An Editorial: Cut Flowers, Potted Plants, or …?

We gardeners love plants of all kinds, including flowers. They bring beauty to recipient(s), often representing love or sympathy. Many folks send potted plants, especially blooming ones, during holidays or times of stress. To do so is simple, either on the internet or from a local florist, especially if you happen to have an account.

Then why choose an alternative to cut flowers or a blooming plant? Hospital rooms seldom have extra space, or plants may not even be allowed, as some patients or staff004 may be allergic. When a patient is moved, flowers can get lost, frozen, or wilt in the process. Delivery people are hardly integral to real estate in a hospital setting. Even in a home, flowers absorb counter or table space which might be needed for medical devices, prescription medications, or new baby stuff. Relatives might be there to help for days or weeks, bringing their bundles along.

Cut flowers need to be trimmed and their water needs changing daily to maintain their beauty. They should not be near a draft, plus flowers die quicker if in sunlight. Put these burdens on top of caring for a family member or new baby and recovering new mother. I speak from recent experience when all I could manage for my daughter’s family were household duties too numerous to mention. Plus my daughter does not have a knack for perpetuating flowers or plants, so she was consumed with guilt over sustaining them. She was worried too that her cats would eat the new plants and get sick. Of course she was too polite to tell givers her concerns.

I cannot resist mentioning environmental aspects of this topic. If flowers or a plant come from your garden, indoor or out, I’m impressed! Snip, maybe tie a ribbon around it, and cruise across town to your destination. However many flowers, especially in winter, arrive in trucks, maybe even planes from abroad. Transportation pollutes and uses fuel that could be utilized for vital supplies. I don’t know of any greenhouses in this area that produce flowers in the winter. Cut flowers often swell with forced, timed fertilizers so they bloat into beautiful yet brief renditions of their species. The plastic packets, usually included, contain stimulants. I would think twice before tossing remains into compost. Fortunately many local flower shops re-use vases; so, if you don’t recycle the glass or plastic, call around to ask who accepts the vases.

Ironically, I have received several potted plants as gifts that thrive many years later, such as an African violet now divided into five, a Christmas cactus, and a bonsai, but I love gardening. Not everyone does. Giving plants won’t guarantee that switch flips. So what alternatives might work as a supportive gesture? Each situation/ recipient is unique. 005Cards are reasonably priced, and they don’t interrupt people when they are resting or running to appointments. And no thank you note looms as a future task. My favorite is food, because I love to eat; however, first check on dietary preferences or allergies. And don’t call a day after surgery to ask, unless you are part of the inner circle. A gift certificate to a nearby restaurant that does take-out works well, or offer pet care, or companionship with transportation to appointments. Perhaps choose a night when you can bring supper and let the family know. Consider an offer to buy groceries, as in, “I’m on my way to Albertson’s… what do you need? I’ll swing it by.” They may prefer rotisserie chicken, fresh bread, and ice cream to a dozen dahlias.

Editorial submitted by Bess Lovec