Flowers can change people. Florist Carolyn Chen sees this firsthand every day at her Homewood shop, Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities, where each arrangement is prepared with the giver’s heartfelt message to their recipient — moving messages for friends grappling with illness, grief or just a bad day; sweet personal notes to lovers; and celebratory congrats for new babies, anniversaries and birthdays. Flowers bring people back into the moment, connecting them to the one who sent the blossoms and making them smile. And they don’t just lighten the heart of the recipient, they bring joy to the giver, fulfillment to the creative florist, and even newfound confidence to the floral workshop student.
“I think they are a reminder of the fact that we live on Earth” says Carolyn. “We go about our days among the hustle and bustle that we’ve created with businesses, industry, and technology, and we’re so immersed that we forget that we’re all human beings on an organic planet. So when something like a death brings you back to reality, flowers are a natural gift and reminder of the life cycle we live in on this beautiful planet.”
Carolyn’s floral-arranging style embraces that untamed beauty of nature, a subtle reminder to find joy in the tangled sprigs, the slowly unfurling petals and fleeting yet breathtaking blossoms in life. Her floral philosophy mirrors nature too, where every arrangement is one-of-a-kind. Says Carolyn, “My favorite part is that, unless I’m asked to, I have probably never made two arrangements that look the same. There are just so many different flowers, colors, combinations that you can play with, and it is so nice that I chose to set it up like that, because now everyone just sort of trusts us.”
Returning customer Marion Lagman says, “Her flowers — the way she arranges them — are just so different from your normal run-of-the-mill florist. Everything she makes is just gorgeous.”
Beth White enjoys an ongoing procession of Carolyn’s creative blooms through a Wild Things floral subscription. “I saw a photo of a Wild Things arrangement on Instagram and mentioned to my husband how beautiful and unique the flowers were,” says Beth. “My husband is very romantic and frequently does special things for me, so the next Friday, and almost every Friday since, Wild Things has delivered a lovely arrangement. They’re spectacular — superstars in our house.” Her husband, David White, adds, “When she’s happy, I’m happy. Wild Things always makes our Fridays special.”
These floral subscriptions can be tailored to your desired size, delivery frequency, and subscription duration, and gifts, like candles or candies, from Carolyn’s fabulous shop can be added to the delivery. “People just like to have flowers in their home,” says Carolyn. “And I think that’s why it’s such a great gift to give yourself or a loved one, because the flowers just show up and then you don’t have to do anything.”
When she’s not designing arrangements or curating her gift shop, Carolyn is doing the floral design for weddings, providing arrangements for local corporations and — her favorite — teaching floral workshops and hosting parties in her floral studio, an offering that customer Marion Lagman has taken full advantage of.
On a visit to the shop, she struck up a conversation with Carolyn and learned that Wild Things hosted parties and events where people could come and create their own floral arrangements. “For Christmas, my husband bought a party for me. I took about six friends, and we had a private party. We just had a fabulous time! We brought our own food and wine, and Carolyn provided everything else — they are just so delightful and fun to work with and so nice …. We all made gorgeous floral arrangements to take home.” It was such a smash that her husband Henry repeated the gift for her birthday the following summer.
“I went back not too long ago just with one friend, and we did a fall floral decoration. Carolyn teaches you all these fun little tips and tricks and ways to do things if you want to do them on your own. You can go in there and buy flowers and make your own arrangement, or you can have her make you something,” says Marion, adding, “It’s just a fabulous place. If my daughter wasn’t already married, we would have had the bridesmaids party at Wild Things to make flower arrangements for their gifts.”
Former Wild Things florist Erika Keel who returns to the shop to help for the holidays and special events, sheds light on the florist’s experience, saying, “It’s a fulfilling job artistically, but personally, it also makes me feel really good to bring a brighter day to someone with flowers, to see that smile on their face when they see the arrangement.”
That impulse to brighten someone’s day through flowers is what drove Carolyn to start their annual “Season of Giving” giveaway last year. She explains, “The ‘winner’ doesn’t win anything — they nominate someone they think needs a pick-me-up. Holidays can be hard for people if they’ve lost someone or if they’re going through a tough time, and we pick five people to give flowers to randomly. There’s no name on the arrangement; it just says, ‘You were submitted to be the recipient of this anonymous flower giveaway, and we hope this brightens your holiday.’”
Last year, after the holidays had come and gone, Carolyn received a note. It read:
At Christmas you sent my daughter-in-law, a cancer patient, flowers as part of an anonymous giveaway. I want you to know that she enjoyed and appreciated them. She did great through Christmas, but had a rapid decline in her health shortly afterwards and died January 18, 2019. Her family is extremely grateful for your act of kindness.
“That’s why we do what we do,” says Carolyn.
There seems to be a sort of alchemy around the flowers at Wild Things, for the experienced florists, as well as the beginners in the workshops; for the wife who receives the flowers with a sweet note, as well as the romantic husband who sends it; for the woman and her friends who are laughing and learning at their floral workshop party, as well as for the instructor who gets to have a hand in creating such joy. Yes, flowers are pretty, but it’s the act of giving them, receiving them and making them together — nurturing this sense of connection to each other and nature — that makes what Carolyn does with the flowers at Wild Things so special.
Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities is located at 2815B 18th St S, Homewood, AL 35209. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and closed on Sunday. To learn more or to order a floral subscription online, visit wildthingsbhm.com or call (205) 703-8821.
Thank you to Eric & Jamie Photography for the beautiful images of Carolyn photographed at Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities.
This article is sponsored by Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities.