Plant stories: Goodale Moir

William Whitmore Goodale Moir (pronounced Moyer) was born in 1896 in Papaikou on the big island, Hawaii, the son of Scottish migrants. As well as being a long-time sugar industry agronomist with Amfax, Mr Moir, was also a noted orchid breeder, developing more than 65 hybrids, giving later hybridisers a much better understanding of the genetic relationships between genera.

Paul Devlin Wood, writing in Hana Hou!, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines, offered a link for Goodale Moir’s interest: “These first [orchid] collections were stocked by plant hunters, scouts sent by the sugar and pineapple companies to search the Pacific for new genetic material. One of these scouts, John Moir, returned in 1917 from the Philippines with boxes of live orchids. Moir’s son Goodale became a leading figure in the early days of hybridisation …” Read the full article here.

In 2015 the Hawaii Tribune Herald reported: “Early in the 20th century, John Moir of Honolulu and later his son, Goodale, built one of the earliest orchid collections in the state. The Moir collection passed to Herbert Shipman on Hawaii Island just before the outbreak of World War 2.” Mr Shipman then became one of Hawaii’s first commercial growers.

The Spanish Colonial Revival home Goodale built in 1930, known as Lipolani, has been recognised by the Hawaii Historic Foundation. The one-storey home on the outskirts of Honolulu is a significant example of the residential work of architect Louis E. Davis.

Mr Moir  chose the wedge-shaped site at the junction of two streets because it had the best trade wind flow. He was a strong believer in the flow of breezes and their favorable effect on plant growth and health. He built a “puka puka” [vented tile] wall to protect the garden from the full force of the Nu’uanu trades while allowing for good air circulation.

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Goodale and May Moir pictured in their Honolulu garden in 1978. Photo: John A Stevens

Goodale and May Neal were married in 1950 (she had been widowed the previous year) in the Moir Gardens in Po’ipu, Kaua’i. The garden was Goodale’s creation, and was cared for and maintained by his brother Hector and sister-in-law Sandi (Alexandra Liliko’i Knudsen).

For most of Lipolani’s first 18 years the entire garden was given over to orchids in landscape beds – until orchid stem borer reached Hawai’i in the 1950s. In the process of clearing out dead and diseased plants, the Moirs did a major garden renovation, eliminating lawn and replacing it with concrete pavers and basalt stepping stones, while at the same time almost completely enclosing the garden in such a way as to create several courtyards with distinctive characteristics.

After the garden’s orchids were removed, the couple then grew bromeliads on a large scale, although both had grown and loved bromeliads “since they could walk”, and created one of Honolulu’s most celebrated gardens (registered with the Smithsonian Institute). The property was for sale in 2015 – leaving the family for the first time. Read more here.

In his book, Gardens of Hawaii, landscape architect Stephen Haus calls Mrs Moir “the godmother of Hawaii gardeners”. She was visited by garden enthusiasts and landscapers from as far away as Brazil, Bali and Thailand.

A 1979 article in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society by John A Stevens recounts visiting  the Moirs at their home.

“Goodale (as he is known to close friends) has had several hundred articles published on orchids and their hybridising, starting with Dendrobiums, Vandas, Phalaenopsids, Cattleyas, Epidendrums, the Laelinae Tribe, and recently, the Oncidieae. Research and collecting trips for the last-named tribe have taken Goodale to Jamaica and the Caribbean on numerous occasions. His seemingly endless hybridisation of the miniature Oncidiums has been duly recorded in the list of New Orchid Hybrids published regularly by The Orchid Review.

“But … let it be known that Goodale has devoted more and more time in recent years to growing bromeliads, and writing about them, and has possibly 25 or more articles in print on bromeliads, most of them appearing in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society. Goodale’s style has always intrigued me: forceful, concise, sometimes a trifle opinionated.”

Mr Stevens describes Mr Moir as small of stature with a smooth, round face that at times could look “almost Orientally inscrutable”.

