Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Flowers Buying—The New Thing in Beijing

Beijing is now China’s largest flower consuming city, and flower buying is on the rise.


Lotus buds in the lobby the Palace Hotel, Beijing

Bruce and Linda Discover Beijing

More cash on hand? More festivity? Martha-Stewartization? Whatever the reason, Beijing is experiencing a flower binge. Xinghua reports, “Over 80% of Beijing dwellers are willing to buy flowers and do not hesitate to splurge on them.” Last year, the city’s residents spent 4 billion yuan (US$493 million) on flowers, up from 3.8 billion yuan in 2004.

imageFlight attendants from China Southern Airlines present flowers to nurses at the Beijing University Shenzhen Hospital for Nurses’ Day.

Photo: Qi Jieshuang

Roses, lilies and carnations are favorites in Beijing, though we found examples of some pretty wonderful arrangements with anthuriums and lotus buds, too. “Some 54.3 percent of the surveyed citizens say they buy flowers for room decorations, 39 percent for hobbies, and 33.5 percent for festival celebrations.”

Do funerals and memorials count as “festival celebrations”? For certainly in the U.S., “sympathy flowers” are a big part of the florist trade.

imagePoster by Sheng Cijun (1965)

Image: Stefan Landsberger’s Chinese Propaganda Posters

We hope that visitors from China will elucidate these developments. And for the sake of contrast, here’s a piece of Chinese floral art from 1965, attributed to Sheng Cijun (1914-1997).

Rather than in a city market or home, we have flowers growing wild (rhododendrons, perhaps?) in the countryside. They aren’t commodities for personal use but emblems of the nation’s bounty. According to Stefan Landsberger’s site, the inscription above Sheng’s image reads: “The motherland reconstructs, flowers are in full bloom, our vigilance is increased, we guard against tigers and wolves.”

It’s a long way from here to “Say It with Flowers.”



Posted by Julie on 01/07 at 03:51 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyFloristsSecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pollinators’ Preferences

A new study suggests that loss of any pollinating species may have a cascading effect on biodiversity.

imageSericomyia lappona

(hoverfly on open flower)

Photo: Stuart Ball

Scientists at the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris, have been studying how pollinators share the floral wealth. In the meantime, they’ve disclosed yet another hazard of animal extinction.

The article published in the open-access Public Library of Science journal of Biology concludes that “losing a species affects plant–pollinator communities, and that such losses may ultimately trigger further reductions in biodiversity, possibly reverberating through the food chain.”

In other words, lose a species of fly or bee and the plants that particular insect most often pollinates may disappear, too.

imageHavehumle, Bombus hortorum

male bumblebee on a tubular flower

Photo: Bimesteren

Colin Fontaine and his team worked a field experiment that included insects with short mouths (syrphids, or hoverflies) and insects with longer mouths (bees), releasing them over a combination of easy-to-pollinate, open flowers and more challenging tubular ones.

“Not surprisingly, the pollinators stuck to their preferred plant: syrphids visited mostly open flowers, and bees visited mostly tubular flowers.” The scientists concluded that the workworld of pollination (and thus biodiversity) relies on the division of labor, at it were. Even though bees can pollinate open flowers, their strong preference for tubular blooms suggests they “may not fill a void left by a different pollinator.” Bad news for some open-flowering plants should a type of local syrphid die out. Hoverflies, with their little lips, weren’t very good at pollinating tubular flowers.

We also learn that at the current rate of extinction, another animal species dies off every 16 years. Who’s next? And which flowers and plants will go with them?

“With as many as 70% of plant species dependent on animal pollinators and at least 82 mammalian pollinator species and 103 bird pollinator species considered threatened or extinct, this is sobering news.” 

By the way, thanks and compliments to PLoSBiology for producing an “open-flowering journal,” easily accessible to human foragers and pollinators of all kinds.

Posted by Julie on 01/06 at 03:51 PM

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Flower Fairy Strikes Back

Anonymous flower deliveries have Anderson Islanders wondering, even worrying.

imageAnderson Island’s

flower fairy?

Photo: Howcheng

A flower story out of Washington State has been picked up as far away as Ireland. The flower fairy of Anderson Island is at it again, leaving fresh flowers with friendly notes on doorsteps, ringing doorbells, vanishing.

Some folks say the penmanship on messages is “feminine,” but no one really knows the fairy’s gender, age, name, or, for that matter, species.

The mysterious flower deliveries began last spring and, while much appreciated by most residents, actually spooked others.

The head of the local citizen’s advisory committee, herself a flower recipient, wrote a column in the local paper asking the fairy to “provide information that would reduce unnecessary fear or anxiety that many of the recipients are reporting.”

It seems that doing something kind and not asking for credit are so alien in these times that it strikes many people as threatening. Or are we disturbed that someone could get that close, right up on the threshold, and effect us—even beautifully—without our consent?

During the late spring and summer last year, the secret flower gifts had tapered off. Jeff Gillespie of the Island General Store noted that, “Almost all the deliveries happen at night, and it gets darker later in the summer. The theory is it was getting dark too late for the fairy to deliver.”

Since fall arrived with its shorter days, the deliveries have picked up again, Gillette said.

Located in the southern pouch of Puget Sound, Anderson Island  is reachable only by ferry (or fairy).

Posted by Julie on 01/05 at 03:00 PM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Many Times—the Dalai Lama’s Flowers

Jo Self paints in the spiritual leader’s garden.


Purple Morning Glory

from the garden of

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

Jo Self (2005)

Photo: Redfern Gallery

English painter Jo Self, known for her flower paintings, requested that her gallery contact His Holiness the Dalai Lama to ask if she might paint the flowers in his garden in Dharamsala.

Permission granted. Self made two visits, in November 2004 and April/May 2005, and until January 26, the paintings she made will be on view at London’s Redfern Gallery. (Thank you, Richard Gault, for alerting us.)

Critic Neil Spencer writes,  “The Himalayan experience has lifted Self’s colour spectrum into electric hues of green and turquoise.” Most of the images online are bright as silks.

We found of interest the Dalai Lama’s floral allusion, in response to a question about human cravings when, last November, he gave the keynote address at the Society for Neuroscience in Palo Alto, and discussed with scientists, among many topics, the nature of suffering. Sounds like an intriguing convergence and divergence of major minds.

imageHis Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

with Anthurium, in Mexico City, Oct. 2004

Photo: Eduardo Verdugo, for AP

“Reaching higher mental and spiritual dimensions…doesn’t come easily. ‘In illness,’ for example, said Doctor Helen Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at Emory University, ‘the brain is hijacked and the cortex is enslaved. So, we attempt to bring balance to the person suffering. But why is it so difficult to get to these higher states?’

“The Dalai Lama thought for a moment, then pointed to a flower. ‘All things have to go according to nature,’ he said. ‘They take time.’”

Yikes! You mean we can’t “just say no,” “get over it,” or otherwise snuff unhappiness??!!

We also found of interest Jo Self’s remarks about painting flowers, a form of meditation to be sure. Asked her favorite variety, Self replied, “Morning Glory is a most beautiful flower but it’s really difficult to paint because it only lasts for about 10 minutes - so I love it and hate it all at once because I have to work very fast.”

Enlightenment takes time, sometimes quickly.


Posted by Julie on 01/04 at 05:29 PM
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