Imagine Downtown Hilo adorned with beautiful orchids in trees and planters. This is one of the goals of the Hilo Orchid Society’s Orchid Isle Project, which will be doing its best to put more orchids on public display on the Orchid Isle this year.
On June 3, Julie Goettsch, chair of the project, and Orchid Society President Larry Kuekes met with representatives from the Hilo Improvement Project and the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association to identify great sites for orchids. Orchids will be donated by growers who are members of the Orchid Society
Alice Moon of the Hilo Improvement Project and Chiko Arakawa, who implements ornamental planting projects for both the Downtown Improvement Association and the Hilo Improvement Project, identified several areas appropriate for plantings, including Kalakaua Park and along Kamehameha Avenue.
In an initiative led by William McKnight of the Downtown Improvement Association, Kalakaua Park will soon be receiving large permanent planters along the ledge near the Korean War Memorial on the makai side of the park. A master carver whose stone statues already grace downtown Hilo, McKnight will be carving floral decorations on the face of the planters, which will then be filled with a mixture of live plants, including orchids donated by the Orchid Society.
Kuekes identified several trees in the park as other excellent sites for orchids.
“Some orchids can grow in full sun,” he explained, “but others need some sun and some shade. Orchid Society members can supply the expertise so that the right orchids are chosen for spots with the right amount of sunlight, shade, and rain.”
Trees along Kalakaua Street would be just right for orchids that need very little maintenance once they are in place. Orchids would also do well in the kukui nut and schefflera trees in Kamehameha’s “pocket parks,” areas along the curb that contain decorative plantings, seating areas and statuary, such as at the corner of Waianuenue Avenue in front of the Tsunami Museum.
While the group was inspecting a potential site outside of Basically Books, proprietor Christine Reed came out to see what was happening. When she heard about the project, she was delighted, “Well, this is the Orchid Isle,” she said.
Exactly! The island got its nickname just after World War II because at that time, millions of vanda orchids were grown here in large fields. Today, growers focus on producing specialty varieties in greenhouses. The Big Island is still the center of the orchid industry for the state of Hawaii and one of the largest centers of orchid production in the United States.
Goettsch explained, “The goal of the Orchid Isle Project is make the island live up to its nickname. Orchids should be everywhere on the Orchid Isle! When people think of Hilo, they should think of ‘The Orchid Capital of the World.’” The Orchid society wants to get this word out in as many ways as it can. The Orchid Society has all kinds of ideas for extending the Orchid Isle Project, including encouraging the development of orchid classes and an “orchid trail” which interested visitors and residents could follow to see orchids growing all over the island.
At the 62nd annual Orchid Show, Symphony of Orchids, specially made 2015 Orchid Calendars and elegantly designed T-shirts will be for sale, along with beautiful orchids of many varieties. The show will be held on Aug. 1-3 at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multipurpose Stadium.