Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, November 21, 2005

In the Wake of Wilma

Florida growers and gardeners, and florists across the Southeast are still weathering the effects of Hurricane Wilma.

imageHurricane Wilma

October 2005

Image: Wikipedia

The third Category 5 storm of the season, Hurricane Wilma, had diminished to Category 3 by the time it sliced across South Florida October 24. That was plenty strong to inflict one billion dollars of damage to the state’s agriculture industry. Terry McElroy, speaking for the state Department of Agriculture, said, “We took another major hit ... on top of the $2-to-$3 billion in damage we sustained last year from the four hurricanes during a six-week period.”

South Florida is a center for citrus, vegetables, ornamental plants and flowering annuals. Dave Self, a nurseryman and secretary of a local growers group, reported,  “The hurricane basically destroyed every [flower farm] structure between Stuart and Homestead.” Joe Celeberti, of Loxahatchie, said, ““We got wiped out. Most of the greenhouses collapsed. We lost 100,000 flowers here.”

Elsewhere, plants that have survived are “getting leggy,” in pots, because the landscapers and big retail stores that would have bought them are cleaning up hurricane damage themselves.

imageStephanie Herron makes fall arrangements

Petal ‘N Stem Florist, Beaufort, SC

Photo: Megan Lovett, for Beaufort Gazette

On up the Eastern seaboard, florists ran out of stock, no flowers or greenery—not even the old stand-by, leatherleaf fern, grown in South Florida. “You couldn’t get them flown out, you couldn’t get them trucked out. It was like a week of down time,” said one wholesaler in Walterboro, SC. Wilma disrupted “at least 2000 domestic and international flights” at Miami International Airport, the region’s huge floral transportation hub. Power outages also clobbered refrigeration systems, and it showed. One Beaufort, SC, florist complained that her daisy shipments “already look like they’re a week old, and they’re brand new.”

Flights are back on schedule now. Many flower growers have replanted already, and florists are replenishing their stock. It may take many years, though, to restore the region’s huge tropical trees.

imageDowned trees, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Photo: Wilfredo Lee, for AP

Eighty-three acres of the Fairchild Tropical Garden were damaged. “Pinecrest Gardens is now down to about 10 of the original cypress trees”;  this year’s storms wiped out five of them. “Before Wilma, horticulturist Craig Morell had secured 2,000 orchids in trees around the grounds.” He estimated that clean up and restanding trees would cost $75,000,  “if we can get someone here to do it before they die.’‘

The huge baobab at The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanic Garden also fell in the storm and now lies “covered with its own leaves and braches” to protect it from the Florida sun. It was “sown in 1907 from a Tanzanian seed,” fell over in Hurricane Cleo, 1965, and was first left for dead until “the late Catherine Sweeney, who by then owned The Kampong in Coconut Grove, hired a 70-foot flatbed truck and transplanted it to her grounds.”

The garden’s director, Larry Schokman, says every effort will be made to save the tree.  “The ashes of people and pets have been scattered beneath it, Schokman said, ‘so we can’t leave it down.’’”

Posted by Julie on 11/21 at 12:07 PM
Cut-Flower TradeEcologyFloristsGardening & LandscapePermalink

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Flower Rota—Get with It

In places of worship across the world, flower guilds keep the social and spiritual “doors” open.

imageSt. Paul’s Church

being decorated for Easter

Bedford, England

Photo: Robert Leggat

In the U.K. they’re called flower rota, in the U.S. flower guilds—the loose groups of mostly women who decorate their churches with greenery and blooms. The All Saints Church Ham explains this custom well: “We are anxious to add new names to the flower rota, as several people are no longer able to do the church flowers.  You do not need to be an expert in flower arranging - simply able to give a little of your time to make the church look welcoming and pretty. If you think you can do this, please contact Mary Gray (668204) or Melanie Melsom (668389).”

These small groups seem to require minimal organization—just someone to make a weekly phone call, perhaps, and remind Mrs. Thickett and Mrs. Barnfeather that their Sunday is coming up. Or Ms. Moss. That would be supermodel Kate Moss, who after public scandal and drug rehab has bought a house in the Cotswold and joined the flower rota of a local parish.

imageFlower Altar Guild, Holy Rosary

Toronto, Canada

Photo: Holy Rosary

Among social groups, these tiny service societies present perhaps the lowest barriers to entry (though we did have one irascible relative who purportedly was “fired” from the altar guild in her Lexington, Kentucky, church.) In the centuries when women were banned from the pulpit and even the deaconate, flower guilds were the only roles—other than bowed heads—for women. Alleluia, some things have changed though the problem of social isolation is still with us, whether incurred through celebrity, disgrace, or, in the case of our relative, eccentricity (R.I.P.).

For many years my mother was a member of the altar guild at her church. When her turn came to decorate, she would drive down to the old Haymarket (now a parking lot), buy inexpensive flowers, and then arrange them in oasis foam. For major holidays, like Christmas and Easter, all hands would be called in, to hang greenery or bunch white lilies around the crucifix.

Here is an especially fine account of a flower rota’s activities, written by Thirza Swindells from the Parish of Llandeilo Fawr in Wales. We cite it in full.

