Human Flower Project
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Who Has the Eldridge Cleaver Rose?
A major rose seller leans decidedly to the right when it comes to naming its hybrid teas.
The Eldridge Clever rose, for the radical gardener who has mellowed (We wish; it’s actually “Pope John Paul II”)
Image: Human Flower Project
Has anyone noticed the creeping—no, CLIMBING conservatism of a certain well known rose seller? We’d assumed that rose bushes were politically neutral. Silly us. With people taking sides on corn, cut flowers, and hemp, why not roses, too? The problem is this big hybridizer only offers right-wing flowers. What’s a Commie, or trade unionist, or plain old Democrat to do?
Someone dear to us -– a proud, long-time liberal—will be celebrating a birthday soon. After having won the ’08 election, she lost several roses in the rough winter of ’09-’10. We hoped to buy her a new hybrid tea and so jumped on the website of this noted company and began clicking around.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Harry Fabian’s Carnation
Director Jules Dassin used a white boutonniere to reveal Harry Fabian, the dapper, desperate protagonist of his 1950 film Night and the City.
Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) with his gentlemanly white carnation prepares to run a scam at the Cafe Anglais
Night and the City gets pegged as film noir. Yes, there are fedoras and grime, lots of cigarette smoke, a shady lady, and mean streets (London’s). But Jules Dassin’s 1950 film shocked us out of all those “she done him wrong” expectations. Scenes are too peculiar and the characters too diverse, original and vivid to fit any genre.
“Character study,” we think, comes closest: the movie is the most accurate depiction we’ve ever seen of the compulsive gambler. There are no suspenseful card games a la The Cincinnati Kid, no plots around the match-up of rivals as in The Hustler, or Karate-Kid-style relationships, like the Paul Newman/Tom Cruise pairing of The Color of Money. Dassin understands that gambling addiction isn’t a function of money, games of chance or skill—it’s a head trip.
Richard Widmark gives us the crazy truth: his Harry Fabian lives, like all gambling addicts, in a dreamworld of his own doomed schemes. Over-the-top? We don’t think so. Widmark’s childishness and fever, eyes bugged out with sleeplessness, are real. This is what gamblers look and sound like, when hostage to their own ambition (or is it lack of ambition?).
Harry’s unable to see himself or anyone else because he’s always looking for angles, calculating the next shortcut to nowhere. In the film, his every failure hatches a new, more grandiose fantasy of success—it’s just that Harry needs money to get his sure-bets off the ground. He comes on like a big shot but is always on the mooch – begging a crime boss to stake him, stealing money from his girlfriend’s purse, even helping himself to another boutonniere from the street vendor. “Put it on my account!” Harry calls out, swaggering into a nightclub.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Strip the Mountains, Plant a Tree
Kentucky lawmakers and coal operators like flowers and bees (not sure about mountains and people).
Flower of the tulip poplar tree (Liriodendron tuliperfera)
Photo: Arboretun, Univ. of Arkansas, Ft. Smith
Now that the creeks have been poisoned by runoff, the roads torn up by heavy trucks, the forests destroyed, and the mountains scraped flat, we are pleased to learn that Kentucky lawmakers have taken a stand on mountain-top-removal coal mining. They have passed a law that “asks” coal companies to plant pollen-producing trees and flowers on these industrial deadzones in order to feed honeybees.
Nothing against bees, but where were lawmakers when Appalachian residents demanded that this horrific form of strip mining be banned?
Rather than boring underground to mine coal, mountaintop removal blasts the surface away, shoves the non-coal down into streams, and pulls the mineral out from on top. Presto!
This method of coal mining has been fiercely opposed by local residents, who bear the brunt of its violence, and by environmentalists everywhere. Coal companies are required to file and carry out “reclamation plans” after mining, but that’s a puzzling phrase. As musician Billy Edd Wheeler wrote: “They Can’t Put It Back.”
Typically, mining companies have replanted the mangled and denuded landscape with non-native grasses. The new Kentucky law recommends that they plant, instead, pollen-producing natives, like goldenrod, asters, sourwoods, and tulip poplars. (The huge green and orange striped blooms of the tulip poplar are among the most impressive tree-flowers on the whole North American continent.)
Note: the new law is only a recommendation. Coal companies are not legally required to do anything any differently than what they have been doing. While we hope that this statute results in more nectar-producing plants in Eastern Kentucky, and healthier bee populations, it strikes us as a measly measure – a feel-good for lawmakers and a chance for the coal operators to sound environmentally sensitive. This appears to be yet another instance of floral camouflage.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Get Thee to a Windowbox
A “darling” little shamrock has become imperialist. When you choke the iris, you must go.
Wood sorrel competing with, and prevailing over, iris
March 2010, Austin, Texas
Photo: Human Flower Project
They call it “windowbox sorrel,” and now we know why. This sweet little pink oxalis needs a sturdy vessel and three feet in the air to contain it – constant oversight, too.
There were a few clumps two years ago in the beds up next to the house. Delightful! Their three-leaves began appearing in February, and by St. Patrick’s Day were thick and ineradicably “lucky”-looking. So we let the shamrocks go.
Last year, with loads of good new soil, they’d spread, and this year they have just about buried the iris japonica – a wonderful passalong from Scott Thurman. Stan Powers recommended spreading the iris to a second bed out front, and it’s flowering abundantly there this spring.