Carl White’s Life in the Carolinas

A Stroll Through Beautiful Garbage
by Suzelle Sinclair


“…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:3

 The months of November and December are always extremely busy for me. With all the holiday preparation and activities, I think they are for most folks. Often, however, haste does quite literally make waste. One day in November, I was pressed for time. I was running late for my class at the gym. Because I was in a hurry, I ran out and forgot my water bottle. “Not to worry,” I thought to myself, “I’ll pick up a bottle of water from the vending machine at the gym.” After my class I came home. I finished the last sips of water and dropped the empty plastic bottle into the trash can. I paused, looking at the bottle and felt a little guilty for adding another piece of plastic waste to the land field. 

I sat down at the kitchen table lamenting how my lack of planning had created unnecessary waste. As luck would have it, I happened to check Facebook. A dear friend had just posted about volunteering at Paul Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville. She was helping to transform ugly, empty plastic bottles into beautiful flowers for the Garden’s annual holiday lights display. A smile came to my face as I remembered that Carl White had featured the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden’s Spectacular Holiday Blooms in the Life in the Carolinas’ Big Holiday Social 2020. It is hard to imagine that this amazingly beautiful exhibit started as a pile of trash. 

I have been anxiously awaiting the opening of the Spectacular Holiday Blooms exhibit. This year it opened on November 26 and runs through December 30. You can find information about times and tickets on their website, This one-of-a-kind display features more than 6,000 hand-made flowers. All are lovingly hand-crafted from used plastic bottles by a team of dedicated volunteers. This year there are many new creations, thanks to the imaginations of these creative folks. Some of my favorites are the Magnolia blooms that adorn the large magnolia trees and a Chihuly-inspired chandelier that hangs over the tulip-lined walkway.

As I strolled through this magical illuminated floral garden, I reflected on the holiday. I believe, for me, this may most accurately represent the spirit of Christmas. No, not because it includes poinsettias and Christmas trees. Nor is it because there is live Christmas music performed nightly by local musicians. Although those certainly add to the festive holiday spirit, I believe it is because like those ugly, empty plastic bottles, through the gift of love and light sent to us on Christmas Day, we too are transformed into beautiful lights that can bring joy to others.

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As I left the garden, with the beautiful lights illuminating my path, I paused and gave thanks for the one who came up with the idea to transform empty containers into such things of beauty to illuminate the darkness.

For information about Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden’s Spectacular Holiday Blooms and other garden events, visit the website at:


If you would like to learn about volunteer opportunities or other ways you can help support the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, learn more at: