Busy Hands in the Abilis Greenhouse: An Interview with Floral Designer René DeLaurentis at Abilis

Abilis Gardens & Gifts, a popular destination for unique gifts, plants and flowers, provides job training for adults with special needs. It is unique in that it is the only florist and working greenhouse in Glenville.

René DeLaurentis in the greenhouse at Abilis Gardens & Gifts. Photo: Kade Tibberts

Abilis, a local non-profit organization that serves adults with disabilities, has a spacious greenhouse where people learn about floral arranging.

René DeLaurentis, a floral designer who previously owned two flower shops in Greenwich, has worked at Abilis since November. She teaches a group of people with disabilities, whom she endearingly calls “the girls,” on how to do prep-work and floral design. They also learn skills like working in the store and operating the register.

“The best part of it is that it is teaching our adults how to be part of the workforce, get out there, and actually arrange flowers,” DeLaurentis said.

DeLaurentis said the shop provides more than employment skills because of the inherent value in the art of flowers. She described her trade as her “passion” and said she is delighted to share it with others. 

She said flower arranging, not only gives people a chance to be creative and try new things, but DeLaurentis sees it as a form of horticulture therapy as well.

“It’s combining plants and flowers with therapy,” she said. “Using your plants and flowers – to feel and touch.”

This is especially true with the combination of senses—notably, sight, touch, and smell—that work together when arranging flowers.

The Greenwich community also benefits from the florist. As a working greenhouse, they offer delivery service and supply custom arrangements for weddings, and parties.

And, of course, there are a variety gifts, all beautifully displayed in the shop. 

Abilis Gardens & Gifts collaborates with several local businesses. “We’ve been working with people at schools and with several restaurants including Bella Nonna and Cobber North,” DeLaurentis explained.

Another offshoot of the greenhouse operation was a flower arranging workshop for siblings as part of the Abilis “Sibshops” program in April.

“It gave everyone the chance to learn about the flower industry,” DeLaurentis said. “Now we want to open it up to the public, and start doing night classes with beginner flower arranging and making wreathes for Christmas.”

Their next event is a 50% off sale next week, in order to “clean everything out and start fresh in September.” 

“It’s everything I wanted to do,” DeLaurentis said of her job at Abilis. “To be helping people and be part of the Greenwich community.”

Abilis Gardens & Gifts is located at 50 Glenville Street. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.