A big white poster catches my eye as I drive along Herring Brook Road in Eastham. It is adorned with images of butterflies, sunshine, and pink flowers, with lettering that reads “Flowers for Sale.” A striped umbrella shades a little cart, displaying jars of flowers of varying sizes.
Before arriving here for a summer of reporting, I had never seen a roadside flower stand. While I can’t imagine an unattended D.I.Y. front-yard flower shop in my urban San Francisco Bay Area childhood neighborhood, carts like this one seem natural here. I decided to knock on some doors to learn more about this part of the Outer Cape landscape.
A Little Joy in Eastham
“It’s such a joy to be around them,” Barbara Young, the owner of the flower stand on Herring Brook Road, says of cut flowers from her garden. “So, I thought, ‘Why don’t I start a little stand and bring joy to other people?’ ”
Young moved to Eastham with her husband three years ago after retiring from her job as a middle-school health teacher in Ridgefield, Conn. She set up her flower stand in 2019, her first summer here.
Her affinity for flowers started when she was a child, Young says. She remembers a corner filled with beautiful flowers at her grandmother’s house. “As a five-year-old girl I was just mesmerized by them,” she says.
Maintaining a flower stand “is kind of a meditative thing for me,” Young says. “In this chaotic time that we’re living in, it resets me. I hope it’s the same for people who buy the flowers.”
She also likes the creativity that goes into arranging her flower jars. Small and medium jars ($5 and $10, respectively) are layered with sand and beach rocks. In large jars ($15) she puts lemongrass and rocks; extra-large jars ($25) are piled with shells, colored stones, and sea glass. The flowers are whatever’s in bloom — last month it was roses and now the daisies are coming in, Young says. “No two jars are alike — I’ll walk around the yard and say, ‘What haven’t I used yet?’” Each jar is tied with a ribbon.
When I ask, Young tells me there have been several instances of people taking flowers without paying for them. She shrugs.
“Obviously, they probably need them more than the people who buy them,” she says. “If they can get a little joy, that’s good.”
Flower Power in Wellfleet
Jody Blakeley may have the perfect location for a flower stand. The mini house-shaped stand, with a bright white sign that reads “$10.00 Flowers,” lives on her lawn on Lecount Hollow Road, just across from PB Boulangerie and next to the parking lot for the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
Beside Blakeley’s stand is her thriving, colorful front-yard garden. The garden isn’t even at its peak, says Meredith Blakeley, Jody’s niece, who visits Jody frequently. When her grandmother gardened here, she says, “You couldn’t walk for the flowers.”
People used to stop and take pictures of Nana’s flowers, Meredith says, but her grandmother never set up a stand. That didn’t happen until about 25 years ago, when Jody’s late husband built a cart for the purpose.
After tending both garden and stand for many years, Blakeley is content to let another niece, Heather, do most of the flower preparation nowadays. Heather is carrying on the tradition, too, at her own Old Truro Road flower stand.
Meanwhile, Jody, who has been gardening at her house on this corner for 70 years, watches with a smile as cyclists, beachgoers, and pastry-eaters stop in for bouquets popping with the colors of daisies, hydrangeas, and black-eyed Susans.
Vegetables, Too, in Truro
Down Home Farms’ wooden shed is nestled in the shade of overhanging trees on Truro Center Road near Route 6. You can’t miss it, though — it’s adorned with brightly colored cloth flags.
Bundles of sunflowers are on display here alongside buckets of produce: rainbow chard, kale, red onions, and carrots. When you stop in, you’re likely to find Bhala Rai raking the soil or placing armfuls of earthly treasures from his garden onto the table.
Bhala and Digree Rai, a couple originally from Nepal, grow the flowers and produce they sell at this stand just up the road at the farm where they live with their son David. They explain that they were able to set up in this location thanks to Francie Randolph, founding director of Sustainable CAPE. The farm stand and office share this spot.
Years ago, Randolph would drive by the Rais’ gardens and was astounded every time, she says. She invited the Rais to participate in the farmers markets Sustainable CAPE runs and eventually to start their stand.
Bhala first came to town in 2005 after he met Nancy Pease of Truro while working as a sherpa in Nepal. “She encouraged him to come here,” says Randolph, who helped Bhala communicate his story. It’s a traditional one in some ways: Bhala started out coming to Truro only in the summers but moved here full-time in 2012.
In Nepal, Bhala tells me, people are more connected to the earth. They keep beautiful gardens and grow much of their own food. He brought his produce to market there each week.
Bhala worked at Stop & Shop in Provincetown for almost 10 years before starting to sell his own produce in 2015. He likes gardening and farming much better. Today the couple make all their income from the farmers markets and the flower and vegetable stand.
“I’m happy,” Bhala says. “It’s hard work, but easy.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, published in print on Aug. 4, erroneously reported that Barbara Young moved to Eastham from Richfield, Conn. The name of the Connecticut town is Ridgefield.