Classical Furniture Upstaged by Flower Power

By at July 30, 2012 | 12:55 am | 0 Comment

Classical Furniture Upstaged by Flower Power


FlowerMaps.com presents: Classical Furniture Upstaged by Flower Power: NECESSITY may be the mother of invention, but surely boredom is part of the equation, too. What else but idle hands would drive an otherwise sensible person to transform an icon of modernist restraint into a giddy evocation of pure hippie chic? Buy flowers now!

”Eszter Haraszty had no respect for this stuff,” said Liz O’Brien, a leading Manhattan dealer of 20th-century furniture. In her move last week from her Soho gallery to an eponymous new space at 800-A Fifth Ave., Ms. O’Brien brought along one of Haraszty’s homemade reinventions — a bentwood Thonet settee, painted shining white and dressed in white linen embroidered with voluptuous Iceland poppies. There is so much stitchery over stitchery, in fact, that each flower is about an inch thick. Though the effect is entirely unlike that intended by its Victorian manufacturer, Michael Thonet, the settee, which is priced at $5,250, has a happy-face joie de vivre that Ms. O’Brien called ”a perfect statement of its time.” Buy flowers now!

Make that the 1960’s, not the 1860’s, when the steam-bent wood furniture manufactured by the company Gebruder Thonet came into international vogue. With her blond Twiggy-style crop, Gabor-sisters accent, thigh-high skirts and bug-eye sunglasses, Eszter Haraszty was an Age of Aquarius heroine, one part Carnaby Street to two parts Woodstock. Though her name is unknown today, the Hungarian-born Haraszty, who died in 1995 at 74, was an American design guru in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, thanks to the ebullient color sense and swashbuckling patterns she championed as the director of KnollTextiles, the fabric division of the modern furniture company started in 1937 by Hans G. Knoll. Buy flowers now!

Just as quickly as she made her mark there, however, Haraszty resigned. First, she married a television producer, and then she abandoned Manhattan for Los Angeles, where Haraszty set to work revamping an unprepossessing house in Coldwater Canyon. The cottage was recast as a paean to flower power. Fireplaces were encased in yellow-and-white flowered tiles, thickly flowered rugs paved the floors, and giant red poppies, Haraszty’s favorite flower, were painted on the cobalt-blue garage door. Out in the garden, the designer and her husband built a petal-shape altar to sunworshipping: six scarlet vinyl mattresses set atop individual brick platforms, all radiating from a Chinese paper parasol painted with giant red and pink blooms.


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Delivery Flowers

By at June 15, 2012 | 5:18 am | 0 Comment

sending flowers online

Delivery Flowers

Delivery flowers presents a unique story which relates to the industry from flowers around the world. In 1970 the Metropolitan Museum curator Henry Geldzahler mounted a big survey of three decades of New York art. It included two rooms of work by Ellsworth Kelly: one of abstract painting and sculpture, and another given over entirely to drawings of plants. It was the first time Mr. Kelly had shown any of these drawings, which he had been making since his first big artistic breakthrough in late-1940s Paris. Deliver flowers is derived from the start of time.[more…]

He is still producing them. And this body of work is now back at the Met, in the revealing, intuitive exhibition “Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings.” As the show makes clear, the plant drawings aren’t just a side project; over the years they have seeded Mr. Kelly’s better-known abstract artworks.

For most of his career Mr. Kelly, 89, has been trying to remove the barriers between artist and subject, to strip away the self-consciousness of the creative act. In ways that aren’t immediately obvious, the plant drawings have helped him figure out how to do that. He has called them “a kind of bridge to a way of seeing that was the basis of the very first abstract paintings.” When it comes to flowers you can see a person like Mr. Kelly could easily fall in love with the same theory.

Artists, or really anyone who has drawn from observation, will know immediately what he means. Others will get it after a while, especially if they are acquainted with Mr. Kelly’s early painting and sculpture. (And in case they aren’t, the Met has provided an excellent example from the collection: “Blue Green Red,” from 1963; others can be seen in the modern and contemporary galleries just upstairs from the exhibition).

