When Victoria Reynolds was gifted sunflower seeds in February, she decided to spread the delight with her neighbors.

“Everybody smiles when they see sunflowers — it’s a happy flower,” Reynolds says.

It all started last year when Reynolds met local photographer Nicci Romero at Sweetwater Preserve. The two got to talking and became friends.

And after finding themselves with extra time during the COVID-19 pandemic, they both picked up gardening, Reynolds says.

“She was posting pictures of her sunflowers and me and a lot of other people were like, ‘Wow, these are awesome,’” Reynolds says. “And she said she would send me some.”

With her new sunflower seeds in hand, Reynolds began planting them in a common area of her neighborhood on Tucson's east side.

“It was a way to brighten up the neighborhood,” she says.

But then her Homeowners Association sent out a notice saying that the association would be dumping gravel where she had planted the sunflowers, which had just started sprouting.

Feeling the need to save the flowers, Reynolds potted the sprouts in 18 mini cups instead and quietly left them on her neighbors’ doorsteps to “share the joy.”

With the mini pots, Reynolds and her life partner Jerry Borchardt typed up a note with directions on how to care for the sunflower.

“If it brings joy to just one person, it’s worth the trouble,” Reynolds says.

“I think it helps present a sense of neighborliness,” Borchardt says. “Even though we live in close proximity to other people, we really don’t know them and they don’t know us. I think there’s a few circles of friends but certainly community-wide, everyone is isolated and the pandemic hasn’t helped with that.”

Borchardt also hopes the sunflowers help create an appreciation for nature among neighbors.

And the two knew they met their goal when they received a note from a neighbor, thanking them for the plant and assuring them that she was caring for it as instructed.

“To get that thank-you card — it was just a wonderful validation that we made one person happy,” Reynolds says.

Come summer, Reynolds hopes to create hummingbird feeders out of recycled plastic to leave on her neighbors’ doorsteps next.

All of this has proven to be a silver lining of the pandemic, Reynolds says. Without the pandemic, she may not have gotten into gardening or had the time to craft her own hummingbird feeders.

“COVID has made a lot of things possible — things we never would’ve thought possible,” she says.

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