Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Let It Grow

The new union of Colombian flower workers faces a new obstacle.

Sintrasplendor is an independent union of workers at Dole’s Splendor Flowers plantation in Colombia. The group, numbering 700 members now, filed papers with the Labor Ministry last month to gain official recognition and all the rights that come with that.

imageFlower worker’s hands

Mother’s Day project

photos taken in 2004

by flower workers in

Colombia and Ecuador

According to the International Labor Rights Fund, the company has now filed objections to the union, meanwhile setting up a worker organization under its own control.

The ILRF urges everyone to protest this union busting and support the legitimate and independent worker group: Sintrasplendor. See the INLF site for detailed explanations of the credentialing process and Splendor Flowers’ action. The site makes it simple to alert Colombian authorities.

Right to assemble? Collective bargaining? Safe working conditions, anyone?

Posted by Julie on 04/27 at 03:56 PM
Cut-Flower TradePermalink

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Legendary Dogwood

Across the Southeast U.S., the dogwoods are in bloom, pink, white, heavy with Christian lore.

imageDogwoods, April 17

Louisville, Kentucky

Flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida Linnaeus) alone recommend taking up residence in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia—at least for the months of April and May. As spring settles in, their ethereal understory—pink or white or pink-and-white—floats below black branches or electric green leaves of taller neighbors.

Before getting too mystical, let it be said that I first met dogwoods not in an Appalachian glade but a suburban subdivision of Louisville; developers in the 1950s flocked to them for instant beauty in neighborhoods still smelling of sawdust. My friend Caroline Joyes up the street knew all about flowers and trees. She even had some silver dogwood jewelry. I think it was from Caroline I first learned the legend of the dogwood.

I came across this version of the dogwood legend yesterday. Like so much on the web, the source has been omitted:

“At the time of Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion the dogwood was the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this, and in his suffering said to it: Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross…two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.”

To look close up at a dogwood flower (actually a bract, not a flower) can be a religious experience; the tips of the petals ARE rusty on one side and brown-red on the other.

A site that sells dogwood jewelry claims that dogwoods were part of old May Day customs:  “Couples would go ‘a-Maying’ after midnight, taking branches from trees and decorating them with garlands of flowers. Upon returning home soon after sunrise, the garlands would be placed over doors and windows. According to American frontier folklore, a young girl who wears a white dogwood blossom on this morning will learn the Christian name of her future husband when she meets the first man wearing a white hat that day.”

“Hoss,” unfortunately, springs to mind.

There are some fine sites about dogwood trees, some with dreadful muzak too. One source says that Native Americans fashioned arrows from dogwood. Another website reports that “Atlantic creoles” used the bark—quite effectively—to whiten their teeth. Anglo-American pioneers made all sorts of implements out of dogwood: “hay forks and mallets, cogwheels and pegs for grain mills, pulleys and wheel hubs, knitting needles….” The Killer-Plants etymologist says that the name dogwood comes from “a dag or dagge (from the Celtic/Old Gaelic, daga, a pointed tool).”

The flowering dogwood has “a natural range from Ontario to Mexico, east to Florida and north to Massachusetts.” There used to be fine dogwood stands in the northern U.S., but Dogwood Anthracnose, which was first discovered in Seattle, Washington, circa 1976, migrated eastward; “Between 1978 and 1987, the disease devastated dogwood populations in the northeast.”


On Basswood Lane, Louisville, Ky.

Remembering the flowers of childhood, I’m often nagged by loss. The bluebonnets used to be thicker. The roses were sweeter. Ou sont les neiges d’antan? This trip back to Kentucky broke the mold.

Belated happy birthday, Caroline. You’ll be glad to know the dogwoods in Rolling Fields and down Mockingbird Valley Road are more beautiful than ever.

Posted by Julie on 04/26 at 03:14 PM
Gardening & LandscapeReligious RitualsPermalink

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sluggo’s Garden

From “Nancy”:  the Logos of container gardening.



Posted by Julie on 04/25 at 05:51 PM
Art & MediaGardening & LandscapePermalink

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rites of Tsvetnitsa

Bulgaria celebrates the Orthodox faith’s Palm Sunday today, with willow branches and floral wreaths.

Only late in the day did we learn that this is Bulgaria’s biggest floral occasion, Tsvetnitsa-Vrabnitsa: Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Church. An ebullient holiday of spring, it combines remembrance of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem with much older celebrations of Bulgarian maidens and the burgeoning countryside itself.


Lazarki, and rites of Palm Sunday in Bulgaria

Photo: Okitokibg

The festivities actually began on Saturday, with Lazarovden, or St. Lazar’s Day, “a festival devoted to young girls, pastures, fields and woods.” It all sounds like something out of Sir James Frazer’s Golden Bough or a Joseph Campbell pipedream:

“The young girls called ‘lazarki’ form groups of 10 to 20 members and as they go from house to house, they sing special songs and perform traditional dances. Two of the maidens carry a basket, in which they put the eggs, collected from the housewives. Another couple sings and dances while all the others clap their hands and sing in accompaniment. The songs, containing love and bridal elements, are directed to all members of the family. The heads of the girls bear wreaths of spring flowers. The young ‘lazarki’ wear colorful sleeveless dresses and bright stockings as a symbol of the awakening nature. It is believed that a young girl is not ready for marriage until she performs dances and songs for ‘Lazarovden.’”

On the morning of Palm Sunday itself (celebrated April 24th this year among Bulgaria’s Orthodox Christians), “the ‘lazarki’ go to the river. After finding a place where the waters are calm, they put pieces of traditional breads called ‘kukli’ (dolls) on willow barks and let them go into the river simultaneously. The girl whose bark outsails those of the others is pronounced ‘kumitsata.’”

We assume that’s a good thing. Bulgarian readers, please advise.

“Once the ritual is performed, they go to the house of the ‘kumitsata,’ where they sit down to table, on which ritual pieces of bread, hominy and mashed nettle are served.”

Floral headpieces are an insignia of maidenhood, or at least feminine sexuality, in many cultures —from Olympia and Billie Holliday to ‘here comes the bride’; Tsvetnitsa headgear is especially splendid. But this festival’s Human Flower Project extends way beyond costumes. It’s also the name day for every Roza, Lilia and Violeta in the land. Name days are more important than birthdays in Bulgaria, and Palm Sunday—Tsvetnitsa—celebrates every person who’s named for a flower or tree.

Can all this be? We are very eager to learn if these are living customs or simply “local color” dribbled on a travel website—Bulgaria’s version of maypole dancing.

In any case, good wishes to all Tsvetelinas, Yavors, Kamelias, and our dear Roses of North America too.

Posted by Julie on 04/24 at 08:55 PM
Culture & SocietyReligious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink
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