Paiko Ohana: Ann Kadowaki


Paiko's reknowned 'haku lei master' Ann Kadowaki's holiday workshop is just around the corner and we wanted to introduce you to this busy bee! Ann invited us to her happy place at Lyons Arboretum in Manoa where she actively volunteers as the Vice President on the board. We explored the arboretum as she named off the various plants of Hawaii and chatted about her haku talents, inspiration, and future European garden travel plans --for the time being she's kind-of booked!


Born and raised on Oahu in Pauoa Valley, her inspiration is drawn from her childhood. Both sides of her family were actively involved in the local flower culture. Her dad was an orchid grower and her uncles were commercial rose farmers. In fact, her first job was on a rose farm where she cleaned and bundled the flowers. "I was horribly slow because I was so OCD about maintaining the roses. They had to be perfectly in line, no odd ones out."


Here are some questions we posed to the 'haku lei master':

When and how did haku-making become your passion? How did you become involved in the art form?

I think I always loved plants and flowers. Flowers especially. I used to make 'weed bouquets' -- little weeds that have little flowers on them. I would cluster them together in little bundles and stick them inside a rock. My Dad used to grow orchids and when they were blooming, I would collect the little buds. I used to think they looked like 'chick' heads and they were intriguing. He would spank my hand for plucking them. But I love flowers.


Where do you source your materials? What typical plants and flowers are found in your lei?

Usually my yard or my friends' yards. Sometimes I buy them locally depending on what I am making. Most of the time, my lei friends and I gather from each other's yard. A lot of us make little arrangements too in our other jobs. For Hawaiian table swags, I love to use a whole head of Ti. I love using the Song of India for its color and to brighten the piece. Also, Miniature Beef Steak leaves, given that name because they are red in color, can be included. I use Box Wood which is an ovoid type tree for filler. Depending on what I'm making, I love using different colors like reds or browns.


What is a Hawaiian table swag?

Hawaiian table swags are gigantic Haku lei, laid on the table. Normally I have this workshop at Lyon so I pick my materials here. I may have to go on some raiding sprees for my Song of India.


What type of method is used to create your Hakus?

I use a winding method. It's the easiest to teach too. I find it difficult to braid.

What began the collaboration between Paiko and you?

God, that was a funny one! We are the current lei makers at the Punahou Carnival. Previously it was the Kapuna making the lei since the 70s. I enjoy making lei, learning more techniques and meeting people. We have a network of lei Goddesses in the booth at the Carnival. One year we were talking story and there was an overwhelming amount of lei orders. Sweet young Tamara came to the booth and asked to speak to a lei maker in the back and the crew asked me, I guess because I'm the bossiest [laughs.] She explained about her workshop and her earnestness was appealing. I was so tired but I couldn't say 'No' with her 2 friends peering behind her. I gave her my email address, we corresponded and I stopped by the shop to understand. It's a charming place!


Ann teaches a lei workshop once a year at Punahou school to mothers and students. This year she brings her knowledge and enthusiasm to Paiko to teach a different type of student.

On December 16th she will be hosting our 'Holiday Table Swag' workshop where you can dress your holiday table the Hawaiian way with a lush table swag crafted from local foliages and berries. Make sure to sign up via our RSVP website or calling the shop for more details before its too late!

Photographs by © Sara Mayko 2014

Paiko Explores: Tantalus

Tanatalus Paiko founder, Tamara Rigney, invited us to explore her 'happy place' for inspiration, her little cottage hidden away in Tantalus. Originally called Pu'uohi'a, the mountain was named after the greedy Greek God Tantalus, by students of Punahou who were studying ferns in the 1840s. The God is well known for his 'eternal punishment: forever standing underneath a luscious fruit tree, full of bountiful fruit, forever out of his reach.'  Fortunately for us, the infinite amount of botanical treasures welcomes explorers to an enchanting magical forest.

Tamara guided us along the muddy, yet easy trails beneath canopies of Cook Pines, Areca palms, and beautiful Banyan trees. We kept our eyes open for strawberry guava, avocado, and orange trees. She paused every so often to point out different textures and contrasting colors popping out from mystical spots. We really felt like we were in the Secret Garden! Tamara told us of the African tulip, a bold tree sprouting blossoms of oranges and reds, an invasive species that entertained her as a child. 'My friends and I would take the flower pods and race them down the gutters when it rained. It was one of our favorite games.'

Rachel and Tamara

Where do you normally find your inspiration? Is it ever-changing depending on where you are located?

I get inspired by everything- everything I'm seeing or doing somehow comes into play when I generate ideas. Lately, I've been spending lots of time at my house up here, and that's been influencing my aesthetic. Travel is also very important to me.  Given that in Hawaii we’re out here in the middle of the ocean, it's important to go find new experiences and bring that energy home.

Carpet Moss

What elements of Tantalus are currently placed into Paiko? What characteristics of Tantalus are you looking forward to incorporating into the shop?

We’re incorporating lots of different jungle textures and foliages into our winter look. Vines, mosses and lichens are going to be major elements.

Rachel amongst Heliconia

What are the consistent botanical themes that you continue to place into Paiko?

‘Tropical Modern’ is the name I give to the general aesthetic at Paiko.


What is your dream shop design and layout?

After our latest remodel this year, designed by Nikole Nelson of BlkCoral, Paiko is pretty much my ‘dream shop’. I seriously can’t believe how polished and beautiful it turned out.  We have a few things to finish up, but by and large the shop is almost perfect. I love going to work every day, especially now that I get coffee handed to me when I walk through the door from Brue!

Therapists and people in general believe it's not good 'chi' to bring their 'office' into their 'home' life, how do you feel about this?

