Over twenty years ago I gave birth to my third child. Although at first he appeared fine, he developed problems and within hours was whisked across town to the nearest neonatal intensive care facility. We had just moved to a new neighborhood and were without most of the social connections that help so much at a time like this.
Consequently, I found myself all alone in my post-partum room, while my husband followed our baby across town. Soon a roommate joined me; she’d just had her first baby. Over the next couple of days, as I lay in bed wondering about my little boy, one visitor after another arrived by my roommate’s bedside. The chatter was animated, the laughter frequent. The stack of gifts grew higher and competed with the flower arrangements for space. My nightstand was empty, and when they asked to borrow my chair, I readily agreed.
When we moved here in the country, I remembered that time, and though I was quite busy tending children, I thought to the far future and fantasized about one day providing flowers to my local hospital from my own garden, maybe one bouquet a week, to one needy patient, perhaps in a clean mayonnaise jar.
Someone beat me to it.
Friends with Flowers was started in 2004 by floral designer Randy McManus in Greensboro, North Carolina. He and friends reuse flowers from events, contribute flowers from their own gardens, and supplement with wholesale purchases financed by donations, to make bouquets for hospice residents.
I first learned of Friends with Flowers in an article in Cottage Living magazine(pdf), and I felt like I was reading my daydream come to life. Friends with Flowers did start small, delivering fewer than ten arrangements a week, but I don’t think they ever used mayonnaise jars. It is clear that McManus thought things through so that he didn’t start something he couldn’t continue, and wind up disappointing a lot of people. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned with others.
To quote the article, “In a world where the challenges seem so huge and many of us feel disempowered, community efforts like Friends with Flowers remind us of the possibilities.” If we can Plant a Row for the Hungry, perhaps we can also plant a bouquet for the ailing. Certainly we should all keep in mind that our gardens have power to do good beyond our little circle.