Stringing a lei of kou

21 09 2020

The kou tree in the front garden is blooming and dropping delicate orange-colored blossoms. When strung into a flower lei they look like ilima.

The Hawaiian-English dictionary has this description:

“ 1. n. A tree found on shores from East Africa to Polynesia (Cordia subcordata), with large, ovate leaves, and orange, tubular flowers 2.5 to 5 cm in diameter, borne in short-stemmed clusters. The beautiful wood, soft but lasting, was valuable to the early Hawaiians and was used for cups, dishes, and calabashes. (Neal 714–5.) (PPN tou.)”

I keep the lei cool in the open air between wet newspaper, avoiding the refrigerator, and re-dampen the newspaper as needed.


After wearing, you may save the lei. As it dries to a rusty orange, snug up the flowers together along the craft ribbon to wear again!

Aloha nō,


The lei on display at Kapiolani Park

1 05 2018

HONOLULU—Every May 1st floral designers make lei for the Hawaiian Lei Contest sponsored by the City at Kapiolani Park. A horticulturist identifies the plant elements in the lei upon entry, and then organizers line up the creations near the parking lot between the park Bandstand and the Waikiki Shell.

The display opens to the public to view with the untying of a ti leaf lei around 12:30 p.m. after the Royal May Day Court sees it first.

Today I was first in line along with Evelyn who I just met. We are both lei makers, too. Although we did not enter anything, we came for ideas! Check out my images. You can practically smell the flowers, can’t you? The lei in the last photo in the series took the Mayor’s Grand Prize.







Mayor’s Grand Prize is awarded to Melvin T. Labra for his wili style lei of ‘ohai ali‘i, palapalai, and kukunaokala.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii!


May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

1 05 2011

Today, let’s make a lei, wear a lei, give a lei! May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii! This lei is strung kui style with yellow plumeria and orange kou blossoms from the garden. Aloha to you.

"Mommy tricked me. I came when she called "Walkies!" but she just wanted to give me a lei and have me pose. She even gave me a big smooch on my nose." ~ Alice Brown

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke

If you are new to Rebekah’s Studio, here’s my 2010 Lei Day entry. This year’s celebration at Kapiolani Park Bandstand—the 84th annual— runs until 5:30 p.m. today.

Declutter for the year of the tiger

10 02 2010

The Chinese Lunar New Year of the Tiger starts this February 14, presenting another chance for me to declutter the studio and garden. A few more days to get rid of the stale energy to make room for the new — key to continuing the healing.

Last week I blessed the Punahou Carnival plant booth with several small avocado trees that I’d been nurturing for five months and about 175 strong bromeliad plants that had spread from where perhaps a dozen were first placed 20 years ago in the front yard.

Pulling out the broms uncovered quite a few vanda orchid plants. I call them lei vandas, but their correct name is Vanda Miss Joaquin. I haven’t seen them commercially for a long time. On Oahu, their popularity has been replaced by dendrobium orchids from Thailand. (Imagine!)

When I was a girl in Wahiawa, Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna who lived next door had a farm and a garden that included these vandas. On special occasions, when visitors would arrive from overseas, or when someone was going away, Aunty Edna would let me pick the flowers to make lei.

She sometimes separated the blossom and strung the bottom half maunaloa style into a lei of saturated color that resembled the look of a lei of flowers from the maunaloa vine. (Maunaloa is one of those plants that cannot be taken out of Hawaii.) She needed a lot of blossoms for this style of lei.

The color of a fresh maunaloa style vanda lei was as intense as the magenta akulikuli blossoms from the ice plant (Lampranthus multiradiatus) that grew on both sides of Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna’s walkway from the street to the front steps. Beautiful! Aunty Edna made akulikuli lei too! Now these are rarely seen.

These memories inspired me to clean and re-pot my lei vandas where they will have more air and sunlight among some native kupukupu fern that I relocated from the side of the garage. I mapped out some garden paths to make the place more interesting and inviting. I guess I’ve taken on the delightful pastime of re-landscaping the garden!

The vandas aren’t blooming at the moment, but I thought you might like to see what they could look like in their prime. Photographer Dominic Kite of Scotland has given me permission to link to his photo of Vanda Miss Joaquin. Thank you Dominic! If you want to see more of Dominic’s photos, you may go to his website But for the moment, click on this link:

Vanda Miss Joaquin by Dominic Kite

Related articles from Sept. 2009 (see Earlier Posts in the sidebar):

“Sweet memories and coming home, part 1,” Sept. 7, 2009

“Gratitude for my abundant garden,” Sept. 8, 2009

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

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