Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Prettiest Recipe in the English Language

One of my favorite things to do when I go back to Britain is to visit the second-hand book shops. In actual fact most ot the bookshops are selling books of some value, although clearly one man's treasure is another man's trash. In Edinburgh there are several bookshops in which I always like to spend time perusing their flower and garden sections for old and/or illustrated books. I delight in these books, and find that the older volumes devoted to flowers give me an insight into just how much of a fashion based business it is that we are in, as it is easy to see that what was once old and forgotten will come around again, as it has so many times before. For instance consider this observation from a charming book I picked up called "The Scented Garden" by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde: "On the show table, however, modern roses reign supreme. Those serried ranks of hybrid teas give one the impression that not only are they at home at a show, but that the enjoy it. I am always struck with the fact that their colors are so curiously like the more expensive materials displayed in shop windows. And the leaves (and even the thorns) of many of the modern varieties look as though they had been rationed. There is always just enough and not a leaf nor a thorn to spare. What a contrast to the abundant healthy foliage (and the thorns!) of the old roses. No, those of us who love the old roses are not blind, nor do we suffer from the hallucination that modern roses are scentless. We see quite clearly that they are beautful, but somehow their beauty fails to touch our hearts." That was written in 1931!! I imagine garden roses and the desire for sweet perfumes and the old cabbage shape in floristry have come and gone a few times since then. Of late however, especially with the introduction of the David Austin cutting roses and varieties from Meilland such as Yves Piaget and Prince Jardinier, it seems that we are returning to the forms and scents described in the passage, but now featuring vase life that is more consistent with modern expectations. Indeed, the rose breeders are striving to reintroduce sweet perfumes and low centered, fully quartered rosette shapes to their catalogues.
However, one passage in this lovely little tome was a chapter devoted to aromatic herbs, that features a recipe entitled "To enable one to see fairies".
"To enable one to see fairies. A pint of sallet oyle and put it into a vial glasse: and first wash it with rose-water and marigolde water; the flowers to be gathered towards the east. Wash it till the oyle becomes white, then put into the glasse, and then put thereto the budds of hollyhocke, the flowers of marygolde, the flowers of tops of wilde thyme, the budds of young hazel, and the thyme must be gathered near the side of a hill where fairies used to be; and take the grasses of a fairy throne, then all these put into the oyle in the glasse and sette it to dissolve three dayes in the sun, and then keep it for thy use."

How absolutely delightful! However, I do have a question: How does one find a fairy throne?

Images top to bottom:
1. Patience by David Austin
2. Rosa centifolia; painted by Redoute 19th century
3. Yves Piaget by Meilland
4. Miranda by David Austin
5. Figure adorning a tomb; Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh

