Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Wet winters, dry summers and good soils of the American Midwest translate each spring into daffodils.


Larry Force’s ‘American Dream’

Gold Ribbon Winner

American Daffodil Society, 2005

Photo: Tom Stettner

Daffodil exhibitions cropped up across Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri this April, shows of both the roadside and the indoor, ribbon-granting kind. Recent competitive gatherings have taken place in both Louisville and Cincinnati (these were people-contests since flowers, so far as we know, lack ambition). The American Daffodil Society held its national convention in St. Louis, where, Post-Dispatch reporter Becky Homan wrote, “250 national and international experts were expected.”

Beth Holbrooke of the St. Louis daffodil club informs us by e-mail: “58 entrants displayed 750 exhibits that totalled at least 1775 blooms. We had entrants from around the country and Northern Ireland, with attendees from New Zealand, Australia, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands.”

According to event chairman Jason Delaney, of the Missouri Botanical Garden, “The competition is fierce…not to prove which are the better garden cultivars but which is the most aesthetically pleasing - and perfect - daffodil in a cut-flower show. There’s a whole day of people grooming these flowers, straightening their petals and cleaning them.”

Tom Stettner of the ADS has a terrific photo-site of winning blooms from this event and many others. Larry Force’s golden and Gold-ribbon-winning American Dream, Kathy Welsh’s collection of 12 miniatures, all pose before a black drape – the better to show off their shapes and colors.

Stettner writes that for him the convention is more reunion then competition: He was especially happy to see “those who haven’t been with us for a few years… a hybridizer from Australia and a couple from New Zealand. The show was wonderful, as expected.”

At the Midwest Regional Daffodil Show, held the prior weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, I had the pleasure to meet Helen Trueblood, an 87 year old daffodil grower from Scottsburg, Indiana. Mrs. Trueblood, who was raised on a dairy farm, says daffodils originated in the mountains of Italy and Spain. They “moved through England” and were brought by pioneer settlers in Southern Indiana. When years ago, her grandfather Richey plowed up “two big strips” to plant fescue for his calves, he managed to spread out an old line of daffodil bulbs so successfully they called his farm Easter Hill.


Helen Trueblood, at the Midwest Regional Daffodil Show

April 2, 2005, Louisville, Kentucky

Photo: Carolyn Courtney

The Kentucky Daffodil society presents the Helen Trueblood Green Rosette Award for “the best bloom or collection” of “intermediates” (one of a zillion classes of narcissus, or daffodil). Mrs. Trueblood says her personal favorite is the pseudo-narcissus, with its “twisty petals.”

The American Daffodil Society provides friendly instructions about how to grow daffodils, with essays from narcissus-ists from New England to New Mexico. Around Louisville, Hilda Dunaway says, you plant bulbs in the fall “when the dogwood foliage turns red.” Or just plow an old fenceline.

Posted by Julie on 04/23 at 09:05 PM
Gardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, April 22, 2005


Botanical Discipline, Daily

imageBlogger Pollenatrix

and her sloth friend Velcro

Whether you’re into clematis bondage or not, check out Pollenatrix, a compendium of eco-wise weirdness.

Recent posts link to stories about plants that eat dentists and the rescue of a giant catfish (as well as kindly mention of HFP’s piece on the royal wedding bouquet). She also offers instruction on how to run from Siberian iris.

Here’s the only blogger we know with her chin in a live-sloth sling.

Posted by Julie on 04/22 at 09:00 AM
Art & MediaPermalink

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sorry, Showy or Sure?

Passers-by can’t decipher a mysterious floral arrangement in Tel Aviv. reports that a heart-shaped arrangement of roses, yellow, blue and red, has appeared at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv along with the message

Eurovision 2005

Angelica Agurbash

From Belarus with Love

Reporter Sara Miller writes that Eurovision is an Old World version of American Idol, in which “European nations (and Israel and Lebanon) ...showcase (a) marathon of kitsch rubbish masquerading as singing and dancing.” Angelica Agurbash, we learn, is this year’s contestant from Belarus.

Agurbash had earned a spot in Eurovision 2005 for her rendition of a song by Zvika Pik, whom Miller calls, “Israel’s corroded Tom Jones wannabe,” but has since opted to sing a different song. Miller believes this slight is somehow behind the floral heart at Rabin Square but admits she’s stymied.

“Unfortunately, the Belarussian embassy in Tel Aviv doesn’t have anyone manning any of its three lines, and so it is left to the imagination of the individual to decide the meaning of the flowers. The general consensus seems to be one of three options:

1. Peace offering: We know we rejected your countryman’s song after saying we would use it, but please vote for us anyway.

2. A pan-European PR stunt: Look at our lovely roses. Please vote for us. Everyone.

3. Mockery: Yes we rejected your countryman’s song after saying we would use it. We don’t care whether you vote for us, we will win anyway with our fabulous new song.”

Indeed, apology, attention-getting, and triumph are three of the most common messages that flowers convey, but so is affection. Could these flowers simply be devotional? a public-tribute by a Belarussian fan in Tel Aviv? Both Miller and the Human Flower Project welcome your thoughts.

