Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another Lebanon

A doctor in Northern Lebanon shares the glory of his country with an unreliable world.


Gina Ghanem El Nabbout, and roses

Photo: Sassine El Nabbout

Did you think Lebanon was a country of dusty roads and Jeeps?

Sassine Michel El Nabbout, a doctor in Northern Lebanon, knows a very different land, and now we do too. Sassine’s portfolio at Webshots is a trove of Lebanese landscapes, people and flowers, all conveyed with a light, energetic touch. One collection shows nothing but roses, another wildflowers and another the landscape of Aadbel, pearl-pink with blooming almond trees. For you gardeners, there is also an album of flowers from Sassine’s own village: “Each one of them means something to me,” he writes, “& I know each one of them separately. I love them as people, so enjoy this love with me.”

We can’t recall hearing a physician speak or write like that.


Spring wildflowers, Lebanon

Photo: Sassine El Nabbout

Flowers abound at a cousin’s recent wedding. Country trails sparkle, and in the Becharri we see the giant old cedars that inspired the Lebanese flag.

How does he manage all this, and see patients, too? Sassine also has a blog, which in the past week mixes sunsets and demonstrations, parables and videos.


“From Me to U” in the Gebrayal Forest, Lebanon

Photo: Sassine El Nabbout

Perhaps Dr. EL Nabbout’s most overt Human Flower Project is his group of blossom-pictures each dedicated to someone elsewhere in the world. “To The Memory Of Lebanon In Canada, Cyboura Akl “...“For The Eye Of Slovenia, Stanko”...“To The Friend Who Shares With Me The Love Of Peace, Uriah Yaniv.”

Thank you, Sassine, photographer and healer.




Posted by Julie on 07/26 at 12:11 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pernambuco: Play On!

Bowmakers, environmentalists and now musicians too are orchestrating conservation of the pau brasil tree.


Pernambuco nursery

Photo: IPCI

Thank you, Margaret Adie, for introducing us to the most melodious of flowering plants: Caesalpinia echinata, the pernambuco tree of Brazil’s Atlantic forest.

A bowmaker by trade, Margaret extols the strength, flexibility and beauty of pernambuco (A.K.A. pau brazil). Its slow growing heartwood has been favored for “fiddlesticks” since the 19th century, with a top quality new bow of the native Brazilian tree starting at about $2000. Margaret tells us that a fine old bow “can sell for up to



Viola bow, pernambuco wood with silver mountings

Photo: Lynn Armour Hannings

It may not be long, however, before one won’t be able to find a pernambuco bow at any price. 90% of the Mata Atlantica, or Brazilian Atlantic forest, has been cut. For three hundred years, beginning in the 16th century, pernambuco trees were harvested and shipped east for the European dye trade. Then in the mid 19th century, the Tourte brothers of France discovered that pernambuco was heaven-sent material for violin, viola and cello bows. Ever since, bowmakers in Brazil and across the world have scrambled to get their hands on the precious orangey heartwood.

In the past ten years, with increased deforestation of the Mata Atlantic, craftspeople have faced the music. Bowmakers and musicians from eighteen countries have become ecologists through the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative. With the real possibility of pernambuco’s extinction within earshot, they’re coming together to promote sustainable use of this precious resource and generate stands of pau brasil for the future. 

imageCaesalpinia echinata in bloom

Photo: Ad Naturam

Living on Earth aired a good radio piece on this subject. Brazilian bloggers have sounded the alarm. Check out bowmaker Lynn Armour Hanning’s site with beautiful cards of pernambuco blossoms for sale, as well as pointers on how to go about choosing a bow.

We are, of course, drawn by the lovely pernambuco blossoms, fragrant and bright yellow “with a blood red blotch.” It takes 3-4 years before pau brasil plants begin blooming, the blossoms lasting only a day or two. Pernambuco trees not only produce flowers, they wear them, hosting orchids and other epiphytes.

Again, thank you, Margaret, for information and inspiration. May the pernambuco play on.

Posted by Julie on 07/25 at 10:20 AM
Art & MediaEcologyPermalink

Monday, July 24, 2006

‘I Grow the White Rose’

From Jose Marti, Cuban poet and fighter for democracy, “the warrior who never took a life.”


Jose’ Marti and friend

Photo: Free Cuba Foundation

Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca

Cultivo una rosa blanca

En julio como en enero,

Para el amigo sincero

Que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca

El corazon con que vivo,

Cardo ni ortiga cultivo,

Cultivo una rosa blanca.

Jose Marti (1853-1895)

I Grow the White Rose

I grow the white rose

In July as in January

For the sincere friend

Who gives me his frank hand

And for the cruel one who tears out

The heart with which I live.

Neither thorn nor thistle do I grow;

I grow the white rose.

Jose Marti (1853-1895)


Posted by Julie on 07/24 at 10:18 AM
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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Flowers in Purgatory

Note: Today we’re honored to post John Williams’ superb report on gardening and floristry projects in several North American prisons. Williams, based in Greater Chicago, is a “flower-lover” and business writer whose clients include 1-800-FLORALS.  Rehabilitation, aesthetics, nutrition, productivity, magic—gardening’s rewards are the same on both sides of the razor wire.

Thank you, John!


Garden at Purgatory Correctional Facility

Photo: The Hurricane Journal

By John Williams

It’s not surprising that Tony Perez enjoys his time in the garden.  “It’s wonderful—to watch it grow from nothing to something,” said Perez. “It allows you to get your mind thinking about what’s next in life.” But Perez’s garden spot is surprising: he works the soil in Utah’s Purgatory Correctional Facility, where he is an inmate.

What used to be a guard-dog training area in the prison is now an oasis of shade tarps, vegetables, fruit trees and vines.  According to the Hurricane Valley Journal, “The garden began with just growing flowers and other plants that could be used to beautify county and public buildings. With a lot of hard work and effort, the garden has expanded to not only include flowers, but several varieties of vegetable plants and plans for a greenhouse.” 

The garden is part of the prison’s inmate-management program, a hands-on approach that involves washing cars, construction, road clean-up, and work release opportunities too.  Lt. Bob Cannon and Sgt. Tim Wiegert oversee the program.  With the help of inmates and volunteers, Wiegert spent two weeks tilling the soil and preparing the plot. Most of the plants, irrigation equipment, fertilizer, shade covers, and concrete have been donated, and a state university extension agent has guided the project along.

The garden helps brighten up a dismal place.  And its zucchini and tomatoes supplement the more than 80 pounds of vegetables served each mealtime at the institution. Just as important, the program teaches inmates responsibility and skills.  Three inmates, including Perez, were initially assigned to the garden crew, and others have chipped in,  expressing interest in joining the regular group. Perez has already been offered a job at a local nursery.

Plans for the fall include growing pumpkins to donate to local elementary schools for carving and decoration, an idea that came from one of the prisoners.  “I’m very impressed to see the inmates get involved,” said Wiegert.

Purgatory is not the only prison to implement such a program. As far back as World War I, gardens have been documented in prisoner of war camps, such as the P.O.W. camp at Ruhleben, Germany, where British prisoners formed their own gardening club and were accepted into Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society.

imageJune Strandberg

founder of the Beginnings program

Photo: Robert Karpa

Even so, it wasn’t easy for June Strandberg, the owner of Bayside School of Floral Design, when she decided she wanted to teach floral design to inmates at a women’s correctional facility in Vancouver, Canada. Inspired by two parolees who enrolled in her school and excelled under her tutelage, Strandberg campaigned for the idea after gaining support from Beverly Roest, the program director for the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women. After a yearlong battle, the program “Beginnings” was launched in 1991 and met with astounding success. For the next 13 years, Beginnings crafted floral arrangements for more than 1,600 weddings, hosted annual floral shows, and created a number of award winning pieces, enabling many women to find their way back to free society.

More recently, gardening and floral programs have begun in correctional institutions across the U.S., meeting with surprising success. Not only do the programs brighten the atmosphere and provide inmates with productive work, they often – as at Purgatory—help cut food costs. Others, as at Beginnings, generate florist revenue through collaboration with local flower shops or more directly, with an operation based at the prison itself.

imageGardening behind walls

Elmore County, Alabama

Photo: Alabama Dept. of Corrections

Today, at the state corrections facility in Elmore County, Alabama, inmates are cultivating a new garden behind walls.  They plan to send the flowers they grow to local nursing homes and services for the elderly, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. “I’ve never really started something and carried it all the way through,” said William Kizziah, one of several inmates who works in the garden.  Thanks to a local ministry known as the Order of St. Dismas, another garden has already sprouted up at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, and a third is being planned for Alabama’s nearby Staton Correctional Facility.

In Ohio, the Mansfield Correctional Institution’s horticultural program helps inmates grow plants to beautify the institution and surrounding community.  The prison, local schools, and Ohio State Patrol Grounds are all decorated with the results.

In Massachusetts, nine hot houses and a farm are operated by the Barnstable County Jail, where inmates grow and sell some 40,000 annuals each year.  The program was developed 12 years ago to teach flower growing and business basics. The farm grows vegetables, trees and hay.  Food grown on the farm is used for inmates or donated to food pantries. According to the Barnstable Patriot, “Any profit from the sale of products is plowed into the programs for the inmates, such as hiring additional drug and alcohol counselors, buying computers and paying for educational programs.”

Illinois has an especially well developed program. Since 1994, when the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) began collaborating with the state’s Department of Agriculture, IDOC inmates have helped cultivate more than 230 flowerbeds and 300 other floral baskets and containers at the 360-acre Illinois Fairgrounds. “Such programs not only benefit our communities and help inmates return to society but also serve as a valuable asset to the taxpayer,” says IDOC Director Roger E. Walker Jr. “The agency’s work camps serve… by giving inmates a structured, specialized agenda that develops responsibility, self discipline, self-respect and the importance of a good work ethic.”

With the help of local volunteers, horticultural experts, and civic support, green prison programs are making a difference for inmates and communities. According to Sgt. Wiegert, “We want to show people what we are doing and how they can benefit.”  J.R. Phillip, a sixty-year veteran of the floral business, couldn’t agree more.  “Not only do flowers and plants brighten up our everyday lives,” said Phillip, “but in some cases they give life a whole new beginning.”

Posted by Julie on 07/22 at 11:28 AM
Culture & SocietyFloristsGardening & LandscapePermalink
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