Happy hues of orange and yellow radiate in the sunshine as Russell Galanti prepares to harvest his latest crop. The Extension agent in ornamental crops from the University of Hawaiʻi, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, has a big afternoon ahead. The sunʻs glare will soon ease into a soft, warm glow, making it less harsh on freshly cut sunflowers. That’s Russell’s cue to begin cutting, trimming, washing, and bundling the 400+ stalks he has tended to lovingly at the Oʻahu Urban Garden Center.
The sunflowers were planted earlier this year for the express purpose of creating beautiful table centerpieces for CTAHR’s 32nd Annual Banquet, an event scheduled more than 12 months ago to coincide with Spring 2020 graduation. But with everything cancelled due to COVID-19, there were no more tables to decorate, no guests to bring home the arrangements as party favors.
So Russell shifted gears, and CTAHR decided to donate the bright, morale-boosting sunflowers to O’ahu hospitals. Watch the awesome Sunflower Video here.
“Our healthcare professionals are the real heroes of Hawaiʻi,” says Russell. “These flowers are just us trying to say Mahalo! to doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists – everyone who is showing up for work in hospitals and braving the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our community safe.”
To account for the usual differences in germination rate, which vary depending on soil and weather conditions, Russell planted 550 sunflowers and chose the 400 best-looking blooms. Once they were trimmed and wrapped, he delivered the flowers to Pali Momi, Queen’s, Tripler, Kuakini, Straub, and Kapiʻolani. The medical centers are planning to distribute the sunflowers to nurses on the COVID-19 front lines.
“We hope these colorful flowers put a smile on the faces of hospital staff and patients,” says Russell. “It’s the least we can do for these courageous people fighting a global pandemic.”
View photos of the sunflowers at the Urban Garden Center.