Tag: Flowers

May Garden Memories


My mother’s garden has been a feature of every place we called home. Once my parents settled into the home where they retired, almost the entire yard became gardens, with each section planted so that there would be something happening throughout the year in the Pacific Northwest. What follows is a small sampling of photographs from the past decade or two. 

My folks had a significant portion of a concrete patio ripped out shortly after they took ownership of their house, leaving a covered patio off the family/TV/media room and enough uncovered space for Dad’s charcoal grilling. Much of that uncovered chunk was turned into a tiered potted garden, with a variety of colors and shapes of foliage. Yes, that is a greenhouse/garden shed in the left background. We kids put the garden shed together one summer early on, from a prefabricated kit. It has stood going on three decades of rain and wind. The orientation lets Mom start plants in the late winter, so she, with the assistance of her undergardener (Dad) can get them into the ground at the earliest safe date.

Answering a Floral Mayday (M-1)


There is a reason I’ve been delaying this piece until the floral mania is over.  This was not a normal M-Day, this was basically a floral mayday call.  The reason will become rapidly apparent if you have read my previous posts.

This year, the crew was the Steel Rose; lead florist and fearless leader, Silence; IT guy and assistant manager (and son of Steel Rose), a new assistant florist from a family of florists – let’s call her Bumblebee, myself, and an old friend of mine and coworker, who is a safety professional and ordained minister – let’s call him the Rev.  We also had a former bank teller for half a day Thursday.   That’s it.  The bottled water delivery guy who offered to show up was a no-show.  This was the leanest crew they had ever run with – the Rev and I did 90% of the deliveries.

Advice from the Flower Shop (M-2)


Yet again I find myself working at my friend Silence’s mom’s flower shop in Northeastern Illinois. Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and unlike last year, most people are only giving lip service to COVID-19 regulations. It is crazy busy, and I am absolutely tired, so I will not have the full series of narrative posts this year. However, I can give you some pointers on flower ordering.

  1. Do not use wire services like FTD or 800flowers. They are likely to lose your order, promise something the florist cannot make, or even just take your money.  Use DuckDuckGo or your favorite search engine to help find a florist in the area, and call them directly.  You have much better accountability, a better idea of what you will actually get, and generally more helpful staff.  Besides, these are the small business owners we like to talk about supporting.
  2. Give the florist the recipient’s phone number.  I know you want to surprise Mom or your honeybunny with flowers, but we need a person to contact prior to sending out a delivery vehicle.  Someone has to be home to receive the flowers.  We can’t just leave flowers on the doorstep – too much risk of damage or theft.  We may need to call when we arrive or call to confirm the address.  Trust me, I’ve never seen a person bored or uninterested in receiving flowers.
  3. If you are clueless about flowers, give the florist a few ideas and a price range.  Florists deal with this all the time.  Mentioning a favorite flower or color will help personalize it, but these ladies are professionals.  I once used a florist after I forgot my mom’s birthday.  I mentioned she liked the Packers and fall colors, and gave a generous price ceiling.  Gorgeous arrangement with Packer balloon delivered, relationship restored, disownment canceled.
  4. Delivery orders need much more lead time than pick-up.  If this is a last-minute order, try for a pickup.   Delivery orders need to be planned and generally fill up much faster than pick-up orders, especially on holidays.  Most florists will have some items in the case ready to be sold, unless it is already insanely busy.  We can help you pack it safely
  5. Request a full-size card if you have a long message.  Flower cards are business card sized.  We had some USO cards for mothers of fallen soldiers that required microprinting to fit the message.  With a larger card, we can put on as long of a message as you want.  Alternatively, brevity is the soul of wit – keep it to the point.

It’s Officially Spring !


“The supermarket is a wonderful invention – efficient, convenient, virtually unlimited choice, and everything squeaky-plastic clean. Here you see the delightful weekly alternative: the weekly market in the village of Cucuron, where the stalls are set out around the shimmering rectangle of one of the biggest ‘bassins’ in Provence. It’s true that you won’t find here the essentials of modern life. This isn’t the place to come for canned and deep-frozen products, dishwashing liquid, pre-packed dinners for two, or deodorant.

