Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kokua - Moriso Teraoka's Succulent Garden

Once upon a time in Hawaii there was a man named Moriso Teraoka who was a cactus enthusiast.  A Pearl Harbor Shipyard worker, he was passionately involved in his hobby and an avid collector of a wide range of succulents and cactus specimens.  His enthusiasm was threatening to overwhelm his little backyard.  He had a friend who had a similar problem.

Here is an account, partly in Mr. Teraoka's own words, of how he found a solution to these problems.

And here is the result:

The garden was started in 1988, on a very bare and fairly steep incline on the grounds of Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu.  The college is perched on the rear slopes of Diamond Head, Honolulu's famous landmark, and there is a lively farmer's market (link to Rosa Say's Flickr account) in it's parking lot every Saturday morning.  Get there early because it gets hot quick and the vendors close up and go home!

As explained by Mr. Teraoka, initially it was a small effort on his part, with the aforementioned friend.  (Small in manpower - long in hours.)  One day they came to the garden and found a whole family also working in "their" garden. They had been inspired by the project and wanted to help.  Ultimately the garden got the formal approval of the College and some financial support.  Volunteers continue to come, out of their love for the garden and to show their approval and support of Mr. Teraoka's initiative.
Working together for a common goal in Hawaiian is called Kokua.

Twenty-plus years on, this garden is almost a Honolulu institution.  People come from far away to visit it.  Mr. Teraoka is still there almost everyday.  

As he was when my Godmother, Elaine K. and I were painting there together.  My auntie Elaine is a big reason I am an artist.  When I was five she sent me a Xmas box that included:  colored crayons, a pad of paper, scissors, a packet of origami papers, a bottle of Elmer's glue.  When I was 10 she sent me a box of rice paper and a bag of flour paste to make collages.  When I was 12, she sent me oil paints.  Pretty great auntie, huh?

And that Mr. Teraoka, pretty cool guy!

To find wonderful detailed pictures of some of the plants at Mr. Teraoka's garden, link again to Rosa Say's Flickr account.


  1. gorgeous! thanks for these, really stunning what he was able to accomplish.

  2. I adore succulents and if I had the time for gardening I would have a succulent garden. I wouldn't have thought it possible in this climate but I have seen some succulent gardens, to my surprise, in Denver...though not as lush and varied as this of course!

  3. love this story Mlle Paradis,
    so beatifully told and the pics are great... he is a hero....a quiet one. And your auntie is a champion for kick starting your creativity...or giving it a big boost!
    We need more people like this in the world ... or ,ore to find this capacity in themselves perhaps!
    ciao bella,

  4. Hi everyone - yes isn't it a great story! I love stories of peoples' passion that doesn't die and quiet determination and perseverance. And what a beautiful result that we all get to enjoy! Mr. Teraoka is certainly one of my heroes. I look forward to having my own succulent garden too. Good news Maia is after it's installed it's generally less maintenance than some other kinds of gardens. Plus this is another one of those stories like Julia Child's of someone starting something wonderful "later" in life. To every thing there is a season. And always something to look forward to.

  5. hello again! just to say thanks for your kind words on caramelo! have a lovely day. kenza.