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Miltonia Goodale Moir ‘Golden Wonder’ at the 2017 Te Puke Orchid Show. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A note in Mrs Moir’s 1983 book The Garden Watcher said that more new intergeneric orchid species had been created and named in their garden than at any other spot on Earth – interestingly, Mr Moir, who tracked the results of more than 50,000 intergeneric cross attempts that he made over a period of decades, was convinced that the take rates were higher during the two phases of the moon that correspond to rising tides!

In the early 1950s Mr Moir pioneered Tolumnia (equitant Oncidium) orchid breeding when he began crossing species he had collected while on business trips in the West Indies. The first 25 years of activity were dominated by his efforts and by the 1970s the potential he was coaxing out of “Moir’s weeds”, as they were called, encouraged others to join the pursuit. The most active being Richard and Stella Mizuta and Robert and Susan Perreira, also of Hawaii. The foundation Mr Moir had painstakingly laid was about to bear fruit. Tolumnia Golden Sunset (Stanley Smith x Tiny Tim) was made by the Perreiras, and registered by Francis Aisaka in 1975. Read more at the American Orchid Society.

Milton O Carpenter, writing in 2000 in the AOS journal, said: “In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of temperature-tolerant Oncidiinae, a descriptive term that I apply to those plants that will thrive in temperatures from 45 to 100 F [7C-38C]. Pioneering work … was done by the late W. W. Goodale Moir of Hawaii, who registered 273 Oncidiinae intergeneric hybrids in 46 different combinations. Building on Goodale’s foundation, Helmut Rohrl of California, George Black of England, this writer (all protegés of Goodale), and a few others, have been engaged over the past 30 years or so in a continuing exploration of the limitless possibilities within this alliance.” Read more here.

In his Orchids of Asia book (2005), Eng-Soon Teoh writes “W W Goodale Moir of Honolulu dominated the breeding programme of the Oncidium in a way that no one else has been able to do for any other orchid subtribe or genus.”

As well as co-writing a handbook on Hawaiian soils (published in 1936), Mr Moir also contributed to Variegata Oncidiums (1970), Breeding Variegata Oncidiums (1980 – read the chapter on the culture of these plants), Creating Oncidiinae Intergenerics (1982) and Laeliinae Intergenerics (1982), as well as publishing many hundreds of articles on orchids.

Among his awards: Fellowship of the Orchid Society of South East Asia (at the 1966 World Orchid Conference in Los Angeles); Garden Club of America Medal (1973), AOS Silver Medal of Achievement (1982).

Among the orchids he registered with the Royal Horticultural Society were: Cattleya Memoria Goldie C. Moir (1948), Tolumnia lalita Pia (1950), Cattleya Peggy Moir (1951), Tapropapilanthera May Moir (1953), Miltonia Goodale Moir (1954), Oncidium Twinkle (1958), Miltonia May Moir (1959), Vanda Charm (1960), Miltonia Sunset (1961), Miltonia Purple Queen (1961), Vandachostylis Lilac Blossom (1963), Brassia Rex (1964), Miltonia Guanabara (1964), Stanhopea Memoria Paul Allen (1968), Eipcattleya Yucatan ‘Richella’ (1969), Catasetum (Clowesia) Rebecca Northern (1971), Bratonia (Miltonia) Olmec (1975), Bratonia (Miltonia) Aztec (1976), Aliceara Dorothy Oka (1976), Tolumnia Henemoir (1977), Oncidium Gypsy Beauty (1978), Aliceara Tropic Splendor (1981) and Aliceara La Jolla (1983).

Mr Moir died in 1985 and Mrs Moir in 2001, aged 93. Read an obituary for her here.


Plantswomen honoured

Three plantswomen were recognised in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours list, all with Queen’s Service Medals. I note that a letter writer to the NZ Herald disputed one of these awards – but I wonder why he picked on that one and not, for instance, services to wrestling, horse racing or even politics!

The details below have been taken from the official citations at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mrs Helen Guthrie of Waikanae, for services to music and horticulture:

She has been president and branch secretary of the New Zealand Camellia Society for 14 years and organised the National Camellia Show in Waikanae in 2009. She was membership secretary on the National Council of the Camellia Society, has judged throughout the North Island, and won several awards at national and local shows. She has been a member of the New Zealand Rose Society since 1984 and was president of the Kapiti Rose Society when Kapiti hosted the 1992 National Autumn Rose Show. Mrs Guthrie has been a national judge of roses for 25 years.

Ms Avis Leeson of Hamilton, for services to horticultural education:

Ms Leeson has donated her time to creating vegetable gardens and orchards at more than 300 schools in the Waikato region, and from Northland to Invercargill.

As a hospice volunteer Ms Leeson fell ill in 2007 and while recovering developed a project to teach children how to grow food. She initiated the project at her former primary school in Morrinsville and her gardens have since spread to schools from Karapiro to Hamilton North. Her project has reconnected children with the facts of how food is produced and in many of the schools this teaching is now accompanied by cooking classes for students to experience the process from garden to plate. Her project has been sponsored entirely by businesses and is staffed by volunteers.

For health reasons Ms Leeson, now 88, stepped down from active participation in 2014, with the project now continued through the Avis Leeson Fruit Tree Trust. The Trust secured an ongoing commitment from McGrath Nurseries to supply 1000 fruit trees per year until 2024. Ms Leeson continues to assist the Trust and is producing a gardening manual for the schools involved. Watch a 2016 Seven Sharp clip (3:33).

Mrs Beverley Van of Christchurch, for services to bonsai:

Mrs Van has grown bonsai since the 1970s and first initiated bonsai beginners’ classes at the Avice Hill Centre in 1992, which led to the formation of the Avon Bonsai Society in 1993.

Since 1993 Mrs Van has served as either a committee member or president of the Avon Bonsai Society and has made her home available for committee meetings and workshops. She was made an Honorary Life Member of the Society. She delivered talks on growing bonsai to garden clubs in Christchurch and further afield. She has mounted individual bonsai displays in addition to displays for the Christchurch Festival of Flowers and participated in and judged club displays.

She produced a book with her late husband, Bonsai Growing in New Zealand for the Absolute Beginner (and others), and currently runs a bonsai website. Mrs Van has also developed her skills as a potter, studying traditional Japanese and Chinese bonsai pots, and regularly produces high-quality ceramics for all styles of bonsai presentation.


Our neat nikau

Brian Miller’s love affair with nikau palms began as a child when his family travelled from Waikato to the Coromandel Peninsula for holidays. “I don’t know why, but it was the sight of the nikau that always got me excited,” he says.

Brian worked fulltime as a primary teacher for 40 years, as well as having a kiwifruit and avocado orchard, but managed to fit in a nikau nursery too after youngest son Duncan started growing a few while he was in the Scouts and “pestered” Brian to keep them going. “Luckily, they’re a very forgiving plant,” he says.

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Brian Miller among his nikau. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Today, 25 years later, all the nikau Brian has grown for his Nikau Grove nursery at Aongatete between Tauranga and Katikati are descended from a palm near his house, which he estimates to be 100 years old.

“I’m guessing it came from the Kaimai Range,” he says of the palm. “All the seed I’ve used has come from that one nikau and I spent years trialling growing from seed. Nikau don’t show a lot of growth until they’re about 7 or 8 and won’t start a trunk until they’re 11 to 15 years old.”


Slender-trunked North Island nikau. Photo: Kahuroa, via Wikimedia

Nikau naturally occur in coastal and lowland forest in the North Island, and as far south as about Greymouth on the West Coast and Banks Peninsula on the east coast. There are separate forms on the Chatham Islands, Great Barrier Island and the Kermadec Islands but although Brian is interested in them all, he doesn’t necessarily love them all.

“The Chatham nikau grow quite fast in the North Island and become bulky – they’re almost grotesque. A nikau as imagined by Peter Jackson. The North Island nikau, on the other hand, is a very graceful and gentle palm, and sits well in the landscape.

