Ever Green

By Lois Taylor

Friday, November 21, 1997

Photos by Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Dorothy Aoki and Lois Okita hang up finished wreaths, above, while below, nimble fingers assemble wreaths for the Lyon Arboretum sale tomorrow.

Group lends hand for holidays

YES, you can make your own holiday wreath. You can also make your own marshmallows, dog biscuits and sauerkraut, but as a general rule, it is more practical to leave any of these pursuits up to somebody in the business.

The wreath is a possibility if you have access to a variety of green and dried plant materials, the attention to detail and spare time of Martha Stewart and the dexterity of a Las Vegas dealer. Otherwise, consider the Holiday Sale at Lyon Arboretum tomorrow where both holiday wreaths and smaller herb wreaths will be sold. This is merely the tip of the Christmas tree - the sale will also include a variety of plants and crafts, all to benefit the work of the arboretum.

The wreaths and the craft items are the work of Hui Hana Hawaii, a dedicated group of women who meet weekly to produce unique and beautiful things. The Monday group works on oshibana items -pressed flowers on stationery or to be shown in small frames. On Wednesday, the wreath makers meet, and on Thursday a group creates traditional Hawaiian craft items. There are also groups that meet irregularly to cook jams and jellies and another to produce cloisonne, a decorative art of enamel and metal. The Wednesday group is concentrating now on wreaths, but they work throughout the year creating haku and other lei which are sold on order.

"Hui Hana started in 1981, with the encouragement of Bea Krauss who suggested the name of the group," Lois Okita said. Okita more or less heads the wreath makers, organized several years ago by Muriel Endo, who remains active. There isn't much of a hierarchy in the group. Although most of the women had never met each other until they joined Hui Hana, they have since become close friends and not particularly interested in who's boss.

The wreath and lei makers grow most of their own materials in their gardens, often using plants from the arboretum. "Our big trip each year is to go to the Big Island just before May Day to gather lei flowers. We go to gardens of friends on the island, not to the forest. For the past several years, we have given a lei-making demonstration at Liberty House for May Day.

"It's a very friendly group, we all share ideas and whatever flowers we have. There's lots of laughter. Each time we make something, we learn from each other. There are 12 of us, and we would welcome others to join," Okita said.

The group starts work at 9 a.m. and quits at noon, but hardly anybody leaves before 1 p.m. because there always is something to catch up on.

Dot Aoki and Sumi Hamada taught them how to make ti leaf and wili lei, and Okita led a class last month in wreath making. '"We have made a scrapbook of lei photographs, so people can order ahead. We do weddings and graduations. We can usually come up with the school colors," Okita said, although schools that use black or navy blue create a floral problem.

The scrapbook is available at the arboretum office for custom orders. Okita needs at least a week's advance notice for a single lei and more time for larger orders. Arrangements are made by Marian Leong, who returns calls made to the arboretum, at 988-7378. Call the same number if you are interested in joining any of the Hui Hana groups.

Okita's group began making the holiday wreaths early this month, and finished a few days ago. They are 18 to 24 inches in diameter and incorporate dried material in a variety of colors. Each has been sprayed with a patented solution that prevents mildew, a chronic problem for wreaths made in the humid environment of the arboretum. "They should last at least two years," Okita said. Prices are $35 to $50.

The group will be making herb wreaths on order for delivery before Christmas. Samples will be at tomorrow's sale. "Oh, it smells so good when we're working on these wreaths," Okita said. "We use basil and lemon grass and cinnamon, calamondin oranges, peppers, garlic, rosemary-all kinds of good things. When we work on the wreaths we just bathe in the wonderful aroma."

The other Hui Hana groups will also be selling their work.

The sale will also feature a large assortment of plants, including tropical rhododendron hybrids in shades of peach and pink.

Research assistant Liz Huppman, who has cultivated many of them for the arboretum, says that they will grow in both full sun and semi shade in the cooler areas of the island. They look somewhat more like an azalea than the typical mainland rhododendron.

"These will bloom off and on throughout the year, and the flowers will stay on the plant for about 10 days. They need good drainage, and they don't tolerate over-potting. They prefer being rootbound. They're a little tricky about water. Not too much, not too little. Once they're established, they will thrive, but don't move them once they're doing well," she advised.

The sale will also introduce a new species of kului, discovered in Kalalau Valley on Kauai. A creeping shrub that grows to about 2 feet, it has small gray-green leaves. "It hasn't flowered yet. It really needs a drier area than Lyon and good drainage. In the right place, it will grow into a large silver bush," Huppman said.

Okita and her lei making group have already studied the new kului and have decided it is just right for their haku lei.

Holiday sale

When: 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow

Where: Lyon Arboretum, 3860 Manoa Road

Call: 988-7378

Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar in Do It Electric!

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