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Time Off: Pam Bollinger

 


With the holidays approaching, demand is high for fall flower arrangements created by MICU nurse manager Pam Bollinger.

Having grown up on a small farm in York, Pa., Pam Bollinger sees gardening as a way of life. But because managing 70 medical intensive care unit employees keeps her a long way from those fragrant blossoms, she makes sure she brings a little nature into her spare time.

Bollinger’s dried flower arrangements take root early in April, when she and her sister begin planting, nurturing the delicate seeds in small trays indoors on her family’s farm in Pennsylvania until the frost date has passed. “Our basement turns into a mini-greenhouse,” she says.

Then every summer weekend, after the plants are transferred outside, Bollinger leaves her Harford County home behind and heads up to the farm to tend the one-acre garden. At that point, the only challenge is keeping the flowers healthy. But Bollinger admits she isn’t too fussy: “Whatever grows, grows!”

The sisters cultivate as many as 25 different kinds of flowers—gomphrenas, statice, sunflowers and cockscombs are among their favorites—and each type has a peak bloom moment when it’s best to harvest. Prime picking season is July, August and September. They put the flowers into bunches to dry and hang them upside-down in their mother’s attic. Smaller varieties take about a week, while larger, denser sorts dry more slowly.

Meanwhile, their father, a woodworker by trade, crafts the ladders, birdhouses and shadowboxes that will be used in the arrangements. When everything is ready, Bollinger and her sister begin putting together as many as 100 arrangements—ranging from Christmas wreaths, to birdhouses, to hanging baskets and decorative ladders—for the upcoming holiday season.

The sisters used to just enter their arrangements in local craft shows, but their hobby has since developed into a small business, aptly named “My Sister’s Garden.” Over the last seven years, the pair have developed regular customers who special-order year-round. “But fall and Christmas,” says Bollinger, “are our busiest seasons.”

This is the time of year when what began as a hobby feels more like a full-time job. She and her sister, in fact, often dream of having their own shop. For now, though, Bollinger is happy just where she’s been since 1982—on the MICU.

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