Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Where Do the ‘Flower Fields’ End?

The unofficial name of valuable lands north of San Diego may stop a new residential development.


Attic amphora, ca. 525-500 B.C.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Photo: Perseus Digital Library

As Hercules slew the Nemian lion and proceeded to wear the big cat’s skin as a trophy, so suburban developers like to name their residential properties for the wildlife they destroyed. You have “Pine Forest” where 300 acres of pine trees were chopped down, and “Sunflower Meadows” where agricultural land has been converted to ranchettes.

In Carlsbad, California, however, opponents of further building have pulled a switcheroo. They are using the unofficial name of lands north of San Diego—“the flower fields”—to fight a proposed development.

“City officials define the flower fields as the 53.4-acre plot of sloping land striped with a rainbow of ranunculus every spring at the northeast corner of Palomar Airport Road and Paseo Del Norte——a popular tourist attraction with a trademarked name.

“But a group of open-space activists called Concerned Citizens of Carlsbad has extended the term to include both the 53.4-acre field of ranunculus and another 321.6 acres spread out over three nearby sites zoned for agriculture and open space. Those sites have been used to grow flowers and strawberries in recent years.” Claiming that “city officials have already decided to allow development” on farmland parcels near the famed ranunculus acres, activists want to bring the matter up for a vote.


Moises Morales works in a field of blooming Tecolote ranunculuses

at the Carlsbad (Calif.) Flower Fields.

Photo: Bill Wechter, for the North County Times

So, are “The Flower Fields” just the ranunculus farm that English immigrant Luther Gage began and others now cultivate? Or are they the flower-growing lands of the whole area?

“The blooming hillside was given the unofficial name,  the ‘flower fields,’ by Carlsbad’s residents, who began to consider it part of the local heritage. The practical name stuck, and became officially called The Flower FieldsĀ® in 1993.” Since then, of course, the City of Carlsbad and especially its real estate companies market themselves with the name and glorious images of brilliant blooming stripes. But it seems at least some of the folks of Carlsbad are prepared to enforce the unofficial name that they bestowed in the first place. They’re resisting the zoning change based, in part, on the value of a local legacy of beauty. 

Kudos to the North County Times for appending readers’ comments to Philip K. Ireland’s story. One writes that should the anti-developers win, they will “deprive someone of their constitutional rights to private property ownership.” Another contends, “We will lose something that can never be replaced. Does Carlsbad need the money or its beauty? “

Just a bit farther north, the Ecke family, famed for making the poinsettia America’s floral Christmas ornament, wants to develop some of its farmland. In 1994 the family signed an agreement with the city of Encinitas “in which it promised to keep its land agricultural forever.” Neighboring flower farmers, and others, are raising strong objections to any zoning change. The issue will be on the ballot Nov. 8.

For now a history of flower growing stands in the way of the paving trucks. Do “flower fields” belong to property owners only, or to everyone with eyes to see and tongues to praise and name?

Posted by Julie on 10/27 at 10:32 AM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeEcologyPermalink

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Man Who Couldn’t Spell ‘Edelweiss’

Spelling-bee star climbs back from an Alpine accident to chair the U.S. Federal Reserve.


Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum)

Photo: Laurentiu Barza

Powerful people are spooky. And since chairmanship of the U.S. Federal Reserve effectively turns a person into the Dr. No of global economics, we shuddered to hear George Bush name a successor to Alan Greenspan. Bush chose Ben Bernanke, 51 going on 75, a former Princeton University economist whose latest gig has been to chair Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Bernanke’s credentials are beyond Eagle Scout - small town boy, spelling bee champion, Harvard and MIT education, Boston Red sox fan, school board member, and, from what his friends say (otherwise they wouldn’t be friends, we suppose) a level-headed, nice guy.

Journalists have really had to dredge to find any hair out of place (it helps to be bald). They’ve come up with one instance when Bernanke “wore tan socks with a dark suit to a meeting.”  And then, there was the “edelweiss incident.”

image“I came this close to being the U.S. spelling champion,” Ben Bernanke explained.

Photo: Danny Johnston, for AP

The Alpine flower, Leontopodium alpinum, was Bernanke’s downfall in the cruel world of spelling competition. As a sixth grader, he was South Carolina’s spelling champ and hoping to ascend to the Scripps national event when he uttered one too many “i’s” in edelweiss. That, and the tan socks, seem to be about the extent of Bernanke’s imperfection.

“Small and white, clean and bright,” edelweiss is the emblem of Austrian nationalism and Nazi resistance in “The Sound of Music.” The von Trapp family is singing about their beloved flower before the lights go out in the theatre and, next we know, they’re escaping through the sunny Alps.

We’ve never seen edelweiss except in pictures. It seems to be starry shaped, with rubbery looking petals, slightly resembling a sea urchin. It grows best at “altitudes from 1700 meters to 2700 meters. Edelweiss prefers calcareous light soils with excellent drainage and southern exposure, where it likes to form herbal mats.”

One site that sells flower seed (and knickknacks decorated with edelweiss too) calls it “The Ultimate Love Charm.”

“Love struck young men would try to endear themselves by collecting Edelweiss from those hard to access crags and ledges in the high alpine of Europe. During these quests many died from falls, or succumbed to exposure, insufficiently prepared for sudden weather changes.”

Ben Bernanke, who looks to be an indoor kind of guy, should feel lucky; all he did was misspell.

It could happen to anyone. In fact, the Scripps list includes loads of tough flower words. Just a few that we bungle as a matter of routine…








rudbeckia (how about we just say Black-eyed Susan?)

