It is a new year and a chance for all of us to reimagine our gardens. For gardeners, the winter months are an ideal time for fresh thinking and new plans. Since this past summer was hot and dry, it may be time to rethink plants that struggled in that climate. Now is the time to prepare.
For one very accomplished gardener, Kaifa Anderson-Hall, reimagining plants and flowers is a year-round, full-time mission. Seven years ago, Kaifa founded Plants and Blooms Reimagined (PBR). The non-profit organization’s mission is to use horticulture in a therapeutic setting. A big part of that plan is using repurposed flowers and indoor plants to enhance the well-being of vulnerable communities in the DC area. “
When you meet Kaifa, you know right away you are in the presence of a beautiful spirit.
Her modest demeanor belies her amazing achievements and good deeds. She meets you with a smile, and her focused attention on you makes you feel so welcomed. Her belief that nature is a powerful source of goodness in peoples’ lives drives her to share her horticultural expertise with folks in Ward 5 and 6 senior and recovery programs.
Kaifa is a native Washingtonian and grew up riding bikes and gardening at the US National Arboretum. Her ability to relate to many different ages and cultures made her a natural leader as Director of the Arboretum’s Washington Youth Garden. That work and her current mission reflect her belief that “respect for life, patience, and understanding that there are always opportunities to start over is what gardening is about.”
Over time, Kaifa, trained as a social worker, became convinced that she could link many of her interests like sustainability and bringing nature to those with limited access to the outdoors. So she launched Plants and Blooms Reimagined (PBR). She laughs remembering all the hours she spent outdoors in the Washington Youth Garden, but says bringing plants indoors for her therapeutic activities with seniors and people dealing with homelessness or disabilities is even more satisfying.
A Second Scene for Floral Arrangements
Kaifa realized that every day across Washington flowers grace the tables at events sponsored by nonprofits, corporations, and private individuals. Even the House and Senate use flowers at weekly luncheons for their members. Flowers are also featured at weddings and other celebratory events.
Some days there are 30 to 40 such events throughout the city. Kafai’s dream has been to collect the flowers used at these occasions and reuse them in her workshops with seniors, disabled and predominantly low-income people. “I have been able to partner with a number of event planners and set up a post-event sustainable collection process,” says Kaifa. Sidra Forman, a local floral designer, likes being able to offer to her clients a chance to feel good about donating their flowers for good things. Kaifa notes that Flowers@38 and Flowers x Flores are two other event flower companies that participate in her program.
“We like to have two weeks’ notice about upcoming events and donations,” Kaifa says, “but of course we always try to work with anyone who wants to help.”
In the aftermath of the COVID crisis, potted plants have also become a major supply of plant materials for PBR. “Suddenly offices are closing all over the downtown area,” says Kaifa, “and office managers are scratching their heads about what to do with all the potted plants.” PBR has been busy picking up healthy unwanted plants from offices closing or downsizing. PBR then repots and distributes these plants to organizations in their network, places where a new location can give a green plant a new lease on life.
McClendon Center Workshop
On the fifth floor of New York Presbyterian church at 1313 New York Avenue, NW, a 40-year-old social service program, the McClendon Center, thrives. Program Director Aisha Shabazz-Morris sought out Kaifa following COVID, to join the team that offers a variety of programs for recovering and mental health clients. “During COVID, I came to realize how theaputic working with plants was for me, and I decided to explore horticultural therapy for the center”, says Aisha. “To be honest, it was a new discipline to me.” But googling led Aisha to Kaifa and after meeting her, “I was hooked, and she is a great addition to our staff.”
Attending a therapy session at McClendon is so inspiring. The clients gather around three tables listening intently as Kaifa reviews the steps they have taken and what they need to do that morning. Besides watering their individual potted plants, the job on the day I visited was to measure either the height of their plants or how many leaves were present. The good news was all the plants had grown in the month since they had been transplanted to the clay pots.
The effort lent itself to several discussions about growth of plants and recognizing growth in one’s own life. The plants remain at the center from week to week, but the pride people have in their plants goes with them long after they leave the Center.
If you are interested in donating plant material or funds contact Kaifa at the PBR website, https://www.plantsandbloomsreimagined.org/
Rindy O’Brien looks forward to the new gardening season. To contact: Rindyobrien@gmail.com