Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Allen Bush describes a late fall and early winter of surprises in the garden, and then the inexorable turn.

imageArum italicum

Nov. 28, 2009

Louisville, KY, unorthodox holiday greenery

Photo: Allen Bush

By Allen Bush

You can’t fool Mother Nature but you could have fooled me. A few early spring flowering perennials got tricked into late autumn bloom this year. I was delighted with violet colored clusters on Tradescantia virginiana, the Trinity flower (Father, Son and Holy Smoke!). The pink mallow-like blooms of Callirhoe involucrata were nearby. They both popped-out near the back alley, in late November, as the half moon shone bright and the nighttime temperatures hovered in the fifties.

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Posted by Julie on 12/30 at 02:59 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsPermalink

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Razing Delphiniums

The garden one once almost had will grow from seed and history—or it won’t. Let there be difficulty!


“They need sun…they need elbow room…”

Photo: By John Levett

By John Levett

I’ll start with the exciting bit.

S. Victoria x Bruce; Blue D (dark eye) x Galileo; Blackberry Ice x Deep Pink sdg.

I’ll now write a few more paragraphs and allow time for recovery.It was my mother who led me into gardening when I was a child. I took a break from it for about twenty-five years and then returned. Gardening was never mooch-and-potter for me; it was challenge. Find the most difficult to grow; find that which has never been raised in the northern hemisphere; embrace the impossible; raise the unimaginable; defy genetics; restructure creation. In a plot the size of a decent living room.

Cacti & alpines featured heavily. It wasn’t simply the demands of raising things requiring more than dig-and-drop but rather the prospect of the results—horticultural Fabergé eggs. Never mind that the sun never travelled in the right direction, nor that ventilation was practically absent beyond the leaks in the ill-fitting greenhouse door, nor that the heating from the paraffin stove necessary for their geranium housemates during the winter was close to guaranteed to asphyxiate the living planet—the bloom was the prize.

I bought in plants (cacti from market stalls and alpines from Ingwersen’s) but raising from seed was the test. I can’t remember one that survived longer than life in the seed pan. Never mind. (“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”) Try another plant. Try sweet peas. Sweet peas worked. I bought seed every Autumn from Bolton’s near Haverhill in Essex, usually about ten varieties. I had a 1930s booklet on the raising of sweet peas (all the illustrations in black and white) and followed it to the letter—the seed soaking, the earthenware pots, the measured depth, the sinking of the pot, the ash covering.

Bingo! Enough plants to run a stall. I’d just acquired an allotment so I ditched the veg apart from onions & shallots (alleged to spirit away all manner of nasties) and raised the stakes. I took handfuls back home each evening throughout each summer. I’d found a seed I could handle.

I then discovered the Chiltern Seeds catalogue: a goldmine for the sower and a money-pit too. Go through your initial tick-off list of all you’re going to raise next year, tot up the total and seek a second mortgage on the loan. It never stopped me. Campanulas followed the sweet peas, then hardy geraniums, then species pelargoniums, then pansies and violas. Then the Annual Hitchin Horticultural Show.

I went along to the Summer show the year that I moved to Hitchin, 1972. The following year I started exhibiting my pansies, scooped third prize, headed for the top. Delphiniums arrived in the back garden. It might have been that I saw them at the show but more likely my enthusiasm came from Ronald Parrett’s Penguin handbook. I began collecting those handbooks around that time—The Cool Greenhouse, Rock Gardens, Chrysanthemums (I had a fleeting flirtation with these; grief knows why), Dahlias (ditto) and Roses—Delphiniums is the only one I went through cover-to-cover (again, everything in stunning grayscale).

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Posted by Julie on 12/12 at 10:06 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Friday, December 04, 2009

Creeping Literalism

Symbolic slippage and a ceremonial flower in Japan—Allusionists, watch where you step!


‘Applause,” the blue rose developed by a Japanese company and presented as an emblem of collaboration and accomplishment to Barack Obama.

Photo: inventorspot

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, elected just this fall, hosted Barack Obama during the U.S. President’s recent trip to Asia.

In his weekly address, Hatoyama narrated a human flower project of diplomacy: “At the beginning of the (official state) dinner, I presented President Obama with a single blue rose.” 

Hatoyama wrote, “It was believed impossible to create a blue rose, since roses lack the gene to produce the color blue. However, a Japanese company spent 14 years in research and finally succeeded in developing the world’s first blue rose. I explained to President Obama how this blue rose, which holds the meaning ‘to accomplish the impossible,’ was created and said, ‘Let us work together to accomplish the impossible.’”

Yesterday, writers on the global economic weblog Euromoney went after the prime minister’s gesture with symboli-cide.

“Having campaigned against his opponent’s 50-year policy of spending huge amounts of public money on unneeded public works projects,” wrote the Euromoney editorialists, “Hatoyama might have paused to consider whether his anecdote about an expensive and idiosyncratic 14-year project to create a blue flower might best demonstrate his new ethos. ‘We can accomplish the impossible,’ it says, leaving the listener to supply the concluding, ‘whether it’s a good idea or not.’”

We must come to the prime minister’s defense – not to justify blue roses, which we find peculiar, but to combat onesidedness. In this era of “transparency,” our capacity for symbolic thinking and figures of speech seems to be shrink wrapped. The fine and risky thing about symbols is that they invite multiple interpretations. Whereas for the prime minister the blue rose signifies accomplishment, for the editorialists it suggests frivolity or, worse, unnatural, nefarious and ultimately perilous meddling. (Quite probably, the genetic modifications behind the blue rose touched off this sour reaction; European societies have been most vociferously anti-GM.)

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Posted by Julie on 12/04 at 02:15 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyPoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Saved by the Eryngium

Seduced again by tulips, an amateur flower arranger reaches for something rubbery and something wild.


Pittisporum, tulips, and (praise be) eryngium

Photo: Human Flower Project

Hubris, failure, luck: The annals of amateurism are filled with these.

May we add another chapter? Today is a friend’s monumental birthday, a milestone we have yet to reach. Another great chum and world-class hostess is having the quasi-surprise party, a dinner at her home, and we volunteered to bring the flowers. Earlier in the week we hit “Family Thrift” and the St. Vincent de Paul store looking for some low, matchable-ish vases and today set out at noon to shop for flowers.

The hostess’s domain is saturated in bold rich colors: black, deep purple, reds, greys and dark greens. We had those regal shades in mind browsing the plants and flowers at the market. Five big purple and white orchids would have been swell but we pulled back. They’re pricey and so tall guests would be craning for conversation during the meal. The market was especially well stocked — many shades of roses, proteas buds (looking a bit too much like medieval flame throwers), lilies, lots of berries, even big purpling bouquets of kale.

There were also loads of tulips—white, red and purple—some tear-drop tight, other beautifully open. That was it. We bought five bunches and, on added impulse, several stems of a thistle-looking plant. As several tulip petals flew off in the wind on the way to the car, hubris began chafing.

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Posted by Julie on 12/02 at 04:58 PM
FloristsGardening & LandscapePermalink