Human Flower Project
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Lavender farms are blooming in proximity to cool cities: agrarianism in keeping with urban sensibilities.
Cassie Doumas of Shelbyville, Kentucky, picks fresh lavender at the Los Ranchos de Albuquerque Lavender Festival, July 11.
Photo: Carolyn Courtney
Another lavender harvest has come and gone in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. Photographer Carolyn Courtney, our dear friend, was there this year, in fragrant preparation for a workshop with Keith Carter in Santa Fe.
Carolyn and niece Cassie Doumas stayed at Los Poblanos Inn, a B&B that co-hosts the event. “Much of the food comes from the farm,” Carolyn writes—“small cottages to stay in - very private and beautiful. Peacocks roam the grounds and they sleep up in the trees.” Along with its vegetable garden and lavender fields, Los Poblanos maintains a beautiful lotus pond that captivated Carolyn, too.
Culture & Society • Cut-Flower Trade • Gardening & Landscape • Travel • Permalink
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Edwardian Craze for Japonisme
Russ Bowes explains how English gardeners fell under the spell of stone lanterns and laquered bridges a hundred years ago. Thank you, Russ.
The Japanese garden at Gunnersbury Park, West London
Image: Time Travel Britain
The Japanese style of gardening in England forms a slight but diverting episode in garden history, being associated primarily with the late 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th. Japan, as far distant from the British Isles as it is physically possible to be, expelled all foreigners and severely curtailed overseas trade in 1639 after a series of diplomatic incidents involving Portuguese missionaries, and remained impenetrable to the western world until the mid-19th century. Such sparse information about the country and its people as was available filtered back through the trading posts of the Dutch East India Company, beyond the confines of which it was almost impossible for Europeans to step. After consular relations were re-established in 1854, trade barriers fell, and the fashion for Japanoiserie, like that for Chinoiserie during the previous century, hit the British Isles with the force of a tidal wave.
As well as blue and white china, lacquered screens, kimonos and paper fans came information about gardens. The ‘dry’ garden of rocks and pebbles failed to catch the Edwardian imagination. Its minimalism appeared alien and radical to an increasingly conventional and materialistic English society, but more fundamentally its layers of meaning were too sophisticated for the Edwardians to comprehend. So the dry garden was, in the main, ignored. It was the Japanese water garden, or tea garden, that fired the English imagination.
Art & Media • Culture & Society • Gardening & Landscape • Secular Customs • Travel • Permalink
Saturday, July 25, 2009
When 16th Century Aztec poets and 21st Century Japanese scientists agree, we’re really onto something.
Xochiquetzal (Aztec Flower Goddess)
Image: from the Codex Borgia, via Mexicolore
Did anyone notice that Meso-American folk culture and Japanese chemistry reached accord this week?
It happened in a whiff of marigold. Akio Nakamura and fellow researchers who’ve been stressing out lab rats found that that linalool “reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that go into overdrive in stressful situations.” The tormented rats that inhaled linalool—a fragrant oil in lavender, sweet pea, marigold and many other plants—showed blood levels far lower in stressor chemicals. The research suggests that this fragrance both protects the immune system and produces a soothing effect.
Image: Library of Virginia
So fas as we know, the 16th Century Aztecs didn’t need to restrain rats to figure this out. Flowers were part of nearly all dimensions of sacred and secular life—from a complex cycle of flower poetry, to dances and games at harvest time, even military maneuvers. Aztec princes and warriors used nosegays to calm their nerves—and so did more everyday people:
In his Historia de las Indias de Nueva España (1581), Fray Diego Durán wrote of the Aztec people: “They find gladness and joy in spending the entire day smelling a little flower or bouquet made of different kinds of flowers; their gifts are accompanied by them; they relieve the tediousness of journeys with flowers.”
(If only Henry Louis Gates had stopped by a flower shop on his way back from China, and the Cambridge P.D. issued bouquets along with handcuffs.)
Sunday, July 19, 2009
A Garden Hides in the Market
An expert guide takes us to a shimmering 16th century garden, upstairs in downtown Istanbul. Thanks, Holly!
Niche panel (detail), Mosque of Rustem Pasha
Photo: Giovanni Dal’Orto, via wiki
By Holly Chase
Every day, tourists speaking scores of different tongues descend on Istanbul’s justly renowned monuments and markets. The bustling metropolis is now a regular port-of-call for Mediterranean and Black Sea cruise ships disgorging passengers for day-trips that invariably include the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Covered Bazaar. Though more independent, oil oligarchs in chauffeured Mercedes and booted backpackers tend to visit exactly the same places as do mass-market guests.
And nearly all of them miss the tiny mosque of Rustem Pasha (Rüstem Paşa, in Turkish), a superb example of Ottoman Turkish architecture and applied floral ornament. It’s only a few meters from the fabled Spice Bazaar (a pungent stop on most tours), but very few tourists stray from the standard routes to find it, tucked into a busy commercial district where narrow alleys thwart the intrusion of tour buses.
Secrets persist in this city whose ancient name, Byzantium, is synonymous with convolution and intrigue, and the Mosque of Rustem Pasha is one of mine. I debated whether to extol its attractions in this public forum. But believing that one must first know something exists in order to appreciate and protect it, I’ll hope this article leads readers to negotiate the maze of lanes in Old Stamboul.
To find Rustem Pasha, ask along the Cicek Pazari, Balkapani, Hasircilar, and Tomruk streets, each named for commodities sold there — plants & flowers, honey, rush mats, lumber. Then find your way to this urban oasis, calm and beautiful.