Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tara Wears Size 3500

Announcing the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest flower show, a supermodel puts on petals.

imageModel Tara Moss walks the talk

Photo: ABC

It’s the oldest and the most irresistible come on of all time: a big, beautiful female body plus flowers, bright red ones in this case.

Floriade, the monster springtime flower and garden show in Canberra, Australia, is nearly a month off, but the attention seeking has begun. Yesterday, Canadian model Tara Moss put on, rather uncomfortably it appears, a rose petal dress and vogued for publicity shots to announce the 2006 event.

That’s quite a lure, and of course we’re biting.

Floriade will run September 16 through October 15 and is expected to bring about 300,000 visitors to Canberra’s Commonwealth Park. This year’s event highlights internationalism, with 16 special garden beds for nations with outstanding floral festivals of their own, among them Colombia, Turkey, Spain, and Japan.

imageTara Moss holds up well

Photo: Canberra Times

It took floral designer Susie Dunn 12 hours to assemble Moss’s dress, perhaps longer than anticipated. Moss, 6’1”, noted,  “They originally had two thousand rose petals [on the dress] but then they realised how tall I was - we now have 3 thousand rose petals that make up this dress.” Ah, Tara, we’re all prone to a bit of subtraction under these circumstances; the Floriade press office says 3500 petals went into your costume.

An experienced fashion model (also a crime fiction writer, we learn), Moss put on a big smile but seemed a bit uneasy in her all-floral garb. In several photos, she’s wrapped one arm strategically about her waist. It’s been awhile, but we recognize that pose: from the first time we wore a strapless bra. 


Posted by Julie on 07/21 at 10:18 AM
Art & MediaGardening & LandscapePermalink

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Peach and Flowers for Myanmar’s Martyrs

Barred from the nation’s sacred mausoleum, young activists mourn in the street behind a floral barricade.


Members of the National Democratic League

in Yangon, Myanmar, paid respects to the

country’s martyrs from afar yesterday after

police blocked them from the national shrine.

Photo: Associated Press

July 19 in Myanmar, formerly Burma, is Martyrs’ Day. On this day in 1947 General Aung Sang and eight supporters were murdered in Rangoon as they met to further the Burmese movement for independence from British rule. The Martyrs Mausoleum near the foot of Shwedegon Pagoda Hill in Yangon (as Rangoon has been renamed) is a sacred nexus, where historical memory, national pride, ancestry, and power converge.

The mausoleum itself was bombed by North Korea in 1983, when South Korean officials visited Burma. Twenty-one people died and 47 more were injured in that attack. In other words, this is no ordinary memorial. Rather it’s a cultural and political proving ground, just the sort of place where one finds flowers opening in civic demonstration.

General Aung Sang died just six months before Burma gained its independence. His daughter is 61-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been intermittently under house arrest since she returned in 1988. Eight years ago, less repressive times, she was permitted to bring three wreaths to the mausoleum on Martyrs Day, but not this year. Though physically restrained by the Myanmar government, Aung San Suu Kyi’s movement and the National League for Democracy party continue to pulse and act, florally and otherwise.

This year young supporters of the NLD wearing their distinctive peach attire were not permitted to approach the shrine. According to the Associated Press, about 200 NLD supporters were repulsed by authorities in Yangon yesterday. “After nearly 20 minutes stand-off between authorities stationed at the road-block, the NLD members placed four flower baskets in the middle of the street facing the Martyr’s mausoleum and paid tribute to the slain leaders, in an act of defiance.”

Once again, the right to lay memorial flowers becomes an international sign of popular legitimacy. Whoever brings a wreath or basket says, “The legacy is mine. I claim it with my presence and my offering of living beauty. See for yourself!”  (Sidenote: Readers from 154 countries have visited the Human Flower Project but, so far as we can tell, not one from Myanmar. Yet.)

We’re awed by the courageous young people of the NLD who tried to exercise their right yesterday. May blossoms shield them and vivid non-violence prevail.

Posted by Julie on 07/20 at 11:44 AM
PoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Palette of Plant Dyes

A French conservatory garden explores the modern-day potential of madder, roses and the lipstick tree.


Florent Valentin cares for the dye-producing plants at Lauris conservatory garden

Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat, for AFP

Isabelle Wesselingh, writing for Agence France Presse, introduces us to a garden experiment station in Southern France. In the town of Lauris, Provence, botanists are raising over 300 plants known for their dye properties and hoping to introduce these old color chemistries to a new generation of environmentally conscious textile companies.

Natural dyes like indigo and cochineal prevailed from 2,600 B.C. to the 19th century. “But many of the secrets of colour-producing plants have been lost with the growing dominance of the oil-based synthetic colours, which are cheap and fast to produce.” The Couleur Garance association is striving to revive the old dyes, a timely effort in that the European Union will be limiting oil-based products. Garance officials say they think that 10 years from now, 3% of the world’s textiles will be colored with natural dyes.

Many of these plants pack surprises: pomegranate, which one would except to stain bright orange, actually delivers yellow or black. Thyme, with purple flowers, produces yellow dye.

We’ve been traveling in the Heart of Dixie, Alabama, these past few days, and have learned that the grey uniforms of the Confederacy were dyed with butternut, a tree of the walnut family.

Perhaps some of our readers have visited the Garance garden or will be able to attend the November conference in Hyderabad, India, symposium on the future of natural dyes.

For more on plant dyestuffs, check here. We’re particularly interested in floral dyes. If you’re out there experimenting, please send us your results: word, image, color swatch, or all three.

Posted by Julie on 07/17 at 04:41 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapeSciencePermalink

Friday, July 14, 2006

Allons Enfants de la Patrie

Seven prisoners were sprung from jail this day in 1789. The rest is bleu, blanc et rouge.


Rosy Wealth of June (1886)

Henri Fantin-Latour

Photo: National Gallery of Art, UK

Happy Bastille Day. Here’s La Marseillaise, with lyrics in French and English if you’d like to sing along. The revolutionary anthem is so stirring, it was banned by Napoleon, and reinstated in July 1830.

Best wishes to Nicole near Beziers, Jamal in Damascus, and Claire, wherever you may be!


Posted by Julie on 07/14 at 03:00 PM
Art & MediaPoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink
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