Vancouver, a beautiful city covered in moss

I went for a whirlwind weekend to Vancouver and fell in love with it so much I didn't want to leave. It was raining (a.k.a. normal weather there) when I arrived in YVR Airport, but as soon as I walked outside, I could immediately feel a difference in temperature from back home where it was snowing and 29 degrees. Vancouver had already started to spoil me with its balmy, temperate climate of 50 degrees... time to peel off some layers. As soon as we hit downtown, I knew I'd be happy here. From the boutique shops with their funky window displays to the hipster cafes, this was a city destined for fun and hopefully some good flower spying. The first night we checked out some places on Robeson St. (cool shopping district). It has a Euro edge, or shall I say, Asian, in other words total I.F.S. friendly. After stopping for a drink on the top of the Empire Landmark Hotel's rotating bar, I was done-- this place had completely won me over. If you ever visit, that place is a must-go-to, the view is panoramically spectacular, and you won't get dizzy unless you order too many Cloud 9's.

Well I could go on and on about the food and nightlife, but this is a flower blog after all, so let me get down to the scenery. It was November which is fall for them as well, so I did not notice much color in the city plantings or gardens. BUT there was a whole lotta green going on, mainly in the form of moss. While I spotted a few green living roofs with plantings, I found the mossy ones far more intriguing. Moss was just everywhere. There were blankets of it on many a city roof... I wasn't sure if it was on purpose or by accident on account of all the rain. (Unfortunately I didn't get an aerial view to take any photos of the tall buildings, but I did manage to get some on the lower buildings.) And the moss appeared invasive, it covered all parts of the object or area it was growing on, which gave it a velvety effect.

Once I got outside of the city, I spotted even more moss covered items. We took a ferry ride out to Vancouver Island and hit the moss-mother-load. Looking around it was all so pretty and lush, that is until my friends and I started to think about the ramifications of these moisture loving fuzzy spores. I did some digging and as we guessed, having a layer of that gorgeous green on the roof of your house is not a good thing.

Moss (phylum- Bryophyta) is actually a plant spore that is attracted to moisture and the reason it is found with such frequency in Vancouver is simply due to the condition of the climate. Vancouver for the most part, is damp, coolish and pretty shady from all the trees and vast forests that surround the coasts; therefore creating a perfect breeding ground for moss and lichen to flourish. When it attaches itself to a roof surface, it creates a layer of moisture for a long period of time, thereby reducing the life of the roof dwelling. In freezing climates, there may be faster frost damage, cracking, and wear of the shingles under the moss or lichens. Even in non-freezing climates, the roots or growth structures of moss eventually penetrate and separate the roof shingle materials, again speeding up their demise.

So basically as pretty and quaint as I find these mossed coverings, it can be really bad and eventually the moss has to be removed- or worse case scenario-the roof gets replaced. Some preventative measures I've heard that help are installing copper or metal stripping along the edge of the roof that will kill off the moss as the rainwater washes over the metal. Another is buying chemically treated shingles that kill off lichen and moss but I hate the idea because it sounds potentially bad for the environment in some way. And finally, it is highly suggested to trim branches of trees that overshadow the roof surface.

Well, it makes me sad that the mossed roofs are evil because I've seen so many on this trip that have made me feel like Anne of Green Gables. I made our driver Jim stop at least 5 times so we could get a closer look at them. They were just that magical for me. And it didn't stop on the roofs. While we were on Vancouver Island I saw moss attaching itself to all sorts of things from trees to barns to rocks, to all sorts of things on the side of the road. It was a paradise of green and I couldn't have been happier.

I still have more pictures to develop but here's a start.

Butchart Gardens
Moss Covered Shingles
Moss Covered House
Close-up of the green culprit
Removal of moss on roof
Moss covered rock
Moss covered branches

Summer time blues in Maryland

Feeling blue this summer? Well so am I and I couldn't be happier. Blue is my favorite color and I'm seeing it popping up in gardens and magical hidden troves all over town. Here are some summertime suggestions to get you out of your funk and into the blue:

1) If you have one of these majestic hydrangea bushes in your yard (this variety is known as mophead hydrangea, isn't that a perfect name?), cut some blooms and showcase them in your home. If you don't have one, cut your neighbor's...these guys are so prolific they'll never notice! Place them somewhere that all can admire their bodacious blue beauty (avoiding of course the neighbors you hydrangea-high-jacked...), they are stunning and fabulous and you don't need to be a designer to arrange them-- they are so easy you can do it yourself, for real.

2) Get in touch with your inner flower-child, start a wildflower garden and grow some cornflower. These guys are the bluest of blue and stand out even with their demure stature.

3) Feeling like a diva and don't want that garden sweat or the dirty fingernails that come with manual labor? Buy a hanging basket of lobelia or hire your gardener to plant it as a ground cover. They are acid-trip blue and spread really quickly.