Monday, June 28, 2010

Succulent Clock

One of the hottest items in contemporary floral design today is the use of the so-called "succulent" plants. Most popular are the echeverias and the aeoniums, as well as some crassulas and sempervivums. A key attraction is that they are  xeriphytes, and as such are extremely hardy. But probably the two principal attributes that have really stimulated interest in their use in modern floral design is firstly the extremely hip color palette that they are available in: You can find all shades of gray, from light to dark, as well as glaucous gray-greens to bright glossy greens, as well as rusty browns and dark glossy black. Many are edged with scarlet tones, and stilll others are mottled in antique rust. Secondly, the distinct, well-formed and clean symetrical rosettes of many varieties has endeared them to floral professionals with minimalist tastes on the one hand, and are also used with gusto by designers who favor highly detailed and articulate design work on the other.
Yet as seemingly novel and fresh as they seem in contemporary floral design, their use has been employed and appreciated for many years in the somewhat quaint yet delightful "Flower Clock" in the Northeast corner of the Princes' Street Gardens, in the center of Edinburgh, Scotland.
On my recent trip to Edinburgh, childhood memories were stirred when I revisited this landmark for the first time in a couple of decades at least. Yet the craft and handiwork, which I had always taken for granted in my youth, was quite impressive and to be admired. The designers and gardeners clearly were using the rosettes of the echeverias for the same reasons that they are popluar with florists; namely the distinct sculptural form, the sublime coloring and the hardy nature of the product. And yet they have been using these items for several decades in the clock.
The clock itself dates back to 1904, when it was first created in the Princes' Street Gardens, and is believed to be the oldest floral clock in the world. For many years it was purely decorative, but a couple of years after the Second World War, the clock incorporated a theme. This year, 2010, the theme celebrates 100 years of Girl Guiding, or the Girl Scout Movement in England. Not only is the fascia decorated with plants, but also the hands of the clock are specially designed to be able to be fully planted with flowers. After planting, the entire clock is continuously preened , clipped and manicured to not only keep the "garden" looking at its best, but also to make sure no stems or leaves interfere with the mechanism of the clock.
The predominant echeveria being used in the clock's design is the Echeveria secunda, sometimes called "Hens and Chickens" and is one of the most popular for floral design as well. In cooler weather, or in locales where there are cold nights the edges of the rosette are limned with red. At Mayesh we offer these flowers, as well as several others on a daily basis, and have access to about sixty distinct varieties of succulents which are available by special order. For further information on this please click shipping to contact one of our sales associates.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Definitions of Mass
1. A unified body of matter with no specific shape: a mass of Mylar enshrouded bouquets
2. A grouping of individual parts or elements that compose a unified body of unspecified size or quantity: "Take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates" (Herman Melville). For that matter take bouquets in mass, and they seem to be a bunch of unnecessary duplicates. (Sorry, Herman!)                          
3. A large but nonspecific amount or number: a mass of homogeneous products
4. A lump or aggregate of coherent material: a cancerous mass.
5. The principal part; the majority: the mass of the continent.
6. The physical volume or bulk of a solid body.                                                                  7. Abbr. m Physics A property of matter equal to the measure of an object's resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion. The mass of an object is not dependent on gravity and therefore is different from but proportional to its weight.
8. An area of unified light, shade, or monochromatic display of bouquets
9. Merchandising; as in mass markets. Endless amounts of the same item item repeated ad infinitum and/or ad nauseum.   10. masses The body of common people or people of low socioeconomic status: "Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (Emma Lazarus).                                                      Wow, yesterday I visited the new IFE, an acronym for International Floriculture Expo, which presented its first show in Miami.  This floral trade show is a reincarnation of  the former SuperFloral Show, and appeared to me to involve the same players and the same products for sale. There was a lot of mass produced products available for purchase by the buyers from the mass markets. There were masses of plants, and masses of bouquets, and masses of decorated sleeves, and masses of Mylar balloons, and masses of containers. There were a lot of Christmas greens too. In fact masses of them!          There was not a lot of people, and the general tone of the show was rather hushed, muted and reserved, rather like, Sunday mass. However, exhibitors at the show that I talked to were quite happy with the show, and the buyers in attendance were buying and seemed very serious.
Clearly, the show highlights, at least for this observer, that in fact the floral industry when taken as a whole is still fairly robust, and that when it comes to flowers the mass markets are receiving a larger and larger portion of consumers' discretionary dollars. However, unless you are a mass marketer reading this, then  this is probably not particularly welcome news to you, and it certainly poses a dilemma to wholesalers such as ourselves. But the unwelcome advance of the mass markets sems to be inexorable and inevitable. The only  strategy for survival is to keep looking for new markets, new products, to stay abreast of new trends and fashions and monitor the creative pulse of your customers, especially those striving to think outside of the box.
That is because nothing is sacrosanct, or the exclusive domain of florists and designers. At USA Bouquet, one of the largest suppliers of floral products to the mass markets in the USA, they are offering "Wedding Packages"; featuring one Bride's bouquet, five Bride's Maids bouquets, boutonnieres for Groom and principal male figures, and rose petals to scatter!
With an eye to the future, and one looking back at the past, there are still niches that can be extremely profitable provided attention is paid to the following:
Craft - fewer and fewer persons in the floral industry really have a deep understanding of the flowers and techniques necessary to produce truly professional products. Research, practice and technique clearly set the best designers apart from most in our trade.
Fashion - most people who call themselves florists have very little affinity with beauty, give aesthetics short shrift and are not in touch with the act of creation. Forward thinking creative designers will be successful if they understand their medium intimately and can identify future trends and fashons.
Differentiation - Actively engage in sourcing and locating products that cannot be found in mass markets or at your competitors', and be thinking of how familiar products can be "Re-Presented" in novel ways. Harness new techniques and technologies to aid in creating designs.
{For example, in the world of cooking I am still amazed at the strides made by Fernan Adria in the Nineties at El Bulli restaurant who was the first to employ a Blood centrifuge, a medical device used to separate the components of blood, to make new dishes and flavors incorporated in "foams" and "smokes" that we are fairly familiar with today.}
Passion - All the successful floral professionals that I have known over the years are deeply passionate about their work, and yet are able to deeply appreciate the synergy and necessity of sound business practices.
Emotion, elaboration and execution are all needed in the flower business, but remember: "No Business; No Flowers!"

