For more than 10 years, Howard and Sandy Takishita have been cultivating potted lilies in Upcountry Maui for Easter Seals Hawaii’s annual "Lilies for Abilities" fundraiser.
It’s a commitment that has special symbolic meaning for Howard Takishita, who at the age of 3 became the first child on Maui to be diagnosed with polio.
Now 56 and owner of Howard’s Nurseries Inc., one of the largest landscaping and flower farms in Hawaii, Takishita says it’s a way for him to give back.
EASTER LILY CARE TIPS
» Select medium to compact plants that are well-balanced and proportional in size — not too tall and not too short.
» Look for a lily that has at least one open bloom and several unopened buds and an abundance of dark, rich-green foliage that is dense and plentiful down to the soil line.
» Remove the paper sleeve,
as the lily needs to “breathe” to stay fresh.
» Keep plants in indirect, bright light and away from hot or cold drafts
» Soil should be moist, well-drained; standing water will lead to root rot.
» As the flowers mature, remove the yellow anthers at the end of the stamen before the pollen starts to fall for longer flower life and to prevent pollen from staining the white flowers.
» Cut withering flowers.
» If you plant the bulb in the ground right after Easter, it may bloom again around Memorial Day next year with proper care.
Source: Sandy Takishita, Howard’s Nursery
LILIES FOR ABILITIES
A fundraiser for Easter Seals Hawaii
When: Wednesday through April 24
Where: Foodland/Sack N Save stores across Hawaii
Cost: $11.99 per potted plant
"All those years, Easter Seals helped me with therapy," he said. "It’s a way to give back to people who’ve helped me in the past."
The Easter lily, symbolic of spring and new life, was adopted as the Easter Seals logo in 1952.
Thousands of potted lilies will go on sale at Foodland and Sack N Save supermarkets across the state starting Wednesday through Easter, April 24. They will cost $11.99 each, with $1 of every purchase going directly to Easter Seals Hawaii programs and services for people with disabilities, according to Anastasia Keller-Collins, senior vice president of programs. That includes occupational, physical, and speech therapy for children, as well as adult day programs.
"Our biggest focus is on helping people gain skills that allow them to be independent and have very meaningful lives," she said. "We do a lot of volunteer work, a lot of it related to skills development."
The "Lilies for Abilities" benefit is a collaboration involving Howard’s Nursery and Foodland, with the help of Young Brothers and Armstrong Produce, which transport the plants for free.
GROWING Easter lilies is no easy feat. There are only a handful of growers in northern California who supply Easter lily bulbs to the entire United States, and only a handful who continue to grow them in Hawaii.
The Easter lily, also known as the Bermuda lily, actually blooms in the summer. So the bulbs have to be kept in coolers for a certain period of time before they’re brought out and "tricked" into blooming in time for Easter. Howard’s Nursery gets the bulbs as early as October to go through the entire process.
Timing is of the essence.
The 28-acre Kula nursery is equipped with a high-tech greenhouse that has its own watering system that uses using recycled water and a roof that opens and closes automatically, depending on wind, sunlight and rain. Howard’s also grows mums, roses, tulips and poinsettias, but in April, the focus is on Easter lilies.
"He really takes great pride in his flowers," said Sandy Takishita. "He’s out there every day, looking at his flowers."
This year, the potted lilies have at least seven to 11 buds, she said. The lily’s trumpet-shaped buds open on average every day and a half, so the flowers last about two weeks.