Hidden away in the jungle valleys of Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore, Princeville Botanical Garden is a sacred wonderland born from dramatic topography, natural landscaping and tender cultivation. This unique, family-made botanical garden has world-class appeal, spanning 8.75 acres in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in all of Hawaii.Truly a paradise within paradise, it is a private gardener’s utopia, a magical space that immediately enraptures the senses and transports the mind and body. The garden residence offers panoramic mountain and ocean views, tapered jungle valleys, flowing streams, and broad trails carved into terraced hillsides. Its diverse plant collection, which includes more than seven hundred species and varietals from around the world, is one of the healthiest in all of the Hawaiian islands.
Previously cattle land, centuries of unrestricted plant growth had strangled out the native flora throughout this part of the Anini Stream Valley. In 2001, the current owners, Bill and Lucinda Robertson, purchased the property as a retirement home and slowly and purposefully began to bring this incredible Garden into existence. Michelangelo once wrote of his art, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me… I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” Similarly, with the Princeville Botanical Garden, something brilliant and beautiful seemed to have naturally emerged from its element with the help of Bill and Lucinda, as if it was always there.
It Started at the Stream
Bill and Lucinda Robertson originally purchased this acreage with plans for retirement. They wanted just a little bit of land to live on, grow some fruit trees and enjoy privacy from their neighbors. They wanted a picnic area down by the big mango tree along Anini Stream, so they started clearing the land there first. A good friend and landscaper named Michael soon joined Bill and Lucinda, and the newly cleared land began to serve as a canvas for a great artist. The three designed and planted the picnic area over several years, then moved on to clear and plant the next area, and then the next after that, and they continued in this manner until all areas had been hardscaped and cultivated.
For Bill Robertson, the gardens were like a puzzle that needed to be put together. The goal was to remove the invasive jungle, determine the shape of the land beneath, and then prepare that land for its most natural use. Bill’s touch was distinct and the most dramatic: the massive earth and rock works found everywhere. You’re first introduced to them while walking toward the valleys from the home at the top of the property – the dramatic boulder terraces were originally a huge, 30-40 foot grass hillside dubbed “the bowl” or “the wave.” The property’s river-valley topography is steep and tricky, however, it’s the perfect playground for earthmoving machines, and the central terraces are but one of many major earthwork and rock projects. Bill ensured every valley side was accessible by a long series of walking trails and steps that were meticulously carved out with chainsaws, stump grinders, and hand tools. The trails are shored up with Trex, rebar, wood, and stone. Solid, well-placed rock walls were constructed to hold up roads or hillsides. Compacted gravel paths were laid for small ATVs, and where necessary, judicious amounts of concrete were used to protect against erosion. Irrigation systems were installed through the majority of the property, though many areas were hand watered by hose for years.
Lucinda Robertson was almost always at Bill’s side when planning and executing the hardscaping. A lifelong artist who has worked in many mediums, Lucy oversaw composition, tree and rock placement, and general “feng shui.” You can see Lucy’s influence in the larger, negative spaces that open out amidst the heavy plantings. For instance, Lucy’s Park is shaded with rudraksha trees at the end of the Sacred Valley, and the terraces are not covered in large, permanent trees that would obscure the vista. Lucy’s most evident personal touch on the Garden is the hundreds of orchids hidden throughout the landscape, nesting in both tree and rock formations. Thanks to Lucy’s contributions, the gardens are not oppressive with over planting, nor are they predictable. They feel organic, intuitive and inviting.
Bill and Lucinda worked diligently to create the perfect infrastructure for a garden, but it would not be the botanical garden it is today without its showcase of hundreds of species of indigenous and introduced, medicinal, majestic, floral and fruit-bearing plants. The stunning diversity of plant life in the garden is due entirely to their good friend and lead gardener, Michael.
Michael has had carried on a lifelong love affair with botany. Over the years, he developed an eclectic taste for tropical and subtropical plants from around the world. These gardens provided the perfect opportunity for him to overindulge his passion, as Bill and Lucinda were infected by his knowledge and excitement for plant diversity. Under Michael’s guidance, Bill and Lucinda found and ordered seeds and plant starts from around the world. The garden now holds more than seven hundred different species and cultivars, exceptionally diverse in nature but naturally accommodated by the varying landscapes and environments of the property.
Michael personally placed the majority of the plants in the earth with generous helpings of organic fertilizers, organic compost and other natural amendments to enrich the dense, acidic Hawaiian soil. Under Michael’s care, an astounding percentage of his plantings have taken hold and thrived, and professional botanists from around the world, including staff and researchers from the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, have marveled at the scale and health of this plant collection. Thanks to Michael’s expert touch, the plants and land seem to have grown effortlessly and naturally into existence with each other. Thousands of plants have now found a home in the Gardens, and the land has realized its true purpose.
“Visitors to the garden are immersed in another world down in those valleys, a world of remarkable plants in lush, idyllic settings, and their delight is almost palpable.”
Experiencing the Garden
Walking through the gardens is a delight for the senses. The design of the land and layout of the plants are captivating and pleasing to the eye, while the air is rich with scents you can almost taste – sweet fruit and blossoms blend with rich earth and wet moss. Even more wonders of nature are bound to please the ears, as birds play during the day and at night, the toads and owls keep watch with gentle calls, and the soft buzzing resonates from the onsite beehives. As you meander the winding pathways, a new scene and experience emerges around every corner. The sheer size of the property and breadth of the natural wonders allows for a truly unique experience with every pass through.
For Bill and Lucinda, one of their greatest pleasures became sharing these experiences in the garden with others. So in 2010, they opened the property to the public. Princeville Botanical Garden offers a unique opportunity for visitors to see a family grown and operated botanical garden, complete with exotic flowers, delicious fruit trees, healthy beehives and organic homegrown chocolate. Tours are offered three days each week and provide visitors with an educational walk through all areas of the garden, teaching them about native Hawaiian flora, tropical medicinals, sacred flowers, and food plants. The tours include seasonal fruit samplings of honey tangerines, mangosteens, lychee, rambutan and more. Visitors sample homemade honey and enjoy a chocolate tasting during which they learn about the history and processing of the cacao bean into chocolate. Since opening their doors, Bill and Lucinda have entertained thousands of visitors and spent countless hours sharing these beautiful grounds. As of this writing, more than 300 tour visitors have shared exceptional reviews of their experience on TripAdvisor (see HERE), making Princeville Botanical Garden the #1 rated “Thing to Do” in Princeville, and one of the top 20 “Things to Do” on the entire island of Kauai (out of 235)!
Passing the Torch
For Bill and Lucinda, creating the garden has been an amazing 16-year journey – a beautiful and artistic expression, partnered with Mother Nature. However, the time has come for them to move on to the next chapter in their lives. They are now hoping to pass the Garden on to someone who will love and care for this private paradise as they have.The garden has been placed on the market for sale, and the full offering summary can be viewed at www.PBGoffering.com.