Most people who drive the section of Key Peninsula Highway between Home and Whiteman Road get a lift from seeing the white picket fence, the blossom-filled yard and the little flower stand on the side of the road. There is usually an array of bouquets and, when in season, there may also be fresh produce. The stand works on the honor system. One-stop-shoppers can grab a bouquet and leave their payment in the little locked cash box on the stand.
Who is the person who grows and assembles the bouquets? Why does this person go to so much work to make the property a visual treat for all who pass by?
Tedi Spiering, who moved with her husband Harold to the KP in 2005.
“I always have had a love for flowers, number one. I got that from my mother, aunts and grandmothers,” Spiering said. “They were always putzing around in the yard. Because I was always connected with my elders, I just learned so much about gardening and the necessity for food in your yard, because you never know when bad times are going to come.”
Spiering said the house had belonged to her aunt, Jessie Westrom, born in 1906 to Nellie and Peter McKay of Lakebay. Jessie married another lifelong KP resident, Andy Westrom, and they purchased the property in the early 1940s.
After the house was remodeled and updated in 2005, the Spierings became permanent KP residents. Because of the time she had spent with her aunt and other family members, Spiering considered Lakebay her childhood neighborhood.
Although Jessie Westrom had been known for her gardening, the garden became less well tended due to her own advancing age and the responsibilities of providing care for her mother, Nellie McKay, and later for her husband until his death in 1991.
“When we moved here the yard was sort of a blank canvas, so I just started planting flowers,” Spiering said. “People would stop and ask, ‘Do you sell flowers?’
“I would tell them no but often would give them a bouquet; otherwise, the flowers would just be cut, thrown on the ground, and put in the mulching pile.”
One day her husband told her, “I’m gonna’ build you a stand so you can sell flowers.”
Spiering didn’t know if he was trying to help or just wanted to get some of the vases of flowers out of the house. “Anyway, he built it, I painted it and began putting flowers out, maybe several bouquets two to three days a week. Then it just took off.”
She only asks for $3 to $5 per bouquet, Spiering uses the income from flower sales to purchase dirt and fertilizer and yet she donates the rest to local food banks.
Spiering said there are always people who take bouquets and don’t pay, or pay for one bouquet and take three. “However, in the first year of Covid it became bad, to the point of being aggressive. Some days, all the bouquets are taken, without even a dollar going into the little locked cash box.”
However, Spiering said, “There are a lot of good people out there. Some people take flowers and leave an IOU. Because non-payment had become a such problem, I put up a sign and posted all the IOU’S as reminders. One day a man came by, tore them all down, and insisted on paying for all of them.”
When Spiering mentioned her frustrations to a friend and said she was considering no longer offering flowers to the public, the friend posted a message about the situation on Facebook. Several respondents suggested installing surveillance cameras and posting photos of the offenders, but Spiering is reluctant to go to that extreme. Some messages have been especially heartwarming, and several people have stopped by to offer support in person.
A couple of people told her, “I want to give you some money to compensate for the people who didn’t pay because I don’t want you to stop.” One person offered to help weed her yard.
Another came to her door with cash in hand and said, “I want to apologize. Over the course of a couple of years I have taken flowers with the intent to come back to pay; this should cover what I have taken. I have learned a valuable lesson from you.”
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