Human Flower Project
Friday, January 29, 2010
Growing Luck in Malaysia
Can one lottery winner inspire a new floral tradition for the lunar year? A Malaysian nurseryman chirps, yes!
In Malaysia, this variety of pedilanthus is a favorite for the lunar new year.
Photo: The Star
The lunar new year arrives late this year, February 14, but horticulturists and florists worldwide have long been preparing. Traditional plants of the celebration
include bong mai, yellow chrysanthemum, flowering plum and narcissus, all early bloomers. The trick is handling them just so they flower on the holiday itself.
This year, along with the old customs, there’s 21st century spin in the marketing of holiday plants. If Apple, Google and Scott Brown can do it, why not nurserymen?
Culture & Society • Cut-Flower Trade • Secular Customs • Permalink
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Walt Mayr: Nurseryman/Adventurer
Success in the nursery business requires risk-taking, curiosity, people-skills and tenacity. Success in the Alaskan nursery business took Walt Mayr.
One of “the last true pioneers” of Alaskan horticulture, Walt Mayr (1914-2009)
Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Fann
By Allen Bush
I’ve started reading the daily obituaries out of necessity rather than curiosity. The Kentucky writer Wendell Berry once said you end-up going to a lot funerals when you live in a small community. I’ve celebrated the passing, this past year, of two friends who lived long, wonderful lives. One was a North Carolina farmer, the other a Kentucky lawyer. It is a privilege to have a friend (in this case, the lawyer) who could laugh in his 95th year and ask, with a twinkle in his eye, “Why don’t we have a little something?” Meaning: Make mine a dry martini. Both wise men departed life on the wings of a dove. And though Phillip Roth said, “Old age isn’t a battle, it’s a massacre,” my friends left a legacy for growing older with grace. There wasn’t the slightest hint that old age was an inconvenience.
Walt Mayr, age ninety-five, passed away on August 10, 2009. I never met Walt. He lived far away in Sutton, Alaska. He was a skilled nurseryman who needed cultural questions answered when he first phoned me at Jelitto Perennial Seeds in Louisville, Kentucky.
We used to talk once a year and it didn’t take long to understand his genome was hotwired for curiosity. I didn’t have all the answers, but that didn’t matter. Figuring-out the best soil chemistry for growing plants is like rolling the dice on the periodic table. The best growers are a mixture of humility and doggedness. They work against great odds every year and know the deck is stacked. The most adventurous, and successful, are willing to try a few new plants every year along with their bread and butter inventory. They struggle to figure-out how to grow crops well, but that is one of the exciting parts of the adventure. Rare, indeed, is the grower who can keep the wolves from the door for over fifty years.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Illegal Flowers: ‘Feifa Xianhua’
Chinese authorities try to squelch the complaints of Google and its many users, restricting even floral protests of online censorship.
After Google announced it might suspend its Chinese operations, citizens brought flowers to the company
headquarters in Beijing (shown here) and Shanghai.
Photo: Josh Chin, via WSJ
After conforming to the Chinese government’s limitations on Internet use (a.k.a. rules of censorship) for nearly four years, Google made a public turn last Tuesday, signaling that it may close its operations here. The company reportedly changed its tune after detecting that hackers had tried to infiltrate google.cn, “violating its network and identifying advocates for human rights and democratic reform in China.”
As Google scuttles to moral high-ground, some commentators say that image management and simple economics spurred the company’s announcement rather than commitment to free speech.
At present, our interest is less in Google’s ethics than in the response of Chinese citizens. Many have brought floral tributes to the company’s headquarters in Beijing and Shanghai to register their support for the global IT company and, presumably, to protest government censorship.
S.L. Shen wrote for UPI, “Since Wednesday morning (Jan. 13), security staff at the Tsinghua Science Park near Zhongguancun – China’s Silicon Valley – in northwest Beijing have been busy chasing away people who went to pay their respects to Google….
“According to the citizen reporters, security guards told the visitors that presenting flowers to Google was illegal without applying for prior approval from the authorities. Otherwise, their offerings were ‘illegal flower tributes.’”
News and images of these floral demonstrations began coursing through the Internet instantly via twitter and other social networking systems. So did a neologism in the human-flower lexicon.
“The newly coined Chinese term ‘feifa xianhua,’ meaning ‘illegal flower tribute,’ quickly spread in online forums. It even appeared as an entry in online encyclopedias like Wiki and Baidu, Google’s top competitor in China. But, unsurprisingly, this term was later ‘unable to be displayed’ on Baidu and microblogs provided by Sina Net in China.”
Matthew Robertson, writing for the Epoch Times, reported “The newly coined Chinese phrase (feifa xianhua) now garners 151,000 hits in Google (144,000 on Google.cn)”...and that was 6 days ago.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Chitra Pothi Lives On
Illuminated letters or temple decorations? Palm leaf painting dates back to medieval India and survives among artisans in a few small villages of Orissa.
An artisan demonstrated palm leaf painting at a Kolkata fair, Dec. 2009
Photo: Sandy Ao
Back before there were computer screens to write on, there was this stuff called paper, made from plant material. It’s true.
And back before digital cameras and Photoshop, there was an image making process called painting. It, too, involved plant materials: bloodroot and indigo for pigments, cotton, papyrus, and linen for canvases—or in the case of Chitra Pothi of India, leaves of palm.
Sandy Ao, long an admirer of this vernacular art form, made an exciting discovery last month at Kolkata’s New Market after many years of looking.
“I simply love these palm leaf paintings, Chitra Pothi or Talapatrachitra,” she writes. “I was given a palm leaf painting by my Greek friend ~ Hara Papadoniou Gupta’s husband. That was way back in 1972.”