Human Flower Project


Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed
Murrieta, CALIFORNIA USA

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Friday, October 10, 2008

There’s Never a Scarecrow When You Want One


A suburb of Cambridge grips its village identity with straw dogs and hay Homer Simpsons. When everyone’s in on the act, you’re entitled to call it “tradition.”


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Scarecrow dog, Haslingfield, England

All Photos: John Levett



By John Levett

There are some cyclists who ride in all weathers. I guess those that do call it ‘training.’ I’m not one of them. I’m not averse to the occasional crisp-frost-on-the-hedgerow type of morning but the drenching I can do without. I recall a decade ago when a group of us rode coast-to-coast from St. Bees on the Irish Sea across to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. It’s about 200 miles across the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Moors (“Heathcliff! Heathcliff!”). Race Across America it isn’t but (if you do it properly) it’s all off-road. That year it was off-road & pissing down from the first morning to the last; the sort of affair that’s fun to look back on but I wouldn’t go back to it. In truth, I don’t do much off-road riding these days at all. That’s largely because partners have dried up and when you’re aging & the bones begin the creep towards fragility then it’s a partner you want around you.

A few weeks ago I began to miss it. Britain’s blessed with a fine network of footpaths and bridleways and over the last twenty years or so, with the off-road bike enthusiasm that’s grown up, it’s not difficult to find a number of single track routes that substitute for the (sometimes) routine of road riding. I’ve still got the first bike I bought when I moved to Cambridge in 1995 and it’s geared up for off-road stuff. I looked for a route that’s fairly well-used, attracts a fair number of hikers and dog walkers if I take a fall and didn’t take a day to get to. (On the question of getting help when needed, it hardly ever occurs to me to use a mobile phone. Mobiles have never taken the place in my heart that occurs to the mass of Western Europe. I carry one but never leave it switched on and forget it for days on end by which time it’s flat.)

There’s a cement batching plant just south of Cambridge and on the northern edge of its quarry there’s a wooded track that runs across a hillside for some miles and then plunges to ground level to join a flatter contour through farmland. Nothing demanding but away from traffic. I rode out one sunny (rare for us these last couple of years) Sunday morning.


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Posted by Julie on 10/10 at 10:23 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsTravelPermalink

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kurt Bluemel:  All the Glory of Grass


Allen Bush profiles one of the great living horticulturists, who just turned 75. Kurt Bluemel was one of a group of European nurseryman who brought their expertise to the U.S. after World War II and changed the American landscape.


By Allen Bush

Kurt Bluemel reigns in the kingdom of ornamental grasses. Wolfgang Oehme and nurseryman and designer John Greenlee use grasses as significant features of their bold designs; and Rick Darke wrote The Encyclopedia of Grasses—a masterful book. But there can be only one undisputed King. Renowned nurseryman, landscape designer, past president of the American Horticultural Society, Bluemel has earned his title: Der Gras König.

I met him in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1984 at the 50th anniversary celebration of the North American Rock Garden Society. Bluemel had driven down from Fallston, Maryland – on up the Blue Ridge Parkway—with his beautiful wife, Hannah, in a green Porsche. (Handsome German cars are rare rides for nurserymen who usually get around in beat-up trucks.) He was already something of a legend, and I was a young, struggling nurseryman with a farm outside Asheville. I was impressed.


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Posted by Julie on 10/08 at 11:56 AM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePoliticsTravelPermalink

Monday, October 06, 2008

Transscentuals


As scientists in Israel experiment with odor-bending flowers, how will you recognize a rose?


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“Frankenflower”

Photo: Larry Schodts

Integrity, right up there with “humility,” is one of those traits easier to recognize than to pin down. Careful. Whoever lays claim to either one will be instantly disqualified.

Hard to come by in humans, integrity remains a dream we confer on flowers (maybe for the very reason they can’t assert it for themselves). Yes, we know snapdragons have been hybridized into dwarves that don’t lean over, and there may be blue roses on the way. Scent was bred out of flowers in the process of making them more durable, for shipping. But today we’ve come upon what strikes us as the most serious blow to floral integrity yet – transscentuals.

“Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have successfully introduced the genes from a rose into a petunia and from a rose into a carnation. They have also swapped smells between carnations, petunias and clarcias.” We don’t have any idea what a clarcia is but we sure don’t want our carnations smelling that way!


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Posted by Julie on 10/06 at 08:59 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietySciencePermalink

Saturday, October 04, 2008

‘Fatal’ Gardening


From desert sunlight to deep shade, the ch’i courses through an East Austin garden, featured on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day tour.


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An agave admirer at Fatal Flower Garden, Austin,

during the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day

Photo: Human Flower Project

Designing, planting and maintaining a garden are three ambitious undertakings. Preserving a garden once its caretaker surrenders is nearly impossible. But the Garden Conservancy attempts just that: “to provide the resources necessary to preserve many of America’s finest gardens, and to open the gates of these exceptional gardens to the public for education and enjoyment.”

Spreading the word about its work, and raising funds, the Garden Conservancy holds Open Days each year across the county – inviting the public to visit the most exquisite private gardens in their vicinity. Open days in San Antonio (Oct. 18) and Westchester County, NY (Nov.2) are coming up. Today was our turn in Austin.

Of seven local gardens on the tour, we were only able to visit two, but actually one would have made the whole event worthwhile: The Fatal Flower Garden of Grace Riggan and Joshua Bowles.


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Posted by Julie on 10/04 at 05:04 PM
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