Human Flower Project
Saturday, October 30, 2004
Velcome to the Garden
With black fingernails, Gothic gardeners pluck out pinks and yellows. Must be the season of the witch.
That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do
Ivan Albright, 1955
Art Institute, Chicago
In a rare tribute to gloomy flowers, the Winfield (Kansas) Daily Courier reports on goth garden trends. If you’ve had it with cherubs, consider a few gargoyles and a moon vine.
The article mentions dark rose varieties, iron gates, and flourescent night bloomers. I’m especially fond of black hollyhocks (thank you, gimpytwice, for the seed) and all types of brugmansia and datura. At my local garden store one datura variety, shiny purple as eggplant, landed on the sale shelf recently, its leaves all pocked with bugbites. To newly Gothic eyes, blemishes are better. Think I’ll go down and see it it’s still available.
What’s Gothic in your garden this season?
Friday, October 29, 2004
In two Northern California suburbs, native plants and flowers assume legal and ethical proportions.
Two recent stories from California suggest that the front yard may constitute the church of 21st Century. Before choosing what to plant, residents would be wise to search their souls (and consult an attorney, too.)
People magazine reports on a couple battling neighbors over a wildflower garden. Jeff and Carolyn Seigrist found that the neighborhood association in their Sacramento suburb had fined them $2,700 for breaching the group’s floral tastes.
“They claimed the native flowers and grasses violated community rules because they didn’t fit the more manicured look favored by the board. ‘(Seigrist) may call it ecologically friendly,’ says a spokesman for Sterling Pointe’s management company. ‘The homeowners’ association calls it unacceptable.’” The homeowners association has gone so far as to put a lien on the Seigrists’ property.
But horticultural self-righteousness isn’t limited to Edged-Lawn-Ites. Today the Sacramento Bee reports on an embattled Xeriscaper in Roseville.
Photo: Sacramento Bee
Heather Ogston conscientiously ripped up the turf on her property “and replaced it with what some gardeners call a water-wise, sustainable approach to landscaping,” manzanita, lavender, Japanese pine trees—all plants that can withstand Western drought.
Pictured clutching her infant son, Ogston spoke out with the fervor or a herbivorous Jeanne d’Arc: “I was aware of all the damage that fertilizers and herbicides can do to our rivers. I also wanted to be conscientious and reduce my water use.” Ogston told the paper, “It was a moral stance on lawns.”
Nearly a hundred years ago Max Weber, philosopher and sociologist, wrote that a trait of modern society was to turn from ethical concerns to aesthetic ones. “The refusal of modern men (sic) to assume responsability for moral judgments tends to transform judgments of moral intent into judgements of taste.”
But the green martyrdoms of the Seigrists and Heather Ogston suggest another turn of the sociological sunflower. We’ve made aesthetic choices into moral issues. In the 1970s, some feared that relativism would mean the end of moral society, but it’s not relativism we have to worry about; it’s aesthetic fundamentalism—the kind that can and will damn you for growing the wrong landscape plant.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Stigmas More Precious Than Gold
It’s saffron-harvest time in the Swiss Alps. Local guild organizes to cultivate the world’s costliest spice.
Saffron crocus in Mund, Switzerland
Before there was Tempurpedic, Zeus reclined on a bed of saffron flowers, pungent crocus of the Mediterranean. We mere mortals prefer saffron as spice, when we can afford it. The precious orange threads, harvested from the stigmas of crocus sativus , cost about $10 a gram (the weight of a paper clip) and turn whatever they touch a luscious, setting-sun gold.
While saffron is native to Iran and Turkey, today most of it is grown in Spain, where it flavors and colors the national casserole: paella. So what a surprise to learn that Mund, Switzerland, is growing some of the finest saffron in the world.
In 1979, farmers in the village started a saffron guild, after seeing that the crocus was gradually disappearing from this habitat. An article from swissinfo calls saffron farming “a tradition that dates back in Mund to the 14th century.” Since farmer organized 25 years ago, “the saffron fields have grown to cover 16,000 square metres. they have put the village on the map.”
It takes 130 flowers’ worth of crocus to produce one gram of the orange spice (75,000 blossoms to a pound). But the taste is— what?—pungent, bitter, sweet, all at once. Let the Olympians sort it out at their next slumber party.
In Mund, saffron flavors pasta, bread, and risotto. There’s even a locally made crocus aperitif. Here are directions for soup from a whole site of saffron dishes.
200 g. (7 oz.) bacon diced
1 medium onion quartered
1 kg. (2.2 lbs.) potatoes peeled & diced
2 cups leeks sliced 1 inch
3 Chicken Broth Cube dissolved in
6 cups water
1/2 tsp. Turmeric
1 tbsp. Saffron
2 tbsps. white wine
1/4 cup Calamansi Juice (Lime Citrus) juice
1 170 g. (6 oz.) Cream
salt to taste
Garnish - snipped chives
Cook bacon until crisp; set aside. In the bacon fat, saute next three ingredients until onions are limp. Return bacon and add broth, turmeric and saffron. Simmer about 10 min. or until potato is cooked. Cool then pass through a blender or a sieve until smooth. Add in remaining ingredients except chives.
Simmer for about 10 minutes more then serve garnished with snipped chives.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Memorials: Running on Psychic Time
An Ontario town debates maintaining a floral tribute, memorial to a local teenager.
Memory can be so unpleasant, so inconvenient, downright unattractive.
Just this week newspapers reported on a new pharmaceutical that may numb and shrivel the memory of traumatic events. This particular drug may be new but it’s an old endeavor. Anybody ever heard of wine?
With flowers, people take a wiser approach. Rather than squelching memories , flowers revive them, but in a new, bright, and conspicuously formal way. By their tenderness and transience, flowers both re-enact the experience of loss and buffer pain.
This week a Canadian newspaper reports one town’s debate over a floral tribute to a teenage girl who was murdered two years ago. After Robbie McClennan was killed in Dragonfly Park in 2002, flowers were laid at the park entrance.
The Orangeville (Ontario) Bulletin reported yesterday that “a request to remove the flowers came to council in June, when East Entrance Beautification committee member Dave Ferrier said the park needs to shake the image of murder.” A public meeting on the topic was cancelled, and both the city and local newspapers received heaps of letters on the topic. “These flowers are not placed there as a reminder of murder,” one citizen wrote, “but as a memory for the grieving family and friends.”
Ferrier had proposed “a policy which prevents people from marking tragedies in this manner for more than a year.” The mayor has suggested permitting the flowers to remain “until after the murder trial comes to a close.” I don’t believe there’s any way to regulate how or how long people will “mark a tragedy.” Custom may dictate that a widow wear black for a year, but the heart (another word for memory) keeps a schedule of its own.
Roadside Memorial, Seguin, TX
Photo: Julie Ardery