All, in all, the show offered very little that was new or novel, which may be good for our segment of the business, as it does demonstrate that the mass-markets, while gaining market share, are pretty much hoeing the same rows over and over which will inevitably lead to stagnation. In fact, it was my perception there was an atmosphere of a creeping sedentary staleness  in many parts of the exhibition hall. But hey, I am a little biased. Oh whoops, NEW, NEW, NEW! I forgot to mention that one of the rose breeders; Preesman had a rose naming ceremony that was supposed to be a highlight but ended up being a squib that did not explode. A new rose to be named after floral commentator "Bobbi Ecker". Never heard of her? Don't worry, neither have I, but apparently she does fine work and is a very inspirational floral commentator. OK, but I did not understand: Is the rose going to be called "Bobbi Ecker" or "High and Icon"?
As for the rose, I will let you be the judge. As for me, I joined the mass exodus.

Images from top to bottom:
1. Exhibition at Miami Convention Center, looking South
2. Exhibition looking North
3. (L-R) Felipe Sanchez, Jaime Landazabal of CargoMaster,
excellent freight forwarders in Bogota, and David Kaplan, of "Above All Flowers"
4. Amy Desperito of Natural Flowers and Armin Pippenburg of Atlantic Flower import, both Miami distributors
5. Wedding Package; courtesy USA Bouquet
6. Naming Ceremony for new rose from Preesman
7. Rose "High & Icon" aka Bobbi Ecker

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brazil or Berzelia?

Well, I have tried to skirt around the greatest sporting event in the world, but it is becoming increasingly difficult as passions grow within our compnay. In our office in Miami we have myself, an Englishman, a German, a Frenchman and a Brazilian woman. The European contingent are really suffering as England, Germany and France have played well below their potential, and are an increasing source of frustration.  Can we get through to the next round?                                   