“I don’t know why anybody ever planted a phoenix palm when we had these beauties on our doorstep, and don’t get me started on palms from the Middle East and the Mediterranean …”

Brian says there is “almost certainly” genetic variation among nikau within mainland New Zealand, although some differences will be down to growing conditions, such as the ‘spindly’ palms at Maunganui Bluff in Northland. “A pleasant surprise is to find nikau in cooler areas, such as the misty banks of the Whanganui River, where they’ve found microclimates, and they don’t seem to mind Wellington’s wind one bit. It seems if they can be protected from frost when younger they can take most things, including dry, exposed sites.”

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A nikau bud begins to open. Photo: Sandra Simpson

With their delicate root system nikau can be tricky to transplant but Brian offers detailed planting instructions and has few losses. Rather than a central tap root they send out multiple anchor roots with a network of fine feeding roots “evolved to suit a damp, sheltered and shaded bush environment where there’s a lot of decaying wood and leaf litter”.

Brian recommends trying to re-create a bush soil as much as possible for the first 12-18 months to help the trees establish and in his own garden he adds rotted wood to the holes and around the trunk at the surface.

Optimum planting time is from about March to May when the soil is still warm and with a higher chance of rainfall or, second best, September and October.

“The funnel-shape of nikau means as much rain as possible goes down into the trunks so they can’t be over-watered. In that first year they need heaps.”

He says they’re the perfect trees for small gardens, “because you look through them not at them”. Brian suggests planting groups of three or five, combining trees of various ages for a natural look.

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Native flies are among the pollinators of nikau. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nikau Facts:

Rhopalostylis sapida is New Zealand’s only native palm and the world’s southernmost palm.

The Maori name, often translated as ‘without nuts’, is thought to reflect the disappointment of early Polynesian settlers who expected to find coconut palms.

Nikau need a frost-free position that is preferably damp and do best in a subtropical climate.

They are slow-growing, taking about 100 years to reach a maximum height of 10-15m.

They can flower more than once in a season (spring to late autumn) with flowers attractive to birds (including kereru and blackbirds which both spread seeds), bees and native flies.

Read a NZ Geographic article about nikau.

To contact Brian Miller phone 07 552 0822 or email.

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Colourful berries follow the flowers. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This article was first published in NZ Gardener and appears here with permission.

Chelsea Flower Show 2018

Jane Perrone, writing for The Guardian, provides a list of garden trends to take home – including that euphorbias are the star of any sunny border and gravel is on-trend (for design gardens anyway) as a ground cover.

The Telegraph has provided a run-down of all the medal-winning gardens. Read it here.

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Pearlfisher designer John Warland polishes an aquatic tank in the garden which aims to mimic an underwater scene and highlights the problem of plastic in our oceans (Gold in Space to Grow Gardens).

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The David Harber and Savills Garden (Silver Gilt in Show Gardens).

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The Seedlip Garden (Gold in Space to Grow Gardens) celebrates the pea (Pisum sativum).

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The Welcome to Yorkshire garden (Gold in Show Gardens).

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The Urban Flow garden (Gold in Space to Grow Gardens).

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English designer Chris Beardshaw, who had a spectacular garden at Ellerslie in Christchurch in 2010, pictured in his Morgan Stanley garden for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) – Best in Show.

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A visitor with marble sculptures by Paul Vanstone in the Coombe Sculpture Garden.

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Queen Elizabeth inspects the display of Peter Beales Roses.

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A Chelsea pensioner makes a colourful focal point for a commercial stand.

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Flowering Rebutia cacti.

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Simon Lockyer holds two specimens of Primula auricula in front of his stand. W&S Lockyer Nursery was founded by Simon and his dad Bill, who died in 2016. It holds the national collection for Primula auricula doubles.

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A worker adjusts a floral display.

