Human Flower Project
Friday, January 26, 2007
Vienna’s Opera Ball Rolls Downhill
The highlight of the Viennese ball season omits flowers, bowing to a new low.
Blumenball, Vienna—lit up with yellow roses
Photo: Viennese Ball
Whoever scheduled Vienna’s elegant Opera Ball for February 15th should have a fatter bankroll or a head examination.
The tiara has slipped unbecomingly from this the most celebrated dance party of the season. According to news reports today, the Opera Ball’s customary “lavish flower display” will this year be replaced with fake butterflies and “a live horse.”
Organizers complained that “demand for flowers the day after Valentine’s celebrations was so strong they feared there would not be enough to do justice to Austria’s top social event.” Actually, folks, it’s demand BEFORE Valentine’s Day that’s high, and in any case, though the supply of flowers may dwindle in mid-February, how can you have an enchanted evening without them? “Glittering artificial butterflies” don’t do justice to anything.
Wiser were members of the city’s Society of Municipal Gardeners. Their Blumenball took place January 19th and seems to have had blooms aplenty. Here’s a complete schedule of the ‘06-‘07 balls in Vienna for the gown and cravat crowd.
We’ve learned that Vienna’s balls originally were mandated by the Austrian government, to put a stop to masked parties where the hoi polloi might sneak in and twirl around the dance floor incognito. It appears the Opera Ball has taken a step backward, but without the liberated street-fair fun.
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
Karl Marx—the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon
The “elegance” of Vienna’s old dance galas, a mask for social stratification, returns as its farcical cousin: “glamour.” Special guest at this year’s Opera Ball will be Paris Hilton, speaking of a live horse.
Culture & Society • Cut-Flower Trade • Secular Customs • Permalink
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Split Hairs, Discover Buttercups
A hiker’s find and a botanist’s research claim a new species of buttercup in New Zealand, with an arsenal of lingo to back them up.
New Zealand’s newest wildflower: Ranunculus acraeus
Photo: Ross Setford, for NZPA
The New Zealand papers are splashed with yellow, as Ranunculus acraeus makes its public debut.
This beautiful buttercup was first collected in the 1940s, but botanists back then took it for “a subspecies of R haastii.” In 1998, a gardener from Christchurch, Joe Cartman, spotted the plant on a walk along Mount St. Mary, in North Otago, and took a specimen back to pro-botanist and friend Peter Heenan for a closer look.
After seven years of testing and minute comparison, Heenan has published his conclusion that Cartman’s find is indeed a species of its own.
He began like we all do—just eyeballing. Heenan noticed that the mystery buttercup was a whole lot showier than Ranunculus haastii: “The plant has grey foliage and it can form broad patches up to half a metre, so if you imagine a plant that diameter covered in yellow flowers, it’s quite attractive.” But “quite attractive” and “oh boy!” don’t cut it in the world of botany.
Peter Heenan with pressed specimens of the buttercup he’s studied for seven years
Photo: Peter Meecham, The Press
It takes a lot of wonderfully fancy scientific nomenclature. The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s announcement of Ranunculus acraeus explains:
The new buttercup “is allied to R. piliferus but differs morphologically by its finely crenate leaf and bract margins, glabrous peduncle, and in having 6-7 sepals that are hairy on the abaxial surface and glabrous on the adaxial surface.”
Well, okay! Nobody’s looking, so feel free to use the links in that description or this good site that translates Botanese into English.
Basically, the new buttercup is different because its leaves have scalloped edges, its hairy stems hold just one flower apiece, and its sepals are hairy on the bottom and hairless on top.
After all that work, Heenan might fairly have named the flower for himself. He chose acraeus (“on high”) instead, for the plant’s alpine habitat—a name that could also shoo away collectors tempted to dig up this ranunculus and transplant it to their own gardens.
“Besides the fact you’re tampering with a rare native plant,” Heenan emphasized, “the buttercups don’t grow well at lower altitudes.” Meaning, you’ll have a dead flower in the yard and be wearing handcuffs on your pubescent wrists.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Cortege in Istanbul
With a red carnation and the face of Hrant Dink, a
supporter walked through the Turkish capital Tuesday.
Mourners numbering in the tens of thousands walked five miles in silence through Istanbul January 23, following the coffin of slain journalist Hrant Dink to the Surp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal Church for his funeral.
Dink, who had written and spoken publicly for years on behalf of Armenians living in Turkey, was killed Friday outside the office of his newspaper, Agos.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Sympathy, Large with Pepperoni
A New York florist builds a tasty tribute to the town’s beloved restaurant manager.
A warm arrangement by Flowers on the Park
Photo: Courtesy of Alane Sanfilippo
“I am always up for a floral challenge!” writes Alane Sanfilippo of Orchard Park, NY. But when such challenges are headed for the funeral home, they’re bound to be touchy assignments for any florist. How do you make something personal and original without triviality? Can there be room for wit as people mourn?
A florist for 25 years and owner of Flowers in the Park, Alane recounted for us a recent tour de force: a floral combination pizza.
“The order came in the morning of the man’s wake from his sister who lives in Florida,” says Sanfilippo. Alane’s customer had been in New York State caring for her brother in his final days, but had just returned home and could not be back in time for the service.
“Her brother had spent his career managing several pizzerias,” in the area. “It was his passion.” Alane said that the grieving sister instructed her, “I want everyone to want to enjoy a slice of pizza when they leave the service.”
“I told her I wasn’t quite sure how I could make this, but I would try my best.”
Alane found a flat willow tray with a rolled rim on the shelf of her shop, lined it with red foil “sauce,” filled the pie with Oasis and then began adding flowers: white carnations for cheese, cushion pompons for pepperoni, white daisies, green mini myrtle “to look like pizza seasoning,” some ornamental mini-peppers from her uncle’s garden, and then, with glue, sliced black olives and mushrooms.
“When I was done, all of us in the shop thought we could smell pizza,” Alane says. “We called the funeral home to let them know this special tribute was on its way and they said, ‘We can’t put food out, it’s against regulations.’” Sanfilippo and her co-workers assured them, “It only looks good enough to eat!” Alane attached a spray of red and white flowers to the pie, lest anyone ask for a slice.
She knew she’d met this challenge with good taste when the customer phoned, relaying compliments from friends back in New York. “Each caller noticed a different ingredient“ and “when it came time to donate the flowers after the services,” Sanfilippo adds with pride, “they said, ‘You can donate everything, but the pizza. We’re taking that home!”
Alane, who holds an associates degree in Floriculture Merchandising from Alfred State College, opened Flowers in the Park on her 30th birthday in 1994. “I decided I wanted to be a florist in 5th grade and have stuck with it,” she says – long enough to turn carnations into baked mozzarella, comfort “food” for the bereaved.