long-time partner, Norman Mizumo, first began their dreams with an indoor grow system they maintained for over 15 years in a Brooklyn house.

Article Photos

Alan Davidson’s deep-rooted knowledge and caring disposition provides his Ha‘ikū Maui Orchids customers a specialized, friendly greenhouse experience.

Photo: Ted Blanco

“It initially started as a hobby for Norman, but grew into something much greater… then I began taking a serious interest in the culture,” said Alan, a former NYC artist. “Norman’s the expert—I’ve learned so much from him over the years.”

When it comes to orchids, many think tropical, yet that’s not the case with this diverse family. Alan said there are many collectors and growers in the city, with rooftop and apartment gardens galore.

“It was almost like an elite, secret society back then,” he said. “Today—as orchid prices continue to fall—the culture has driven more people to it and there are thousands more hybrids, which is great.”

The inspired duo eventually built a greenhouse in the city—a valuable lesson since homegrown orchid cultivation is vastly different from growing in a greenhouse environment. They learned how to grow all their plants under much shadier conditions than normally recommended, so they will adjust to indoor growing more readily. And, most orchid plants don’t require substantial sunlight to furnish good-quality blooms.

The nurserymen moved to Maui in 1998 and expanded operations to a 16,000-square-foot space in Ha‘ikū at an elevation of 1,400 feet, where the greenhouse enjoys moderate daytime temperatures, trade wind showers and mountain breezes. These ideal conditions have allowed them to grow the highest quality orchid plants. The crisp climate helps create microenvironments for a wide assortment of species and hybrids that thrive in warm, intermediate or cool temperatures.

Amid the extensive layers of the greenhouse, you’ll discover a variety of growing principles that incorporate shading, cooling and watering systems. Orchids in tropical climates maintain unique root systems. The plants are epithetic, growing in the air rather than soil—frequently using another plant as a symbiotic host.

“The advantage of a greenhouse is that I get to control the environment,” said Alan, who is also an exceptional bagpiper. “Outdoor operations are more tedious and need more workers.”

Ha‘ikū Maui Orchids maintains its own in-house orchid laboratory where rare species and hybrids are propagated. Norman even named one of his hybrid creations after a friend, Hawai‘i Sen. J. Kalani English. It’s a unique yellow orchid with bright accents and a pleasant fragrance reminiscent of the essence of Maui.

While Norman remains a partner in the company, he sought greener pastures last year, moving to the Mainland to work for Matsui Nursery, the world’s largest potted orchid producer. Alan is currently the only employee at the Maui locale, an incredible feat once you enter the magical environment and discover the vast, healthy collection of plant species he tends to each day.

Orchids are indeed at the root of this Hai‘kū business, but the nursery is also bursting with an array of natural, decorative sensations, including gorgeous anthuriums, ferns, tropical/subtropical plants, bonsai and succulents, just to name a few.

“It’s the best office environment,” said Alan. “It’s a creative setting I can be proud of.”

Alan’s plant penchant also stems from his family heritage, which includes a long line of farmers. He grew up on a growing environment, so it’s no surprise how well his green thumb has developed naturally throughout the years.

“I learn something new every day,” he said. “I think learning to properly care for orchids—or any plant—lies within experimentation. Observe closely and respond accordingly, and have plenty of patience—like with anything in life… ”

Discover the flourishing wonderland of Ha‘ikū Maui Orchids at 2612 Pololei Place in Ha‘ikū. Call (808) 573-1130 and visit www.haikumauiorchids.com for more information, including useful growing instructions for your indoor and outdoor plant pals.

 
 
 

 

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