Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Imagine, if you can, that just one hundred and one years ago plastic was invented (and I am talking about the material, not the financial vehicle!), and since then the evolution of technology has grown at a mercurial and Moore-ish rate. Consider, that just prior to this seminal event Einstein published his "Theory of Relativity"; Freud published his "Theory of Sexuality" and Ford produced the first Model-T automobile, all in 1905. In 1906 Kellogg's introduced cornflakes and in 1907 Picasso introduced Cubism along with Georges Braques. It is quite staggering that in two or three generations we have moved so far and so quickly in every realm of human endeavor.
In contrast, one might conclude that our industry, based on recent history,  has only recently has access to the esoteric and unusual ingredients one now sees in contemporary floral design. Yet this could not be farther from the truth.
I am an avid collector of flower books, and on my last trip to Great Britain I picked up a copy of "British Floral Decoration" by a certain Robert Forester Felton, published in 1910. Judging from many of the pictures in the book, Mr. Felton appears to have been the Preston Bailey of his era, having executed many elaborate decorations for various members of the Royal Family, as well as decorating Claridge's for Royal visits by such luminaries as the Japanese Emperor.
Some of his observations are sobering, especially when he states that: "It is fitting that the greatest of modern Empires should be represented by a flower which has taken all the world for its province, and is itself the monarch of flowers". I mean, that was only written one hundred years ago, and not only has Great Britain been eclipsed as a world power, but there is talk that the USA, which coincidentally has also taken the rose as its national flower, may be witnessing the sun setting on its world dominance.
Just as sobering, and also showing how ephemeral the things that we create really are, he also writes: "Neither has the Rose been forgotten in the world of song: hence we find, among many more or less popular airs taking Roses for their theme, 'The Last Rose of Summer,' and 'She wore a Wreath of Roses,' two songs which will live forever. (My italics!)
FOREVER? I used to think that Elvis and the Beatles songs would last forever, and now I see them decomposing in the manure of history and fashion. It is the way of the world, and each successive generation embraces new inventions, fashions and styles, and quite rightly so. However, it is patently obvious that after a few generations, that which has been forgotten is often introduced as novel and original; distinct and daring, especially in the arenas of fashion, art, science and music. And this applies to the flower industry, as we are in fact entirely influenced by the whims of fashion.
Anyway, please share in my surprise when I encountered this floral arrangement from 1909 featuring;
Gloriosa Rothschildiana;
Gloriosa superba;
Japanese Honeysuckle*;
Lily of the Valley;
 Francoa ramosa;
Buff carnations;
Caladium argyrites
and Lonicera japoonica "variegata".
One hundred and one years later, most wholesalers would struggle to procure most of these items, yet they are surprisingly at the height of current fashion. Honeysuckle vines are becoming much in demand, especially for their divine fragrance, although the flowering one illustrated here looks more like *Lonicera sempervirens than L. japonica. Also of note is the use of the trailing variegated cultivar. "Buff" carnations (yellow-brown) would also pose a problem, because while this color is very much in demand I am not aware of a cultivated carnation filling this bill, although roses such as "Combo" come close, Francoa ramosa is a very cool flower but which is hardly cultivated at all these days. It is a native of Chile, and I have asked some growers there to do some trials. We shall see. It is a beautiful upright line flower with white flowers along the stems like a cross between liatris and veronica. Back in the day it was called "Bridal Wreath", which gives you an idea as to it's romantic nature.

