Among the hustle and bustle of Dillingham Boulevard, on the Diamond Head side of the Honolulu Community College campus, hides a tranquil oasis.

For the past two semesters longtime cosmetology instructor Phil Hervas, or Mr. Phil as people affectionately call him, has been tending to a secret garden. Under his watchful eye and nurturing hand, the garden has exploded into a peaceful paradise that includes a variety of orchids, ground coverings, palms, succulents, and gorgeous water lilies with playful fish. Each corner, nook and flowerbed is thoughtfully designed to have a rhyme and reason.

Mr. Phil next to one of his favorite palms.

Mr. Phil has poured his heart and soul into the garden selecting each plant, pot, gnome, and decorative piece with great thought and purpose. “I love our school: the faculty, staff, students and all those we serve. And I have gained greatly and grown from working here. It is because of this appreciation for all that our school is and does that I wanted to give back in some small way. The garden is for me a gift that will always go on giving,” Hervas shares.

The wonderment and joy the garden has brought to the Honolulu CC ‘Ohana feed and fuel Hervas’s soul.

“Plants have become my teachers. I breathe in. I am still. I absorb their beauty. It’s as if their spirits speak to me, telling me to be calm, slow down and enjoy life. My hope is that everyone who enjoys the garden finds moments of solace in its beauty.”

“When I water the garden it reminds me to be like the water. When water reaches an obstacle it goes over, under, or around. There is always a way to solve life’s problems.”


The garden begins at a titled jar on the east makai side of the building, where gnomes welcome you. The garden continues along the Dillingham side of the building, extending past the public entrance of building 27. As you round the corner you are greeted by a Japanese maple tree and Cosmetology students are shaded by a patch of banana trees as they exit and enter the ‘Ewa side of the building.


The tranquility of the garden is contagious. Cosmetology professor Jess Aki donated two bistro sets in the hopes that more people will sit and enjoy this lush garden.IMG_9809

Mr. Phil has a bench on his wish list; a bench that will face the Trades building to provide more seating for people to enjoy the serenity that is The Secret Garden.

How much does a secret garden in the middle of Honolulu cost? If you ask Mr. Phil, he humbly responds, “It’s priceless. It’s my way of giving back to the college. This is my hobby. The garden is my gift to everyone who enjoys it and their joy is my gift in return.”

Mahalo Mr. Phil for sharing your special gifts with us!

View more photos of Mr. Phil’s Secret Garden.