Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Uganda and Ethiopia Vie for Flower Business

Cut-flower exporters in Uganda say the Ethiopian government is luring business away.

Ugandan exporters fear that Ethiopia is offering better incentives to flower businesses, soaking up investments that might otherwise be made in Uganda.

One source told New Vision, “Ethiopia invites flower investors to visit the country. Government officials help them identify land for use, a contract is signed and two weeks later, a road is cut and electricity connected.” This investor told the Ugandan news that Ethiopia’s streamlining of permitting and infrastructural improvements, as well as tax incentives, made it an inviting place for business.

Meanwhile the director of Uganda’s Investment Authority stressed that since 1997, when Uganda exported no flowers, the sector has grown, “to more than $30m (sh51.6b) a year.” The same official said that the Ugandan government is seeking ways to improve further the business climate for flower exports.

Business incentives can be slippery strategies, especially when they involve tax-giveaways, setting off a “race to the bottom.”

Posted by Julie on 03/22 at 12:12 PM
Cut-Flower TradePermalink

Monday, March 21, 2005

Quicky Pickies in the UK

A mogul of convenience flowers will diversify, with gizmos.

Ever wonder who’s behind those blossoms for sale at your local cash & carry store? If you live in the United Kingdom, it might well be Colin Hills, founder and owner of Fresh Bouquets.

As “managing director of a small family-owned business in Kent that supplied fresh flowers to forecourts, (Hills) saw an opportunity to challenge the man-in-a-van operations that had dominated the sector. He decided to offer national delivery to the likes of Shell, BP and Texaco.”

imageOld gas station

near Laredo, TX

Photo: John Troesser

The Times business section profiled the king of u-tote-em flowers and his efforts to stay profitable as his main marketing outlets—“petrol stations”—go under throughout the land, “closing at a rate of about 1,000 a year. Hills estimates that Britain has lost 10% of its forecourts in the past five years.” (One former gas station I know of, an old timey one in Bastrop, Texas, coincidentally became a full-fledged flower shop. By the by, here’s a site with a bunch old Texas gas stations)

The big oil companies are building super stations; if they’re anything like the ones we have here in the U.S., the case with the rolling cylinders of hot dogs has been replaced with a full-scale restaurant, gift shop, and hot showers. In response, Hills has shifted his flower selling to convenience stores.

Flowers of his Flowerfete brand “tend to be brightly coloured and limited in range, since most of them are bought by men making a ‘grab and go’ purchase for wives, mothers or girlfriends. These men on the move don’t want to be dazed with choice. And they don’t want to pay too much. The average retail price is £4.99.”

The Sunday Times article describes the tight margins in the flower business (Hills’ nursery, which supplies 1/6th of his flowers, only breaks even) and Hills’ non-stop effort to keep Fresh Bouquets blooming financially.

A sorry note—Hills “has been piloting a range of gadgets, such as sunglasses, torches, remote-controlled cars, radio pens, umbrellas and corkscrews, all retailing at about £3 and all of which can be offered as an ‘impulse’ purchase at the counter.” Will Sweetheart soon be coming home not with a half dozen pink roses but a “remote controlled car”?

(The Sunday Times links don’t seem to permit backtracking, rather like having the door locked behind you. With that proviso, here’s the Colin Hills story.

A Bouquet Primer

Oak leaves for gravity, mint for spice.

Do you like following directions? Let’s put that another way, does having “directions” give you a nudge of confidence?

imageCountry Bouquet with Wildflowers

Photo: Better Homes & Gardens

Then by all means check out this guide to bouquet basics and go ahead—arrange some flowers this week. Easier than diagramming a sentence, more effective than arm-twisting, flower arranging at minimum gets your eyes off your navel and results in a living gift.

Of course, you don’t need guidance but if, as Martha Stewart figured out, you crave it, there are how-to’s all over the web. This one, from Better Homes & Gardens, I especially like for its range of projects and esoteric details. For example, why should one cauterize poppy stems?

There’s lots more. How to “flay” lilac stems with a little hammer. An introduction to “swags.” And instructions for making a “White Pumpkin Vase with Red Flowers”—for Clara Barton’s coming out party perhaps?

The pop-up ads on this site are annoying but the information’s good. Read as much as you like, ditch most of it, then get your hands on some fresh flowers.

Posted by Julie on 03/21 at 11:56 AM
Secular CustomsPermalink

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Norooz - The Persian New Year

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere arrives today at 4:03 pm Tehran time.

imageHaft Seen, with hyacinths

Image: Best Iran Travel

The vernal equinox, when days and nights are of equal length, marks the New Year or - Norooz—in Iran. This ancient occasion (it’s year 2564 by the Persian calendar) is recognized with a host of ceremonies and customs, all celebrating the freshness of “New Time” (No Ruz). Leaves poke out of bare branches. Maybe purity isn’t so puritanical, and “rebirth happens.”

“A few weeks before the New Year, Iranians clean and rearrange their homes.  They make new clothes, bake pastries and germinate seeds as sign of renewal.” Of course, greenery and flowers appear during the NoRuz, especially the hyacinth or “sonbol.” This powerfully fragrant spring flower, native to Iran, appears on the Haft Seen set at this time.

“A special cover is spread on to the Persian carpet or on a table in every Persian household. This ceremonial table is called “cloth of seven dishes,” (Haft Seen) each one beginning with the Persian letter “cinn” (—or s). The number seven has been sacred in Iran since the ancient times, and the seven dishes stand for the seven angelic heralds of life—rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty.”


Haft Seen, North Carolina, USA, 2001

Photo: Farsinet

As with American Christmas trees, every Haft Seen is different, but most will include the following objects:

1. sekeh - a gold, or shiny,  coin symbolizing an adequate income

2. samanu - a sweet wheat pudding, symbolizing the sweetness of life

3. sabzi - green vegetable or herb shoots symbolizing fertility

4. sonbol - hyacinth flower

5. seer - garlic

6. senjed - a small dried fruit

7. serkeh - vinegar to ward off bitterness

If any of the items are not available, two other “s” items may be substituted: sib - apple, or sumagh - sumac.”

This site offers a closer look at the ritual items on the Haft Seen, their meanings and sacred origins.

imageHaft Seen table

Austin, Texas, USA, 2003

Here in Austin, I was able two years ago to attend a Norooz celebration of local Zoroastrian families. Centuries ago, the Zoroastrians lived in Persia but after the advance of Islam, those who didn’t convert migrated to the Western coast of India. Quite a number of Zoroastrians have moved to the US in recent years.

There were about 15 families at this spring gathering, which included a fire, flower and prayer ceremony conducted by a Zoroastrian priest, and a delicious pitch-in meal. The Haft Seen table here was enlivened by both hyacinths and daffodils, a mirror, “sabze (a dish of sprouted grass), and a bowl of flashing goldfish.

(Astrologically, the first day of springs marks the end of Pisces, known in Persian tradition as the end of “the HOOT—large fish—period….This is the reason for placing an image of changing of the year on the New Year’s table.” )

Norooz festivities go on for nearly two weeks of feasting, visiting, and gift-giving. On the 13th day, known as Seezdah Bedar, Persian families bring the holiday to a close with a big meal out of doors. Also on this day, people throw out the dish of sprouted grass that has graced the Haft Seen. (Let’s hope those hyacinth bulbs are planted in the garden, to rebloom for Norooz 2565.)

Norooz Mobarak!!

Posted by Julie on 03/20 at 01:41 PM
Religious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink
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