I have been volunteering at Clem’s Garden for two years. Its all about community, getting involved, nurturing and sharing. We’ve always had a focus on tackling loneliness, delivering flowers to remind people they are being thought about. Clem’s had to close to volunteers at the outset of Covid. We wondered what we could do to help and, of course, the flowers would keep growing – we had spent the last year nurturing them. I linked into my local Mutual Aid Group in Golcar where we initially focused on essentials – getting food, medicines etc to people who were shielding. Once a network of buddies was set up, by the amazing Jane Smith who kicked it all off, I thought of the idea of sharing flowers from Clem’s with shielding folk, using the buddy network. People were keen and Clem’s were enthusiastic and so the flower jars scheme was born. It felt like a small thing we could do in the midst of a big threat where many of us felt powerless. It made good use of flowers which would have been wasted, it used the skills we had to let people know they weren’t alone. Once we got off the ground in Golcar, Vicky at Clem’s decided to spread the offer to the Mutual Aid Groups near the garden – in Lindley and Marsh/Paddock/Edgerton.
What do you do?
The skeleton staff of people at Clem’s, mainly Vicky and Lizzie, picked the flowers which have to be picked early in the morning before its warm, then conditioned and soaked for 24 hours. I would collect them on a Friday, as part of my shopping trip for myself and a shielding family member. We had to avoid travelling too much. Volunteers from the other Mutual Aid Groups did the same – and we settled on alternate Fridays for the different groups to try to keep the work manageable and the flowers flowing. On the Thursday I would forage locally for greenery and soak it overnight, then on Friday afternoon I would arrange them all into hand tied bunches and put them in jam jars. For a few weeks we had the help of a local florist to arrange them too whilst she was furloughed. On Saturday mornings my husband would drive me out to each of the food buddies who had requested a jar and they would then take them along to their shielding buddy. We operated up to October, when the garden goes to sleep for the winter. Overall Clem’s delivered more than 550 jars of flowers last year.
What have you found rewarding or memorable about your experience?
The feedback from people was so very positive. The flowers really cheered people up, even if, for some, they were left outside on windowsills at first. It felt like we were doing something useful, and uplifting. I know its not as critical as food and medicines but it made a difference to people. If there were any flowers leftover, I would leave them in jars by my gate and ask people to help themselves. One day I found a note scribbled onto a leaf and left by the gate saying, thanks, you’ve turned a bad day good. I was able to put flowers on graves for people who couldn’t leave the house but wanted to remember loved ones, and leave gifts for key workers to show they were appreciated. The whole experience made me realise that there is such a strong sense of community during adversity. We were overwhelmed with volunteers wanting to help with the food deliveries. It gave me a lot more faith in people and their basic decency.
Find out more
To find out more about Clems Gardens visit: https://www.clemsgarden.co.uk/
You can purchase Flowers from Clems: https://www.clemsgarden.co.uk/clems-flowers
Or give a donation to their ‘Kindness Fund’ https://www.clemsgarden.co.uk/shop/donate-a-jar