Human Flower Project

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Benazir Bhutto - Amid Flowers

The former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party was killed December 27th at a rally in Rawalpindi. There, at her burial place in Garhi Khuda Baksh and across the nation, flowers fell in her honor.


A mourner lights a candle during prayers for Benazir Bhutto in Lahore, Pakistan, December 29, 2007.

Photo: Mohsin Raza, for Reuters


Bhutto’s daughters Asifa (at left) and Bakhtawar pray beside the funeral bier covered with rose petals and marigolds. The former prime minister was buried Dec. 28 at the family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda, next to her father and two brothers.

Photo: Aamir Qureshi, for AFP


Photo: David Guttenfelder, for AP

Bhutto had returned to Pakistan in October after eight years of self-imposed exile. On October 18, another assassination attempt failed, but killed 130 her supporters, wounding many more. She prayed with the widows of those who died.

imagePhoto: Mian Khursheed, for Reuters

In floral regalia, opposition leader Benazir Bhutto waved to crowds at the election rally in Rawalpindi December 27, just before a gunman and suicide bomber killed her and many of her supporters. Bhutto had served two terms as prime minister but been forced out of office on charges of corruption, charges she always denied.


“In our part of the world, politicians have to take their campaigns to the street,” Pakistani political analyst Nusrat Javed told TIME. “Bhutto’s base doesn’t watch TV. They need rallies, cavalcades. Unless you do it this way, you cannot survive as a populist party.”

At least 31 of her supporters also died in the attack. There are conflicting reports as to the cause of her death—whether by a gunshot or from the impact of the bomb blast. Thus far the family has not called for an autopsy, a practice that is considered desecration in most of the Muslim world.


Bhutto’s friends and political supporters mourned over her grave at the Bhutto family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh. The Pakistan People’s Party named her 19-year-old son as its new leader Dec. 30 and announced it would contest the upcoming general elections.

Photo: Asif Hassan, for AFP


Bhutto’s supporters lay flowers in front of the leader’s portrait during a ceremony, Saturday, Dec. 29, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The service marked the third day of her death (known as Soyem).

Photo: Mohammad Zubair, for AP


Posted by Julie on 12/31 at 12:46 PM
Culture & SocietyPoliticsReligious RitualsPermalink

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mystery-Solved Corsage

Can you identify this flower from a Kolkata garden? If so, you may add some floral finery to this New Year’s Eve.


?????—Name it and look sharp on December 31st

Photo: Sandy Ao

We near the end of 2007, as usual, with more questions than answers. Here’s one.

Sandy Ao, our correspondent in Kolkata, India, photographed this exotic bloom in her city’s botanical garden recently. But what is it? If you can identify it, sending along a bit of supporting information, we’ll try to get you a corsage (or boutonniere, as requested) by New Year’s Eve.

Really! We’d like to deck every HFP-reader out with a flower to usher in 2008, but let’s start with one. If you think you recognize this flower, please send us its name (botanical and common names both would help) and whatever else you may know about it. Also, please let us know your city or town and the name of your favorite local florist (with phone number and email). We’d appreciate, too, learning what color you’ll be wearing New Year’s Eve so we might choose a complimentary blossom. 

The corsage goes to the first correct entry received via email; send to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

With thanks to answerers and, of course, question-provokers (notably Sandy. You inspire!)

Note: We have a winner! Details to follow in 2008.

Posted by Julie on 12/27 at 11:28 PM
FloristsGardening & LandscapePermalink

Monday, December 24, 2007

‘The Holly Bears the Crown’

Druids and Christians, Vanessa Williams and the Kings College Boys Choir pay their respects to ilex.

imageIlex with flower and fruit

Image: via The Holly Tree

Clement A. Miles, an authority on English Christmas customs, has declared in an ominous passive voice, “Holly is hated by witches.”

Name one! We have never met a witch, or anyone else, who hated holly, certainly not at this time of year. Ilex is the season’s glory: leaves that shine, berries that cheer, height that humbles. The prickle of holly’s leaf at the season of Christ’s birth portends the thorns of Holy Week. 

With greater equanimity elsewhere, Miles also writes: “In some old English Christmas carols holly and ivy are put into a curious antagonism, apparently connected with a contest of the sexes. Holly is the men’s plant, ivy the women’s, and the carols are debates as to the respective merits of each. Possibly some sort of rude drama may once have been performed.” There seems loads of drama still, and plenty of rudeness to go around in this competition - we’d call it a draw.


Holly tree with fruit (berries) outside the White House, Washington, DC

Photo: Paul Morse

Several folk songs of holly and ivy seem to set “mery” men versus “wepyn” maidens:

Holy and hys mery men they dawnsyn and they syng,

Ivy and hur maydenys they wepyn and they wryng.

Is this male chavinism? Or maybe just 15th century botany’s restatement of Ecclesiastes: to everything, a season.