On a non-floral note, we can’t help but root for Angelica, having learned about Eurovision 2005 and discovered that she bills herself as “a woman who never hides her age”. (At 35, why would she need to?)  And, here are some intriguing lyrics from one of her songs.

“All that she took

Was working and boiled,

And only an adult dream -

To feel the woman in

Was realised when

They’ve decided to be tied up by Hymen.”

Will someone please identify and “tie up” with flowers the author of this verse?


Posted by Julie on 04/21 at 01:31 PM
Art & MediaPermalink

Friday, April 15, 2005

Under the Cherry Blossoms

Masashi Yamaguchi, who directs the magnificent floral website Plants and Japan, offers an introduction to Japan’s lush cherry blossom customs.

Thank you, Masashi!


Tokyo residents eat and drink under the cherry trees

at Ueno Park April 10. The beloved Sakura were

expected to draw nearly 250,000 people to the park

on that Sunday alone.

Photo: Itsuo Inouye, for AP

By Masashi Yamaguchi

The Japanese love of SAKURA—cherry blossoms – is hard to explain because it is so intimate a flower for the Japanese, with many associations.

In Japanese mythology, the goddess of Mount Fuji KONOHANASAKUYAHIME (meaning “the goddess who can revive dead flowers”) is symbolized by a cherry blossom. It is said that she scattered seeds and decorated her mountain with the flowers in spring.

The word SAKURA itself seems to come from SAKU, which means “bloom” in Japanese. Japanese people in olden days might have associated “bloom” with cherry blossom flowers since their arrival means spring has come to Japan

Although the floral symbol of the Japanese royal family is KIKU (chrysanthemum), the cherry blossom is the national flower. HANA means “flower” in Japanese but, especially in traditional literature, HANA often is used to mean SAKURA.

The Japanese enjoy parties of drinking, eating, and singing under cherry trees in spring, a custom called HANAMI (cherry blossom viewing).

There are many more cherry blossom customs:

SAKURAGARI (cherry blossom hunting): going to mountains for cherry blossom viewing.

YOZAKURA (cherry blossom of night): viewing cherry blossoms after sundown.

SAKURA FUBUKI (cherry blossom storm): when cherry petals are scattered like snow by the wind.

HANAMIZAKE (cherry blossom viewing and Japanese sake): to enjoy drinking while viewing cherry blossoms.

SAKURA SAKU (cherry blossom blooms)

SAKURA CHIRU (when cherry blossom ends its blooming): this phrase means to pass or fail an exam, an expression of “flash language” among students.

Now, in early April, cherry trees are in full bloom all over Japan. It is said that more than 90 % of cherry trees now blossoming are the same cultivar: SOMEIYOSHINO. At the end of the Edo Period (early 1800’s), a breeder living in the town of SOMEI bred this cherry tree and sold it as YOSHINO,  naming it for an area in Nara Prefecture famous for its cherry trees. Thus this particular cultivar came to be called SOMEIYOSHINO. It has an amazing characteristic: all the flowers on one tree bloom at the same time. Also, its flowers bloom before its leaves sprout. We can enjoy perfect mats of flowers. Because it cannot bear seeds, people multiplied this tree from cuttings. In other words, all the present-day SOMEIYOSHINO have been cloned, grown from cuttings.


YOZAKURA—Night viewing of the cherry blossoms, April 8, at the

Imperial Palace moats in Tokyo—one of the major cherry blossom-

viewing spots in Japan. 

Photo: Toshiyuki Aizawa, for Reuters

After the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the Japanese government planted this cultivar in schools and official facilities to promote Japanese nationalism. This use of the cherry trees is hard to explain. The cherry tree makes its beautiful display only for a short time and then it drops off its petals, as if to die. This floral behavior was considered “brave,” like the Samurai spirit, by the Japanese. The government taught children that they should behave like cherry blossoms. It is true that the Japanese have been fond of cherry blossoms, but it is also true that this devotion was enhanced by the government after the Meiji Period.


Cherry Blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial

in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Ron Edmonds, for AP

The government also utilized SOMEIYOSHINO for promoting international friendship. In 1912, the governor of Tokyo sent 3,000 trees of this cultivar to Washington, D.C., as a token of friendship between Japan and the United States. After the Japanese made Taiwan and Korea its colonies, the Japanese government also planted SOMEIYOSHINO trees in those countries, as a way to force Japanese culture on the Taiwanese and Koreans. Thus, the story of SOMEIYOSHINO has two aspects; this cultivar was utilized for enhancing Japanese domination and for promoting friendship with other countries.

The Japanese are as fond of cherry blossoms today as in earlier times. In Japan the new school term begins in April, so for students the cherry blossoms, blooming at the opening ceremonies of schools, symbolize the new semester. For adults, cherry blossoms symbolize the blossoms of their youth.

Even these days, Japanese pop singers make songs on SAKURA, and such songs become huge hits every year. It seems that Japanese love of cherry blossoms will continue forever.

Posted by Julie on 04/15 at 01:42 PM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink
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