I do try to leave the office out of my home life, but I constantly bring my home life to the office. I live an amazing lifestyle up here in the jungle, and it's a major part of what Paiko represents.

Photographs by © Sara Mayko 2014

Paiko Expeditions: Medicinal Plants Tour

We always jump at a chance to learn more about the plant world, and this week was no exception. Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu offers a medicinal plants tour that guides you through their extensive collection (only $3 for residents). This walking tour is led by a knowledgeable docent who shares fun facts and interesting uses of plants from the Americas, Africa, and Polynesia. As an unrelated bonus, Foster is a great spot to spy some of the island's birds, from brightly colored parakeets to nesting waxbill finches in the cannonball tree.

Calabash Nutmeg

Calabash nutmeg is a large tropical tree from Africa. Alien-like, scented flowers hang delicately from the branches. The tree produces large fruits filled with pulp and aromatic brown seeds, used as a substitute for nutmeg. In traditional medicine, the seeds are used as a stimulant, to treat headaches and aid digestion. They are also used as rosary beads and are considered by some to have magical properties.


Also known as the Indian Mulberry, noni is a small tree with large leaves. The fruit is a rather lumpy, ovoid shape; translucent white to gray when ripe & smells "pungent" (to say the least) when broken open. In ancient times, noni was a valuable dye plant and producing a red or yellow color. Widely used in Polynesian traditional medicine, noni was used to treat everything from wounds and abscesses, to fractures, styes, diabetes. Noni continues to be used today by some who believe it can help treat ailments such as asthma & cancer.


Cuachilote is a short, tropical, fruit bearing tree from Mexico. The ridged, green- yellow fruits are reportedly sweet and edible either raw or cooked.  The fruit is sometimes made into pickles or preserves. Cuachilote was traditionally used as a remedy for colds and the roots were used as a diuretic.


Providing a perfect perch for orchids, the calabash tree has nocturnal, bell-shaped flowers. The shell of the fruit is hard and durable once dried, making it useful for maracas, containers for drinking mate, and a number of other items. In the Americas, the fruit was used as a purgative, cold remedy, and as treatment for coughs.

Sausage Tree

The sausage tree is sacred to many African communities and has a wide variety of uses in traditional and Western medicine. The dark red, pungent flowers open at night and are pollinated by bats and moths. Both ripe and unripe fruits are poisonous to humans, but fruits are sometimes dried and fermented to enhance the flavor of traditional beers. All parts of the tree are used in herbal medicines, for digestive and respiratory disorders, and to treat infections and wounds. The sausage tree is also used in a variety of commercial applications to treat skin complaints.

Blue Marble Tree leaves & fruit

A buttressed rainforest tree native to Australia, the Blue Marble tree is named for its distinctive blue fruits. The green leaves of the tree turn vibrant red as the edible, bitter fruit appears. Traditionally, tea made from the tree was drunk as a purgative, although the roots were also used for the treatment of rheumatism. The seeds have an oil rich kernel which was processed to treat skin disorders, and whole seeds are used for jewelry.

Otaheite Gooseberry

This species is believed to have originated in Madagascar, and is now commonly grown in Indonesia, South East Asia, and Guam. The star-shaped green fruits are very acidic, and are processed with sugar to make sauces, syrup, and jelly. In Indonesia, the tart flesh is added to many dishes as a flavoring. Medicinally, the fruits are taken as liver tonic, intended to enrich the blood. Syrup is prescribed to aid digestion, and the seeds are cathartic.

Author's Note:This information is provided for general interest only. It is not intended as guidance for medicinal use.

Sources: Kew Royal Botanical Gardens www.kew.org

Whistler, Dr. W. Arthur. Polynesian Herbal Medicine. Pacific Tropical Botanical, 1992. Available from the Hawaii Public Library System or for purchase online.

Morton, Julia F. "The Calabash (Crescentia cujete) in Folk Medicine". Economic Botany Vol. 22, No. 3  (Jul. - Sep., 1968), pp. 273-280. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4252965

Morton, Julia F. "Otaheite Gooseberry". Fruits of Warm Climates. 1987, pp. 217-219. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/otaheite_gooseberry.html

More Paiko Expeditions: Koko Crater Plumeria Grove, Big Island, Manoa Falls

Paiko Expeditions: Lyon Arboretum

Here in Hawaii we are lucky to have easy access to all sorts of wild botanical experiences just a short distance from our shop. One of our favorite excursions is to Lyon Arboretum, in Manoa Valley.  Run by the University of Hawaii, the mission of Lyon Arboretum is "to increase the appreciation of the unique flora of Hawaii and the tropics, by conserving, curating, studying plants and ...providing educational opportunities".  This is something that we at Paiko strongly believe in, and often visit the garden for inspiration. Below are a few images from the lower grounds and the Native Hawaiian Plants Garden of this amazing site. Surrounded by gorgeous plants, we explored just a small section of the 200-acre grounds, which includes fern, palm, and economic sections, as well as 'Aihualama Falls.   We can't wait until our next trip out to this great garden to share more with you!

Ti Plant- A member of the agave family, the leaves are often used for lau lau. The plants come in a variety of colors and are also common in Hawaiian landscaping.

Pala'a or Lace fern, this delicate fern can be found on all main Hawaiian Islands

Naupaka Kahakai- indigenous flowering shrub. For more info on early Hawaiian use and legend check out this article.

Portea Petropolitana bromeliad in bloom

Unripe ohi'a 'ai (mountain apple), a beautiful tree with floral tasting fruits.

Banana flower and fruit

More Expeditions: Manoa Falls, Koko Crater Plumeria Grove, Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden