Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Speaking in Viburnum beyond the Grave

For the first time in 53 years, a shrub flowered in the shape of a cross. What does that (not) mean?


Nino Sechi and the flowering viburnum that spoke to him this spring, Chickahominy, CT.

Photo: Greenwich Time

Nino Sechi, a columnist for Greenwich Time, disclosed a backyard anomaly to readers this month and asked for their perspective: miracle or coincidence?

Sechi described a viburnum bush that, along with other flowering plants and shrubs, he and his late father had planted in the yard of the Sechis’ home in Chickahominy, Connecticut, in 1958. Sechi has, in other words, seen plenty of spring blossomings from this viburnum, but none like this year’s.

‘In each of the 53 years of its existence, the snowball presented us with a beautiful bouquet of white, globe-like flowers the size of baseballs. However, it had never before produced a flowered cross,” as appeared this spring.

“Coincidentally or not,” Sechi goes on to write, “my late spouse, who loved this bush, often cut some of its branches to brighten our dining room table.” Sechi noticed the cross-shaped flowering just one month before the first anniversary of his wife Elene’s death.

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Posted by Julie on 06/19 at 04:42 PM
Art & MediaGardening & LandscapeReligious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Run for the Peonies

The Derby winner gets its Wreath of Roses, but lucky Louisvillians, racing fans or not, get a month of peonies and a chance to buy from one of the nation’s top breeders. Happy belated birthday, Allen.


Tree peony ‘Hephestos’ (God of Fire)  recipient of 2009 Gold Medal American Peony Society

Photo: Songsparrow Nursery

By Allen Bush

What a wonderful month of May. Rapture was scheduled for May 21st —a week before my 60th birthday – so there was no time to waste. Proof of the unfathomable came early. I punched the cosmic button on the first Saturday and hit the board on my Kentucky Derby bet. (I won $3,952.00 on a $2.00 trifecta box with four horses. The $48.00 bet required three of the horses - in any order—to cross the finish line 1, 2 and 3rd.) I’m not a big bettor, and rarely make it to the track more than twice a year, but my dumb luck should cover all bets for the next twenty years. If you can believe it, there was even more to May. The garden was obliging, too. 

I can’t recall a spring so lush.  There wasn’t a hint of frost past the 2nd week in March (we can expect frost until early May). Record April rainfall was one for the books – over 14” (36 cm)—but the garden didn’t wash away.  May brought a series of rocking thunderstorms but no damaging hail or tornadoes.  There was nothing not to like about this May.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elites, Wildflowers, Conservation

How does wildlife preservation come about? Two examples suggest it’s the exertion of human wealth and power, not the threat of natural or even cultural extinction.


Carpenteria californica blooming at the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve near Prather, California.

Photo: Irfan Khan, for LA Times

What does it take to save a flower, an acre, a mountain, a cultural region?

Diana Marcum’s fascinating story for the Los Angeles Times is a microcosm of conservation history, recounting the the survival of Carpenteria californica, a rare white wildflower of the Sierra foothills.

It was “discovered” by a 19th century explorer, John Fremont, who lost his way back to the original wild clump. Later a Swedish scientist came upon the plant, collected seed, and sent it to Kew Gardens, where Carpenteria californica was grown into showy specimens, a wonder for horticultural pros and visiting amateurs.

Carpenteria’s homeland in Fresno County was purchased by two “Utopian” sisters, who eventually amassed 1500 acres in the area. One of them took a special interest in the wildflower and came to consider it her private emblem of peaceful resistence during World War I.

The tale goes on…. Crucially, it involves other California elites—wealthy landowners, intellectuals and philanthropists. As we read Marcum’s account, it’s clear that through their resources of leisure time, money, organizational experience, and clout, they were able to create a nature preserve on the plant’s habitat. In league with the national Nature Conservancy, the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve was founded.

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Posted by Julie on 06/14 at 10:13 AM
EcologyGardening & LandscapePoliticsPermalink

Friday, June 10, 2011

June Heroics

Gardening for glory—or at least for memory and experimentation’s sake. John Levett reviews the stand-up efforts of early summer around his neighborhood in Cambridge, England.


Feverfew and pansies

Photo: John Levett

By John Levett

Always for me and always with a capital letter Summer begins on June 1st and ends on August 31st irrespective of movements of planets, moons and poets. The plants in my garden have a similar timetable. The early species are going to heps and the ‘old fashioned’ are in full bloom; the ramblers are stunning as always; the irises are down to the last bud.

The irises are fundamental to my garden. In 1981 I went with a friend to Giverny at Whitsuntide. I can recall my friend and I being asked at Giverny if we were artists; together we said: “We’re gardeners.” As can often be the case with travel, the object of the travel can have its own ideas—the water lilies in Monet’s garden had been eaten by water rats. Never mind, there was other stuff and the parade of irises was it. Ever since, I’ve always wanted irises in my garden. Mine don’t get enough winter sun I’m told but I remember irises growing under trees at Giverny; whatever, I get blooms and I can walk down my own parade.

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Posted by Julie on 06/10 at 10:53 AM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink
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