The plant studies are, for the most part, contour drawings of leaves, stems and flowers done in clean strokes of pencil or pen and centered on the page. Mr. Kelly does not use shading, relying on line alone to convey volume — as Calder and Matisse, to name two artists he has studied closely, were fond of doing. Buy flowers!

His drawings are reductive — whole stems are sometimes omitted — but they are also uncannily descriptive. In the absence of shadows, overlaps become especially significant as indicators of depth.  Flowers are truly take the same shape as in art.

Plants, then, are a gateway to abstraction — much like the windows, staircases and other neutral bits of architecture from which Mr. Kelly derived some of his early paintings. But they’re hardly arbitrary subject matter. Mr. Kelly has had a green thumb since childhood, even managing to grow corn on the roof of his 1950s studio at Counties Slip in Lower Manhattan. And his botanical drawings, when seen en masse, can look like a minimalist version of a horticultural encyclopedia.

Yet the plants and flowers, in his eyes, are not specimens. In his catalog interview with the Met curator who organized the show, Marla Prather, Mr. Kelly insists that his drawings are “portraits of flowers, not anonymous.” Each bloom corresponds to a particular time and place, and prompts a very specific, almost Proustian memory.

As he tells Ms. Prather, a 1960 drawing of wild grape leaves reminds him of summer in Springs, on eastern Long Island. (He remembers that de Kooning rode past on a bicycle as he was working on the drawing.) “Catalpa,” from 1964, recalls a roadside sketching session on the Palisades. “Coral Leaf,” from 1989, evokes holidays in St. Martin.

Another way of putting it is that the act of choosing the plants matters as much as the act of drawing. “Each drawing that I’ve done, I have found,” he says. “Meaning, I see a plant I want to draw.” Later he describes finding the subject of “Poppy,” from 1984, in a ditch in California on a drive to Big Sur: “I loved it because of how I had found it. It’s seeing a fragment, a flash — what one has been waiting for. And it says, ‘Here I am.’ ”

Over the years he has tended to favor big, sturdy flora: water lilies, banana leaves, sunflowers and especially wild grape. In 1960 he floated six of its heart-shaped leaves along a diagonal; the following year he scattered them more profusely across a wide sheet of paper, in the manner of Japanese screen painters. Later, in 1980, he emphasized their saw-tooth edges and included a thin, brittle-looking branch.

But what you see in this show most of all isn’t the shapes of leaves, stems or blossoms. It’s the extraordinary give and take between Mr. Kelly’s hand and eye, a process that’s as organic as photosynthesis. When it comes to flowers you can really see the gift of life.


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Buy Flowers

By at June 15, 2012 | 3:48 am | 0 Comment

Buy Flowers

Buy flowers! In the summer of 1973 sunflowers appeared in my father’s vegetable garden. They seemed to sprout overnight in a few rows he had lent that year to new neighbors from California. Only six years old at the time, I was at first put off by these garish plants. Such strange and vibrant flowers seemed out of place among the respectable beans, peppers, spinach, and other vegetables we had always grown. Gradually, however, the brilliance of the sunflowers won me over. [more…]Their fiery halos relieved the green monotone that by late summer ruled the garden. I marveled at birds that clung upside down to the shaggy, gold disks, wings fluttering, looting the seeds. Sunflowers defined flowers for me that summer and changed my view of the world.

Flowers have a way of doing that. They began changing the way the world looked almost as soon as they appeared on Earth about 130 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. That’s relatively recent in geologic time: If all Earth’s history were compressed into an hour, flowering plants would exist for only the last 90 seconds. But once they took firm root about 100 million years ago, they swiftly diversified in an explosion of varieties that established most of the flowering plant families of the modern world.

Today flowering plant species outnumber by twenty to one those of ferns and cone-bearing trees, or conifers, which had thrived for 200 million years before the first bloom appeared. As a food source flowering plants provide us and the rest of the animal world with the nourishment that is fundamental to our existence. In the words of Walter Judd, a botanist at the University of Florida, “If it weren’t for flowering plants, we humans wouldn’t be here.”

From oaks and palms to wildflowers and water lilies, across the miles of cornfields and citrus orchards to my father’s garden, flowering plants have come to rule the worlds of botany and agriculture. They also reign over an ethereal realm sought by artists, poets, and everyday people in search of inspiration, solace, or the simple pleasure of beholding a blossom.

“Before flowering plants appeared,” says Dale Russell, a paleontologist with North Carolina State University and the State Museum of Natural Sciences, “the world was like a Japanese garden: peaceful, somber, green; inhabited by fish, turtles, and dragonflies. After flowering plants, the world became like an English garden, full of bright color and variety, visited by butterflies and honeybees. Flowers of all shapes and colors bloomed among the greenery.”

That dramatic change represents one of the great moments in the history of life on the planet. What allowed flowering plants to dominate the world’s flora so quickly? What was their great innovation?

Botanists call flowering plants angiosperms, from the Greek words for “vessel” and “seed.” Unlike conifers, which produce seeds in open cones, angiosperms enclose their seeds in fruit. Each fruit contains one or more carpels, hollow chambers that protect and nourish the seeds. Slice a tomato in half, for instance, and you’ll find carpels. These structures are the defining trait of all angiosperms and one key to the success of this huge plant group, which numbers some 235,000 species.

Just when and how did the first flowering plants emerge? Charles Darwin pondered that question, and paleobotanists are still searching for an answer. Throughout the 1990s discoveries of fossilized flowers in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America offered important clues. At the same time the field of genetics brought a whole new set of tools to the search. As a result, modern paleobotany has undergone a boom not unlike the Cretaceous flower explosion itself.

Now old-style fossil hunters with shovels and microscopes compare notes with molecular biologists using genetic sequencing to trace modern plant families backward to their origins. These two groups of researchers don’t always arrive at the same birthplace, but both camps agree on why the quest is important.

“If we have an accurate picture of the evolution of a flowering plant,” says Walter Judd, “then we can know things about its structure and function that will help us answer certain questions: What sorts of species can it be crossed with? What sorts of pollinators are effective?” This, he says, takes us toward ever more sensible and productive methods of agriculture, as well as a clearer understanding of the larger process of evolution. Buy flowers!

Elizabeth Zimmer, a molecular biologist with the Smithsonian Institution, has been rethinking that process in recent years. Zimmer has been working to decipher the genealogy of flowering plants by studying the DNA of today’s species. Her work accelerated in the late 1990s during a federally funded study called Deep Green, developed to foster coordination among scientists studying plant evolution.

Zimmer and her colleagues began looking in their shared data for groups of plants with common inherited traits, hoping eventually to identify a common ancestor to all flowering plants. Results to date indicate that the oldest living lineage, reaching back at least 130 million years, is Amborellaceae, a family that includes just one known species, Amborella trichopoda. Often described as a “living fossil,” this small woody plant grows only on New Caledonia, a South Pacific island famous among botanists for its primeval flora.

But we don’t have an Amborella from 130 million years ago, so we can only wonder if it looked the same as today’s variety. We do have fossils of other extinct flowering plants, the oldest buried in 130-million-year-old sediments. These fossils give us our only tangible hints of what early flowers looked like, suggesting they were tiny and unadorned, lacking showy petals. These no-frill flowers challenge most notions of what makes a flower a flower.

To see what the first primitive angiosperm might have looked like, I flew to England and there met paleobotanist Chris Hill, formerly with London’s Natural History Museum. Hill drove me through rolling countryside to Smokejacks Brickworks, a quarry south of London. Smokejacks is a hundred-foot-deep (30-meter-deep) hole in the ground, as wide as several football fields, that has been offering up a lot more than raw material for bricks. Its rust-colored clays have preserved thousands of fossils from about 130 million years ago. We marched to the bottom of the quarry, got down on our hands and knees, and began digging.