Chelsea also has a Plant of the Year competition – this year choosing Hydrangea Runaway Bride Snow White, a lace cap that flowers all the way along the stems. Graham Rice has written an interesting piece about how the judging is done and why it’s a flawed system.

Floral tribute to Commonwealth

There was sparkle, there was Markle and there was a beaming Harry. There were hats and horses and trumpets. Did you sit up late and drink champagne and munch on cucumber sandwiches and chocolate eclairs? I did some of that, even though I wasn’t at home but in a hotel room!

I’m sure you have your own opinion of the dress, the hair, the tiara, but I think we’ll probably all agree that Meghan’s veil was stupendous, all 5 metres of it!

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Clare Waight Keller, artistic director at Givenchy and designer of Meghan Markle’s wedding dress, with a sample of the hand-embroidered lace that made up the veil.

According to a press release from Kensington Palace, Ms Markle expressed the wish of having all 53 countries of the Commonwealth with her on her journey through the ceremony with Ms Waight Keller designing a veil that represented the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular composition.

“Significant time was spent researching the flora of each Commonwealth country and much care was taken by Ms Waight Keller to ensure that every flower is unique.”

The veil was made from silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza. Each flower was worked flat, in three dimensions with the embroiderers spending hundreds of hours meticulously sewing – and washing their hands every 30 minutes – to keep the tulle and threads pristine.

In addition to the flora of the Commonwealth, Ms Markle also selected two personal favourites:

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), which grows in the grounds of Kensington Palace in front of Nottingham Cottage (where she has been living with Prince Harry), and the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), the state flower from Ms Markle’s place of birth.

Symmetrically placed at the very front of the veil, embroidered crops of wheat symbolised love and charity (and from what I understand are also a motif for fertility!).

New Zealand was represented by the kowhai flower with some others being: African violet (Saintpaulia) from Tanzania; Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid from Singapore; Victoria Regina water lily (Victoria amazonica) from Guyana; Cyclamen cyprium from Cyprus; teuila (Alpinia purpurata) from Samoa; Sepik blue orchid (Dendrobium lasianthera) from Papua New Guinea; bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) from Canada; thistle from Scotland; jasmine (Jasminum officinale) from Pakistan; and the spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla) from Lesotho. Read the full list here.

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The embroidery can be seen in this photo of the bride entering St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and, below, as she leaves.

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Despite the extravagant use of flowers at the entry to St George’s Chapel, as can be seen above, the bride carried only a small posy bouquet.

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The bridal bouquet carried by the Duchess of Sussex at her wedding was then laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the west nave of Westminster Abbey in London. 

The Palace press release notes that Prince Harry handpicked several flowers from the couple’s private garden at Kensington Palace to add to the bouquet designed by florist Philippa Craddock.

The spring blooms include forget-me-nots which were the favourite flower of Diana, Princess of Wales. The bouquet also including scented sweet peas, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine and astrantia, and sprigs of myrtle, all bound with a naturally dyed, raw silk ribbon.

The myrtle sprigs are from stems planted at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, by Queen Victoria in 1845, and from a plant grown from the myrtle used in The Queen’s wedding bouquet of 1947.

The tradition of carrying myrtle begun after Queen Victoria was given a nosegay containing myrtle by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Gotha in Germany.  In the same year, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Osborne House as a family retreat, and a sprig from the posy was planted against the terrace walls, where it continues to thrive today.

The myrtle was first carried by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, when she married in 1858.

Art Nouveau orchids

A few little masterpieces to enjoy from the Art Nouveau period (1884-1914) …

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Orchid hair comb by Rene Lalique. Image: Walters Art Museum

Renowned French glassmaker René Lalique (1860-1945), was also a notable jewellery designer of the late 19th century and his ‘Orchid Comb’ is one of the Walters Art Museum’s greatest treasures. Combining materials in unexpected ways, Lalique developed new techniques and revived old ones, blending historical and cultural references.

