Mahalo nui loa to Brian Choy who put the following information together to encourage and support current and future lei makers!
ARE YOU PLANNING TO ENTER THE MAY DAY LEI CONTEST?
Veteran lei makers maintain a lei garden and supplement their lei contest flowers with blossoms from the gardens of friends, florists, garden shops, wholesale floral shops, and from the island forests.
You will learn that you will spend just as much time or more to gather flowers as to make a lei. If you spend too much time gathering your flowers, you may find yourself too exhausted to make many lei.
PLAN HOW YOU WILL MAKE LEI FOR THE MAY DAY LEI CONTEST
1. Decide how many lei you will make. What categories will you enter?
You will have to anticipate what the City and County of Honolulu Parks and Recreation staff will designate as the lei categories, e.g., island flowers, lei identified in song, etc. Unfortunately, these categories are often not announced until a month before the contest.
2. Maintain your lei garden. This will save you money and time.
Your perennial garden should include palapalai fern, 'ohi'a lehua, cup and saucer plants, mini bougainvilleas, moa, bleeding heart (Clerodendrum), bozu (globe amaranth), colored ki (ti-leaf), dracaena tricolor, agapanthus, honeysuckle, stephanotis, etc. The size, climate (shade or sun), and soil will determine what favorite lei plants will grow in your garden.
Annuals should be planted to supplement your perennial garden. Annual seeds should be sown as early as January. Annual plants from garden shops or plant nurseries should be planted in early April depending upon how mature the plants are. Choose plants that are not fully flowers and not pot bound. Plant your annual seedlings in potting soil with black cinder for drainage in large pots or planters. Remember to fertilize and use slug bait.
3. What is blooming in the gardens of family and friends? Ask if they will share their flowers with you. Please remember to leave a "thank you" gift such as flowers or a plant that they might welcome to add to their garden.
4. Identify what will be available in florists or wholesale floral shops such as Watanabe Floral. Note that some flowers are available year round and other flowers may be seasonal. Be sure that the flowers are purchased fresh and that you are able to properly store the flowers.
5. If you don't have adequate floral refrigeration or a cool are to store your flowers, purchasing potted flowers may be the best alternative. Orchids, annual flowers, chrysanthemums, a kalanchoe, hydrangea, and other potted flowers may be purchased from garden shops, plant nurseries, florists, and supermarkets. You will then be able to pluck the blossoms as you need them.
6. Picking flowers and fern from our island forests does require a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Pick only what you need! Be sure to properly store the native lei material in plastic bags or plastic containers that are also stored in iced coolers while you are traveling. Remove the ice from coolers that are shipped via baggage. Bring coolers, storage bags, old newspaper, and spray bottle to mist your lei material.
Airline and car rental can be expensive. But it is fun to travel to the Neighbor Islands to pick your lei material. Just be sure that you know what you are picking (no endangered species please), pick only what you need, and properly store the lei material.
The cost and time for Neighbor Island travel should convince you to plan your own fern, 'ohi'a Lehua, and other native lei material.
1. Read and understand the lei contest rules. If you have any questions, contact the program staff identified in the rules.
2. Plan to make a limited number of lei contest entries. You need to estimate how long it will take to gather the lei material and make the lei. You would be surprised how long even veteran lei makers take to make a lei contest entry.
3. Properly store your lei material and finished lei. Old refrigerators without a dehumidifier are great for storing lei material and lei. If your refrigerator is relatively new, you will have to roll the lei, wrap in damp paper towels and newspapers, and store in a sealed plastic bags or plastic container before storing in the refrigerator. Turn the temperature up (warmer) so the lei material and lei will not freeze. Meat and vegetable bins in the refrigerator are great to store the lei material and lei since they provide additional insulation. It would be preferable to dedicate a refrigerator to only lei material and lei for a few days before the contest. Ripening fruit release methane which will shorten the life of your lei material and lei. Moreover, food requires a colder temperature than flowers. Sealed liquids, non-fruit produce, and the freezer section of your refrigerator will not adversely impact your lei material and lei.