And then there are flower terms we’ve never heard of:





We understand that the “edelweiss incident” has been trotted out to make the public more comfortable with the guy who’ll have enough power to tiddlywink the world (and if tiddlywink is spelled wrong, please drop us a line.) At least, when we misspell we don’t resort to a lame excuse like Mr. Bernanke has done. He told reporters that he flubbed edelweiss because his hometown of Dillon, SC, “was too small to have a movie theater back in 1965.”

Oh dear. How small and white can you get.

(If you’d like to start studying for next year’s championship in D.C.—May 31-June 1, 2006—here are a few more words that should keep you busy. Don’t worry. Ben Bernanke, having passed 8th grade, is ineligible to compete.)



Posted by Julie on 10/26 at 10:43 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Red Willow

An Iranian native captivates flower fanciers in Japan, and several species of butterfly.

imageRed willow, Salix laevigata

Photo: Kaweah Oaks

As Greg Grant, extension-agent extraordinaire, has pointed out, “Gardeners always want what they don’t have.” This cardinal rule may explain why visitors to Tokyo’s Flower Expo have been smitten with red willow, Salix laevigata.

According to Iran Mania,  this plant was “highly appealing” at the event, a gathering of 450 flower companies from 25 countries.

Last year, red willow earned one million Euros for Iranian growers. In this business, of course, transportation is a huge expense. According to the director of an association of Iranian companies, “The price proposed by the Dutch KLM airline for the transport of the exported red flower to the world market is half of that declared by Iran Air.” Iranian growers are asking their government for more support and have a real case to make, especially now that Salix laevigata has made such a hit at the prestigious Tokyo show.


The bioclimatic zones of Iran

red willow grows in the “Xerophilous forest”

(chartreuse green, primarily in the west)

Image: FAO

Homeground of the tulip and hyacinth, Iran is blessed with a tremendous diversity of microclimates and soil varieties.  Red willow grows in the Xerophilous forest zone. The plant had been exported to Europe but never before to Japan, where it took buyers by happy surprise. The manager of one Iranian company noted that “up to 4-5 years ago, (red willow) was burned as a fuel.” (In parts of Nepal, rhododendron serves the same purpose. One man’s ornament is another’s heat.)

Red willow produces male and female flowers, “borne on separate plants,” and also seed-bearing catkins,  those little wormy things we associate with birch trees. “The flexible willow shoots were used by the Ohlone Indians to make baskets and huts. Willow bark contains salicin, which our bodies convert to salicylic acid, the active pain-relieving ingredient in aspirin.” All this, and a hit at the Japan Expo, too.

imageMourning Cloak, (Nymphalis antiopa)

Like most willows, Salix laevigata grows along riverbanks or spots where seasonal rains create small streams (what we call “arroyos” here in Texas.) International florists aren’t the only fans of red willow, we have learned. “Plants in the genus Salix serve as host plants for the Sylvan Hairstreak butterfly, the Lorquin’s Admiral, and the Mourning Cloak.”

Coincidentally (or not?) in early America willows were also associated with mourning.

Posted by Julie on 10/25 at 10:00 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeEcologyPermalink

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Nickname That Goes to Your Head

An 82-year-old munchkin stays pot-bound.


As the mayor of Munchkin City points Dorothy to the Yellow Brick Road, “The Flower-Pot Girl” (Margaret Pellegrini) and other munchkins stand by.

Our father-in-law, like many boys, was named for his dad. In order to avoid confusion around the house, everybody called him “Junie” (for junior). I remember at his 60th birthday celebration a number of years ago, he quietly remarked, with a foreshadowing of Mick-Jagger-dom, “I always wondered what it would feel like to be 60 and have people still call you ‘Junie.’”  So what did it feel like? “Silly as hell,” he replied with a smile.

When my in-laws retired in another state, he decided to switch out of the old nickname and go by “Tom” instead. Today, unless they’re back in Louisville or in Lexington, Virginia, where he attended college, nobody knows what my mother-in-law means when she slips and calls out, “Junie!”

On the contrary, Margaret Pellegrini, who’s about my father-in-law’s age, clings with all the fervor of English ivy to her childhood assignation: “The Flower-Pot Girl.” Margaret was 15 years old when Hollywood scouts gave her a casting call as one of the 124 munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. Pellegrini explains that she had been “passing out samples of potato chips” at the Memphis State Fair when a group of fellow “little people” (midgets) asked her to join their act. She declined but gave the troupe her phone number and two years later heard from a movie agent.

Pellegrini says she was paid $5 a week (considerably less than Toto’s $125). She appeared both in the meet and greet scene, just after Dorothy’s house has squashed the Wicked Witch of East in downtown Munchkinland, and as a little “flower chick” cracking out of an egg in a nest of babies.

imageMargaret Pellegrini, “The Flower Pot Girl”

at a recent appearance

And since then? “I had another small part in a movie called ‘Johnny Got His Gun,’ which is a war picture. And it didn’t go over so big…I went out to the [1939] Treasure Island World Fair [in San Francisco]. Then I went back home and started to work as a nightclub waitress. I got married and I had two children, and I’ve got five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. In 1982, my husband passed away. In 1985, I went to my first “Wizard of Oz” festival—and from then on….”

...Pellegrini has resumed her role as “The Flower Pot Girl,” at book-signings, conventions and, most recently, celebration around the release of The Wizard of Oz on DVD. She’s one of seven surviving munchkins. With a frock like she wore in the Land of Oz and a container of faux flowers on her head, Margaret is relishing her nickname at age 82. (Granted: “The Flower-Pot Girl” beats the heck out of “Junie.”)

Give your friends at work a thrill and click here.

Posted by Julie on 10/24 at 10:09 AM
Art & MediaSecular CustomsPermalink
Page 2 of 8 pages  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›