Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Plant-Wise Tactic for Teachers

The U.S. Botanic Garden supplies an exercise in introspection, observation and botanical education—a way to keep minds green between now and the holidays.


Find a partner, choose a plant and let the learning begin

The Garden of Health,Antwerp 1533

Image: via metahistory

Classroom teachers limping to the red velvet rope of Christmas holidays may need some oxygen about now, and assignments.

We offer this simple but interesting idea supplied by the U.S. Botanic Garden: “Are Plants Like Us?”

The six-page handout opens with a “family tree of plants” we found intriguing. To discover carrots and ginseng were botanical neighbors was not a surprise, but carnations and beets? Amaryllis and onions? Learning that these ornamental plants and vegetables were near relatives, we began to think about some of their common characteristics, like the leaf shape of begonias and cucumbers, the bulbs of onions and amaryllis. (It’s encouraging to think there’s an intuitive side of botany.)

The pamphlet then sends students out among plants with a partner, to consider how plants and people are alike and how they differ, and to examine the peculiarities of epiphytes and desert plants.

One part of the assignment asks, “What can plants do that people can’t do?” As recommended, it’s best to have a particular species in mind. Some plants, people too, can spend the winter out of doors, Some can’t. Same with refraining from gossip.

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Posted by Julie on 11/28 at 06:21 PM
Gardening & LandscapeSciencePermalink

Monday, November 21, 2011

Radicles from the Afghan Front

Two years after its seed was collected in a remote Afghan village, a tiny cedar settles into its new Kentucky home.

imageCedrus deodara (at right) in the Kullu Valley of NW India

Photo: via wiki

By Allen Bush

The Himalayan cedar barely got a nod last month at the silent auction in Louisville, Kentucky. Jack Alexander from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University had donated a tiny Cedrus deodara but the seedling was far from the most fetching plant on the block. The little tree (auction item # 61) had a story with a bare bones bid-sheet teaser:  “Collected from wild Waygal District Nuristan Province Afghanistan. “  No commas, no more details.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai held a loya jirga this week in Kabul, 2,000 elders gathering to sip tea and try to untangle their country’s problems. Louisville’s pow-wow – the 61st annual meeting of the Eastern Region of the International Plant Propagators Society, —drew a smaller crowd: some 150 folks sampling Kentucky Bourbon and fretting over the siege of the emerald ash borer.

Across the auction room at the Seelbach Hotel, there was a huddle around Parrotia subaequalis, a witch hazel relative recently introduced from China.  The day before, visiting nurserymen, academics and representatives from arboreta and botanic gardens had seen a small 4’ (1.2 m) tall planting at Yew Dell in Crestwood.  Those standing in the cold drizzle erupted in oohs and aahhs, sparked by the rich burgundy fall foliage. This plant’s relative, the Persian ironwood Parrotia persica, never quite reaches the autumnal expectations of brilliant oranges and reds as advertised—at least not in the Midwest.  But its Chinese cousin delivered the fall goods at Yew Dell, in plain sight. The top bid for the rare Parrotia was $280.00.

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Posted by Julie on 11/21 at 10:15 AM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePoliticsPermalink

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fighting Fear with Chrysanthemums

To withstand a national tragedy and endure its frightening aftermath, Nihonmatsu lets custom, light, flowers and festivity take the lead.


Two valiant samurai, made with chrysanthemums

Nihonmatsu Kiku Ningyo, 2010

Photo: Human Flower Project

How do you say it in Japanese? “The show must go on.”

That sentiment prevails this fall in Nihonmatsu, a town only 37 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.

The effects of the March tsunami that flooded the power plant’s reactors, causing a meltdown, have yet to be satisfactorily determined. Enrollment at kindergartens in Fukushima prefecture was much lower this autumn; small children are the most vulnerable to radioactive exposure and presumably many families have moved elsewhere. There will be no more farming in the vicinity of the plant, and national alarm over tainted spinach, tea, milk and other produce from a much wider area continues.

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Posted by Julie on 11/15 at 05:10 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sunday Afternoon with Purpose

An autumn walk through Cambridge: stumps into sculpture, token shrubbery, a paucity of tree houses, and a cathedral-sized ash.

imageLow maintenance shrub, Milton Road

Photo: John Levett

By John Levett

It’s the ninth of November and this is the latest in the year, ever, that I’ve gone without switching on the central heating in my flat. This act of self-denial is a combination of choosing not to pay scumbag energy companies more than I have to, choosing to add a further layer of body cladding, counting on the above seasonal average temperatures to take me through to the upcoming capitalist fest and being out of the mood for the annual sellotaping of every draught tunnel between me and England.

Even though it’s reasonably mild and there’s no threat of early snow, my garden life has taken a back seat for about a month. The ramblers need a big cut-back this year and I began back in September making reasonable progress but, as is the way of these affairs, once you drop out of the habit of ‘a little but often’ it seems to take an age to drop back in. This year has been full of commitments to the groups I convene, exhibition organizing, personal art projects, workshops, meetings and meetings about meetings—nothing that I haven’t voluntarily entered into but draining nonetheless. I’ve sought and found islands of calm and the copacetic only to rustle up some exploration that sends me off again. Plus ça change …

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Posted by Julie on 11/09 at 06:57 PM
Gardening & LandscapePermalink
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