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.
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”.
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 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.