Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Kula Botanical Gardens and my Christmas tree

This morning I headed off to Kula Botanical Gardens on Haleakala’s slopes to buy – my very first real Christmas tree (in 12 years)!

We used to always get real Christmas trees, bought directly from the tree farm a few blocks over. We had little kids at the time, but we set the tree up in the formal living room behind child-proofed French doors. When we moved to Maui our youngest was one. We had no ‘Christmas tree safe zone’, so we bought a fake tree and set the top half on our kitchen counter. And you know how it goes, once you have a fake tree, it’s good. Few needle droppings, and it looks fine. But every year it feels grimier and grimier, then the pre-lit lights fail, then you painstakingly cut them all off and string lights yourself…. and then….. Well, after last Christmas we tossed it into one of the condo dumpsters (shhh – don’t tell!)

I’ve been wanting a real tree ever since we moved to Maui. Did you know ~ most of our Christmas trees are shipped to Hawaii from Oregon and Washington? They are cut, then packed in refrigerated containers and transported by sea to Oahu. There they are inspected and fumigated for potentially invasive animals and bugs (slugs, squirrels, skunks etc). Then they come to Maui on a barge and are sold either at Costco, Home Depot/Lowes or various parking lot sales. By this time I figure the trees are at least 2-3 weeks post-cut. No thanks.

A few years ago a friend told me about the trees she gets at Kula Botanical Gardens. I had been here before – maybe about five years ago – when two friends and I performed the music at a local wedding. I’ve been meaning to go back and walk the gardens, but just haven’t made it.

My Christmas Tree Adventure

This morning when I left Kihei in my hubby’s large pick-up truck, it was raining. The rain just got heavier to the point where it seemed like I was driving through a car wash most of the way on my 50 minute drive. I made good time and arrived ten minutes after opening at 9:10AM. The parking lot was full with cars parked along the road, but I managed to score a parking spot (I really hate parking the truck). There were many couples and families lined up.

So, I donned Sig’s size 13 rubber boots (some 5 sizes too large for me), a hooded rain jacket and got in line. An employee loaned me an umbrella. I ended up standing in line for about an hour, chatting with another couple. Then it was my turn! They were out of Monterrey Pines (were bringing some down from the lot, but it was going to be another 45 minutes), so I went with the cyprus instead. It smells divine and I am excited!

That’s my tree being handled by the employee up front. Yes I trimmed the bottom branches.

We cut a slice off the bottom of the tree and have it sitting in a bucket of water. I hope any bugs will scurry off the tree. Tomorrow we’ll bring it in and decorate!

Kula Botanical Gardens

Kula Botanical Gardens are located on the second road leading up Haleakala. Normally you would turn left just past Makawao at the school. But if you continue through Kula, just past Kula Country Farms, there is a second turn that will take you to Haleakala Hwy also.

Kula Botanical Gardens is an 8 acre private garden, originally set up as a display garden for the owner’s architectural landscape business. Admission is $10/adult, $3/kids. And they also have a Christmas Tree Farm.

Did you know…. producers of the TV show Temptation Island booked the entire Andaz Resort to film their show while Maui was on Covid lockdown. Temptation Island filmed some scenes at Kula Botanical Gardens.

***UPDATE*** They have reopened Kula Botanical Gardens after clean-up following the flood damage in the December 5 2021 Kona Storm. Please check their website/social media if they are open before heading up there.

What kind of tree did you have growing up?

There are so many memories that come up around Christmas. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the blog, I grew up in Austria. At the time, tradition was that the Christkind (Christchild, their version of Santa) brought the tree Christmas Eve while all were sleeping. Our family never made a fuss about Santa or the Christkind, but my dad was a firm believer in buying our tree on Christmas Eve morning (when there incidentally wasn’t much selection). I remember bringing the tree home, setting it up. They were often ‘reject trees’ or ‘Charlie Brown Christmas trees’. Nonetheless, we would decorate them with real beeswax candles and ornaments that brought back memories. Yes, for the first three days we lit the candles (and then carefully monitored the tree). We always had water handy in case of fire and did not leave the tree unattended.