Like many of us, Sam Thomas, a kindergarten teacher in Mountain View, CA, and owner of Lemon Tree Floral Design, started taking more walks around her neighborhood during the pandemic. As she strolled along, she noticed all the beautiful spring flowers in bloom, including roses, lilies, poppies, lavender, and sweet pea. And while Thomas says she isn’t much of a gardener, she has a talent for creating stunning bouquets and flower arrangements. (Before shelter-in-place orders, she even taught classes on flower arranging.) So she put to use her passion for flowers to help spread joy during a stressful time for many.
Courtesy of Sam Thomas Before the pandemic, Thomas taught classes on flower arranging at birthday parties and other gatherings.
On her walks, Thomas would create flower arrangements in her mind with her neighbor's blooms. “I thought it would be fun to actually make these arrangements so I reached out on Nextdoor to see if anybody would be interested in a flower swap," she says. "My neighbors would give me whatever flowers they could cut from their garden, I'd combine them with flowers from another neighbor's garden, and then I'd return with a brand new ‘re-arrangement’ for them." The idea was an instant hit. In just one day, Thomas says she got messages from more than 20 neighbors interested in participating.
Courtesy of Sam Thomas Thomas was inspired to create the re-arrangements by the flowers she saw when walking through her neighborhood.
Thomas asked her neighbors to collect cut flowers from their gardens, place them in a medium-size vase, and leave them on their doorstep for Thomas to pick up. She spent about 3 hours driving around and collecting blooms throughout her neighborhood the first day. As soon as she got home, she rearranged the flowers and put together new bouquets. The next day, she dropped off the new arrangements to her neighbors.
She even put any leftover flowers to use to spread even more smiles. “I tried to make it easy on myself by setting up a little flower stand (i.e. a step stool from my kitchen) in my front yard with a super simple ‘Free Flowers!’ sign,” says Thomas.
Courtesy of Sam Thomas For her first flower swap, Thomas collected, rearranged, and redelivered 20 flower bouquets.
But with another flower swap in the works, Thomas hopes to spread joy to those who need it most right now. “In my next swap, I'd love to suggest that if people have enough flowers to fill two vases then I could make one ‘re-arrangement’ for them and the extra would go to a hospital or retirement community,” Thomas says. She's also considering creating two arrangements for each neighbor; one for them to keep, and one for them to give to someone else as a random act of kindness.
Thomas plans to continue her flower swaps every other month until interest runs out or there aren’t enough blooms to go around. And her creative way of bringing a little extra happiness to her neighbors has already spread; one of Thomas’s friends recently organized another flower swap in her Connecticut neighborhood.
If you're interested in starting your own flower swap, Thomas recommends using an app like Nextdoor to help get the word out and planning a pick-up and drop-off date and time in advance. “It's such a fun way to bring connection and color into people's lives,” Thomas says.