Saturday, July 20

Flower power to the fore



A cake with cheese and orchids decorated by Tan.

ON a dreary day with rain pouring heavily, a small floral arrangement in a cold chapel caught the eye of a grieving woman a long time ago.

A small attached note said, “Be of good cheer. God be with you.”

The funeral service was coming to an end, but the beautiful flowers and that simple note from someone unknown changed the woman’s mood.

She had just lost her grandmother, the woman who brought her up when her mum died tragically, leaving her motherless at age 10.

She told thesundaypost about her love for flowers.

“I have loved flowers and flower arrangements since that time. I was sent to a boarding school, which had a strict principal and I came back only once a year to see my grandmother.

“My new stepmother was distant but my quiet grandmother luckily lived to a ripe old age. She was someone I could lean on. My boarding school was surrounded by beautiful garden flowers which made my life a little better.

“But I will never forget the floral arrangement during my grandmother’s funeral. Today, I buy flowers and arrange them for every occasion. I plant flowers in pots and think of my late grandmother. Flowers give me peace of mind.”

An attractive flower arrangement.

Veronica Wong, a retired dental nurse matron and Palliative Care Association Miri volunteer, said she is always deeply touched by friends who send bouquets for her birthday.

“I also feel happy when I see nurses, teachers, and employees getting bouquets on retiring. It’s such a wonderful send-off and thank you gift.

“Retirement is an important time for anyone, especially those who have worked so hard throughout their career. Flowers say a lot to the recipient of a bouquet.”

According to Wong, the Chinese have a special affinity with flowers.

“Flowers are important for Chinese New Year to herald the arrival of spring and welcome the fresh and happy days when the earth springs to life. Flowers mean love and happiness too,” she said.

Floral cheer

K Tiong, who is into cake decoration, said there were times when life could get miserable and you couldn’t help but sulk.

No matter how hard you tried, he added, it seemed impossible to finish the many tasks at hand.

“Sometimes, you lose a promotion opportunity or worse, cannot maintain a life-work balance. Things can get rough and you feel like going to the mountains to become a hermit. Life can be so unfair.”

He remembers one of his favourite teachers, who told him to look at flowers, plant flowers, and even buy flowers.

“Flowers will give you peace of mind, cheer you up and help you get close to nature. In the same way, a person may like hiking, which energises him. If you like flowers, you get energised too.

“Think of the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ – ‘sing through your hard times and be happy with lots of flowers around you’.”

Tiong will always remember how he and his classmates shared the cost of buying flowers for their teachers on Teachers’ Day, saying a simple gesture like that brought tears to the teachers’ eyes.

According to him, the use of fresh flowers for cake decoration is now very trendy. He uses fresh flowers he grows or purchases for decorating cakes and bridal floral arrangements.

He would like to own a florist shop one day, but for now he places orders with friends and relatives.

“I make sure they are happy to see the flowers I arrange on the cake I bake. I feel happy when the birthday girl is happy with the roses on her cake.”

Escalating costs

Linda Tan, a home-based baker and part-time florist, has been in the baking and floral arrangement business for a few years now.

She grows orchids, roses, and other flowers in her garden.

However, she lamented she might not be able to continue her business if the prices of flowers continued to increase.

“These are challenging times,” she noted.

In Miri, there are a few florist shops, which meet the demand for cut flowers and floral arrangements. A few big offices and hotels continue to place long-term orders, while some like educational institutions only order bouquets and floral arrangements for special occasions.

Several churches receive flowers from their congregations on a weekly basis. Some parishioners offer flowers to remember their beloved departed on the anniversaries of their demise.

Some private clubs, homes, clinics, and hospitals also order floral arrangements to decorate halls and reception desks.

At conferences, floral arrangements are ordered for the podiums and tables. On special occasions, fresh flowers are placed on the dinner tables and usually arranged in accordance with the status of the guests.

Almost every hotel in Miri needs fresh floral arrangements every week.

Remaining alert

A regular customer, Jessie Yong (name has been changed), said she has to be especially alert when Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas roll around, as she has to ensure she places her orders as early as possible.

Florists in Miri actually cannot meet the demand for fresh flowers. There was one year when Valentine’s Day saw many disappointed customers. Even plastic roses were offered as an alternative when all the fresh flowers were sold out.

According to Yong, local florists do good business, especially for funerals. When a rich man passes away, every association he was affiliated with would send a wreath, usually costing around RM500. White and yellow chrysanthemums are commonly used.

She noted that a few florists even help deliver flowers to hospitals for their customers.

“There are lots of health benefits when flowers are placed in a hospital ward or a home. Brighter colours like yellow and orange give energy. Generally, flowers make people happy and bring back good memories,” Yong added.

Dr Lydia Mason, a dentist, is always happy when she buys bouquets for others and is just as delighted when she receives one. The good feeling will stay with her for days and put a smile on her face.

Meanwhile, long-time resident of Miri, Lesley Linggod said her children, living in Australia, often think of sending her flowers by air.

“But realistically, I tell them just send the money, please,” she added light-heartedly.

She noted that fresh flowers are expensive everywhere, pointing out that florists should always provide the best blooms to their clients and prices should be reasonable and fair as well.

“It’s good if there are more florists in Miri to provide competition and give customers more choices.”

Linggod often keeps cut flowers in her kitchen. She doesn’t have to buy every time she needs flowers. She plants a variety of flowers in her garden while her friends also give her some.

One feels welcome in her kitchen, adorned with a vase of vibrant orchids which make the atmosphere very lively.

Linggod is from Toowoomba, a garden city a few miles from Brisbane. She loves visiting gardens and spending time looking at the flowers. She and her friends often wonder if Miri could ever become a garden city.

Lovely sight of flowers

Dayang Lasung said she enjoyed the lovely sight of fresh flowers on the counters when she was working in a bank.

She said when she felt tired after looking at balance sheets, she would take a few minutes off to look at the floral arrangements outside her office and interact with the customers.

Her mind would be refreshed and she would be back at her desk with a smile.

A Rutgers University study found the link between flowers and one’s satisfaction in life is far more important than previously thought.

Having flowers at home increases happiness, reduces depression and anxiety, and can actually enhance emotional contact with friends and family.

A separate study by Harvard University found the same results – increased compassion, feeling less negative, and more energy at work.

In a trifecta of flower research, Texas A&M University found that flowers and plants in the workplace improve problem-solving skills and increase creativity.

Flowers have been called Vitamin F for all the good they can do for your body and soul. So say it with flowers. Be green. Be well.