Some people might balk when they see holiday decorations on the shelves before the leaves start falling. But to the women in the flower design shop at Columbus Regional Hospital, the seasonal kitsch and tiny trinkets are a sight for sore eyes.
It means they can start working on the miniature Christmas trees sold each holiday season in the hospital gift shop.
“I love the trees,” volunteer Nancy Taylor said. “I wish I could do them all year long.”
For the past decade, some of the floral shop volunteers have temporarily turned their attentions — and their glue guns — from bud vases and baby-themed arrangements to the time-intensive trees.
“We call this our labor of love,” said Darlene Byrd, floral design committee chairman. Each tree, meticulously adorned with twinkling lights, tiny ornaments, rlands, and even a miniature tree skirt, takes more than three hours to complete.
The trees, which are 9-, 13-, or 24-inches tall, have become such a fixture in the gift shop that the team has a difficult time keeping up with the demand.
“They sell out several times each season before they are restocked,” said Laura Hurt, director of volunteer services at Columbus Regional Hospital.
Planning for the holiday season in the hospital gift shop begins almost as soon as the decorations are put away the previous year, Hurt said.
Byrd, a former floral designer, orders the bare trees from a distributor in January, the same time she starts planning the overall holiday look of the gift shop. She also remains on the hunt for tough-to-find short strings of twinkle lights and other small ornaments.
And as soon as the holiday decorations hit the shelves at local craft stores, the women start shopping, taking great pains to get material when it’s on sale.
This is no slap-dash decorating job. Each tree is given a theme — sports, for instance, or snowflakes.
Then all the accessories, from the type of garland chosen all the way down to the shade of felt on the tree skirt, are carefully considered.
“I suppose most people wouldn’t notice if we did the same theme over and over again, but to us it matters, so we always try to make them different,” Byrd said.
The trees have become increasingly popular, not just to bring a little cheer to patients at the hospital, but as gifts as well.
Last year, one man purchased five trees to brighten the dorm rooms of his college-aged grandchildren, then rushed back in a panic when a sixth grandchild with his own home said that he wanted one, too.
The first trees hit the gift shop earlier this month.
The group plans to make and sell 65 trees this season, with proceeds going to patient care.