Coming from Lahaina where plumeria were abundant, making a lei meant scampering outside with a paper bag, picking the fragrant blossoms, sitting under the mango tree, and stringing the garland of flowers. A snap!
Plumeria are like gold in East Hawai'i. Living in the mountains, making a lei takes a lot more time and effort. There are the fragile but pungent yellow ginger. But you need to pick the just about to open blossoms about noon time, place them gently on beds of wet ti leaves or paper towels and store them in the refrigerator until you have enough flowers for a lei.
Ti leaf leis are also an option but they do not have the lovely fragrance factor. Ti leaves grown green and abundantly in our area. The simple leis can be dressed up by using the various colored ti leaves, adding in fern or fake maile leaves, or wrapping ti leaf roses. Red leaves, purple leaves, yellow leaves, green leaves...the possibilities are many provided you have patience and ingenuity.
Travel a few miles up and liko lehua lei materials can be found along with the various ferns. Pick the shoot tips, clean the materials, spread out your mat and then spend the next two hours or so wrapping the arrangements of flowers and greenery on a backing. A treasured lei indeed.
But the simplicity of making a lei are gone. To wear a lei for May Day in the mountains takes time and planning. Perhaps that is why the gift of leis becomes more precious.