'Flower fanatic' donates field of tulips to Kerry nursing homes

 'Flower fanatic' donates field of tulips to Kerry nursing homes

A Dutch flower grower based in Kerry who was facing in to having to dump a field of tulips in the compost heap because of the Covid-19 lockdown has instead donated bucketloads to nursing homes with gardai serving as her delivery drivers.

Self confessed "flower fanatic" Jiska Healy lives outside the village of Lyracrumpane with her husband Maurice.

She developed a love for gardening in her native Holland as her family had an allotment which "you worked on whether you wanted to or not."

Eight years ago she decided to start growing her own flowers in Kerry. She now has a thriving business at farmers markets and shops.

Yesca Flowers also supplies display flowers for bistros, bespoke arrangements, wedding flowers and sympathy bouquets.

Shortly before Easter Jiska, who is at her happiest in muddy wellies and with dirty fingernails from hard work, found herself in a bit of a conundrum.

The beautiful weather was leading to the blooming of a field of of tulips and the restrictions left her without farmers markets and her usual chains of supply.

"I had a large amount of large headed tulips that could have ended up in the compost heap. They started blooming all at once.

I spoke to a nursing home who said they would take them but there was no way of delivering because of the restrictions. I spoke to the guards about it and they came back and said they would do the deliveries for me ! I was really surprised and happy about that.

They said 'don't worry miss, we will pick them up and bring them to the nursing homes for you."

The first delivery went out on Good Friday. To all of these people in nursing homes with nobody to visit them.

People are very isolated (because of the restrictions) and it was so nice to be able to be able to give them something to lift them. It is nice to look out my window at flowers but they were better off going to older people in nursing homes and to the hospital.

I could have opted for disbudding them (the tulips). This is a way to preserve the bulb for harvest, peeling and planting the following year. But that is a lot of work and I was without the possibility of hiring help.

It would also have been a great waste to have just left them blooming on the field. I am very grateful to the gardai."

The flowers were delivered by delivered by area gardai to Ocean View Nursing Home Tralee, Cul Didin, Our Lady of Fatima and Sea View Nursing Homes as well as University Hospital Kerry.

The deliveries attracted so much attention that a report of the act of kindness featured on RTE's Ireland on Call show.

Jiska is hugely passionate about flowers. Her favourites are sunflowers and lavender and she grows them in abundane during the summer months.

She is calling on Irish people to support local flower growers when the pandemic ends.

"I would ask people to look up the Flower Growers of Ireland group. So many flowers in supermarkets are imported and naturally they have chemicals to preserve them. Locally grown flowers are chemical free and they are a safer product. There are so many beautiful flowers in Ireland.”

On a personal level Jiska and her husband are doing their best to stay safe and well in the midst of the pandemic.

"One of my grandmothers got the virus. She is in her eighties but thankfully she recovered. I have been on to home ( in the Netherlands) and they are all well.

I am very blessed to have two grandmothers still alive. They are both elderly.

The main reason we did this was to brighten somebody's day. I received pictures of people receiving the flowers and it made me so happy."

Karen Duggan, Director of Nursing at Ocean View Nursing Home near Tralee, said that the flowers brightened up the day of residents.

"What will be remembered as much as the flowers is the kindness. I don't know what was more exciting the flowers arriving up the drive or the guards arriving up the drive."

Information on the Flowers Farmers of Ireland can be obtained at https://flowerfarmersofireland.ie/directory/

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