Books Come Alive – As Flower Arrangements – In Library Fundraiser

By: Debra Lawless

An arrangement from last year's Books In Bloom Eldredge Public Library fundraiser. COURTESY PHOTO

When her book club read “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, a novel set in Jackson, Miss. in the early 1960s, Jen Stello of Chatham was struck by a scene in which a woman’s front yard is filled with donated “commodes” instead of “coats.”

Faced with the challenge of portraying “The Help” in flowers for the third annual Books in Bloom party and fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of the Eldredge Public Library, Stello remembered that scene. “What the heck, I’ll do something quirky,” she decided.

This, then, is the genesis of Stello’s floral design built in a toilet seat.

Stello bought a wooden toilet seat at Home Depot, sanded it down, and whitewashed it. She will fill the seat with a dried arrangement of flowers and plants such as hydrangeas, cat-o-nine tails and grasses from her own yard.

This year 14 women, many of whom are members of garden clubs, will put together 12 arrangements portraying favorite books. They will be joined by five professional designers.

“The whole idea of this is it’s supposed to be a party for the public,” says Bette Hahner, a Friends board member and chair of its ways and means committee. “We want to encompass everyone. Our feeling is the library is a public library for everyone. We would love to have a diverse group see what’s new at the library.”

During the event the floral displays will be arrayed on all the levels of the 1895 library built in the Renaissance/Romanesque style of red West Barnstable Brick. (In 1991-1992 a three-story addition was added to the back of the library.)

“So many people come in and go, ‘I never knew this part of the library was here,’” says Carol Garey, a member of the library’s board of trustees. “It’s a wonderful way to explore the library.”

Also at the event, “a wonderful range of hors d’oeuvres” will be served, Hahner says. Beer and wine will be available through a cash bar.

This year’s main fundraising event for the library is called “Passport to Savings 2017.” Early in the summer, 600 passport books offering discounts to local merchants were available. Each passport book also includes a ticket to enter giveaways from the Wayside Inn, Chatham Bars Inn and Twenty-Eight Atlantic. The drawing for the giveaways will be held at the Books in Bloom party.

As for the floral arrangements, this is an event that will bring out “spectacular creativity,” Garey says. Unlike a judged flower show event, there are no rules.

Marilyn Sink, president of the Chatham Garden Club, chose “The Age of Innocence,” Edith Wharton’s 1921 Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of love in 1870s New York.

Sink elected to “try to illustrate the classic role of the upper class with some gorgeous flowers in a silver vase.” She paired the character Newland Archer with purple asters “to contrast the purity of his wife, May Welland, who gets white Paniculata hydrangeas (which I have in my garden).” Archer’s mistress, Countess Olenska, gets yellow roses “as that was the bouquet he would send to her and seemed appropriate in the scheme of colors for my classic arrangement.”

Beth Taylor took a different approach with the 2012 novel “A Hundred Flowers” by Gail Tsukiyama. The novel is set in 1957 China when Chairman Mao declares society will be more open.

“I have a large flower garden and wanted to try the challenge of placing 100 flowers in one arrangement,” Taylor says.

Hahner herself is making flowers from the pages of books and mixing them with real flowers. A trio from Harwich known as “the three petals”—Marie Lennon, Alice Kuhne and Marie Pasquale—will illustrate “The Perfume Collector” by Kathleen Tessaro. They will arrange a centerpiece using a variety of items such as perfume bottles and trays, natural flowers, herbs, and exotic fruits used in creating perfume.

The other seven designers are Judie Kent; Carol Knapp illustrating Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower;” Susan West; Midge Nash illustrating Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gifts from the Sea;” Ella Leavitt; Gay Murdoch illustrating Gina Sheridan’s “I Work at a Public Library;” and Cindy Knight illustrating “Chapman Piloting: Seamanship and Small Boat Handling.” Many of the women have backgrounds in painting, interior design and, of course, gardening and garden design.

And finally, professional designers from Chatham Country Gardens, New England Gardens in Chatham, Moonshell Design in Chatham, Thayer’s Flowers, Inc. in Harwich and Blue Lobster in Brewster will also bring arrangements.

All proceeds from both Books in Bloom and “Passport to Savings” go to the Eldredge Library. While the town kicks in 60 percent of the library’s operating costs, the trustees raise the remaining 40 percent of the budget. The Friends contribute extras including children’s programs, computers, the learning and author series, and more.

“It’s a very warm and welcoming event. Kids are welcome” Garey says. “The idea is to get our townspeople into the library to celebrate.”

Books in Bloom will be held on Sunday, Aug. 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the downtown library. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door the evening of the event or in advance at the library. For more information call 508-945-5170 or visit