It’s little. It’s free. But it isn’t a library.
When St. Paul resident Stephanie Hankerson installed a help-yourself box in front of her house this summer, she wasn’t offering books from a Little Free Library. She was inviting neighbors to stop and smell the flowers — then take some home from her Little Free Florist stand.
Hankerson, 52, a community organizer and gardening educator, said her giveaway flower bouquets are a mashup between the Little Free Library movement and the unmanned produce stands you sometimes see in rural Minnesota.
Except Hankerson wasn’t selling anything. She just wanted to do something neighborly for her Hamline-Midway community.
In June, she installed a small, roofed box in front of her home and stocked it with mini bouquets of twine-tied cuttings from her garden. An arrangement of zinnias might be spiced up with elderberries, bluestem grass, Thai basil, potato flowers, even chard or kale leaves.
“I put a lot of different things in these bouquets,” she said.
Hankerson said it took a little while for people to start taking free flowers, but now her bouquets are usually claimed within 24 hours. She’s given away about 200 little bouquets — and received thank-you notes in the box and tags on social media.
An advocate of growing your own food, keeping chickens and composting with worms, Hankerson hopes her idea spreads, maybe by converting Little Free Libraries that aren’t circulating lots of books.
“It’s just brought a lot of joy to folks,” she said. “Folks don’t always take time to smell the flowers.”