Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Portia Munson

Floral kaleidescopes bring spring back into view.


Portia Munson

Morning Glory Tobacco (2005)

Photo: PPOW Gallery

Time to finish wrapping those iPods and earrings. Or maybe not.

As an alternative, consider unwinding instead with these amazing floral mandalas by New York artist Portia Munson. “Icons of evanescence,” Jeanette Fitz calls them.

Munson’s show at PPOW Gallery has just come to a close, but for those of us too late or too far from Manhattan, the gallery generously posts several of Munson’s photo-scans.

This artist made a splash in the art world with Pink (1994), an installation of found plastic objects, and became known for her dumpster diving. In recent years, the search for art materials has led to a more intimate and earthy source: her garden in the Catskills.

Obviously, these pieces were made in another season, which in part makes them all the more impressive now. Her image of nicotina (tobacco flower) blossoms and morning glory buds may not qualify as a “Star of might,” but “Star of wonder”?  Indeed.

Posted by Julie on 12/24 at 10:51 AM
Art & MediaPermalink

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Zimbabwe Push

The central bank and national board on exports promise infusions of money for Zimbabwe’s flower industry.

imageZimbabwe flower farm

Photo: BBC

To draw foreign currency into the country and exploit the nation’s floriculture advantages, both natural and human, Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank and Export Processing Zones Authority are setting aside $750 billion to improve the flower industry there.

“Skilled and former operators would be given a special dispensation and guarantees of uninterrupted productive tenure of five to 10 years.” In recent years, many ethnic-European farmers have been dispossessed in Zimbabwe’s version of land reform, but the new program seems to guarantee governmental protections for big agriculture, underwriting greenhouses, better irrigation, rose propagation, refrigeration, and marketing for experienced growers. Even so, the longterm strategy seems to be to educate native Zimbabwe farmers in floriculture. The chief of the reserve bank in May “called on former operators of horticultural estates to work closely with new farmers to expedite the skills transfer process.”

Zimbabwe’s flower industry has shrunk in recent years, declining from” 24,000 tonnes of flowers worth US$86 million” in 2002 to less than 20,000 tonnes this year. “The central bank said the entire horticultural industry is targeted to contribute US$166 million in foreign exchange this year, representing 37 percent of agricultural export earnings.”

Along with changes on the production side, Zimbabwe’s flower exports are reaching new markets. In the past, its flowers all sold through the Holland auctions, but this year Zimbabwe began exporting blooms to the Far East, and “indications are that Zimbabwe could clinch a lucrative deal to supply the bulk of horticultural products to Dubai auction floors scheduled to be opened early next year.”

The Chronicle writes that Zimbabwe crops have “an edge” over produce in other parts of the world since Zimbabwe’s vegetables and flowers “are not genetically modified.”

Posted by Julie on 12/21 at 11:13 AM
Cut-Flower TradePermalink

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Waltz of the Flowers

Marksmen mice and dancing flowers, the Nutcracker was first performed December 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg.


Jennifer Kuhn, Waltz of the Flowers, Boulder Ballet

Photo: David Andrews

It’s not likely that Russians pine for Christmas in July; Springtime in December is the stuff of dreams.

And 113 years ago composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petitpa and Lev Ivanov made that possible. The Nutcracker ballet a century later can be a respite from the horrors—climatological, financial, psychic—of the season.

The story was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 play,  “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”...  “a tale of an unhappy girl named Marie whose only love is a nutcracker doll.” This was pre-Freud, mind you.

French novelist Alexandre Dumas rewrote the German play, making it sweeter and more musketeerish. With this version of the tale, Petitpa got to work, commissioning a less than enthusiastic Tchaikovsky to write the music.

Among the most music-boxed compositions from the ballet is the Waltz of the Flowers, one of many dances performed in ACT III to entertain Clara in the Kingdom of Sweets. The piece has been adapted by several other musicians, including Duke Ellington. Here’s a mini-course on the music itself.

But we haven’t found any commentary on the role of flowers in the ballet. We find it interesting that the Waltz of the Flowers comes between a Waltz of Snowflakes and the dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. It’s as if in one night’s vision Clara dreams her way out of winter, into the flowers of spring and the fruit of summer. Has anyone staged the ballet to accentuate this kaleidescope of seasons?


The Nutcracker, San Francisco Ballet

Photo: Weiland Watts

We don’t think so. One reviewer even bemoaned springtime imagery in the San Francisco Ballet’s production: “No pink costumes next year, please! Petal pink is not about Christmas!” But is the Nutcracker “about Christmas”? In our view, this critic has missed the wonder of Clara’s dream—escape from the Russian winter.

“The Waltz of the Flowers” is a chance for the corps de ballet to flutter and shine. Here’s a sound snippet in case you’ve forgotten the tune: click on # 12 here for a burst of May.

Posted by Julie on 12/18 at 11:56 AM
Art & MediaSecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, December 16, 2005

Da Lat—Love Buses and Lily Roots

A city in the highlands of Vietnam pins its hopes on flower tourism.

imageDecorated carriage

Da Lat Flower Festival

Pasadena meets Niagara Falls.

Da Lat,  long a destination of Vietnamese travelers, has been hosting a nine-day flower festival, a pull-off-the-petals spectacle intended to draw tourists from around the globe and establish a name for the area’s flowers.

Northern Vietnam’s climate is ideal for flower production, and recent assistance to small growers has helped them improve bloom quality and diversity, better to ride out the vagaries of the market. At opening ceremonies, nine major growers, including Hasfarm, were honored as “flower artists” for their floral enterprise. Meanwhile, across Xuan Huong Lake, a thousand dancers in “cherry silk” costumes performed on a floating stage. Let the rubber-necking begin!

In the past week there have been a parade of flower-decorated cars, carts and scooters, a beauty pageant, and “trail of 900,000 flower pots.” More Viet-centric events included “the performance of Chim Canh Cut (Penguin) band, made up of 20 of Vietnam’s shortest musicians,” and a mass wedding, expected to hitch 128 couples.

Along with its “flower city” reputation, Da Lat has been considered a romantic getaway, though plans for the mass wedding note unorthodox techniques for arousal. Couples coming from Ho Chi Minh City could arrive on “love buses.” All the sweethearts were to “gather around a 2.7m-high ‘Love Apple.’ made from iron and bamboo” and compete in “love-letter writing.”

imageOpening ceremonies

Da Lat Flower Fest 2005

Lest you think flowers were lost amid all this hullabaloo, there was what sounded like a quite high-intensity conference last Saturday on “Promotion of Flower Tourism.”  Tsutomu Takebe of Japan led the symposium of “dignitaries and politicians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.” The Japanese delegation alone included 100 “lawmakers and tourist industry representatives.”

In the 1950s, before the war, flower growing was a source of recreation  in the highlands. “Now people plant flowers for trade and not, as it used to be, for enjoyment,” said Le Van Lang, who farms in An Lac.

Many small growers here think flowers are too risky, but as Lang and others find success, farmers are making the switch from rice cultivation to “daisies, lilies, orchids, roses and gerberas.”  Vietnam exported “about $6.2 million” in flowers last year to Japan alone, “accounting for 1.4% of Japan’s total flower imports.” Production of lilies from Dutch root stock looks especially promising.

In today’s market, however, it’s not enough to grow beautiful flowers and sell them at a reasonable price. The Da Lat festival says so. As well as gorgeous healthy blooms, there must be Guinness world records set, “love planes” landing, and a performance by “Quoc Cuong, who ate snakes and frogs and broke a 25kg rock to pieces as it fell from a 3m height with his bare hand.”



Posted by Julie on 12/16 at 01:11 PM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeTravelPermalink
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