Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bring on the blooms: Flower power dates back to the Greeks

Pansies are perennial favorites in Ashland, Oregon, and this one was part of a shop windowbox display. 
 STORY by Christene Meyers
    PHOTOS by Bruce Keller
    Acres of ice plant are creeping down the hillsides of southern California, turning the countryside lavender, pink, yellow and purple just in time for Easter.
     During a frenetic 22-lane freeway foray from Los Angeles back to San Diego yesterday, we admired section after section of brilliant, budding erosion-controlling color. It was the drive's saving grace.
California's ice plant is abloom now!
     Ice plant is hardy and easy to grow. Certain varieties even look pretty in bouquets.  I love watching it frame the freeways and creep toward the beaches. My state of near iceplant hypnosis prompted my wondering who first had the inspiration to "harvest" flowers and bring them inside.
    The art of flower cultivation is time honored.  Uses of floral beauty are as many and varied as the petals on posies.
     Greeks staged banquets featuring a floor covered with a foot of flower petals on which honored guests entered the feasting room.
       The monks of the middle ages were the doctors of their day, growing and harvesting flowering herbs to treat whatever ailed the multitudes or their fellows.
      Egypt, China, Japan and India have rich flower-loving traditions.
      Paintings of exaggerated floral arrangements have been popular in Europe for centuries and the Italian Renaissance helped give flower arranging extra spark. By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, floral displays were commonplace among the upper classes.  A wide variety of materials were used to make containers -- marble, heavy Venetian glass, and bronze, many gracing the world's museums today.
This bouquet was delivered to our cruise stateroom, fashioned
from flowers grown in the Canary Islands. 
 It was also during the Renaissance that tropical fruit began to emerge on vases and even in some floral bouquets.  In art, fruit was often paired with popular flowers such as narcissus, pinks, iris, jasmine, pansies, French marigolds, cornflowers and rosemary.
      In England, fruits blossoms and leaves were woven into garlands to decorate walls and vaulted ceilings. On festive occasions, petals were piled into baskets to sprinkle on the floors, a custom which probably spawned our present-day "flower girl" wedding tradition.
A hike in Stillwater County in Montana's
Beartooth Mountains shows a stubborn
little wildflower growing from rock.

      While flowers were used by the gentry for centuries, large numbers of average people began to appreciate, grow, pick and arrange flowers in the 18th Century.  This was when flowers began to be fashionable around the globe. The Victorians loved color and relied on flowers to help counteract the unfortunate odors of the horrible hygiene of the day.  "Tuzzy-muzzy" bouquets were used to eliminate odors and many believed the aptly named "nosegay" helped counteract disease. (Also spelled tussie mussie, it has some vulgar connotations..... but that's another posting!) Today's millions of gardeners worldwide enjoy flowers.  They range from ranchers and farmers in my native Montana, whose iris and peony will be shooting up soon, to my neighbors here in San Diego, whose pots of tomatoes, lemons, basil, rosemary and even figs are lovingly tended on tiny townhouse patios.

A California poppy brightens up a La Jolla garden.
        Whether flowers are in your world to attract birds and bees, provide shade or color, or simply because gardening relaxes, we salute these faithful floral friends.  Their presence provides soothing beauty and often fragrance.
     Flowers announce the arrival of spring and the presence of love.  Flowers are food, medicine and peace of mind! Flowers say "forgive me, I love you, be my friend, in sympathy and thanks." They are also inspiration for this humble writer and her photographer partner, whose favorite pictures of posies appear here! Enjoy!
A dahlia blooms in a garden at High Chaparral in Montana.

      In a few days, we plan a little unorthodox fun -- maybe hit the road on  our Harleys, get a tatoo or two, haul out the saxophone, dust off the fishing pole, and say good-bye to our decorous past!  
     In the spirit of carpe diem, watch for the revels  Saturday, March 30.
Fighting middle age, raging against
the dying of the light, Keller and
Cookie plan a little fun!

    We are happy to be hearing from readers Singapore to Sidney (both Sidney, Montana, and Sydney, Australia!). Today, we received a message from South Korea and heard from a man in Miles City, born in Baghdad. We post Wednesdays and Saturdays at:
    Please tell those persons who might enjoy.

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