LEXINGTON, Ky. — Beholden Blooms, a Kentucky-based florist, was selected as a semi-finalist for the international floral magazine "Florists' Review" and donated extra flowers to Lexington's Veterans Affairs Hospital.
The florist's owner and lead designer, Nicole Gilbride, started her business during the pandemic.
"I started designing with flowers sort of on a hobby basis, like nine or 10 years ago," Gilbride said. "And then last year, I said, 'You know what? I really want to try and lean into this. I'm going to get the LLC and go all in.' And then the pandemic hit, so I call it 'year zero' instead of 'year one' of my business. This really feels more like 'year one,' but to be placing in a competition in my first formal year of doing this, I'm thrilled just to be at this level."
Gilbride is a semi-finalist in the "Best in Blooms" competition through the Florists' Review, which has been in publication since 1897. The magazine sent her a vase and all American-grown flowers to design her arrangement. By the end of her masterpiece, she had some extra flowers.
"I had so much product leftover that I thought, 'What am I gonna do with all of this?' I thought, 'Well, American grown for America's heroes,'" Gilbride said.
On Tuesday morning, Gilbride delivered bouquets of flowers to the Lexington VA Hospital.
Lexington VA Health Care System Public Affairs Officer Cat Trombley shared the joy from veterans when the hospital presented them with the flowers.
"They light up a room, they add instant color to a room, and our veterans are just so appreciative," Trombley said. "We were just thrilled to receive [Gilbride's] donation."
Trombley said the last year VA Hospital felt very different inside the hallways and patient rooms with COVID-19 restrictions making the joy of talking to veterans and their families far and few between.
Gilbride is no stranger to the VA and started donating flowers there during the early part of the pandemic.
"Patients last year weren't allowed to have visitors and I thought this would be a nice way to sort of bring a little bit of cheer, help liven up the space, and a way that I could give back to the community," Gilbride said.
"Nicole, I think, is actually one of the few flower donations that we get. We do get flower donations but this is a significant one," Trombley said. "[Veterans] just light up when you walk into a room and you just leave it there for them to look at. It's what it's about."
Gilbride also said she has a sweet spot for the VA.
"VA is special to me for a myriad of reasons," she said. "One, because so many of my family members have served, and I want to be able to give back to them. Two, because my grandmother actually worked at a VA Medical Center in California and so for me part of it is just continuing that legacy. And also because I work for VA. Like many florists here in Kentucky, I have a day job."
Gilbrides' progress in the Florists' Review competition as well as her blooms can be found on her Instagram page.
This story was originally published by Claire Kopsky on Scripps station WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky.