The air was cool, crisp and sweet-scented when I arrived at Ali‘i Kula Lavender, nestled above the cloud line of Haleakala, for a tour and some holiday wreath making. I felt the hectic pace of my morning slip away as I made my way past rows of blossoming lavender bushes and gardeners in overalls and wide-brimmed hats. Lavender has that effect on people.
Before the tour began, I sat down to a steaming cup of chamomile tea infused with lavender, lemon balm and mint with about a dozen other tour-seekers on a shady porch. We smothered jelly on scones infused with—you guessed it—dried lavender and listened to the late-morning birdcalls.
After tea we all got up for a tour of the garden. Most of the plants were dormant, patiently waiting for spring to arrive so they could bloom. Besides the many varieties of lavender, Ali‘i is home to tall and brightly colored protea, fat and fleshy succulents and flowering trees.
Following the tour, a handful of us stuck around to make holiday wreaths with Mars Simpson. The workshop took place on a shaded platform overlooking Maui’s massive, majestic green valley. Buckets full of greenery and flower clippings from the garden covered two tables where we were to work. I saddled up to the worktable next to two young ladies from Honokawai.
The wreath making began with a simple woven frame made from grape vines. Simpson demonstrated how to attach our choice of plants to the base with hot glue, which bubbled invitingly in warming pans across the table. I selected cypress greens and eucalyptus leaves from the buckets and stared blankly at my frame. What to do?
The girls from the Westside looked equally bewildered by the task, but with Simpson’s encouragement we began gluing greens around our frames until they vaguely starting resembling wreaths. Emboldened, I wielded my clippers and glue until I had made a full ring of cypress.
Simpson took breaks from her own project to play creative director for ours, nimbly placing leaves and flowers into our wreaths and making suggestions for arrangements and designs.
To set off my green wreath I added pinky-purple flowers called safari and few odd-looking fuzzy buds called silver leaf, both from the protea family. Simpson explained why the flowers looked better when bunched together and how using odd numbers of bunches somehow looks more even. With my accent flowers in place I finished the wreath with multiple sprigs of long silvery-green eucalyptus leaves.
I finished first, leaving me lots of time to admire the other wreaths that were being made. Simpson’s was bushy and wild, with long strands of leaves popping out everywhere. One of the Honokowai girls made a wreath almost entirely out of eucalyptus, with the same types of safari flowers I included. The other girl used cypress like me, but had her different colored flowers arranged in other ways. I was amazed at the variety in our wreaths, since we all started with the same materials.
Wreath making goes on all year round at Ali‘i. Fragrant herb wreaths are made in the spring when the majority of the lavender is blooming, and fall is the time for living wreaths made from succulents that actually continue to grow on their frames.
Covered in dried glue but delighted with my new holiday decoration, I wandered through the garden back to the parking lot with a lavender-induced feeling of calm and serenity that lasted the rest of the day. MTW