For the last couple of days I’ve been enjoying an unusually beautiful magazine shared by my dear friend Becky Fox Matthews of Nashville. It’s certainly impressive, glossy and beautiful and filled with a variety of content about the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, titled “Avenues” and with the banner, “The magazine Christchurch lives by.”
Becky was my roommate on that unforgettable three-week tour of New Zealand that 23 of us, mostly Americans, plus a couple of Aussies, and a small contingent from the British Isles, shared as a part of the 2012 World Daffodil Convention.
So when David Adams, an outstanding citizen of the world daffodil community, who spent two full mornings guiding our bus around the city, sent her a copy, she was kind enough to let me see it. And Becky’s not the “saver” that I am, of all things in print and picture, but I have the feeling I must eventually return it.
Much of the content was daffodil focused, but I want to share with all of you, and anyone you know who might be in a position to benefit from this great idea, featured in the “back of the book” My Christchurch page, and this issue focusing on Janine Thomson, creator of the Flower Garden initiative.
The Kiwis are noted for their recycling and their “green” initiative, but Thomson’s Flower Garden initiative is something very special. Thomson evidently owns the Flower Garden shop - never really pushes that fact, assuming everyone would know.
What she is focusing on is the way that the shop uses flowers donated from weddings, growers, and hoe gardens, to create floral artworks for hospitals and rest homes. Janine tells us “in the early hours one winter morning I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept, and so the Flower Garden was born in July 2015.” (Remember, that’s midwinter “down under.”)
Last year Thompson contacted almost everyone involved in the flower industry in Christchurch, and has developed a loyal network of supporters who provide flowers when they can. We are developing a network of people who supply us from their private gardens.
Brides tell their friends, and wedding planners spread the word.
“We are always looking for more greenery and flowers.” And what is the ultimate destination of these donated flowers?
Thomson says that she has a list of retirement homes they deliver to. Christchurch Hospital and Christchurch Women’s Hospital receive a weekly delivery. Ronald McDonald House South Island receives 10 vases each week for their dining room.
And the response has been most rewarding, more than the group had ever dreamed of. Staff members at these institutions tell how much they appreciate the flowers, how it cheers up the working environment, and most of all, how much visitors and patients love them.
Sometimes Janine finds a handwritten anonymous note from patients, tucked into the box of vases when she goes to collect them for next week’s display.
To cover the “petrol expenses” - (gasoline to us), she and her partner have started selling second hand books. It’s a small start, but they are committed to this sharing of blooms that otherwise would be discarded or would perish in a garden, unseen by anyone other than the owner.
“Why do you do this?” she is often asked, and explained that when she was 17, she was involved in a very serious car accident, and experienced first-hand the power of flowers. On a particularly bad day, “My best friend came in my room with the largest armful of orchids she could carry from her father’s nursery. That gift completely changed my day, and my entire time in the hospital. Flowers have a phenomenal ability to heal and improve one’s mood. I want to reach out to those who are having a tough time and struggling with illness.”
I had heard that the United Methodist Women in the Forest Methodist Church take the altar arrangements each Monday (they are usually too large for anyone to use in a home setting, and also are often given by a donor far away), take them apart carefully, and spend some happy hours creating small floral offerings to take to the local nursing homes. Now that I’ve read about Janine Thomson’s major effort in Christchurch, I’m going to ask more questions about how the Forest Church women do this.
In a metro area the size of ours, with all of its hospitals - and all of its churches, which have beautiful altar arrangements every Sunday, maybe a creative sharing could take place. And if anybody does pick up on this idea, I’d like to tell the Northside community about how it works out here. So let me know.