I leave you with the opening paragraph from "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens which so succinctly shows us that while many things change, human nature does not:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Oft repeated in our industry, though probably not investigated enough, is the quizzical exclamation "What's in a name?" In this case I am dumbfounded, as this rose, which is a brilliant, bold yellow, would have been better suited to the name of fellow painter "Van Gogh". Could it be that the breeder Alain Meilland was intoxicated by Lautrec's prints of the dancers at the Moulin Rouge, especially the one illustrated here, or could it be a tribute to the sun of Southern France, whence Lautrec was originally from? Who knows? And why do I frequently associate the most fecund flowers with burlesque dancers?
Certainly, there is something rather alluring in flowers like the classic peonies and the masterpiece garden roses, in their demeanour and above all their disposition when they are most mature.
Perhaps the rose is a tribute to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's broad appetites and epicurean tastes, not to mention being a rather auspicious mixologist, almost a century before the word was created. His most lethal concoction was one he called "The Earthquake", and if it doesn't move the ground you walk on, it will most certainly have your skull spinning on your spine! Take four parts Absinthe, two parts red wine and add a splash of cognac! And, please, no ice. It is no coincidence that Toulouse-Lautrec died at the tender age of just 36 years.
This garden rose from the House of Meilland in the Cap d'Antibes in Provence, France, is a magnificent part of the "Romantica" collection, which also features the fabulous "Yves Piaget", and continues the intoxicating legacy of it's namesake, featuring a beguiling perfume rich with the sweet notes of citrus and grape and hints of lilac. The rose develops in a magnificent way, holds it open form in a most practical fashion, and the fragrance continues to issue throughout the time the roses are in an arrangement.  
Speaking for myself, and therefore not entirely objectively, this is my favorite yellow rose that is available commercially. It has a fairly organized center which resembles an old-fashioned bourbon rose with a generous amount of outer petals forming an attractive cup. While the blooms open quite rapidly, as is common with most yellow roses, the flowers tend to set when they have fully reflexed and the overall effect of these roses, simply massed in vases, is stupendous. Rich. Feminine. Exquisite. Billowing like the petticoats of a chorus line doing the "Can-Can".
OK. Now I get it.

First Image - Lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec "La Troupe de Mlle.Eglantine".
Images Two, Three & Four - Rosa "Toulouse-Lautrec" available here

Monday, November 15, 2010


In the world of flowers there are many terms that have been created to define flower shapes, patterns, petal structures and so forth. Quite incredibly, especially in this day of information at our finger tips, many of the succinct descriptive terms used to precisely define a flower have faded into the background. Even if one does know many of the terms, they are almost redundant as many people in our industry have no clue as to what you are talking about. Fortunately, we have access to thousands of images on the Internet which are worth many trillions of words, based on the assumption that one picture is worth a thousand, which may make many of them obsolete.
However I came across one such specific term recently which absolutely delighted me with its pertinence and perspicacity.  It is used to precisely define a type of herbaceous peony: "BOMB"! The epithet refers to the structure of a peony that has a dense compact center composed of many 'inner petals'; petals that are actually dramatically transformed stamens and which are so densely packed that they form a ball, often obscuring the guard petals, or appearing to sit on them, as if on a plate.
A classic example of this, as well as being one of the greatest herbaceous peonies of all time, is the seminal "Red Charm" which was hybridized by nurseryman Lyman D. Glasscock in Chicago in 1944, and which was awarded a Gold Medal by the American Peony Society. "Red Charm" is a double Bomb form and is the standard to which all red peonies are compared to, not just in form, but also in its true red color. It is unfortunate, but almost all other peonies that are classed as red are usually a shade or two into deep pink and while almost red, to the human eye they are not.
Incredibly, the name is derived from a classic frozen ice-cream desert that was perfected by none other than Escoffier. In the 19th century an elaborate dessert was formed in exotic copper and porcelain molds, and filled with frozen ice-cream, which in turn had another filling within. At the dawn of the 20th century Escoffier refined the desert, making the shape much simpler, using large mixing bowls for the form, filling them with a frozen ice-cream outer layer and then inside with frozen custard and syrup. The large frozen dessert that resulted when two hemispheres were put together resulted in a large solid orb, that resembled the explosive device of Russian anarchists. It seems the name for the dessert was borrowed from this device and became known as "La Bombe", a name which has endured into the 21st century.  In turn, during the 1920's the term was appropriated to describe this relatively new class of peonies, which had been developed on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ironically, the term has now become a popular part of the vernacular and is used to refer to something that is "off the charts", outstanding and awesome!! The Bomb!
And the term, especially in the modern context, really does apply to the American Classic; "Red Charm" It is available right now, for about two or three more weeks, so don't miss it.

