Human Flower Project
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Leonardo’s Floral Fingerprints
A painting in the Galleria Borghese, Rome, may now be attributed to Leonardo due, in part, to the appearance of two signature floral symbols.
The Adoration of the Christ Child, c. 1499
Galleria Borghese, Rome
This painting, tentatively attributed to Fra Bartolomeo, has been recently cleaned by conservators in Rome. “Once it was restored, a kind of yellowish halo could be seen in the sky in the upper left,” said chief restorer Elisabetta Zatti. Leonardo da Vinci sometimes left such “digital imprints on work as a kind of signature.”
The painting will be flown to Krakow, Poland, next month for comparison with da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine,” which definitely bears his fingerprint.
In cleaning the Adoration painting, restorers also uncovered flowers that had been obscured by five centuries of varnish and dust. Zatti’s team found “Leonardo’s typical symbolism, such as wild primrose, which represents resurrection, and the blue veronica flower, symbol of the eyes of the Virgin Mary.” These floral discoveries serve as “fingerprints” too, and are helping build a case for the attribution to da Vinci.
Madonna of the Carnation (Detail), 1478-80
Leonardo, da Vinci,
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
We look forward to seeing those floral details, once art historians have pursued this mystery further. Meantime, through this marvelous website of masterworks, you can feast for the rest of the day on Fra Bartolomeo, Leonardo, and hundreds more artists’ masterworks. (Presumably the tiny flowers in the foreground of the Adoration here aren’t those that excited conservators, though they’re lovely.)
I went looking for veronica and wild primrose in other works by Leonardo, but can’t be sure what I’m looking for. For your viewing pleasure, though, here are a few da Vinci blossoms. Perhaps you can identify them. If so, write us, and contact the Galleria Borghese, too.
Madonna of the Flowers (The Benoit Madonna), Detail, 1478
Leonardo da Vinci
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Garden Shows: Grab the Calendar
For the next six weeks especially, there will be a profusion of flower shows across the world. Get on your traveling shoes.
The huge Northwest Flower and Garden Show ended a week ago in Seattle. Even with concern over several cases meningococcemia, Panagbenga—the flower extravaganza in Baguio, the Philippines—has begun on schedule. Early spring is the awakening season for gardens and gardeners alike, whose spring rituals include listening to lectures, shopping for plants and loads of festive ogling.
Here are just some of the many floral events coming up. Please let us know which you attend and what you see there:
Baguio Flower Festival (Panagbenga), the Philippines, Feb. 1-28
Garden Tourism Festival, Delhi, India, Feb. 21-23
Southeastern Flower Show, Atlanta, Georgia, March 2-6
Philadelphia Flower Show, March 6-13
Hong Kong Flower Show, March 11-20
New England Spring Flower Show, Boston, March 12-20
Chicago Flower and Garden Show, March 12-20
Cincinnati Flower Show, April 20-24
Chelsea Flower Show, London, May 24-28
(Here’s a complete list of all Royal Horticultural Society garden shows for 2005)
Van Dusen Garden Show, Vancouver, Canada, June 9-12
Monday, February 21, 2005
With Flowers for Language
February 21st is International Mother Language Day. The people of Bangladesh, with flowers in abundance, know what that means.
The mother of one of Bangladesh’s
Language Martyrs, c. 1972.
Photo: Anwar Hossain
Today, “tens of thousands of barefooted Bangladeshis carrying flowers” crowded to remember the nation’s Language Martyrs. On this day in 1952, police near Dhaka University killed protestors as they spoke out against Islamabad’s law making Urdu the state language. Bangladesh was then part of Pakistan.
This incident inspired the Bengali-speaking citizens of “East Pakistan” to organize a movement for independence. Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971.
Shahid Minar Monument
Photo: White Hell
A permanent floral memorial to Bengali nationalism, the Shahid Minar, was installed near Dhaka University. This is where Bangladesh’s president, prime minister and opposition leader laid wreaths last night and where huge crowds came, with flowers, to pay homage today.
In 1999 The United Nations established February 21 as International Mother Language Day to promote cultural diversity and multilingualism. “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage,” UNESCO writes. Recognizing linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world will “inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue” and lessen our need for martyrs.
UNESCO estimates that half of the world’s 6000-7000 languages are dying out.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
When to cut back roses, and how?
(l-r) Sprung hand shears 50BC; 20th C. equivalents; tool Diderot’s Encyclopédie, 1762; c.1800; Ladies’ shears, Follows and Bates catalogue, c.1900.
Photo: Museum of Garden History
“Do I have to?”
That’s how I approach pruning. Removing dead twigs and branches makes sense but—a braid down my back—I cringe to slice through healthy stems. The promise of more rose blooms, and only that, forces my hand.
The Greenville, Mississippi, Delta Democrat Times published this instructive article on pruning several few weeks ago – fortifying.
“February and early March is the best time to do major or severe pruning because plants will recover faster with the spring flush of growth.” Azaleas, camellias and gardenias are pruned later on, even as late as July, after they’ve finished blooming, but “February is the time to prune roses; actually, George Washington’s birthday has been known as the benchmark.”
Here in Texas, everyone prunes on Valentine’s Day. As February 14th approached this year, I felt a cringe coming on. On February 9th, John Levett a.k.a. Joseph Beuys Hat announced he’d begun pruning his back garden. Since John lives in England, this seemed perilously early to me, so I wrote him asking how he knew it was time.
Photo (and rose): Antique Rose Emporium
“There’s no voodoo about this. It’s always been the rule of thumb that you don’t prune so early that emerging shoots are going to be nipped by late frosts. I’m prepared to go out on a limb & say that Winters & early Springs in this part (East) of the UK ain’t what they used to be—they’re noticeably milder….
“When I first started growing roses some 30 years ago I usually left it until late February & expected to be completed by the first couple of weeks in March. The roses I have now will be in only their second year of flowering so if I’m too early then the vigour of them is going to compensate.”
Ah yes, compensating vigor. So February 13, a bright mild day here in Central Texas, I pulled out my clippers and went at it. This site gave me further instructions on rose pruning. It recommends waiting to prune until the “second week of March around south Puget Sound.”
1. Take out all dead wood.
2. Take out all crossed or twiggy growth.
3. Keep the center open for good air circulation.
4. Cut all canes to white or pale green pith. Any brown coloration in the pith indicates a dead or dying cane, in which case the cane should be pruned to a lower bud eye, clear to the crown if necessary, in order to find live pith.
5. Cut approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch above a bud, on a downward slant, away from the bud. Cut to an outside bud to make the plants grow wider. Cut to an inside bud for more upright growth on a plant that has a tendency to sprawl.
6. Use sharp tools for cutting. Use a keyhole saw or lopper to cut thick, woody, old canes.
7. Cut canes at uneven heights for a longer blooming period and better appearance.
8. Select from 3 to 6 strong basal shoots from previous year’s growth. Remove all other growth. Then prune those canes left.
9. Accomplish as many chores as possible just after pruning before the bushes have sprouted. Remove mulch from the bud union, weed, and clean up the rose garden. This prevents breaking off the new shoots when doing these things later.
This guide from the University of Illinois Extension Service includes some useful diagrams for all you visual learners.
I may have been a little light-handed (Sombreuil and Mary Daly still look a bit scraggly), but it’s all I had the heart for. Let April judge. To those who contend that flowers “like” to be pruned, please do the honors with my “Ballerina” next February. This dainty vixen was fighting back.