“Our small group of flower arrangers continued to ensure that there were fresh flowers in place for Sundays and festivals throughout the year (apart from the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent). On Sundays, there are flowers at the altar, pulpit and Lady Chapel with a small posy in the foyer. For the Festivals - Easter, Harvest and Christmas - we gather as a group and have additional arrangements in the windows. Last Easter, generous donations enabled us to make a lovely arrangement of lilies at the altar. With Christmas falling on a Wednesday we were able to decorate the church on the previous Saturday, enabling the congregation to enjoy the flowers during the Service of Lessons and Carols on the Sunday. For our Harvest Festival we were delighted that the Youth Group (GIG) decorated one window in a very original style!

imageHarvest Altar, United Reform Church, Wiltshire, England

Photo: Jim Downes

“It was with some apprehension that we contemplated another flower festival in July. However with the help and guidance of Gloria Davies, who chose the theme of Flowers of the Bible and made many beautiful and striking arrangements, and the generous sponsorship of members of Llandeilo Chamber of Trade, we enjoyed another very successful week. The Church ladies were responsible for the seven arrangements across the centre panels in the colours of the rainbow, God’s covenant with man after the flood. They also arranged the flowers in the porch and foyer which, together with the Llandyfeisant window, were in the Bardic colours (white, blue and green) to commemorate Lord Rhys as founder of the National Eisteddfod. A Gardening Club member made the lovely garlands for the gates.

“There is a flower rota in the porch on which we invite people to enter names. There are always gaps and, as a group we would like to encourage more people to join us. The more experienced of us are always prepared to assist beginners. If you cannot arrange the flowers yourself then donations towards the cost of flowers are always welcomed - perhaps for a special date you would like remembered? Church flower arranging can bring blessing to the arranger by providing a quiet, peaceful interlude and to the congregation by surrounding their worship with the beauty of God’s creation. If you would like to join us, please contact me on 01558 822494.”

Posted by Julie on 11/20 at 01:10 PM
Culture & SocietyFloristsReligious RitualsPermalink

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ellerslie—New Zealand’s Week in the Sun

Low-allergy gardens, controversial plants, sci-fi designs—the biggest flower event of the Southern Hemisphere will rock your world.


Stevenson Garden Zone

Ellerslie Flower Show, 2004

Photo: Garden New Zealand

If you’re in the Western Hemisphere and boarding a plane right now, you may just be able to make the final day of the Ellerslie Flower Show. The 11th year of this major design expo, held at Auckland’s Regional Botanic Gardens in Manukau City, is expected to draw   75,000 visitors, 2000 of them coming from overseas.

imageDr. Keith Hammett’s ‘Dark Tiger,’ 2003

Photo: Plants Magazine

Hoping to collect your $6 ticket, organizers have been a bit stingy with photos on the web, but here are some shots of last year’s event. To Northwestern eyes, the Kiwi gardening aesthetic is strange. It combines the big sky, grassy and gravelly effects of the American Southwest with tropical plants, angular metallic sculptures, and loud, loud color.  There are many bursts of brass and percussion, but no stringed instruments. Check out this star from the 2003 show: “the world’s first reverse Collerette Dahlia.” It took New Zealand breeder Keith Hammett twenty years to produce this flower, described by one news source as “pale amber” (giving you some idea of the Kiwi palette).

imageWar of the Worlds, 2005

Photo: Kelly Schicker, Waikato Times

This year’s Ellerslie show produced two international stories. There was great excitement as three planeloads of exotic scented orchids arrived from Singapore, and great dismay when South Africa’s entry was barred for “biosecurity” reasons. The plants for David Davidson’s design ‘The Afrikan Dream’ weren’t permitted to enter New Zealand, because “there is no formal agreement with South Africa about the transportation of indigenous species.” Indeed, it would be terrible if a swarm of proteas overran Auckland.

Extending the militaristic theme, the grand-prize winning display this year featured “a surreal outer space setting,” a tripod ship and, apparently, two bunches on bean sprouts in capped plastic cups. The exhibit was titled War of the Worlds. We’ve come a long way from paradise gardens.

Ellerslie 2005 opened Wednesday and will close Sunday, November 20.




Posted by Julie on 11/19 at 09:57 AM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsTravelPermalink

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hibiscus for Harriet

For her birthday, one of the world’s oldest animals celebrates with floral cuisine.


November 15, 2005

Photo: Australia Zoo, via Reuters

Harriet, a Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise never could much kick up her heels, but she’s looking magnificent for 175 years old. Her keepers at a retirement home in northern Australia celebrated the great chelonian’s birthday Tuesday with a delicious and healthy dessert, a cake made of pink hibiscus (though the cake designer rather tastelessly shaped the cake as a tortoise. Would you give a friend a baked effigy of himself?).

Some say that Charles Darwin himself “collected” this creature; others say that’s poppycock. Does Harriet care? Darwin is dead and Darwinism is under attack; meanwhile, she plods on.

Australian conservationist Steve Irwin owns the zoo north of Brisbane where Harriet has lived for the past 17 years. He pronounced her fit as a bass fiddle. “I can’t see why she shouldn’t live till 200,” Irwin said.

One reason for her longevity may be excellent meals. We don’t vouch for any tortoise dieticians but did find these warnings and recommendations. According to one source, some tortoises thrive on certain flowers, among them dandelion, hollyhock, globe mallow, roses, geraniums, and—what we hope is Harriet’s favorite—hibiscus.

Buen provecho!

Posted by Julie on 11/17 at 10:57 PM
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