Paeonia "Red Charm"
Images One & Six have had the guard petals removed

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Well, I have been cutting down on TV as of late, but in case I was missing anything, my girlfriend and I did a little channel-changing last night. First off, it just seems that the commercials go on for ever, and they are excruciatingly torturous. I mean awful. Second, given that there are hundreds of channels, it is amazing how many are unwatchable. Anyways, "The Arrangement" on Logo caught my eye. seeing as it was about, of all things, arranging flowers. But it is following the insidious competition formula started by the Food Network. In fact have you noticed how the Food Network has gone from being a cool channel with neat shows (I see Mario Batali has jumped ship! Good for him) to being a a channel about competitions involving foodstuffs.So much so they have created another channel for the cooking shows, which is ironically called the Cooking Channel (I think). It is like MTV's evolution from music channel with music to a music-channel with no music!
Anyway, I digress. "The Arrangement" is hideous, or at least this episode was, with so many ghastly puerile double-entendres about homosexuals, it made one's skin creep with embarassment. I mean are the producers of this show along with "Logo" trying to reinforce the stereotypes that already exist about the male part of the homosexual community? Because they are doing a good job of it, and giving the gay community and the floral industry short shrift in the process. And please, who designs flowers like this anymore? Aren't the days of contrived and tortured manipulations of floral products so 2000 and late?

This is doing more damage than the awful bouquets in most of the supermarkets. Surely, the time for a simple, heartfelt approach to flowers - such as you can find at any of the sites on the Blogroll, or indeed at so many florists around the country who treat flowers with respect and retain the intrinsic integrity of God's special creations - is now?

I think it is time to start a "Don' Be Cruel to Flowers" Movement!

Image from Saipua's excellent blog.
Casual, considerate and very cool. The way flowers ought to be handled. IMHO.

Monday, November 8, 2010


What the devil are we talking about? Two varieties of a flower named after a rather elusive yet tragic damsel from one of Virgil's pastoral poems. Yes, that Virgil...the one who penned "The Aeneid" , the classic history of Rome.
I have always been rather fond of Amaryllis, who kept her virtues and her beauty hidden below ground in a cave, and yet so brilliant and alluring was her beauty that even the obscurity of the depths of darkness found within the cave could not cloak her intense beauty. The name is derived from the Latin word for "sparkling" which is amarysso.
And yes, she has many admirers, although as usual she was stricken by a love she could not have, unless she brought to him a flower that was hitherto unknown to the world. Plunging a knife into her bosom, a flower appeared on her chest; a metaphor that appears in "Green, how I want you Green" by Llorca. (See post in September). Aah, those tragic poems!
Linnaeus, famous taxonomist who developed the system of naming plants that is used to this day elected to give this name to the class of flowers that we now call Hippeastrum, based largely on the fact that these fabulous flowers on erect, stiff stems appear suddenly from under the ground, where the bulbs have remained dormant for many months. The inflorescence is impressive and the variety of colors is beguiling.
Featured in the pictures are:
"Liberty" - a deep, rich red, a Burgundy really, with large blooms and a slightly glossy petal surface. It is in season now.
"Naranja" - a fully saturated orange flower, brilliant on the showy petals, and a matte coral/peach on the backside. Look for both of them now, at the peak of their season in Chile, as opposed to the forced blooms starting to arrive from Holland. While this is a new crop for Chile, the outlook appears to be very good, as the flowers are large, long-lasting and have stout stems. In vase tests the flowers have lasted very well.

Friday, November 5, 2010


"Dutchy". Bold. Brassy. Big. Bright. And very orange. Very, very orange. This new rose for 2010 is starting to appear on our shores, although why it is called Dutchy we are not sure. Presumably it has something to do with Holland. Perhaps it is a vernacular term of endearment for a native of Holland, seeing as their national color is bright orange? Or maybe it is named after a water pipe, often seen in the coffee shops of Amsterdam? Your guess is as good as mine, but one would have thought the Dutch breeders had already created enough orange roses to last at least until all the foreclosures in the USA housing market have been sold off!! Apparently not. While the color is exceptional, with an incredible saturation in the petals, I find the pointy, rather 1960's high-centered disposition rather unattractive and very old-fashioned.
But if you like the look of it, please do contact us. It certainly is the flavor of the month.

