Petals With a Purpose

Birmingham’s Jennifer Slaughter founded a nonprofit that transforms discarded flowers into bedside bouquets for hospice patients.
Sara Askew Jones

A chance comment to gardening enthusiast Jennifer Slaughter changed her life forever. “My husband said to me, ‘Your garden could go beyond you,’ ” she says. “I thought, ‘He’s right, I could share my flowers with others.’ ” Ten years and 30,000 arrangements later, she has never looked back.

In 1999, Jennifer started her nonprofit, Perenity―named by combining the words “perennial” and “eternity.” This organization delivers fresh flowers to those in hospice care. After culling from her own garden, Jennifer began repurposing flowers left over from weddings and parties. A typical week of flowers yields 200 to 300 arrangements.

“Every single bouquet I make is thoroughly thought over,” she says. “I try to make all of them with an enormous amount of compassion and love.”

Jennifer spends most Sundays and Mondays immersed in blooms. First, there is the early-morning pickup from various locations where she chooses which flowers can be reused and tosses those that won’t last. Then it’s back home to prep and begin arranging. Most weeks she completes the bouquets on Monday and delivers them that afternoon to New Beacon Hospice. In spring and summer, when the number of parties and events is highest, Jennifer continues the process throughout the week. During the holiday season, she decorates small Christmas trees for the patients.

Last year, Jennifer’s own mother was put in hospice care, and the experience gave her a different perspective on her work. “Until you are actually in that situation,” she says, “you have no idea what that family is going through. It gives me a deeper compassion for them.”

Try to compliment Jennifer on her work with Perenity, and she deflects the accolades. “I am only doing this much,” she says, holding up her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. “If everybody in this great big world did that much, the world would be a better place.”

For more information visit perenity.com.