But if your shopping list includes fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, local cheeses, the odd curious kitchen gadget, a variety of sausages, ham on the bone, and wine from the village ‘merchand de vins’, you won’t be disappointed. And even if you buy nothing except a cup of coffee in the market cafe, you will have spent the morning in lyrical surroundings you won’t forget for a long time.” from My Twenty-five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle.

Happy First Day of Spring!  Plant some herbs, visit a park, bring some early flowering branches indoors. Buy local produce this year and cheer the season of renewal with a glass of wine!  See you next year Punxsutawney Phil!

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Some of you may recall that I previously narrated the saga of my work in a northwestern Illinois flower shop – Operation Bloom. That was in the lead-up to Mother’s Day, one of the busiest times for a flower shop. This is about a colder holiday, where we deliver flowers to sweethearts through snow – […]

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Group Writing: The Harbinger


Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass–innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.
Walt Whitman

So many beautiful group-writing posts this month, on the topic of spring flowers. It’s my privilege to round out the total on the last day, and I’m doing so by writing about the humblest of spring flowers, one which is regarded by many as a noxious weed and garden-spoiler, but one which means the world to me.

The dandelion (taraxacum officinale) takes its common English name from the French phrase dent de lion, or “lion’s tooth.” That’s always struck me as odd because the petals don’t look like teeth to me at all. But I suppose a phrase which seems more appropriate to me, crinière de lion, or “lion’s mane,” isn’t as appealing–“crineerdelion” neither looks, nor sounds like something one would want in one’s garden.

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When I signed up for this group writing, I was thinking about my grandfather’s glorious garden, which a few music videos were filmed at. But sadly I ran out of things to say after five sentences. So instead, I am introducing you to the most famous scene in Cambodian ballet. What does ballet have to […]

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After it was over, I spent some time trying to wrap my head around flowers in December. Not just any flowers, but the roses from an apparition who claimed to be the Mother of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, as well as The Queen of The Universe. I know that is who she is, as […]

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Group Writing April: Easter Flowers


Years ago, my daughter asked for us to join our parish’s Altar Rosary Society, which is a group of parishioners who clean the church, launder the altar linens, straighten up the pews and, at Easter and Christmas, we decorate the church. For Christmas, there are poinsettias and ropes of evergreen garlands. Usually for Easter, there are dozens of lilies and hyacinths and daffodils and other beautiful spring flowers to adorn the altar and the statues of Mary and the saints, filling the church with their heavenly smell.

Tomorrow, the day before Palm Sunday, is usually the day we get out our buckets and clean all the wood in the church, and give the whole building an extra-special cleaning for Easter. As everyone knows, Murphy’s Oil is the smell of “clean.”

Group Writing: The Scent of a Woman


The scent of rumduol is the scent of a woman. Phka rumduol, phka being the Khmer word for flower, is the national flower of Cambodia. Rumduol has been a beloved bloom of the Khmer people for thousands of years. It graced many of our temples and sculpted female figures are adorned with rumduol in their hair and bodies. They also graced the temples’ colonnades and door frames.

Rumduol is the single most recurring character in Khmer literature. Countless poets, playwrights and lyricists, in the past as in the present, have gone to great lengths to extol the beauty of rumduol the flower and rumduol the woman and sometimes both. In Khmer culture, rumduol is synonymous with women and represents feminine beauty. This doesn’t just apply to literature. Khmers use rumduol and women interchangeably in real life as well. In the past, young women would thread rumduol blooms into body chains to wear before entering temples to receive blessing. But the flower itself bears neither Hindu nor Buddhist connotation. Khmers just simply love rumduol.

Rumduol flower comes from the rumduol plant (sphaerocoryne affinis), which belongs to the annonaceae or soursop family. Rumduol is native to Cambodia, often seen growing wild in semi-dense and secondary vegetation in the plains of country. They are heavily concentrated particularly around Angkor Wat temple. The plant is also cultivated all over the country; they line the streets, in the parks, hotels, cafes and private residences.

Beauty Blooming All Over


The monthly theme of “Blooming Ideas” made me immediately think of my mother and her flowers. It is an appropriate topic for the spring season and Mother’s Day.

