Our Wellington

News | 23 November 2020

Behind the Stalls: Lei and Tom Hayes

In Behind the Stalls, we visit some of the colourful characters of Wellington waterfront’s Harbourside Market. In the second of 10 stories, we meet Lei and Tom Hayes of Bloomin Days.

Tulelei and Tom Hayes, in an embrace smiling at the camera, in front of their van, with buckets of fresh flowers and citrus fruit surrounding them at Harbourside Market.

If Harbourside Market has one fixtureTulelei Hayes reckons sheit.

“I’ve been here since 2002 – I am the furniture!”

Known as Lei, but also as the Lady in Red and the Flower Lady, she is hard to miss with her buckets full of blooms, beaming smile, and fun-loving attitude.

Every Sunday she is accompanied by Tom – her husband of 52 years –and the pair joke around at each other’s expense while selling freshly picked flowers and produce which is grown at their five-acre property in Ohau, south of Levin.

“I love this market because all my customers are more my friends than anything,” Lei says.

“I enjoy the people and really love that what you give them, they give you more. Often, they buy our produce and come back and give us jam or marmalade – they buy it and they give it back to us! That’s why I enjoy it, people are so friendly. It’s give and take.

So young at heart it’s hard to believe Lei is 76, and she is counting on fulfilling her grandma’s dream of living to 100.  

Lei moved to Aotearoa from Western Samoa when she was 18years old. Not long after she met Tom at a car factory, where they both worked.

He was painting car and I was inspecting it when it came from the oven to dry up the paint. I had to tell him to fix up the run.

When the couple bought their large section, Tom asked Lei what she wanted all the land for. 

The garden already had some flowers, and Lei has been expanding it ever since. 

Lemons, limes, grapefruit, pomelo, oranges, feijoas, damsel plums, and cherries are just a few of the fruits the couple grow. They also grow a variety of nuts, including walnuts and hazelnuts.

When it comes to flowers, Lei has a rose garden, lilies, orchards, daffodils and early cheeras well as native flax and other attractive foliage. 

A table of green bins, filled with bags of citrus fruit, outdoors at Harbourside Market, with a van and customers in the background.

There’s a lot of stuff there,” Lei says. And Tom admits his abundant garden is all down to her. 

“Its Lei who has the green thumb. She’ll just drop the seed and walk away then comeback in three weeks’ time and its growing.

Lei has no plans on slowing down anytime soon – she’s writing a book about her early life in Samoa and is learning to fly.  

“To me life is here to live,” she says. Your own determination and imagination will make it happen.”

Trading as Bloomin Daysyou can spot Lei and Tom with their van near the Cable Street entrance to Harbourside Market every Sunday.