When Bodeine Nelson was in her 20s and battling cancer, her garden was a place of refuge.
Diagnosed with first thyroid cancer and then a rare cancer known as Langerhans cell histiocytosis, she had to spend a lot of time in sterile hospital rooms. “I was going through a lot of chemo, radiation therapy, steroids – I wanted to be around nature. It’s the beauty and the new life.”
She developed her own garden, and when she was feeling a bit better, started a floristry apprenticeship at a Fendalton, Christchurch supermarket.
“I felt comforted in my garden and it made me think of how life is so much greater than my situation. Nature made me think outside of myself. It helped me to have faith and know that whatever happened it would be okay.”
Ten years on, Nelson has her own business – Blooming Local/Ngā Putiputi. She and Olive, her 1955 Morris Oxford truck, can be seen around Christchurch, regularly at Little Pom’s on Fitzgerald Ave, at The Store in Tai Tapu, and also at markets.
She grows flowers at her 1200sqm section in New Brighton, and also leases another 300sqm from the local scout den. She also buys in flowers from the main market in Christchurch and from other small-scale growers, some of whom she has got to know in her time working for others.
The business began “very slowly” last year, she says.
“We started planting seedlings in spring, and started making small quantities of bouquets. My husband made a small flower cart, and we’d wheel it down the road at the weekends to the coffee cart by the surf lifesaving club.”
She started with “a lot of dahlias and zinnias, ranunculus, gypsophila, gladioli”.
People would say “It’s nice to see bouquets that are a bit different. They have an almost cottage-y rustic feel.”
Nelson took a small business course, created a business plan and found Olive. She says “old-school but trendy” was the look they wanted.
Nelson is now doing well with her health. She and husband Jesse have a son, Malachi, 7, who she describes as their miracle baby. Malachi has a head for numbers, and likes to calculate the change at weekend markets.
At home, they always have flowers on the kitchen table and sometimes a jar of sweetpeas in the bedroom.
“It’s bringing the outdoors in. Something fresh, fragrant with a bit of colour. It just creates a nice environment.”
Nelson says people still love the gesture of buying flowers for a loved one.
“When you go through difficult times, and a lot of us have this year with Covid and a lot of different situations, being around something that’s just so beautiful, it’s good for your soul.”