Soon Hill lifted a chunk of mudstone. He presented it to me and pointed to an imprint of a tiny stem that terminated in a rudimentary flower. The fossil resembled a single sprout plucked from a head of broccoli. The world’s first flower? More like a prototype of a flower, said Hill, who made his initial fossil find here in the early 1990s. He officially named it Bevhalstia pebja, words cobbled from the names of his closest colleagues.

Through my magnifying glass the Bevhalstia fossil appeared small and straggly, an unremarkable weed I might see growing in the water near the edge of a pond, which is where Hill believes it grew.

“Here’s why I think it could be a primitive flowering plant,” said Hill. “Bevhalstia is unique and unassignable to any modern family of plants. So we start by comparing it to what we know.” The stems of some modern aquatic plants share the same branching patterns as Bevhalstia and grow tiny flower buds at the ends of certain branches. Bevhalstia also bears a striking resemblance to a fossil reported in 1990 by American paleobotanists Leo Hickey and Dave Taylor. That specimen, a diminutive 120-million-year-old plant from Australia, grew leaves that are neither fernlike nor needlelike. Instead they are inlaid with veins like the leaves of modern flowering plants.

More important, Hickey and Taylor’s specimen contains fossilized fruits that once enclosed seeds, something Hill hopes to find associated with Bevhalstia. Both plants lack defined flower petals. Both are more primitive than the magnolia, recently dethroned as the earliest flower, although still considered an ancient lineage. And both, along with a recent find from China known asArchaefructus, have buttressed the idea that the very first flowering plants were simple and inconspicuous.

Like all pioneers, early angiosperms got their start on the margins. In a world dominated by conifers and ferns, these botanical newcomers managed to get a toehold in areas of ecological disturbance, such as floodplains and volcanic regions, and adapted quickly to new environments. Fossil evidence leads some botanists to believe that the first flowering plants were herbaceous, meaning they grew no woody parts. (The latest genetic research, however, indicates that most ancient angiosperm lines included both herbaceous and woody plants.) Unlike trees, which require years to mature and bear seed, herbaceous angiosperms live, reproduce, and die in short life cycles. This enables them to seed new ground quickly and perhaps allowed them to evolve faster than their competitors, advantages that may have helped give rise to their diversity.

While this so-called herbaceous habit might have given them an edge over slow-growing woody plants, the angiosperms’ trump card was the flower. In simple terms, a flower is the reproductive mechanism of an angiosperm. Most flowers have both male and female parts. Reproduction begins when a flower releases pollen, microscopic packets of genetic material, into the air. Eventually these grains come to rest on another flower’s stigma, a tiny pollen receptor. In most cases the stigma sits atop a stalk-like structure called a style that protrudes from the center of a flower. Softened by moisture, the pollen grain releases proteins that chemically discern whether the new plant is genetically compatible. If so, the pollen grain germinates and grows a tube down through the style and ovary and into the ovule, where fertilization occurs and a seed begins to grow.

Casting pollen to the wind is a hit-or-miss method of reproduction. Although wind pollination suffices for many plant species, direct delivery by insects is far more efficient. Insects doubtless began visiting and pollinating angiosperms as soon as the new plants appeared on Earth some 130 million years ago. But it would be another 30 or 40 million years before flowering plants grabbed the attention of insect pollinators by flaunting flashy petals. Buy flowers!

“Petals didn’t evolve until between 90 and 100 million years ago,” said Else Marie Friis, head of paleobotany at the Swedish Natural History Museum on the outskirts of Stockholm. “Even then, they were very, very small.

A thoughtful woman with short brown hair and intense eyes, Friis oversees what many experts say is the most complete collection of angiosperm fossils gathered in one place. The fragile flowers escaped destruction, oddly enough, thanks to the intense heat of long-ago forest fires that baked them into charcoal. Buy flowers!

Friis showed me an 80-million-year-old fossil flower no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. Coated with pure gold for maximum resolution under an electron microscope, it seemed to me hardly a flower. “Many researchers had overlooked these tiny, simple flowers,” she said, “because you cannot grasp their diversity without the microscope.”