This Christmas Eve, we are not in much mood for contest—happy to let the holly win. We quote here in full the beloved carol that Cecil Sharp purportedly collected “from a woman in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.”


The Baltimore and Ohio’s Famous “Holly Tree by the Tracks” at Jackson, MD

Color postcard w/photo by A. Aubrey Bodine, c. 1954

The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown

Of all the trees that are in the wood

The holly bears the crown

O the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom

As white as lily flower

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To be our sweet Saviour

O the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a berry

As red as any blood

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To do poor sinners good

O the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a prickle

As sharp as any thorn;

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

On Christmas Day in the morn.

O the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a bark

As bitter as any gall;

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

For to redeem us all.

O the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly and the ivy

Now both are full well grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood,

The holly bears the crown.

O the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

You can find many 21st century versions of the carol, by Natalie Cole, Renee Fleming, and Vanessa Williams, but let’s follow through and hear from the Kings College Chapel Boys Choir.


Selling Christmas trees and holly in Washington, DC, circa 1930

Photo: Old Picture

By the way, Miles also writes that in Rutland, “it is deemed unlucky to bring (holly) into a house before Christmas Eve.” (Rather a witchy notion.) So now get out the clippers and have at it! Merry Christmas to all.



Posted by Julie on 12/24 at 11:21 PM
Art & MediaReligious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yin Yang Yule

Does your Christmas spirit tend toward fiber optics or candlelight? Get ready for a lot of both.


It all started with poinsettia shock. Back in February, Renee Carpenter of Allied Florists of Texas, getting a 10-month leap on the holiday season, sent us an astonishing photo—here were Santa Claus with a pretty lady on his lap and a nice looking gent beside them. Dwarfing even the big polar elf was a huge Christmas-tree-shaped arrangement of poinsettias, all of them in gumball colors—lime green, aqua, tangerine, grapey blue. What a knockout!

imageTree of dyed poinsettias

Poinsettia Celebration 2006

Ellison Greenhouses

Photo: Courtesy of Renee Carpenter

The picture came from last year’s Poinsettia Celebration at Ellison Greenhouses in Brenham, Texas. The Ellisons, who do a radiant business in poinsettias, hold a huge open house the weekend before Thanksgiving so that folks can buy a plant to do double duty (triple and quadruple, for observers of the Solstice and Hanukah) through end-of-the-year holidays. The 2007 event, held Nov. 17-18, was the Ellisons’ 17th celebration—though it’s hard to imagine how they topped this 2006 spectacle.

Apparently, the craze for candy-colored poinsettias began in Europe about six years before the U.S. retailers caught on, around 2004. One reason for the burst in popularity has been the introduction of improved dyes that don’t shorten the lives of the plants.  “White or cream colored poinsettias can be turned blue, orange, purple, or almost any other color desired,” write the ag extension folks at University of Minnesota; though they caution, “Avoid wetting dyed tissue because the color may run.”

Running, for certain, will be traditionalists, for whom poinsettias with bracts merely mottled pink were enough of an abomination. Bring out the smelling salts, because those purists likely have swooned at the sight of the Ellisons’ tree. When they begin to come around, you can show them this:


Poinsettias in the wild, growing in Coorg, India

Photo: Lubna Kably

Here are poinsettias growing out of doors (It’s true— they don’t all come in pots covered with shiny paper!), a lovely Christmas gift from our friend Lubna Kably of Delhi. She took this picture at Coorg, “a hill station near Bangalore.” Lubna tells us, “Coorg has these huge coffee plantations. Poinsettias grow wild in the Coorg region, in two colours red and also white.” We recall seeing poinsettias growing with coffee in Guatemala, too, shading the trees as the beans matured.

imageWithered stick fiber optic Christmas tree

(or whatever)

Photo: Artificial Christmas Tree

To our versatile readers, we offer both poinsettia displays, yang and yin of the season. And we wonder—which approach to celebration appeals to you? Are you planning to buy a fiber optic tree this year, like our friend Jorge Perez (yang)? Or do you prefer taking a horse drawn sleigh—and ax—into the Vermont woods to fell a native pine (yin)? Will you be roasting chestnuts (yin) or playing Neopets (yang)? Is your holiday music Mariah Carey or Adeste Fideles ? Will there be candlelight or lava lamps? Are you now busy knitting scarves or buying iPods? Stringing popcorn or flying to Vegas?

The old philosophers advised a combination (thus the droplets of contrasting color in the two halves of the Yin/Yang symbol). But retailers are having a hard time managing both. Consider this—a “withered branch fiber optic Christmas tree” that appears to be standing in a toilet plunger, an especially weak attempt at balance.

Or so we thought…our partner just spotted it and wants one!



Posted by Julie on 12/18 at 05:21 PM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeFloristsSecular CustomsPermalink
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