Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weird Weather

The onset of spring is a menace and a blessing. Allen Bush hunts for flowers amid the extremes.


The view down Pennington Lane, Louisville, KY,

in the author’s old neighborhood, April 3, 1974

Photo: Walter McCord

from Tornado: A Look Back at Louisville’s Dark Day

By Allen Bush

I like to think the worst weather is over by March but it doesn’t work that way. There are more surprises in store in April. When the winds begin to rattle the window jambs at this time of year I get the heebie jeebies. It means it’s tornado season in Kentucky.  For a long time I thought Lenten twisters were meant for trailer parks. I grew-up imagining that my suburban neighborhood of solid brick homes made us more virtuous, and immune. 

That changed on April 3, 1974. I was a few hundred yards from the path of a Louisville tornado, holed-up in a friend’s basement. It hop-scotched across the Fairgrounds, the Highlands, Cherokee Park, Crescent Hill, Rolling Fields and Indian Hills before bouncing over to Northfields. I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your brick houses down. And the big bad wolf did.

The physical destruction was indelible: huge trees snapped in half and homes destroyed.  The National Guard secured damaged neighborhoods for a couple of weeks while debris was cleared from roadways, and power was restored slowly over the next six weeks. Neighbors pitched-in, picking-up and hacking away. By summer, this moment of neighborly clarity receded when everyone – well, at least those with standing houses—returned to the shut-in privacy of their air-conditioned homes.  Suburban detachment resumed.

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Posted by Julie on 03/31 at 03:46 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Say ATPDEA with Flowers

The Colombian government has sent flowers to Capitol Hill to press for renewal of a favorable trade agreement. But abuses of workers rights can’t hide behind bouquets.


Rep. Sander Levin of the House Ways and Means Committee spoke against renewal of the Andean trade pact that favors Colombian and Ecuadorian flowers.

Photo: AFP

The government of Colombia delivered flowers to all members of the U.S. Congress Tuesday, lobbying for renewal of special trade status, the Wall St. Journal reports. The

Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which aimed to turn Colombian farmers away from drug production toward other industries and crops – like flowers – expired February 12. Without it, import duties will resume on a variety of Colombian products, from roses, to oil, to clothing.

The flowers came to Capitol Hill with a mildly threatening message attached:

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Posted by Julie on 03/30 at 06:40 PM
Cut-Flower TradePoliticsPermalink

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Listening to Chinaberries

Once prized for its wood, shade, vigor and medicinal properties, this immigrant to the Southern U.S. is now nationally maligned.


Flowers of the chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach)

March 2011

Photo: Human Flower Project

How did a tree that once inspired gratitude in the U.S. become a pariah? All of us who treasure (or covet) good repute want to know.

In the case of the chinaberry (Melia azedarach) it has something to do with 21st century nativist snobbery – the chinaberry being an 18th century “immigrant” from Asia. Also, since chinaberries reseed easily and grow up fast, they possess that happy heedlessness that sends much of the gardening and landscape crowd into a fit of irrelevance.

The chinaberry is an insult to American vanity, to be sure. But in our opinion it was American technology that really turned popular sentiment against these trees.

After their introduction in Charleston, South Carolina, chinaberries seem to have spread rapidly across the South. In the many decades before air-conditioning (which became commonplace only in about 1950), they were valued as fast-growing shade plants. In some places, including parts of Texas, they’re even called “umbrella trees.”

An anonymous writer for Wood Magazine wrote this lively encomium:

“Introduced to the sundrenched American Southwest and Mexico centuries ago for shade, the chinaberry embraced its arid new home and flourished. This cousin of mahogany from China relished the hot, dry climate and responded to it with rapid growth in even the worst of soil.

“Native Americans, Mexicans, and new settlers in the barren land welcomed the new tree. Indeed, people cooled off beneath its branches, but didn’t hesitate to fell it for wood they worked into rustic furniture and tool handles, and burned for fuel.”

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Posted by Julie on 03/27 at 10:37 PM
Gardening & LandscapeMedicineSecular CustomsPermalink

Thursday, March 24, 2011

From the Lowlands, a ‘Floral’-Filter

The Local Ecologist spots a new water filtering tool. It works well to extract E coli? What about radioactivity?


A new point-of-use water-filtering device

Photo: Georgia Silvera Seamans/Local Ecology

By Georgia Silvera Seamans

Holland is known for its flower industry and its water technology. The country supplies “60% of the world’s flowers.”  And “one quarter of Holland is below sea level”; according to the website waterland,  “Two thirds of [the country] would be flooded if there were no dikes,” but by the second half of the twentieth-century, Holland had “gained a reputation as a country that had won the war against water.” 

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Posted by Julie on 03/24 at 04:48 PM
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