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Tulsa Botanic Garden delivers 'lots of smiles' in the form of tulips to hospital workers, patients

Tulsa Botanic Garden delivers 'lots of smiles' in the form of tulips to hospital workers, patients


The Tulsa Botanic Garden closed to the public amid coronavirus threats just in time for its more than 100,000 tulip bulbs to begin to bloom, but garden staffers aren’t about to let them remain unseen.

More than 500 were cut and delivered to Hillcrest Medical Center on Tuesday, bringing a sweet surprise to nurses and patients alike.

“Lots and lots of smiles,” Chief Nursing Officer Jodi Simmons said. “Which is exactly what we need right now.”

The operation has been in the works since discussions about closing the park began, Tulsa Botanic Garden President and CEO Todd Lasseigne said. The tulip blooms are close to peaking, and it seemed a waste for them to go unseen.

“We were like, ‘Well, let’s do something with them instead of just us looking at them,’” he said. “It’s just something we could do to brighten some hearts in these darker times.”

The first batch went to Hillcrest because of a board member’s personal connection, but Lasseigne said he has reached out to other hospitals as well. He understands, though, if they don’t get back to him.

“I know they have bigger things to worry about than tulip deliveries,” he said. “They have very serious work to do and we don’t want to be a distraction.”

Lasseigne said he was nervous to drop off the buckets of cut flowers at Helmerich Women’s Center even after coordinating with officials, and though the recipients who met him were “all smiles” and “oo-ing and aww-ing,” they all kept their “proper social distance.”

After Lasseigne left, Simmons said nursing staff and the patient experience team raided the hospital gift shop — a “nonessential” business currently closed — for vases and distributed bouquets to nurse stations in about 25 departments.

“It’s so gorgeous,” Simmons said. “It just brightened everyone’s day.”

Lasseigne said the thinning of more than 500 tulips from one of the garden’s beds is hardly noticeable to the untrained eye, and although in theory it could have been more, the goal wasn’t to overwhelm hospital staff, just to “wow” them.

The delivery was just one of the many efforts the garden has made to share their sights while closed.

Lori Hutson, director of communications and outreach, said the garden’s Facebook page has seen a great response from folks who are just happy to see something a little different in their feeds. She has been posting pictures of the tulips and videos of tranquil scenes and water features.

“People have told us they look forward to our posts,” she said.

Hutson said she also sent videos to assisted living facilities for use on their internal TVs, so residents could “at least feel like they’re enjoying a little bit of spring.”

The weeks are what would normally be the busiest time for the garden, but even in its downturn, Hutson said innovating to bring joy to those who need it most is a great way to focus on the positives.

“When you can’t come here, I guess we have to bring the garden to you,” Lasseigne said.

Gallery: Enjoy the beauty of Tulsa Botanic Garden from the safety of home

Kelsy Schlotthauer



Twitter: @K_Schlott

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Staff Writer

I write because I care about people, policing and peace, and I believe the most informed people make the best decisions. I joined the Tulsa World in 2019 and currently cover breaking news. Phone: 918-581-8455

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