Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pom-Pom of the Monsoon

In Bangladesh, the calendar is alive; kadam flowers signal the monsoon.


With kadam flowers to sell, Dhaka

Photo: Pavel Rahman, for AP

The Bangla month of Ashar began June 15, but only now has the rainy season truly arrived: the kadam trees have blossomed and, in the streets of Dhaka, boys are selling kadam flowers. Kadam (Anthocephalus cadamba) is traditionally believed to bring happiness and prosperity. The blooms are apricot-colored spiny balls, suitable for transportation to another galaxy, and from what we read the scent of kadam can accomplish that.

“Stephen Arctander describes its fragrance as being ‘woody-floral and sweet odor with a short-lived, but strong minty-borneol topnote. The dryout is delightfully sweet-floral, reminiscent of champaca and neroli.’ ” writes Christopher McMahon, an expert on perfume. He adds, “The tenacity of the fragrance is almost incredible.”

And from a chronicler in Pabna: “The deep and thick fragrance of this flower at rainy night fills the surroundings with a mystique atmosphere. Only those who have smelt it, can feel it.”

Mercy, we’ve never had the pleasure.

The kadam flower marks an annual miracle in Bangladesh: “borsha,” the monsoon season, stretching through the months of Ashar and Shrabon.

“At this time,” writes the 3rd World View, “parched lands are inundated with almost incessant rain and crops are harvested. Borsha is the most dominating season in Bangla literature, particularly in poetry as poets feel numb (with emotions) to write verses. They consider the monsoon a season of separation from the loved one, of nostalgia and nameless longing. They often use(d) to personify Borsha as a young woman pining for her beloved.”

imageKadam flowers (Anthocephalus cadamba)

In the countryside, fishermen and traders would travel on bulging waterways far from home at this time of year, leaving families behind. And, of course, flooding which the rice crop requires takes a heavy human toll. Just last year millions of people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh were left homeless. Across south Asia, 1600 people died in the monsoon floods of 2004.

Bringing relief, estrangement, prosperity, and death, the monsoon is perhaps the most dramatic season on earth. What could be its herald but a strange and powerfully fragrant flower, the kadam.

Posted by Julie on 06/23 at 08:59 AM
Culture & SocietyEcologyPermalink

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Uganda Sweethearts—Coming on Strong

Uganda’s flower exporters, emboldened by success, are moving into the Japanese market.

The Monitor (Kampala) reports that Ugandan exporters have sent their first direct shipments of flowers to Japan.

imageKeith Henderson, who leads the Uganda Flower Exporters Association, said, “What has been our main market—the EU—is being over supplied by other entrants in the market like India.” Sounds like potentially a race to the bottom.

Prices this year at Europe’s peak floral holidays, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, were precipitously down: “as low as five to six cents of a euro per stem, down from 15 cents of a euro.” Consequently, the Ugandan exporters are looking to the United Arab Emirates, as well as Japan, to sustain and grow their flower industry, now a decade old.

Ugandan flower exports showed earnings of $32 million in 2004, according to the Monitor’s report. “This year, Henderson said, they project an increase of export earnings of up to $36 million with an employment capacity of 6,000 people both skilled and semi-skilled.”

If you purchased sweetheart roses recently, chances are they came from Uganda. The climate there, with two rainy seasons, is perfect for these smaller varieties.  And now may I get personal?

I prefer sweetheart roses to the long-stemmed Godzillas. Big roses today have an air of weaponry about them, and in my sincere opinion, a rose shouldn’t look like El Kabong, or any other tool you could brain someone with. Moreover, even an all-thumbs novice can make a beautiful corsage with sweetheart roses, and they last a long, long, long time in a vase, longer than many a romance.

This good article from the New Agriculturist offers a history of sweetheart rose production in Uganda, and its development out of Kenya’s success with flowers. Working conditions on Uganda’s flower fields, it notes, vary enormously from farm to farm. Here’s a report from the International Labour Office, five years old, on the flower industry in Uganda. It found that 85% of workers in this sector were women.

“Sixty per cent of employees felt their economic conditions had improved a lot, 20 per cent that they had improved slightly, and 20 per cent that they had remained unchanged.”

Posted by Julie on 06/22 at 10:34 AM
Cut-Flower TradePermalink

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tilting South

Winter solstice, 6:46 a.m. (UT) today, in the Southern Hemisphere.


Invierno (winter), 1573

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Musee du Louvre

Check this site to see some beautiful wintertime flowers from south of the equator, including a cosmos that smells like chocolate.

Posted by Julie on 06/21 at 02:42 PM
Art & MediaEcologyPermalink

The Longest Day

Summer Solstice, at 6:46 a.m. today.


Verano (Summer), 1573

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Musee du Louvre

Posted by Julie on 06/21 at 09:44 AM
Art & MediaEcologyPermalink
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