And have a terrific weekend.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


WHITE O'HARA, with apologies to Scarlett O'Hara. Or should it be Rhett Butler?     Clearly, all our harangueing of rose breeders as well as impressing on growers both in Ecuador and Colombia that fragrance is an extremely important component is finally starting to pay off. In association with those pleas, our desire for more romantic flower forms are also being addressed and now we can see that roses with characteristics of the old damask, bourbon and gallica roses are finally appearing in commercial cut flower production. At Mayesh we have reiterated these concepts like a broken record for the last twenty years, so it is gratifying to see the market finally catch up to our needs and wishes. And lets be clear, these are not original ideas but simply the manifestation of what our customer have been telling us for years.
For almost twenty five years, Mayesh has been selling fragrant garden roses in its Los Angeles location, and were the pioneers in Southern California for this esoteric product. We purchased them from Ray Ridell's rose farm in Northern California, a man who was certainly way ahead of his time.
The problem with garden roses is that they are bred to be enjoyed on shrubs in the garden, and thus generally do not have a good vase life. However, the fragrance and the romantic rosettes are simply too alluring to be ignored and slowly the marketplace demanded these products and the obvious flaws were tolerated fro many years. Nonetheless, it was obvious that this could never be anything more than a niche market, as issues with weak peduncles, debilitating diseases, especially downy mildew and aphid infestations, made them an item only for the most esoteric designers who were determined to capture the look and feel of sumptuous "Belle Epoque' rose garlands and arrangements. 
Today however, we can now count several roses that have been bred specifically for the commercial cut flower industry that have delightful fragrance, many of which have the double petal forms that are so much in demand but which deliver the critical floral pre-requisite of performance for the consumer.

Of course we are now familiar with David Austin's roses that he created specifically for the cut-flower industry, the most notableof which is "Patience" a spectacular white rose with a  fully double, quartered rosette that is a destined to be a classic. "Patience" has a delightful light sweet fragrance and overall is reminiscent of the exquisite garden rose "Felicité Hardy". "Vitality" is another exceptional white rose from the breeder De Ruiters, and although it is a somewhat high centered tea rose, it opens to a rather attractive aperture and is divinely fragrant. It has an exceptional vase life.
A few years ago, the French breeder Delbard introduced a delightful pink rose called O'Hara, which featured many attributes of a garden rose but is in fact bred for the commercial cut flower market. It has a disarmingly casual habit and opens somewhat loosely, liked a ruched silk scarf. It has a sweet aroma and is a delightful flower. And this summer, its companion "White O'Hara" was introduced to the marketplace.
The introduction of this rose, along with "Vitality", represents a seminal moment in the rose industry as several breeders have now demonstrated that it is possible to produce a vigorous, viable product for the cut flower industry that combines the desirable aesthetic attributes associated with garden roses with the hardy and abuse-tolerant  aspects of a commercial cut rose.
After doing several vase tests, we are of the opinion that "White O'Hara" will be a much sought after rose for weddings and events in 2011. We observed the following charcatersitics which we shall share with you here:
In the stage at which is shipped the bud is somewhat indifferent and resembles a rather bland hybrid tea. Removal of the guard petals is recommended, and probaly necessary, as they do sustain some bruising on transit. As the rose starts to open, a pink hue will be observed in the heart of the rose, and rather characteristically some will appear more pink than others. At the half way stage many of the blooms will reveal a formation of double and more typically triple hearts which are not particularly attractive, but this is just a phase. Shortly thereafter the rose develops into a very informal rosette which resembles, likes its cousin "O'Hara", a gathered handful of the finest creamy white silk. The pink hues fade away, and the result is an oustanding casual double rosette, very American in its loose disposition, and which holds in the vase.
Of course, while it is undoubtedly beautiful to look at, the coup de grace is the superb sweet scent, echoing sweet vanilla pods with notes of peach aroma and the fragrance of lilac.
The grower has assured Mayesh of a substantial supply of these roses for 2011 and beyond.
In fact we have his word on it!

For more information on this rose and all the Mayesh products please contact your sales associate or click here.
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