Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two of My Favorite Things

Oh my goodness. Shoes! Flowers! Shoes that look like flowers! This is great. I just discovered a new book called Shoe Fleur, by Michel Tcherevkoff. An accomplished Paris photographer who has done ad campaigns for clients such as Valentino and Maybelline, he fell upon this idea by accident. One day while in his photography studio, he noticed a leaf that had been used in the shoot, and thought that it looked like a shoe! Photographing the leaf, he played with it in Photoshop, and the idea took off.

Every morning he would bring back crates of flowers from the flower market and start manipulating. Each shoe or purse is crafted from just one type of flower or plant- he'd decided early on to not mix elements. Often, the stem or leaf becomes more prominent than the showier flower portion. He twists, knots, ties and weaves the material to achieve the desired look.

Computers and software seem to be incongruous with flowers and fantasy shoes, but it's where it all comes together. Michel is all about fantasy and appreciates the opportunity to create his own kind of "reality".


The book's introduction is by Diane Von Furstenburg, herself no stranger to the fantasy of fashion!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

National Rose Month

Did you know that June is National Rose Month? The rose has a long history of symbolism, and here are a few fun facts about roses you may not have known:

*George Washington was the first rose breeder in the United States.

*Over a billion roses are sold annually!

*Samuel de Champlain brought the first cultivated rose to North America in the 17th century.

*The most popular modern rose is "Peace", shown above. It's always been one of my favorites, along with "Princess Diana", below.

*Five states call the rose their State Flower: Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia.

*Since 1986, the rose has been the official Emblem of the United States. It is also the National Flower of England, long known for its love of roses.

*The largest private rose garden in the world is in Cavriglia, Italy and holds over 7500 different varieties of roses.

*The world's oldest living rose is believed to be 1000 years old, and grows on the wall of the Cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany. Its presence is documented since A.D. 81.

*The oldest garden rose variety is the Apothecary Rose.

*The largest rose ever bred occured in California. It was a pink rose measuring 33 inches in diameter!

*The rose is the favorite flower of 85% of Americans.

*Every rose color has a meaning associated with it. The most popular color (and most traditional) is red. There are as yet, no true black roses.

Some of the most fragrant roses are the 'antiques", such as the Bourbons, the Gallicas, the floribundas. Famed British rosarian David Austin is responsible for improving the old roses and reintroducing them to a new audience. I love the old varieties like this gorgeous "Mary Rose"

Portland, Oregon is known as the Rose City. It's home to the International Rose Test Garden, which was founded in 1917, making it the oldest continuously operated public rose test garden in the U.S.

McKinley Park Rose Garden in Sacramento, CA., another beautiful spot boasting over 1200 rose plants of all varieties. I love this delicate single called "Dainty Bess" with it's shell-pink blush of color.

Elizabeth Park Rose Garden in Hartford, CT. has the distinction of being the oldest municipally operated rose garden, and cares for an eye-popping 15,000 plants! If you can't find a rose you like here, then you don't like roses!

In Texas, the Tyler Rose Garden is the largest, encompassing 14 acres. They host the annual Texas Rose Festival. Since everything is bigger in Texas, how about this "Dolly Parton" rose for eyepopping?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Seed Art That Sells

Almost everyone has purchased a package of flower or vegetable seed at least once in their lifetime. Available nearly anywhere, and just about year-round, they are colorful promises of lovely things to come. But did you know that there is a whole industry behind that colorful photo beckoning you to buy?

There's a fun book out on the subject: Seed Art: The Package Made me Buy it, by Irwin Richman. It tells all about the art and science of selecting photos or art for seed packets, which are designed to entice you, and promise you perfect and amazing plants!

Much thought goes into the actual naming of flowers and veggies, too. One of the most famous tomato varieties is called "Mortgage Lifter", an heirloom variety from the turn of the century. Legend has it that it was so named due to it's size-an enormous tomato that sold so well, it helped the farmer pay off his farm!

New York's Hudson Valley Seed Library has taken creative imagery one further, by inviting local artists to create their own seed package image on 13 different plants from Calendula to Zinnia. As varied as the artists themselves, they are printed on recycled paper, and unfold like flowers! Whether you plant the seeds or not (who wouldn't?), the packs are little works of art. You can find them at

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blue Monday

It's often thought that there are no 'real' blue flowers, and in a way, that may be true. Most 'blue' flowers lean towards purple or have an undertone of pink. And no matter what those cut-rate flower catalogs tell you, there is no blue rose! (though the breeders continue to work on it!).

But, when nothing but "blue" will do, there are plenty of options to choose from. For a start, that beautiful head of florets known as the blue Hydrangea can fill a vase with just one stem. Right now, it's a favorite with brides.

Blue is an unusual color in a geranium, but the Johnson's Blue variety is pretty, with masses of soft blue blooms and an easy-going nature.

Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile) is a statement plant no matter what color it is (pink, white, blue, yellow, orange) but the blue makes a beautiful cut flower. Outdoors, the tall stately stems are striking when massed together, though a bit tricky to grow.

The Himalayan Blue Poppy: Native to Tibet, expensive to acquire, widely sought after, and thought to be impossible to grow. Vita Sackville-West, the English poet and gardener, said the blue poppy is "the dream of every gardener". An unlikely place to find a fabulous collection of them is in the far reaches of northern Quebec, at Les Jardin de Metis. Recently, I spied a few at Tryon Palace gardens in New Bern, while dodging the rain.

Delphinium is another showy flower that comes in a range of blues and purples, as well as white and pink. Its tall spires attract bees and admiring glances from passerby wherever they are located, but are especially successful in adding height and interest to the back of a border garden.

Just one look at this page will confirm that there is no one 'real' blue in flowers, but instead, a delightful range of hues that will take away anyone's "blues"!

What are your favorites?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Nifty Raffia

Just about every crafter has a messy hank of raffia kicking around. Most commonly used for wrapping gifts or bunches of flowers, it has been popular for ages. But what is it, exactly, and where does raffia come from?

Originally from the island of Madagascar, raffia is derived from the Raphia Australis palm, which has the largest leaves in the world. They are shredded and used as a myriad of products, many of which you probably weren't aware could be made with raffia!

Take this chair, for instance, recently offered in the Horchow catalog. Beautiful in it's woven simplicity, it could easily be mistaken for wicker. But because raffia does not absorb water, it is an excellent choice for outdoor products.

The fashion industry is keen on raffia, too. Relatively inexpensive and easy to work with, designers have fashioned it into shoes (such as these by Stella McCartney) and handbags (this one from Anya Hindmarch). Of course, the prices for these pieces go beyond the usual $5 raffia hat found in most any flea market!

Easily dyed and woven, raffia can also be used as a fabric. Here it's used as a soft fringe on this pretty Hawaiian-fabric pillow.

Who knew that all this could be done with just a palm tree?