I will let that rhetorical question be resolved during the next few days (GO England!!), but I can use this space to highlight some great products that we are importing from South Africa. It is currently winter in the Southern hemisphere, but some proteaceous materials are starting to bloom. Currently we are offering several types of Berzilia, which are somewhat novel, versatile and very hardy fillers. One of their most attractive features are the spherical flower heads which vary in size from small peas to large marbles.
Berzelia galpinii - This variety is generally denominated as "Baubles" due to their highly decorative appearance and whimsical coloring. The orbicular cones range from greenish-cream to light yellow to scarlet and stand out distinctively on the erect stems that are covered in fine needles, the whole resembling a tropical conifer! This material is very hardy, and retains clarity of color and pesistent vigor for a couple of weeks. Listed as "Berzelia Baubles" On-Line.              
Berzelia lanuguinosa - This filler is quite light and airy, with corymbs of arborio rice-sized balls  atop long sinuous stems that are covered in fine needles. The stems are serpentine and the overall fine cut appearance resembles a seaweed or waving kelp, and quite at home in exotic arrangements. Listed as "Berzelia Green" On-Line.
Berzelia Palacea - A wonderful sculptural material that features smokey-gray/green foliage that have occasionally solitary but generally terminal clusters of light gray pea-sized balls.  Can be creatively deployed in ultra-hip wedding palettes, but is equally comfortable in pastoral settings. Very hardy and long-lasting. Listed as "Berzelia White" On-Line.
All Berzelias can be held dry for about a week prior to use, and then hydrated in shallow water. Berzelia can be exposed to fairly low temperatures.
Last in this series is a very finely cut Leucadendron, namely L. platyspermum, which is a delighfully soft foliage with dynamic arching stems. It can be used in casual country situations as well as in hard-edged tropical designs. This is due to the contrasting nature of its soft, feathery leaves with the very stiff, willowy stems. From a distance it creates the impression of the soft pliant foliage of an herb, but maintains its profile in any environment. This extremely versatile component is also very hardy and durable.
Indeed, all the materials illustrated here represent a dynamic opportunity for enjoying economies of scale when bought by the box; because the products can be used over several weeks. They are fabulous alternative fillers that can be held on hand for use in many diverse situations. And after two weeks or so, if there is any remaining product, it can be hung and dried for use in the fall. To purchase these items or any other flowers On-Line go here
Did I say "Gooooooo England"?!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vertical Integration

There has been quite a fair amount of publicity regarding vertical gardens of late, that is to say walls of buildings upon which plants are growing in profusion as a result of a careful preparation and planning, as opposed to some ignoble edifice that has been shrouded in ivy or creeping ficus. I, for one, had never actually encountered such a garden in person, so I was quite delighted to see one up close during my visit to London. My girlfriend and I were walking along Piccadilly towards Hyde Park, passing many world famous institutions such as The Royal Academy of Art, which is also home to the Linnaean Society, the Ritz-Carlton, Fortnum & Masons (grocers to the Royal Family for eons; purveyors of fine comestible products no doubt!), the Japanese Embassy and the Hard Rock Cafe - the very first one, the original. Actually, just before we got to the Hard Rock, we saw this wonderfully dense planting outside of the Athenaeum hotel, but only at eye-level. The surprise comes quite unexpectedly as one follows the viridian foliages ever skyward until one realises that the entire whole is not a few large plants reaching to the heavens,but rather a garden comprising many imdividual small plants consciously and selectively arranged on the outside walls of a hotel. The effect is quite uplifting, rather joyous and many endorphins are released into the brain as one jumps to the conclusion of how obvious, how beautifully simple and how necessary such gardens will be in the future. Even as we swallow up tracts of the countryside, we do create more surface area than previously existed, and this seems a tremendous way to put oxygen creating plant-life back into our urban developments.
Like many great works of art and design, while the effect seems as though it would be childishly facile to achieve, closer examination reveals that this is a very complex organisation of intellectual ideas and physical assets, and which involves at least two incredibly powerful forces, namely water and gravity, that need to be accounted for.
The garden is the work of a Frenchman, Patrick Blanc, who has established several vertical gardens around the world, indoors as well as outdoors, and who has been able to combine his scientific pursuits, which included the study of cliff-bound plants, with his wonderful artistic expression. Close examination of the garden reveals that the walls are covered in thick felt that has been perforated with pockets comprising six inch slits in the material. I imagine that prior to planting it would resemble an enormous paper towel of Claes Oldenburg proportions. Each plant is tucked into a pocket, and the whole is fed by drip irrigation when necessary, as I imagine the wall enjoys the English precipitation fairly regularly. In effect, the plants are growing hydroponically in a sterile substrate, although I have to imagine over time that the wall will become home to a dense quilt of decaying matter, wind born soil and dust, that will eventually become a quite fertile medium.
The selection of plants is mostly made up of ones that have decorative foliage, as well as a propensity for this type of environment, and includes a fair number of pileas that require very little soil and whose root stuctures tend to cling to surfaces, rather than penetrate them. There are several begonias, and four exotic impatiens, one if which is the bright yelow and orange cascade that is in a few if the images. There are appear to be one if not two types of heuchera, but I am not sure if these are intruders as they are not listed on the offical plant list.
One does wonder, though, as to how the plants in the upper reaches of the garden are maintained, cut back, pruned and so forth. I suspect this needs a professional crew in a cherry-picker and this in itself may restrain amateur projects of a similar nature in the future. However, buildings of one or two stories, which seem to predominate in current urban landscapes are easily within the scope of an enterprising urban gardener.

