At this year’s San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, a colorful bounty of bouquets stopped me in my tracks. Now that’s not unusual for me at a flower show, but this booth was different. The space was stacked high with countless containers of flowers under a huge sign—“Random Acts of Flowers.” What is that?
I found out that Random Acts of Flowers (RAF) is a non-profit organization whose volunteers gather discarded bouquets from all kinds of sources—weddings, memorial services, church functions, even Trader Joe’s and commercial florists. They reconstitute them into sumptuous new arrangements for free delivery to people in healthcare facilities.
In the colorful show booth, the volunteers told me that Random Acts of Flowers has its headquarters in
Tennessee, with five other locations around the U.S., including this one in Silicon Valley. Their founder, Larsen Jay, was hospitalized in 2007 with a serious injury. His room was filled with much-appreciated flowers from well-wishers. However, as Larsen recovered, he realized that many of his fellow patients had nothing to cheer them up in their rooms. He distributed his own flowers to other patients before he was discharged, and the idea for RAF was conceived. Early this year, RAF members reached a major milepost—over 200,000 recycled bouquets delivered.
That’s a lot of blooms. I had one big question. What’s the secret for refreshing flowers so they last longer? Sara Fondriest, Program Manager of the Silicon Valley RAF, cited a simple T.L.C. rule—“Remove any element that would risk infecting the arrangement once assembled.”
Here are her tips:
- Start with squeaky-clean containers.
- Strip off all leaves that will be under water.
- Remove any bruised petals.
- Always use sharp shears on stems.
- Re-cut stems at an angle for maximum water absorption.
- Use a packaged flower preservative in the water.
Programs like Random Acts of Flowers are springing up all around the U.S. If you can’t find an organization near you, the RAF website supplies information about starting a branch. Donations are always welcome, either of money, or blossoms, or time—especially if you can share your arranging skills.
And these flowers always need vases. So now you know what to do with that stash of old containers hiding on the back shelf in the greenhouse or shed. Dig them out and move them on—this is recycling that brings joy to the recipients.