Monday, February 23, 2009

In a State over Flowers

Everyone is familiar with the State Flower of their particular home state. But how many know why we have state flowers, and how they came to be? There are some interesting stories behind the selections.

North Carolina's State Flower, the Dogwood, was designated in 1941. The reason for it's selection is simple: it is one of the most prevalent trees and can be found in all parts of the state, from the coast to the mountains. Dogwood's early spring blossoms are most often found in white, although shades of pink and red are not uncommon.

My home state of Maine is unusual in that it's 'flower" is the White Pine cone and tassel, technically a gymnosperm, meaning plant with a cone, and therefore not a flower! It was chosen in 1894 after officials saw the cone in a floral emblem at the World's Fair. However, Maine also has an unofficial state flower in the beautiful blue Lupine. I love seeing the rolling fields covered in their blue blossoms in June.

Washington state's flower came into being when it allowed women (and not men) to vote on which would be their choice. They selected the coast rhododendron, and shortly thereafter began Washington's suffragette movement.

My previous adopted home state of Vermont's flower is the Red Clover, designated in 1894. Though a common sight in Vermont's scenic countryside and cultivated hay fields, Trifolium pratense is not a native of Vermont but was naturalized from Europe.

The Purple Lilac is representative of New Hampshire's hardy character. In May the scent of this hardy flowering tree is unforgettable, and a much-needed reminder that summer is on the way. It was first imported from England in 1750.

The hibiscus, all colors and varieties, was the official Territorial Flower of Hawaii, adopted in the early 1920s. At statehood in 1959, the first state legislature adopted many of Hawaii's symbols as part of the Hawaii Revised Statutes. But it wasn't until 1988 that the native yellow hibiscus was selected to represent Hawaii. You may find older postcards that show red or other colored hibiscus for that reason.

Do you know the story behind your home state's Official Flower?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Little Something for your Collection

Roses have always been my favorite flower. Oddly though, I do not wear roses on clothing, or favor things that have roses on them. However, I have to say, this Judith Leiber minaudiere is certainly exquisite, n'est ce pas?

Composed of 1016 diamonds, (over 42 carats), 1169 pink sapphires, and 800 pink tourmalines-it would be the crown jewel to any evening bag collection, and is certainly one of the most stunning in Leiber's 45 year history of crafting handbags.

Hungarian by birth, Judith emigrated to the US in 1947 and
launched the Leiber Company in 1963. It all started innocently enough-Judith had mail-ordered a gift for a friend, which arrived terribly scratched. She decided to cover it up with crystals, and so began the Leiber empire. Still going strong today, Judith Leiber Inc. has expanded into decorative objects, sunglasses and jewelry. But the handbags remain the standouts.

Each First Lady going back to 1953 has carried a custom made bag to the Presidential Inauguration. Leiber purses are always well represented on the red carpet as well.

One of the few luxury products still made by hand in the US today, Leiber purses are priced in the thousands of dollars.

If you were a fan of "Sex and the City", you will probably remember the episode where Mr. Big gives Carrie an unexpected gift of a Lieber Swan purse, which completely underwhelmed her!

To see more of these creations, see the book The Artful Handbag, a beautiful coffee-table book documenting the history of the company.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All the Fuss over Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. Most of us celebrate it, in our own unique ways. Some swear by the ever-popular flowers and chocolates. Others give Valentines lovingly made by hand. Still others insist a cuddly stuffed animal is the only way to go. But who is this St. Valentine, and why do we celebrate this holiday? The Catholic Church today recognizes at least 3 saints named Valantine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. (Hmmm. that's not very romantic!)

According to one legend, "Valentine" actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young blind girl — she may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. At the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters thanks to improvements in printing technology. The Victorians frowned upon direct expressions of feeling, so ready-made cards were a perfect way for people to express their feelings. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s, though the first mass-produced valentines did not appear until the 1840's.

Raphael Tuck was a prolific designer of cards during the Victorian era. I've been collecting silk-fringed greeting cards for years, and the Tuck Valentines are my favorites among the many dozens I've amassed. Not surprisingly, because they are beautifully adorned with flowers!

Valentine's Day is celebrated every year all over the world on February 14, with flowers being the most popular gift by far.

Roses, especially red and pink roses, are the favorites of lovers on the Valentines Day since they have been a symbol of love right from the Victorian times. This may stem from the belief that the rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the goddess of love. But giving flowers as gifts began as far back as the 1700's when Charles II of Sweden introduced the Persian custom of the "language of flowers" to Europe.

Not surprisingly, men purchase the vast majority of flowers and candy for Valentine's Day. But, surveys have been conducted in the past that show men love being the recipients of flowers as well!