I must say that the encounter with this wall was very uplifting and and reminds me that there is much to be optimistic about for the future of the planet, even as the BP catastrophe spews forth into the gulf, and provides much food for thought.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

London Calling

Back from a a much needed vacation, re-invigorated and excited about life, love, flowers and people. My girlfriend and I went on holiday to London and had a marvelous time. We managed to dodge airline strikes, volcano eruptions, the infamous English rain and also benefited from the dollar strengthening in our favor. Which is a good thing, as London is incredibly expensive anyway! In planning the trip, I found hotels to be prohibitively expensive, so I used a tip from a friend who had rented an apartment in New York  for a vacation by perusing Craigslist. I found a very well situated one bedroom apartment - aka "flat" - in Covent Garden which is pretty much as close to the heart of London as you can get. It was one third the price of a hotel, with more space and many conveniences, not the least of which was a kitchen to make tea and toast, as well as the occasional meal when one simply needs a break from eating in a restaurant.
Over the next week or so I will go over several of the cool and interesting things we encountered in London, as well as an overview of brief trip we made to Edinburgh, Scotland. Mostly, we spent our time going to museums, galleries and long, long walks during the day; and evenings were full of visits to West End theatres and churches to see musicals and chorales, We also enjoyed many memorable meals, including an evening at iconic "Gordon Ramsay"'s restaurant. Watch this space for my rating of his cuisine!
All of London was teeming with people going hither and thither, whom at times at times formed such a mass, that one was reminded of the "London Mob" of the Dickensian era. While I was informed on several occasions that the recession was indeed keenly felt in England, the evidence that I observed with mine own eyes was distinctly to the contrary. Oxford Street, probably the grandest of all thorougfares devoted eclsuively to retail shopping in the world, was packed with people toting shopping bags, seemingly full of goodies, on both sides of the street.                                      
And of course flowers are planted out everywhere; from the ubiquitous hanging baskets overflowing with petunias outside of the pubs to incredibly ornate bedding plant displays and herbaceraous shrubs blooming in the parks. Indeed, England's love affair with flowers seems stronger than ever, as the popularity of garden shows, especially the "Chelsea Flower Show" demonstrates. My desire to visit the world famous garden and flower show was left wholly unsatisfied, as I was informed in a rather patronising tone by a docent at the gate that tickets are sold out almost a year in advance. Well, excuse me.
Ah well, just another thing to look forward to next time we go to London, as a follow-up trip seems ineviitable; given that we have much to see that we did not have time for.
As Dr. Samuel Johnson famously said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life...for there is in London all that life can afford."

Mmmm...except the weather!

Images, top to bottom:
Tower Bridge, freshly painted in blue
Coat of Arms of The City Of London
View of the City, Tower of London in foreground and the "Gherkin" behind
Petunia outside pub
Sacred Heart made from two Triumph motorcycle gas tanks in window dispay at Selfridges

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