“We continue to be an entirely family owned and operated business and take pride in sharing our garden with the community and tourists,” said the McCords.
Mayor Alan Arakawa and his wife Ann attended the event, along with family, friends and many of the people who worked at the garden over the past 40 years. “This is the place!” said Mayor Arakawa, thanking the McCords for the beauty, pleasure, and high quality of life they brought to Maui. “I feel like I’m in the Garden of Eden. Helen and Warren created splendor out of forest in Kula. They are very good business people as well as active community participants.”
Displays of historical photos and written history of the garden drew much interest from the guests, most of whom have been associated with the garden over the years. The mood was heightened by the live Hawaiian music played by Glenn and Elizabeth Gregg of Side-Tracks.
Often used for weddings, gazebos are among the many lovely and serene locations you’ll find at the Kula Botanical Garden.
Photo credit: Kula Botanical Garden
“One of the garden’s many blessings is our associates and employees,” said Helen. “They have become our dear friends and ‘ohana.”
Creating any business is a humbling experience. “Creating a garden from a forest of wattle trees is even more humbling,” she said. However, clearing the trees, digging ditches for irrigation lines, building rock walls and finally planting was all they did for the two-and-a-half years before they opened in April 1971.
On land originally owned by Chieftess Kekaulike, the present day garden was merely pasture land and trees before 1969. Now an easy walk takes you through acres of garden on paths surrounded by tropical and local Hawaiian plants of all varieties. The paths cross a covered bridge and go through amazing rock formations, passing waterfalls, a koi pond, and an aviary. Children especially love the Jackson chameleon exhibit, the ducks and native Nene geese. New attractions include a carved tiki exhibit.
“We know you will find peace, contentment and beauty at Kula Botanical Garden,” said the McCords. The garden is designed to display the plants in a natural setting with many resting areas, picnic tables and chairs located along the paths. The plants are labeled with their botanical name, common name, and country of origin. Each individual plant and tree has a story to tell and beautiful flowers in a natural setting are found around each turn.
Kula Botanical Garden is one of the largest producers of Christmas trees in Hawai‘i. Each year, the McCords plant, prune and harvest a new crop of Monterey Pine Christmas trees ranging in height from three to 18 feet. “Our trees are fresh cut, fragrant and beautiful in any home,” they said.
“Since the 1980s I have enjoyed selling the beautiful pine trees during the months of November and December,” said Upcountry resident and part-time garden employee Janet Makua. “It is fun waiting on people who are in their holiday spirit and looking for their perfect tree.”
“Mother Nature has presented the garden with challenges over the years,” said Helen. The storm of 1980, the storm of 2007 and flash floods in January 2011 were all events that created havoc with the garden. “But we picked up the pieces and rebuilt,” she said.
“We are happy to have a business that brings so much pleasure to so many,” Helen said. Brides and grooms have returned to the garden to celebrate the place where they began their life together. Botanists have found plants that they have never seen and visitors constantly find the garden’s peace and calm a welcome relief from their busy lives.
The garden is always growing and changing, as are the people who work with it. “We are so fortunate to have our son Jeffrey return to Maui and be willing to continue the work of the garden as its president,” said Helen.
Jeffrey added, “I am proud to carry on the legacy that my family is entrusting to me. I hope to preserve the essence of the garden and guard it for future generations and our community.”
Susan Locke from Upcountry Harvest Flower Shop is a new addition to the garden’s ‘ohana. “I used to work here in 1983, and it is a great pleasure to be back with the McCords,” said Locke, who is excited about the new home for her business alongside the garden gift shop.
“It takes a community to make the garden work,” said the McCords, thanking those who worked for them throughout the years. “We are so grateful for the support of our ‘ohana and we joyfully celebrate this 40th anniversary with all of you.”