So we squinted through her powerful magnifier and took a figurative walk through a Cretaceous world of tiny and diverse angiosperms. Enlarged hundreds or thousands of times, Friis’s fossilized flowers resemble wrinkled onion bulbs or radishes. Many have kept their tiny petals clamped shut, hiding the carpels within. Others reach wide open in full maturity. Dense bunches of pollen grains cling to each other in gnarled clumps.

Sometime between 70 and 100 million years ago the number of flowering plant species on Earth exploded, an event botanists refer to as the “great radiation.” The spark that ignited that explosion, said Friis, was the petal.

“Petals created much more diversity. This is now a widely accepted notion,” Friis said. In their new finery, once overlooked angiosperms became standouts in the landscape, luring insect pollinators as never before. Reproduction literally took off.

Interaction between insects and flowering plants shaped the development of both groups, a process called coevolution. In time flowers evolved arresting colors, alluring fragrances, and special petals that provide landing pads for their insect pollinators. Uppermost in the benefits package for insects is nectar, a nutritious fluid flowers provide as a type of trading commodity in exchange for pollen dispersal. The ancestors of bees, butterflies, and wasps grew dependent on nectar, and in so doing became agents of pollen transport, inadvertently carrying off grains hitched to tiny hairs on their bodies. These insects could pick up and deliver pollen with each visit to new flowers, raising the chances of fertilization.

Insects weren’t the only obliging species to help transport flowering plants to every corner of the Earth. Dinosaurs, the greatest movers and shakers the world has ever known, bulldozed through ancient forests, unwittingly clearing new ground for angiosperms. They also sowed seeds across the land by way of their digestive tracts.

By the time the first flowering plant appeared, plant-eating dinosaurs had been around for a million centuries, all the while living on a diet of ferns, conifers, and other primordial vegetation. Dinosaurs survived for another 65 million years, and some scientists think this was plenty of time for the big reptiles to adapt to a new diet that included angiosperms.

“Just before the dinosaurs disappeared, I think a lot of them were chowing down on flowering plants,” says Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Johnson has unearthed many fossils between 60 and 70 million years old from sites across the Rocky Mountain region. From them he deduces that hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs, subsisted on large angiosperm leaves that had evolved in a warm climatic shift just before the Cretaceous period ended. Referring to sediments that just predate the dinosaur extinction, he said, “I’ve only found a few hundred samples of nonflowering plants there, but I’ve recovered 35,000 specimens of angiosperms. There’s no doubt the dinosaurs were eating these things.”

Early angiosperms were low-growing, a fact that suited some dinosaurs better than others. “Brachiosaurs had long necks like giraffes, so they were poorly equipped for eating the new vegetation,” says Richard Cifelli, a paleontologist with the University of Oklahoma. “On the other hand ceratopsians and duck-billed dinosaurs were real mowing machines.” Behind those mowers angiosperms adapted to freshly cut ground and kept spreading. Buy flowers!

Dinosaurs disappeared suddenly about 65 million years ago, and another group of animals took their place—the mammals, which greatly profited from the diversity of angio-sperm fruits, including grains, nuts, and many vegetables. Flowering plants, in turn, reaped the benefits of seed dispersal by mammals.

“It was two kingdoms making a handshake,” says David Dilcher, a paleobotanist with the Florida Museum of Natural History. “I’ll feed you, and you take my genetic material some distance away.”

Eventually humans evolved, and the two kingdoms made another handshake. Through agriculture angiosperms met our need for sustenance. We in turn have taken certain species like corn and rice and given them unprecedented success, cultivating them in vast fields, pollinating them deliberately, consuming them with gusto. Virtually every nonmeat food we eat starts as a flowering plant, while the meats, milk, and eggs we consume come from livestock fattened on grains—flowering plants. Even the cotton we wear is an angiosperm.

