The first hint of the remarkable garden behind the low-slung house on Oahu comes just inside the front door. Landscape architect Greg Boyer and his wife, Lynn, both barefoot, greet guests with hugs, Hawaiian-style, then lead the way downstairs through their two-story atrium. The space has a distinctly Balinese flavor ― temple bells tinkle in the soft breeze that wafts through the atrium's screen roof, while fish swim lazily in an urn set among jungly plants.
Not too long ago, a silver-blue fan palm was the only plant on the Boyers' slope, and a neighbor's cow grazed the flat land at the slope's base. "I wanted to make the ultimate tropical garden," Greg says, "because I love palms and scented plants." Although bridging the slope presented challenges, he called upon the same innovative spirit he's used to design landscapes throughout the islands ― including the Big Island's Kohala Coast, where he created palm-fringed Edens out of solid lava rock. To move plants and materials more easily at his own property, Greg carved a road down the slope. He built the deck off the back of the house to step down toward the valley floor. He used rocks gathered over the years to build walls and fountains, made concrete pavers (with help from his crew) for a "fan palm path" that leads to a streamside patio, and planted palms, gardenias, and gingers. Plus he assembled three garden pavilions to serve as inviting destinations within the garden, connecting them with paths, steps, and floating walkways.