4) So you like texture do you? Get yourself some echinops (a type of thistle) and act all garden-chic to your neighbors. Only seasoned floral veterans and the Brits will understand this outer-space looking gem. Bonus: they dry nice too.

5) The I.F.S. likes 'em tall--here are some fetching agapanthus that are perfect for your garden path or as a backdrop against some magenta peonies, orange poppies or red hot pokers (mmmm- how yummy is that combo?!). Ever since the I.F.S. saw them lining the sidewalk to the crime scene at O.J. Simpson's ex-wife's house, they've been a blue staple in her garden and in her summer designs. If you can get that image out of your head and appreciate them for their giraffe like presence and stealth regalness, you'll be eternally grateful I'm sure. If the garden glove fits, wear it!

6) Periwinkle was once touted as the universal color for women, meaning that lovely ladies all over the world of all shades and colors could wear this alluring blue hue and look equally good in it. The I.F.S. still doesn't know if this is true for fashion, but knows it sure looks pretty foxy in gardens making it a powerful worldly summer annual. Great as a ground cover or in containers alike.

7) If you're a patient gardener then I recommend these blissfully blue bi-annuals, the delphiniums. The blues are so electric and intense you'll think they are fake or some garden fairy dyed them while you weren't looking. They are well worth the wait.

8) Ok, ok-- don't let the weird name scare you...these scabiosas are a lovely, feminine addition to any garden despite the odd name. They are also a milder shade of blue than their bolder botanical buddies that are listed above. This peculiar posy even has a perk: when they dry, the pods turn transparent and look like "fly's eyes", their nickname, and are spectacular in fall arrangements. So don't hold their cursed nomenclature against them, plant them for yourself and see how beautiful scabiosas really are.

9) Sometimes called the flag flower these Dutch iris are iris-istable to anyone with a penchant for the "blues". Although not as majestic as their cousins the "bearded iris", these Dutch blues are still pretty luscious and very popular. We just did a wedding using nothing but this variety and color, and I'm here to tell you it was simply spylicious!

10) Tired of all this gardening business? Time to reward your hard day of planting with one of these guys... nothing beats a blue cocktail in the summertime! You'll look so exotic drinking it, you'll make those neighbors you stole the hydrangea from so jealous they'll beg you for one! Recipe for mermaid martinis listed below. Warning: drink with caution... very potent, even for heartiest of gardeners.
11) If you're in A.A., you'll want to forego the above and maybe hit a snowball stand. The I.F.S.'s favorite is sky lite blue, mmmm yummy, I hear Bill likes that flavor too! Stick your tongue out when you're finished, it's very inner child.

12) Marylanders will understand this one...they are perfect after a long day of gardening and blue mermaid martinis. Steam some up and don't forget the Old Bay, hon!

Flowers Shown: Mophead hydrangea, cornflower, lobelia, echinops/thistle, agapanthus, ageratum, delphinium, scabiosa, and iris. Non-flowers: mermaid martinis, snowballs, Maryland blue crab.
Mermaid Martini: equal parts Blue Curacao, Absolute Citron, and Lemon/Lime mix, garnish with plastic mermaids and lemon peels.

A container of earthly delights

Locally grown organic flowers + unattended, often forgotten garden clippings + some flown-in stuff from around the world + the magic of the four seasons + a good sense of humor + a deep compassion for all living things = OUR SECRET RECIPE.

...can you dig?

When I'm not traveling I actually have a day job. And it's a pretty great one at that. I own and operate A Garden of Earthly Delights, a high-end floral design studio in Maryland. We specialize in big events like weddings, corporate parties, special occasions and interior floral decor for the holidays. To describe our style I would have to say: magical and earthy, straight from the garden with a twist. There is a terrific mix of the natural with the supernatural. Intrigued?

Well, to give you an example of the design process, I'll start from the beginning. First I make a trip to our local wholesaler and see what seasonal, and hopefully organic product they have in stock that week. Then I bring the flowers to our studio where we condition them, providing enough water and love to ensure that they open nicely and in a healthy, growth-oriented environment.

After that, my designers are encouraged to make a trip to our studio's garden out back and start clipping some gorgeous foliages we plan to combine with our wholesale flowers. We finish the process when we create the actual design. I have 5 designers, all with a different eye and artistic style, so each arrangement is very special and always unique. Each of us is a little A.D.D. and has a highly over-active imagination, so we mix in those wonderful ideas that are floating around in our brains and come up with some pretty spectacular creations. The end result is always magic and beauty.

Some hints if you try your hand at design:
Many seasonal summer blossoms prefer to drink water directly as opposed to struggle with hydration in oasis. Therefore, glass cube vases and cylinders are sublime for a summer floral bouquet.

If you get in a bind and need some floral assistance, give us a call, we'd be happy to help. I also teach courses in natural design, meaning- a no 'FTD' style design. Look for the Creative Alliance Schedule of Workshops in Sept. '08. I'll be teaching a class 9/17. I'd love to share my secrets in creating the earthly magic with you.

