Guerrilla gardener’s efforts bloom

Melly Meadows returns to the Vineyard to admire her work, after her recent plantings to honor civil rights leaders in her Georgia hometown.

Melly Meadows at the Vineyard Haven Post Office. —Daniel Greenman

If you notice more daffodils around the Vineyard this spring, you may have Melly Meadows to thank.

Meadows, a Vineyard Haven resident, says that she has planted 14,000 daffodil bulbs on-Island this past winter, doing the dirty work with volunteers and at local businesses, as well as installing heart-shaped floral arrangements at Vineyard cemeteries and the Vineyard Haven Post Office.

Meadows’ post office plantings, which also feature rows of flowers, have now bloomed in the building’s previously barren parking lot.

The Vineyard’s daffodil blooms this spring are just the latest flower season for Meadows, who says that in the last few years she has planted over 25,000 bulbs in total.

According to Meadows, she has been inspired to beautify public spaces after serious health struggles with lupus. She says that planting the flowers keeps her spirits high, especially after long hospital stays. 

“I was actually in the hospital ordering plants,” Meadows  says. “It was rough. But then I decided I would come back and plant. I actually did it kind of out of spite for being in the hospital … I don’t want to let it take me down. So this is my way of fighting back.”

“This is my happy season,” Meadows said by the post office at Five Corners.

And while Meadows still has plans to plant lilies on Martha’s Vineyard, in the last couple of months she has made local news in Georgia, inspired by her own family history there as well as by civil rights leaders.

In March, Meadows visited the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, where she attempted to plant a heart of flowers to honor civil rights leaders John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.

This planting, Meadows says, was thwarted by a police officer who threatened to arrest her. “Along comes this woman who had a tiny badge and a teaspoon of power,” says Meadows. “She says, ‘You can’t plant here, this is federal property, it’s against the law.'”

But while Meadows was unable to complete her daffodil planting at the King Center, she was able to plant in hometown of Jonesboro in memory of her late mother, Donna Meadows. Donna Meadows, says Melly, was the city’s first woman mayor, and took a stand for civil rights during her one term in office.

“I grew up in Jonesboro, which is the county seat for Clayton County, Georgia,” Meadows says. “My mom was the first woman mayor of Jonesboro, and this was in the ’90s. And when she was mayor, she desegregated the fire and the police department … So wrap your head around that. it’s the ’90s, and it’s still segregated.”

Melly says that after her mother called a vote to desegregate public services, she was met with resistance from the Ku Klux Klan.

“[My mother] ordered to break up the good-ol’-boys system that was controlling the county, the city, the everything. And when she put on the ballot that she was going to desegregate the city, police, and fire department, the grandmaster of the KKK came to her office. There were about seven of them, and they came without a mask and robe, which meant it was highly personal.”

The Klansmen, says Meadows, were at first unafraid to threaten violence. “They said, ‘Well, you don’t want to go through with this vote … You know, all the firemen and the policemen are going to be at city hall hoping you’ll make a good decision and change your mind … It would be a shame if your house caught fire that night, because all the fire department’s going to be in city hall … Oh, and it’d be terrible if accidents started happening with your family.”

But Meadows says that her mother — who also ran an income tax office — had done her homework. “In the midst of the good-ol’-boy system, there was also a lot of money laundering and siphoning from the housing authority,” Meadows explains. “[My mother] said ‘Oh, by the way, the audits that I’ve ordered on you guys — they’re going to be due in a week, and I just want to remind you I’m really good with numbers.”

Meadows says that her family was safe afterwards, though this was also due in no small part to her family receiving a state police security detail and being moved temporarily to an undisclosed location.

Meadows hopes that on the Vineyard, as well as in her hometown, public gardening inspires others to be a force for good in their communities.

“I saw my mom look hate in the face, and she stood up to it,” says Meadows. “And I like to think, in a small way, that maybe planting a flower here or there is a way to sow kindness in the world.”

Meadows’ efforts have also led to her being noticed by other Vineyarders, either while planting or driving in her distinctive orange-and-white “Nemo” car. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re the daffodil lady!” Meadows says.

In Vineyard Haven, Islanders stopping by the post office are appreciating the view of daffodils. “It’s better than having dirt there,” said Vineyarder Bob Amado on a recent spring day. “It’s a nice improvement.”


  1. Great story. Should be picked up by the Globe. There is even movie potential in her mother’s life. Sort of a civil rights version of Harper Valley PTA.

    I will look for Ms. Meadows (you can’t make up that name) in her car and wave.

