Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Joy of Receiving Cut Flowers

a top view of a bucket of red roses

Hello fellow readers, I’ll admit I am not a huge fan of cut flowers, though I find artful arrangements lovely. But I always feel bad when the flowers fade, tossing them in the compost pile when a houseplant gift lasts for years. Recently a story came from a dear friend who brings a new light to the joy of receiving cut flowers—first, a bit of background.

an older man in a blue jacket in front of an open door of a pickup truck with a bucket of cut flowers-roses

Ken Roberts delivers happiness to the patients, families, and caregivers at the Karen Ann Quinlan Home for Hospice.

About “the famous” Ken Roberts

I met Ken Roberts by barging in on his weekly sing at the Karen Ann Quinlan Home for Hospice in Fredon, NJ. You see, I was stumbling along with my iPad and portable speaker, sharing music in a karaoke sort of way. Then I heard about “the famous Ken,” I call him; he would blush at the fame. I asked the volunteer coordinator if I could shadow him to learn a few things.

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving, about five years ago, when I showed up to an unexpecting Ken who welcomed me and encouraged me to sing along. So I did. I marveled at his guitar mastery, equipped with binders of music, plus an ear that allows him to hear a few bars and pick up a tune upon request.

“Are you coming next week,” Ken asked?

We’ve been a duo ever since though restrictions due to covid caused an interruption.

The Joy of Giving and Receiving Cut Flowers 

In the spirit of supporting my request for stories from you, kind readers, of how nature, gardens, or plants inspire our lives. Ken writes,

I know I’ve told you about my little job driving flowers around for Ward’s Flowers. It was just something to do to keep me off the streets and out of trouble, but it is to this day one of the nicest four years of my working life.

I should mention Ken is a retired United Airlines captain, although he doesn’t talk about it much unless you ask.

a bouquet of summer flowers including sunflowers and orange Gerber daisies. One day, I delivered flowers to a nursing home. It was a nice day, so a few residents were sitting in the vestibule enjoying the sun. When they saw me coming with a gorgeous bouquet, their faces lit up in anticipation. Then their faces fell when they realized the flowers were not for them. So I talked with them for a few minutes and continued my rounds.

Ward’s was a high-end florist, and any flowers that didn’t pass inspection were thrown away. We called them greens. They were really very nice.

Ken went on to say:

Part of my job was to sweep them up and throw them in the field behind the store. I decided to go back to the nursing home and give them the folks in the vestibule. The smile on their faces was worth a million bucks and started a tradition.

I always took greens with me and gave them to unsuspecting folks along the way, crossing guards, receptionists, etc. It might have changed their day for a moment, but it changed mine for a lifetime.

a birds eye view of a single cut rose flowerA personal note…

There’s a personal note to add to Ken’s heartwarming story. The Friday before Christmas, I surprised him by delivering cookies and a card as he made his way into his weekly sing. I am not invited to participate, unable to be vaccinated, which weighs heavy on my heart.

We chatted a while, and Ken said, “I have something for you.” He reaches into his truck and presents a bucket of red roses. “Pick one,” he says.

“But they are for the caregivers. You didn’t expect me today.”

“There’s plenty. Pick one,” Ken insists. “It’s for you.”

My face it up, as did my heart, and the rose came home with me and slowly opened into its full glory as Christmas week unfolded. And yes, it made its way to the compost pile after that. But the memory of his kindness remains forever.

Thank you, dear Ken, for sharing your story and sharing your gift of music to families and patients during their sacred time. You are a gift of light and love.

Garden Dilemmas? (and on your favorite Podcast App.)

There’s more to Ken’s story, including clips of an interview in Episode 46 of the Podcast:

Link to Mayapple of my Eye and Ken Robert’s original song titled Mandrakes, another name for Mayapple. 

A link to Rutgers (University) Behavioral Study Links Flowers, and Life Satisfaction







Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Mary Cafarelli Reply

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. I am not usually a fan of cut flower bouquets either – too much money and they have a brief life. Your story has made me rethink my attitude. After all, I’m very happy to spend money treating a friend to breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Thank you, Mary, for reading the story. After hearing Ken’s story, I have a whole new view of cut flowers. I still adore plants with roots, too :^)

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