- Associated Press - Saturday, February 7, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Bob Eddinger and Dr. Rodney Powell love spending just as much time in their garden as they do indoors, so they’ve created dozens of outdoor “rooms,” as they call them, to enjoy the views from the hillside behind their home atop Tantalus.

Each room offers a place to sit amid the lush greenery. In all, there are eight terraces and a total of 191 steps from the street up to the garden’s summit.

The garden provides enjoyment and respite for Eddinger, 75, a retired professor of zoology, and Powell, 79, a retired family physician. The couple, who married in December 2013, spends every day in every part of the garden, from top to bottom.

“People have asked us, ‘What’s your favorite spot in the garden?’” said Powell. “We reply that we enjoy the whole garden. Most days, we experience the whole garden.”

And every part of the garden has their signature on it.

A lava rock waterfall made by John Groark streams down the side of the four-story home’s front entrance, creating a welcoming gurgle. A staircase leads visitors up along the side of the home to a backyard lanai.

Here is where the ascent to the top of the garden begins via a series of steps. To reach the top is a climb of about 14 stories, well above the home’s rooftop.

The backyard hillside showcases more than 100 magnolia trees in 14 varieties, bottlebrush trees, tropical rhododendrons, camellias, ti plants, bromeliads and anthuriums. The large variety of shrubs and trees, all of which they planted themselves, creates layers of color and texture.

“It brings out your creative side to do this,” said Powell. “It helps keep us in shape.”

There are whimsical water fountains and sculptures throughout -a man peeping out of a manhole from the ground here, a pair of cranes there and a statue of Confucius wisely standing near a money tree.

A bust of Michelangelo’s David sports a full head of green moss and a lei of tillandsia, all of which grew on the figure naturally.

Creating the garden was a labor of love for the pair. Thirty-six years ago, when they first looked at what would become their home, Powell recalls the garden was an untamed forest on a steep slope. They had to claw their way up to check out the half-acre property.

“As we went up, Bob said, ‘We can do something with this,’” he said.

After they bought the house, the first task was to have all the steps poured in a sort of zigzag pattern. Every weekend and spare hour, they laid some of the more than 2,000 pavers used to create the series of outdoor rooms.

A large open terrace surrounded by palms is called the Entertainment Room, where they invite friends for gatherings.

While Powell’s three children were growing up, they loved to play in the garden. Now, when his grandchildren come to visit, they do the same, exploring all its nooks and crannies.

Along what used to be a pig trail two-thirds of the way up, they planted a row of Alexander palms at the edge to halt erosion. The palms, then saplings, now reach up into the sky and double as a vertical gallery for orchids, tillandsia and ferns that have been grafted onto their trunks.

Farther up, there are royal Caribbean palms that Powell is proud to say were planted from seed, which have also grown into tall columns.

Up here you can hear the rich song of a shama thrush through the branches and get a peek of the very tip of Diamond Head. Eddinger, who studied native Hawaiian forest birds on Kauai, takes pleasure in listening to the various birds that visit their yard.

At the very top is the Summit Room, where a large kukui tree stands. It is the only original tree remaining from when they bought the home. An exotic anthurium with large leaf blades and a white flower with a purplish-blue pistil is the room’s centerpiece.

While they leave all the watering to rainfall, which is abundant on Tantalus, most of the work is in pruning and cleaning. Eddinger and Powell say they will continue to walk the garden, every day, for as long as they can.

“A garden is never finished,” said Powell. “Eventually, someone else will pick it up or Mother Nature will pick it up.”


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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