    • My life and story has been incredible! I came to Martha’s Vineyard in 2019 to pay tribute to Tony Horowitz for all he did to bolster my career after writing about me in his book “Confederates in the Attic”. Tony is the reason I plant on the Vineyard. He changed my life! I was the official “Scarlet O’Hara” spokesperson for Atlanta. It’s rather significant that my family and my life has been helping to be a civil rights activist and am out making “good trouble”. After my mother desegregated the city services, there were “consequences” and retaliation against her. It wasn’t a smooth transition of power. Just after the vote went through, a dear friend of our family, Mr. Reggie, came to city hall to turn in his letter of resignation. My mom asked him why he was going to resign when he was so close to retirement. He told her that it was so he could spend more time in his garden. Reggie was just a few years away from drawing a city retirement so it didn’t compute for him to resign. Mr. Reggie rode on the back of the sanitation trucks in Jonesboro and the good ole boys knew Mr. Reggie and the other African American employees couldn’t read or right because they were not allowed to attend schools in the segregated south. My mom poked around and found out that after her vote went through, the city “boys” implemented written test for all city employees knowing that Mr. Reggie would fail. Mr. Reggie told my mom that he would rather resign with dignity then be fired. Mom called the state office and took a sworn oath to be a proctor for each and every city employee that couldn’t read or write. Mr. Reggie kept his job with with the city AND she had Mr. Reggie’s wages raised to be equal to the white employees. Mr. Reggie not only kept his job with the city, but he also retired with a higher retirement because of the pay increase. One of the gardens I planted in Georgia was for Mr. Reggie. When asked by NBC Atlanta how he felt about me planting a guerrilla garden for him, he said that he was so happy to get his flowers while he was still living. Mr. Reggie invited me inside his home and his prayer room where he had eight Bibles side by side. He has spent the last 30 years learning to read and write because the Mayor told him it was never too late to learn and all he ever really wanted to do was to be able to read a Bible. This made my heart smile!

      Also, Mr. Reggie brought my mom the first of his crop for the rest of her life. I am proud to be his friend this many years later and am honored to have made a garden for Mr. Reggie. That’s good trouble indeed!

      • I have written the opening scene for that “one day” it be a movie. 😁 I have to finish the book first. 😩

  2. I love this! I have so enjoyed the daffodils as I have been driving through Tisbury, Vineyard Haven and around the airport area! How wonderful!!!! And, I have taken such joy in the daffodil ‘creatures’ in my gardens as well — such pleasure during such a difficult period! I thought I had accomplished something with 400 — 25,000! Woman! You rock!!! Bravissima!

    • I didn’t plant them all! I thought I had accomplished something great when I reached 8,000 bulbs. That’s when I learned there were more than one million daffodils on Nantucket and I felt like a helium balloon 8 days after Valentine’s Day. It made me feel like I will never make a dent on the island to ever get us to a daffodil festival here. I realized that one million daffodils didn’t start in one season. So if I keep planting and can recruit other islanders to help, it is an attainable goal to one day reach over one million daffodils. Daffodils multiply! So 25,000 will become 50,000.

      I am having a T-shirt made for myself that says … The 2024 Martha’s Vineyard first annual “Be Kind” Daffodil festival. Think big. Dream big.

      You really need to see my back yard! I have written in daffodils “Be Kind”. It is 10 feet tall and 25 feet wide. It’s AMAZING.

  3. Melly, I’m so moved by your courage to beautify the world and also the courage of your family! Thank you for the goodness that you share with us! ❤️
    Your efforts remind me of Barbara Cooney’s book, Miss Rumphius. And of a Ukrainian gardener, Alla Olkhovska.
    Thanks Melly! 😁💕

  4. Love this story and find you and your mother inspirational. We are so lucky to have you as a neighbor and friend.

  5. This is an amazing awe-inspiring story of courage resourcefulness and ingenuity!
    Thank you Miss Meadows and thank you to your mother
    She was smart caring and brave! What a winning formula for reaching the best that humans can be
    The children and grandchildren of those klansmen do not have your legacy to celebrate
    I love the daffodils!!!!
    Nancy Cotton

    • Wow. I had not thought of that. So very true! I hope and pray that their children and grandchildren broke free from the curse of hate. When I was planting flowers for the slave graves in Jonesboro, it hurt to my very core that buried in those graves were beautiful and talented people who never had an opportunity to be what they were meant to be and do. There is no mention of their names or identity of any kind. Just a concrete block with a cross on it. It is as if their life never mattered, which is far from true! For me, I grieved our loss of mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends, future poets, mathematicians, writers, doctors, teachers, musicians, dancers … this list goes on and on of their potential which was rendered null and void because they never tasted freedom. I felt like the flowers planted there was such a tiny and rather insignificant token of kindness on my behalf.

  6. Thank you Daniel for this article! Totally agree with Carolyn: we need more good news stories and kindness in the world. One daffodil 🌼 at a time.

  7. Thank you Daniel! From my heart, I thank you for this lovely story. You are so young and yet so wise. In both of the articles you have written about the gardens, you captured my soul and the core value of the importance of sowing seeds of kindness.

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