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Waterproof Botanicals ... also known as WPBs

Thinking of ideas for an article for our local newspaper, the Randolph Hub, several ideas came to mind, and I’ve written about Christmas cactus, poinsettias, plants for gift-giving, growing plants in water. I knew it was time to get something together and I realized why I was behind in my garden writings. 

I’m just exhausted from working seven days a week, usually 14 hours a day, designing and working with a new kind of floral arrangement that started out as a hobby a few years ago, by accident, and has taken over my life.

While shopping for wreaths, plants and floral supplies at my florist wholesale company, Sims, located in Graham, NC, I was looking for ideas.  (Note: You must have a wholesale license to shop there.) So, I was wandering around and peeked into a room where a beautiful lady, and now wonderful friend Isabelle, was making cemetery vases at the speed of lightning and around the corner comes her handsome boss, Ray.  

I asked if they minded if I just watched her work because I wanted to lesan how to do what she did, but Ray said no because she was paid salary plus production and I might slow her down if I asked questions.  I turned around and went to leave her area, and moments later Isabelle came and found me and asked me if I had a phone and offered to send me a video the guys there had made of her while designing.  She sent me that video.

After watching it over and over and over for days, I went back to Sims and bought the Styrofoam and flowers and greenery and one of the premade vases Isabelle had made. I came back to Asheboro and spent hours in my garage learning how to make cemetery vases. 

My first customer was Debbie Hammond, who ordered 16 all matching, and they took me a week to make. Now I’m not as fast as my friend Isabelle, but I’m now up to about 36 in a 10-hour day while locked in my shop watching Hallmark Christmas movies and Martha Stewart videos on YouTube.

Now comes the reason I love making these cemetery flowers. It’s the people who come to buy them. I’ve come to find that people who feel the need to buy cemetery flowers for their loved ones are just Good Folks, so it’s important for them to do this tradition of remembering our loved ones. 

An example that comes to mind is my dear friends Chuck and Dottie who have a little angel buried out in Arkansas. They come by and ask for something special that they can mail to a church out there. The church has a pastor who takes the flowers and places them on her grave and sends them a photo, so they know it arrived. This is something that they do, and will continue to do, as long as they are able. I know it’s not easy for folks on a fixed income, and just the postage was over $40 this year.

Making cemetery flower arrangements has become a passion to me in working with folks like these. I hear so many stories of their loved ones who have passed, they too become my friends. This isn’t just a job to me; it is something I feel honored to be able to do.  That’s why I spend so much time turning flowers into cemetery vases, toppers, spikes and even bricks all with silk flowers.

Two years ago, a customer asked me to make her one out of plastic flowers so it would be different from all the others in the cemetery and so it would last more than a few months out in the weather. I told her “No, I hadn’t done that, but I’d try.” I played around with some of the fall plastic flowers and made several of them before she came back to pick it up. 

Well, they became an instant hit, folks seeing these fall colors in a cemetery vase which were definitely different. Now more than 50 percent of people who come in are choosing what I now call “Waterproof Botanicals” rather than calling them plastic flowers. I call them WPB’s when I write up orders, and I have folks saying that as well. 

Then people asked, “What are you going to do for Christmas?” So I designed one that was all greenery with a few red berries last year for Christmas. Well, before January had passed, those folks were asking for something with a Spring theme. With my fingers worn from all the Christmas arrangements I had made, I spent some time checking out different WPB flowers and came up with something that looked like spring, and again it was a hit.

So, I realized my Waterproof Botanicals were unique and different and my friend John McAllister, who owns Creative Flowers in Ramseur, has finally stopped saying I used plastic flowers, he now calls me the “Queen of Waterproof Botanicals.” Lately I have turned them into wreaths as well as cemetery pieces, and this year I’ve made kissing balls. I love the idea of making something that will last long after I’m gone.

When someone says to me that they aren’t going to order cemetery flowers this year because the ones I got last year still look great, I always smile to myself and think, “Thank goodness, one less cemetery vase to make!”

Every holiday season, whether you get cemetery flowers or not, I hope we all take time to remember our loved ones in a special way.