As if she didn’t have enough to do, what with the eight kids, cow milking, baling hay, laundry, cooking three meals a day, she maintained a very gorgeous flowery yard. She wasn’t unique in this endeavor. All of her friends and peers had carefully tended flower beds, too. She learned it from her parents. I loved visiting my grandparents in the summer for many reasons, but one, in particular, was that Grandpa had planted a section of flowers by his house that was specifically for grandchildren to enjoy. It was a big bed of pansies, and he showed us how pansies had a little face. And we could pick some of them! We totally loved that we could hold them in our hands and play with them. Also, did you know that snapdragon blossoms can be manipulated to look like they are talking to you? And they’ll sing you a little song, or just say hi? My grandpa…

M-3: Calm Before The Storm


Today was a day for introductions & preparation. Tomorrow and Saturday will be incredibly busy.

Introductions are in order, but not all the faces are new. Overall command and expertise lies with the Steel Rose, our fearless leader and lead florist. She has decades of experience to draw on. The number one rule around here is do what she says. Silence handles IT and communications with the various wire services like 1-800-FLOWERS, BloomNet, and FTD. Each uses a separate system and has random eccentricities, like repeatedly sending orders we cannot complete, sending orders with obscenely low prices where we can’t make a profit, and general errors / omissions. It requires an expert geek, and Silence is certainly qualified, having delivered flowers and managed the wire services for decades. Besides, it is appropriate that a military history major manages our logistics. Honeybee is our dedicated assistant florist; she has several years of experience and is very helpful.

Group Writing: M-4


The subject of this series of posts is going to be a bit different from normal. It’s a different experience for me, certainly. For today is M-4.

I sit at a borrowed computer in an apartment over a flower shop in a historic building, somewhere in small town Illinois. A small TV shows Fox News continuously on mute. I’m here on vacation to work during the busiest time of the year for florists: Mother’s Day. And I will transcribe the highlights here, as part of our Group Writing series on Bloomin’ Ideas.

Summer on the Farm


This “summer” story starts in the winter. In order for one to truly appreciate summer, a wintry time must come first.

Each January afternoon the school bus dropped us off at home, and with great determination, my sister and I would resolve to get right out to the milking barn. The sooner we got to it, the sooner we could be finished. But it was so hard to leave the house…. Our mom always had something baking, like cookies or cinnamon rolls. We’d bring in our chilly chore clothes from the porch off the kitchen, and warm them up by the coal stove.

The Language of Flowers: Status-Signaling, Virtue-Signaling, Etc


Tulip by Quartl, Wikimedia Commons, Cropped

Anyone imagining that just any sort of flowers can be presented in the front of a house without status jeopardy would be wrong. Upper-middle-class flowers are rhododendrons, tiger lilies, amaryllis, columbine, clematis, and roses, except for bright-red ones. One way to learn which flowers are vulgar is to notice the varieties favored on Sunday-morning TV religious programs like Rex Humbard’s or Robert Schuller’s. There you will see primarily geraniums (red are lower than pink), poinsettias, and chrysanthemums, and you will know instantly, without even attending to the quality of the discourse, that you are looking at a high-prole setup. Other prole flowers include anything too vividly red, like red tulips. Declassed also are phlox, zinnias, salvia, gladioli, begonias, dahlias, fuchsias, and petunias. Members of the middle class will sometimes hope to mitigate the vulgarity of bright-red flowers by planting them in a rotting wheelbarrow or rowboat displayed on the front lawn, but seldom with success.

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Whenever I step onto our lanai, I can’t help but drop down to smell the plumeria blossom. The fragrance transports me to Hawaii, particularly Kona, where the palm trees sway, the ocean gently touches the sands and the sun almost always shines. There is no way to avoid that trip, but why would I want […]

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Pravda-on-the-Hudson Gets Spoofed


shutterstock_183118241Every once in a while, some clever charlatan takes Pravda-on-the-Hudson to the cleaners. And what better day for a bit of mischief along these lines than Mother’s Day!

This is what Jennifer Grayson — who passes herself off as “environmental journalist” and claims to be writing a book called Unlatched “about the breastfeeding controversy” — did today. Here is how she begins:

How’s this as a gesture of love for the woman who bore you? Chop off the reproductive organ of a plant and send it to her in a box tied up with a pretty bow.

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When I was first married,  I commuted by bus every day from Newburyport to Boston. This was a long ride, and we passengers always sat in the same seats–every single day,  morning and night. You get to know people this way. I sat behind two bankers, and they would read the Wall Street Journal all […]

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