Mark Gwinner is dwarfed by this Kabok tree trunk. Gwinner said this tree will eventually be nominated for "Exceptional Tree" status.

Queen’s legacy

An award-winning landscape
surrounding the 145-year-old
hospital offers visitors healing

» Betty Crocker Landscape and Garden Awards list

In 1859, Queen's Hospital started out with 18 beds, which doesn't sound like much, but that number could have been zero had it not been for Queen Emma, for whom the hospital was named, and her husband, King Kamehameha IV.

The royal couple raised $13,500 to build the first facility, in their quest to create a healing place for a native population that was rapidly falling due to diseases introduced by isle newcomers. Most of the funds came the old-fashioned way, with each going door to door to ask for donations.

One would imagine in the mid-1800s an abundance of flora and greenery such that maintaining and protecting the hospital's environment would not be of concern. But whatever raised red flags for Queen Emma set the wheels in motion for the sweeping landscape that surrounds what is known as the Queen's Medical Center today.

More than 100 years and about 550 beds later, it's fitting that in the year of its 145th anniversary, celebrated today, the medical center has received Scenic Hawaii's Betty Crocker Landscape and Garden Awards in the professional landscaping category. Anniversary festivities began early today and run through midafternoon.

A berm formed by ferns takes the place of a stone wall while effectively separating traffic from the peaceful grounds.

To Mark Gwinner, manager of landscape design and development, the queen was a progressive individual. Her mission was to create green surroundings to soothe and foster healing.

"I find it interesting that ... she was aware of how important that was 150 years ago when people didn't have complete knowledge of what healing could be," Gwinner said.

But one might be able to experience the healing properties of plants firsthand by strolling across the grounds at Queen's, on dewy grass through winding paths and under majestic trees. The worries beyond the hospital walls seem to dissipate, even if just for a few seconds. Similarly, the surroundings can magnify the joy of good news, whether it's hearing the words "you're cured" or "it's a girl!"

Scenic Hawaii could be the name of a travel brochure one might pick up in a rental car agency at the airport, or the title of an in-flight visitors bureau promotional movie. The words conjure images of lush landscapes, and Cicely Crocker George is here to make sure Hawaii's beauty stays that way.

George, president of Scenic Hawaii Inc., a nonprofit organization of volunteers that counts on community donations, is the daughter of the late Betty Crocker, not the cook, but a Hawaii kamaaina who never backed away from a good fight in the name of protecting Hawaii's parks, trees and flora.

Queen's Hospital in the 1850s. The name was changed to The Queen's Medical Center in 1967.

The awards, in their second year, are named after the nature enthusiast, a founding member of Scenic Hawaii and prominent Outdoor Circle member who made headlines after she stood between a Punahou Street monkeypod tree and a backhoe when its operator was mistakenly assigned to its destruction.

"I wasn't here at the time," said George, "but I did hear about it."

In only its second year, there were 30 nominations in the four categories of the awards, almost twice as many as last year. And what's great about the competition, George said, is the nominations come from the public and not a committee, which indicates the community cares about and appreciates public efforts to preserve the isles' beauty.

ALTHOUGH CROCKER and the queen lived in two different eras, the two were connected by the notion of preserving Hawaii's rich landscape. It was that thread that inspired Gwinner, who has been with Queen's for about 2 1/2 years, to nominate the medical center for an award.

"I read the Scenic Hawaii mission statement, and it fit perfectly with Queen's ... so it seemed we had a good chance of gaining recognition," he said.

And he should know. Among his many credentials, including tenure at the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai, he has the distinction of having worked for another queen, the queen of England, as an apprentice at Windsor Castle gardens as part of an international student exchange program with the National Gardens in Washington, D.C.

This is an overview of the Queen's grounds fronting Punchbowl Street. The hospital received the Betty Crocker Landscape and Garden Award in the Professional Landscaping category.

The award won by Queen's was given for the area along Punchbowl Street from Vineyard Boulevard to Beretania Street, although the entire grounds is undergoing transformation.

It's a much-traveled thoroughfare, said Gwinner, with people using it to get to the hospital, to go in and out of state department buildings and to go to movie theaters, shopping or the beach.

Though the grounds had an impressive start, including the planting of trees as old as the center itself, its recent face lift was no easy task, involving strict guidelines, three phases and many hands.

Because the hospital falls within what the state calls the Capitol Corridor, it had to stay 40 percent green, said Gwinner. It was important to create a design that would be in harmony with the landscaping of nearby properties.

Gwinner said he feels they've successfully met those requirements, thanks to landscape designers Walters Kimura Motoda, installers Green Thumb, and Hideo Murakami, the recently retired executive director of Queen's Conference Center. Murakami was the hospital's liaison with the city and came up with some of the design concepts, most notably the berm that surrounds the grounds that forms a lei of many textures, including golden glory and a thick band of dwarf lauae that almost encircles the structure.

"It allows for a bit of privacy, so one doesn't have the constant viewing of traffic, but can borrow the view" of the trees beyond, Gwinner said.

He's particularly proud that parking was moved to the nearly new Miller Street structure so that asphalt could be replaced by greenery.

"We did something in reverse; usually, people take away green to add parking," he said.

The landscaping also makes it easier for people to find their way around the campus, which could make up for inconvenience caused during the renovation process indoors.

Gwinner also points out that all the roads and buildings were constructed and designed so the existing trees would not be moved or destroyed. The site remains home to trees planted by Queen Emma and Dr. William Hillebrand, the center's first physician, including the baobab, pink bombax and nawa. All of these trees have been deemed "exceptional," a title given to trees with historic or cultural value in a program run by the Honolulu Parks Department.

By the way, those tree lights and enormous ornaments that dazzle drivers around Christmas are strung on a monkeypod tree, not on any of the trees on the "exceptional" list.

"If you can see lights on them, you can bet those are not 'exceptional' trees," said Gwinner. "Hanging lights on those would be a no-no."

Heritage Day

Celebration of Queen's Medical Center's 145th anniversary

When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, with a craft fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and strolling musicians from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where: Mauna'Ala (Royal Mausoleum)

Admission: Free

Entertainment lineup

11 a.m. to noon: QMC employees Marja Apisaloma, Dean Campos, Gene Cortez, Danny Dumadag and Gary Rivers take the stage.

Noon to 1 p.m.: Na Hoku female vocalist of the year, Kainani Kahaunaele, performs.

1 to 2 p.m.: Na Hoku 2003 group of the year, Na Palapalai, performs.


Winners by a yard

Winners of the Betty Crocker Landscape and Garden Award contest, sponsored by Scenic Hawaii Inc.

Professional Landscaping

>> The Punahou Square public park at Punahou Street and Wilder Avenue

>> The grounds of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki

>> The new landscaping at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu

>> Waterfront Plaza

>> An oceanfront private residence in East Honolulu

Private Gardens

>> The David Cheever residence in Honolulu

>> The Cliff Slater residence in Honolulu

>> The Nancy Walden residence in Manoa

>> A private residence in Diamond Head

Community Gardens

>> The Friendship Garden developed by Jack and Janet Gillmar in Kaneohe

>> The Urban Garden Center in Pearl City

>> The Leeward Health Center grounds on the Waianae Coast

Xeriscape Gardens

>> The groundskeeping crew at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki

>> Several gardens developed by volunteers at Leeward Community College

>> Pua Mau botanical garden in Kawaihae on the Big Island

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