Aesthetically, too, angiosperms sustain and enrich our lives. We’ve come to value them for their beauty alone, their scents, their companionship in a vase, a pot, on Valentine’s Day. Some flowers speak an ancient language where words fall short. For these more dazzling players—the orchids, the roses, the lilies—the world grows smaller, crisscrossed every day by jet-setting flowers in the cargo holds of commercial transport planes.

“We try to deliver flowers anywhere in the world within 24 hours of when they’re cut,” said Jan Lanning, a senior consultant with the Dutch Floricultural Wholesale Board, the world’s turnstile for ornamental flowers. “The business has really globalized.”

On my way home from Friis’s lab in Sweden, I had stopped in the Netherlands, the world’s largest exporter of cut flowers. I asked Lanning to try to explain the meaning of his chosen work. He leaned forward with a ready answer.

“People have been fascinated by flowers as long as we’ve existed. It’s an emotional product. People are attracted to living things. Smell, sight, beauty are all combined in a flower.” He smiled at an arrangement of fragrant lilies on his desk. “Every Monday a florist delivers fresh flowers to this office. It is a necessary luxury.”

Later that day in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum I spied a group of admirers crowded before a painting. I made my way there and pressed in among them. Suddenly I was staring at “Sunflowers,” one of van Gogh’s most famous works. In the painting the flowers lean out of a vase, furry and disheveled. They transported me to my barefoot youth at the edge of my dad’s garden on a humid summer evening alive with fireflies and the murmur of cicadas. Buy flowers!

The crowd moved on, and I was alone with “Sunflowers.” My quest had come to this unexpected conclusion, an image of the first flower I can remember. Did van Gogh elevate the flower to an art form, or did the flower harness van Gogh’s genius to immortalize itself in oils and brushstrokes? Flowering plants have conquered more than just the land. They have sent roots deep into our minds and hearts. We know we are passing through their world as through a museum, for they were here long before we arrived and may well remain long after we are gone.


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By at May 31, 2012 | 5:53 pm | 0 Comment




A team of researchers from Yale and the University Colorado at Boulder have made it happen. This month they released a demo version of a Web-based “Map of Life” intended to eventually reflect the distribution of all plant and animal life on earth. Flowers are the favorite of the plants.[more…]
The tool is constantly growing and evolving, but at present it maps the known distribution of over 25,000 different species of terrestrial vertebrates and North American freshwater fish, based on over 200 years of data from field guides, museums, citizen scientists and groups like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund. Flowers are always on the list of species to check out. 1800flowers.com is a great place to see flowers.
The demo version allows users to search by species, viewing a map of all known distributions, or to view a list of all species records within 50 to 1,000 kilometers (30 to 620 miles) of any specific spot on the map. Flowers can be mapped in any given place.

“The idea for this project really dates back to my days as a Ph.D. student,” said Walter Jetz, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale. “As I was running around forests in Africa, I came to the realization that I couldn’t really understand the patterns of species distribution I was seeing without going to broader and broader scales — all of Africa, all of the world.”
What sets the Map of Life apart from other global biodiversity databases is that it pulls together all sorts of different data sources and classifies each by its limitations and advantages, allowing the various data sets to complement, critique and inform one another.
The applications for such a compilation are vast. Aside from being an educational tool, it helps expose holes in distribution data sets so that future biodiversity research can focus on more specific targets. It’s also a resource for making better decisions on land management and conservation and a potential means of studying disease transmission in wildlife populations.
The project’s organizers say that the involvement of the scientific community and amateurs will be vital if the project is to gain traction. Buy flowers!
“There is so much data in scientists’ drawers and computers that could help fill in our knowledge gaps,” Dr Jetz said. “We need to mobilize this data — together it creates something that is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
As a scientist who tracks global changes, “I am really frustrated that there isn’t more data from 10 or 20 years ago,” he said. “If we had that, we would have a much better handle on how biodiversity has already responded to human impacts like land use and climate change.”
If the project continues to grow, Dr. Jetz added, it could be an invaluable resource five or 10 years down the road.

Remember flowermaps.com suggests 1800flowers.com~buy flowers!

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