Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Ben, standing in front of main temple in Tulum, Quintana Roo, México
Travel is so exciting. I love to see ruins. I observe so many plants and flowers around them too. Once I was strolling through Tikal, in Guatemala, the morning after a violent thunder storm. Bromeliads littered the path, having been blown or washed out of the estuaries above. Tillandsia, Bilbergia, countless others, bright as birds, were scattered as if faeries had sprinkled them in anticipation of our arrival. Now, when I place an exotic bloom in a floral design, I think of where that bloom grows in the wild, or where it is being cultivated for harvest.

These two fotos are taken in the Jamaica flower market in México City. The palms above are Chamaedorea, referred to as "Camedor" by the growers in Veracrus, México.
The foto below shows how this palm is used by florists in México for sympathy and special occasion, often very large designs. Note the intricate structure of one of these displays on the backside to the left.

In the foto below, note the bunches of roses crammed into the back of a pickup truck. The care and handling of plant materials in the market is not state of the art, but the volume, variety, and price were delightful.

I notice a trend toward more unusual greens and flowers during the past few years, and have since traveled through the jungles to see where these things originate. There is a concern in some parts of the world that plants over-harvested will disappear. There is evidence of that in parts of Guatemala. The Mayan word for the highly desired chamaedorea species is "xáte." There are "xatéros," people who harvest, gather, and export the precious palms to the floral wholesalers. In México it is referred to as "Camedor." On the dutch flower market in Aalsmeer it shows up as "pico leaves," or "Cocus nucifera," In the US, many florists have referred to it as "emerald" for years. It also shows up with other names, like "jade." Rare tropical blooms like the Bromeliads I just mentioned above can be found in some of the local markets throughout Latin America. I saw bundles of them in the Jamaica market in México City--for pennies. I wondered just how many of those would be harder to find after such a thorough harvest. I spoke with people as I traveled there in 2006 about controlling that harvest. If people could come to understand that there is plenty out there, especially when they learn to cultivate these plants, and harvest them with the idea of leaving some for future growth, many more generations will be able to enjoy such things.

Developing countries are aptly named, as much is happening to improve the lives of the citizens and more commodities are made available by international mass-marketers. Yet the rapid nature of this change demands products. Our floral tastes are equally insatiable, and world demand for the unusual is pushing some areas into the limits of product availability. The industries seeking plant materials in these regions, well, in any regions of the world, should be very responsible, avoiding over-harvest, and promoting long-term development of these lovely things. It is the responsibility of the consumer to find out where they come from too. We might think more carefully about purchases if we were more conscious of origin.

above, Ben in La Venta, near Villahermosa, México

Ben atop the pyramid of the Moon, looking over the shoulder to the pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuácan, México

Ben, with son Anthony in front of Xunántunich, Belize

in front of the castle Tsaravetz, near Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, Eastern Europe

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What a day to begin!

It seems fitting to begin posting on this blog on Valentine's Day.  My helpers are busy filling orders.  I have seen the smiles of the receiver as I delivered a couple of special bouquets for friends.  I saw my sweetheart's smile last night as I gave her some beautiful tropical flowers my friends in Costa Rica grew for us.  I actually had a minute to sit down and eat a sandwich.  Life for a florist is good.

I have the privilege of working with some of the finest young people in the world.  I have been teaching college and university students for 21 years in the southeastern portion of Idaho.  I started the Floral Design Management Program in 1987, 2nd of February actually, and have been here participating as Ricks College evolved into Brigham Young University Idaho.  I used to help the students sell a few flowers at the bookstore, then eventually in our own facility, and now it has become the "BYU Idaho Flower Center."  We have around 50 to 75 students in the floral programs, either working toward an Associate in Arts and Sciences degree in Floral Design Management, or a BS degree in Horticulture, with an emphasis in Floral Design.  There are also students from many other campus disciplines who are taking floral classes to complete their customized minor area of study (or a cluster, as it is called here).  This is a great place, with students who are morally strong, spiritually driven, and about as pleasant as one can imagine.

My hope for anyone who finds my ideas of interest, is to provide a connection to many places and people with whom I have had contact throughout the world, a floral connection.  I have written a column in the "Florist and Grower" magazine off and on for several years entitled "Floral Connections," and as that has been a main theme of my efforts in the Horticulture industries, I see it as a clear path to continue through this technology.  Please feel free to contact me with your comments.  I answer to either romneyb@byui.edu or romneyb@gmail.com