The ‘Orchid Comb’ represents the height of Lalique’s jewellery production. His studio rendered the highly naturalistic orchid out of a single piece of ivory; diamonds play a supporting role, picking out the veins along three slim leaves in glowing plique-à-jour enamel. The stem is attached by a gold hinge to a three-pronged horn comb. This is the most flamboyant of all the pieces purchased by museum founder Henry Walters at the St Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Never intended to be worn, the Orchid Comb entered the collection as a masterpiece of technical accomplishment in the field of the decorative arts. The Walters Art Museum is in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States.

But wait, there’s more … the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal is home to an orchid comb by Lalique that features not one, but three slipper orchids.

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This comb features three carved orchids, designed by Rene Lalique. Image: Gulbenkian Museum

The orchids are carved from two different materials – facing forward is an ivory Paphiopedilum, which facing left and right are orchids carved from horn. A small drop-shaped topaz is at the centre of the ivory flower. The comb itself is also in horn and connected to the ornaments by a gold hinge.

“The exotic orchid was one of the flowers that symbolised the aesthetic movement of the late 19th century. Art Nouveau jewellers handled the subject with great realism, which is heightened in this case by Lalique’s technical mastery,” the museum’s website says. “He started from the real flower yet managed to imbue it simultaneously with elegance and a powerful erotic charge.”


Some of the orchid brooches designed by Paulding Farnham exhibited at the 1889 Paris World Fair. Image:

Paulding Farnham (1859-1927) is a name that won’t leap to mind when thinking of fabulous jewellery designers but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries he raised the profile of American company Tiffany & Co – and it was all thanks to his botanical designs, especially orchids.

Farhham joined Tiffany’s in about 1879 and worked for them until 1908, becoming chief designer and director of the jewellery division in 1893.

The 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle marked Farnham’s first major display of work, which included his enamelled and jewelled orchids. Each orchid was drawn from life after blooms were sent from places such as Guatemala, the Philippines, Colombia, India, Mexico and Brazil with the individual blooms “coated in copper to preserve [them] for study”, according to Kristin Edrington in her 2012 Master’s thesis and quoting from Jeweled Garden by Suzanne Tennenbaum and Janet Zapata (Vendome Press, 2006).

The 24 Tiffany brooches caused a stir at the Exposition, Edrington says. “The public was stunned and fascinated with the fact that the orchids were so life-like, and the actual species of orchid could be matched with the jeweled orchid. While many French jewelers … had captured the floral form and stylized it, Farnham was able to recreate the flowers’ very essence of realism and life. He took floral jewelry design to an entirely new level of naturalism.”

The company won a silver medal, among other awards, for Farnham’s orchid designs. Seven of the brooches remain in the Tiffany Archive.

Newsy bits

Nineteen institutions, including a large number of botanical gardens, are collaborating in the three-year-long EU Horizon 2020 project, BigPicnic. Scientists, politicians, industry and the public will be brought together to start a conversation about worldwide food security – that sufficient healthy food should always be available to everyone without causing damage to the planet.

Botanic gardens, with help from other partners, will co-create a range of exhibitions and participatory events to generate dialogue and build greater understanding of food security. The collaborative approach aims to give a voice to adults and young people, communicating their views to policy-makers, sharing ideas, encouraging debate on the future of our food and achieving Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

Co-ordinated by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), BigPicnic Partners span 12 countries across Europe and one in Uganda. Read more about BigPicnic and ongoing events (from 2018) here.

New Zealand science writer Bob Brockie looks at giant timber bamboo – a plant that flowers only once every 120 years, last blooming in 1845. Once it’s flowered, Phyllostachys bambusoides​, which has edible shoots and tips, dies.

He also mentions a different bamboo in India that when it flowers is known as causing a Bamboo Death Year for local inhabitants. Read more here.

We’ve all seen those beautiful photos of food decorated with real flowers – quite a thing on Instagram apparently. Well, botanist James Wong is over it, especially when the food is decorated with toxic flowers! Read more here.

Can’t make the Chelsea Flower Show in London? Treat yourself to a preview of the May 22-26 event. Cheers!