Don Blanding’s “My Hawaiian Garden” was where it all began for Tom and Janice, owners and innkeepers of The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono. Don Blanding played a hand in Hawaii’s cultural history from his first coining of Lei Day to the Aji-no-moto jingle that many locals grew up with. He was known as the “Father of Lei Day” and was a poet, cartoonist, and commercial artist. Don Blanding was even an E.M.T. back in 1912, saving a little girl named Billie Cassin who would later be known as one of America’s greatest Hollywood icons: Joan Crawford. Don Blanding first came to Hawaii in 1915 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He would later return to Honolulu in 1921.
The poetry of Don Blanding and “My Hawaiian Garden” are the basis for The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono. The theme of the inn is reminiscent of the 1920s, a bygone era when Hawaii was just a quiet string of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Tom and Janice envisioned creating “My Hawaiian Garden” for their guests. In 1997, The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono opened its doors, sharing the sweet fragrance of jasmine, colorful croton hedges, and ginger plants from the Hawaiian garden.
I plant my flowers row on row,
In hope that they will grow just so,
All neat and sweet, but I forget
That while the phlox and mignonette
Are used to garden ways and Know
The proper way that they should grow,
These Tropic Blossoms will not do
The sort of thing I want them to.
The yellow allamanda sprawls
In gold confusion on the walls
And in among its flower-suns
The little starry jasmine runs.
The bougainvillea climbs the trees
And flings it tatters on the breeze
All scarlet and magenta-red….
A canopy above my head
The multi-colored little phlox
Grow here and there among the rocks
Like gay confetti tossed about
In moonlit midsummer’s rout.
The fragile spider lily weaves
A cobweb lace of white
The leaves of croton hedges growing here
Hold autumn colors through the year.
My ginger plants are my delight.
No flower grows so sweet and clean
As wild white ginger blooms. They mean
Hawaii to me. I make a lei
Of them for friends who go away.
All in and out among the blooms
A gray and peaceful Palm-tree looms
Above the flower beds. Its fronds,
are mirrored in my lily ponds
Where water-hyacinths have grown.
A spiny cactus stands alone
In grim unfriendly prickliness.
I did not like it, I confess,
Until a little timid vine
Of Jasmine started to entwine
The gaunt unlovely plant. They look
Like figures in my fairy-book
(the ugly Beast is quite content
With Beauty’s gentle prisonment)
Hibiscus flowers line my walk
with flowers, some are white as chalk
A thousand shapes a thousand shades.
The bees make sudden buzzing raids.
There are no days throughout the year
Without some sort of flowers here
In sweet profusion, uncontrolled.
If all their many names were told
You’d weary of the endless list.
No color, tint or shape is missed
In nature’s wondrous gift to me.
I wonder if I have made you see
This sun-lit, moon-witched, rainbow place
of beauty. Just a little space
Quite filled with flowers, vines, and trees,
Walled in with Stone, the haunt of bees
And butterflies and lunar moths.
When you are passing will you pause
Or-if you will-drop in and see
This garden that belongs to me