Recycled Roses : 600 Students Brave the Rain to Harvest Blooms From Parade Floats for Charity’s Potpourri


Six hundred children wearing slickers and large plastic bags ignored the water streaming down their faces Wednesday morning and began plucking soggy rose petals from Rose Parade floats dripping from two days of heavy rain.

The youngsters from four schools gathered in Pasadena and Azusa to harvest 12,500 pounds of pink, white, red and yellow rose petals that will be recycled into potpourri.

The four-ounce bags of scented, dried flowers sell for $10 and will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization that pays for medical care for children.

Until three years ago, the flowers were thrown away after the parade. The idea of recycling the flowers into a charitable moneymaker came from the Florists’ Transworld Delivery Assn., which has had a float in the parade each year since 1900.


“We’ve always had a nice float, but the roses were destroyed after the parade,” said John Partridge, president of FTD. “We thought turning the flowers into potpourri was a perfect solution to the problem of wasting flowers.”

Despite the wet weather, Loma Linda Academy teacher Glenn Elssmann traveled 60 miles with his sixth-grade class to show up in Azusa by 7 a.m. to help gather the sodden rose petals.

“The kids are having a ball and nobody’s melted yet,” Elssmann said. “It’s good to help out, and for the kids, a bad day in the rain beats a good day at school.”

The students plucking away at floats of giant sea horses and tigers didn’t seem to mind picking flowers in the middle of a downpour.


“It was pretty fun, except we got really wet,” said a shivering 11-year-old John Wuchenich, who attends Loma Linda Academy.

“It was fun, but cold,” said a bundled-up Eric Nielsen, 11, also a student at Loma Linda.

Many schools volunteered for the program, but the number of students allowed to take part was limited. FTD chose the first four schools that called: Glendale Adventist Academy and Loma Linda Academy, both private schools, White Memorial Junior High in the Los Angeles Unified School District and Mesa Grande Middle School from Calimesa, near Palm Springs. FTD donates $5 per student to the schools volunteering for the project.

The rose petals will be shipped to Florida where Plantation Botanicals will donate drying services, adding wood chips and scented oils to convert the millions of rose petals into potpourri available for purchase by Valentine’s Day.


“Kids Helping Kids” is the theme of the program that raised $180,000 last year. Seven dollars from the sale of each bag, sold at FTD-associated florist shops, goes to the Children’s Miracle Network. The remaining $3 covers packaging and shipping costs.