PHILOSOPHY= To always maintain a true and deep love for all flowers and plants both living and dead, including the insects and fauna that survive off of them.

LOCALE: Paradise, MD, "A Garden of Earthly Delights" floral design studio

FLORALS SHOWN: Pic 1) Large Arrangement: oakleaf hydrangea, mophead hydrangea, purple allium, delphinium, cherry brandy roses, kiwi roses, yellow Asiatic lilies, bamboo, springerai, ruscus, hanging amaranthus, beech tree foliage, baby maple leaves. Pic 2) Centerpiece: Salmon French tulips and birch branches. Pic 3) Staggered arrangements: blue birds and purple dendros, blue hydrangea and purple anemones, and green cymbidiums and grape hyacinth. Pic 4) Dolores conditions spring tulips. Pic 5) Bridal bouquet of flowering kale, rose hips, amaryllis and banksia foliage. Pic 6) Ivory mini callas overflowing in vase. Pic 7) Square vase arrangement: hydrangea, peonies, gloriosa lilies, veronica blue, dendrobium orchids, orange unique roses, lisianthus. Pic 8) Keenan plays with blue garden hydrangea, pink crown asters, green cymbidium ochids and pincusion protea. Pic 9) Square vase arrangement: allium, cymbidium orchids, antique green hydrangea, arabicum, stars of bethlehem, mountain fern, red maple leaf, tulips, peach stock, rosemary, lambs ears, vinca vine, eucalyptus leaves and huckleberry. Pic 10) Bouquet of eggplant mini callas with cymbidium orchids.

More gorgeous flower pics on web site:

Sri Lanka's national flower is in my pond...

Known in Sri Lanka as the Nil Mahanel flower or Nympheae Stellata for the latin lovers, this gorgeous blue lotus flower was declared the national flower of Sri Lanka on February 26, 1986. The Nil Mahanel is found in all parts of the country as well as here in the U.S.A. The flower is purplish blue in color. The Nil Mahanel flower is considered a symbol of truth, purity and discipline. It has been a part of Sri Lankan history for centuries-- it is mentioned in many Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit Literary works. The flower which is also referred to as "Kuvalaya", "Indheewara", "Niluppala", "Nilothpala", and "Nilupul" occupies a pre eminent position in Buddhist literature as well. It is said the "Nil Mahanel Flower" was among the 108 ceremonial designs found on the footprint of Prince Siddhartha-- a pretty impressive portfolio for a flower that grows in swamps and ponds!

It is believed that the damsels depicted in Sigiriya Frescoes also carried this sexy blue blossom in their hands as offerings. Traditional poetry known as "Sandesa Kavya" likened women's eyes to the Nil Mahanel flower which can also be used as an ear ornament. I doubt even the International Flower Spy would attempt that style of floral jewelry, but would consider floating a few in her tub or pond for some fierce exotic ambience.

A very spylicious flower if ever I saw one. And quite sexy too.

Green Flower Practices in San Miguel de Allende

Who needs delivery trucks when you have arms and legs? In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I rarely if ever saw a flower delivery vehicle. What's more is I saw people walking and carrying vases filled with colorful bouquets and cellophane bundles stuffed with fresh blossoms almost everyday. I also saw large funeral arrangements being personally escorted to where the body was laid out--which was usually at a relatives home instead of a funeral parlor. While many Americans may consider this floral delivery (and funeral) system old-school, 3rd world, backwards or antiquated... the fact remains--the Mexicans love their family and flowers so much that they hand-deliver almost every arrangement to the lucky recipient--dead or alive.

In a country that is known for its beautiful flowers and tropical greenery, there is understandably a large demand for the home-grown blooms. There are no imports here, all of the floral product is grown in Mexico, that's right, Hecho en Mexico, and how proud they are of that floral fact. And why shouldn't they be? They are saving millions of pesos in fuel costs to their South of the Border multi-climated paradise.

Well, if that isn't green I don't know what is. And for the record, they grow and sell almost every flower the wholesale houses in the U.S. stock. Wouldn't it be nice if we grew all of our own floral product? There's another blog coming regarding that subject, not to worry my pretty little petunias...

LOCALE: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Mercado de Flores y Verduras

Maryland's spring flowering trees

The international flower spy loves spring in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S, in particular Maryland. It just so happens to be one of those rare states that has four true seasons. Spring would have to be one of its best--the flowering trees are everywhere and when the wind blows, it creates a shower of flower petals and color. It's not only gorgeous and fragrant, it's downright romantic. Finding these trees is easy if you live in any of the counties of this state. But if you are visiting or having a hard time finding them, here are some suggestions.

BALTIMORE COUNTY AND CITY: Historic Catonsville and Ellicott City, various sections; Druid Hill Park-Zoo area by water basin; Mt. Washington-Cross Country Boulevard; Bolton Hill-all streets have at least ten flowering trees that are worth the trip-they are old and BIG; Homeland neighborhood- Springlake Way; Guilford by Sherwood Gardens.

ANNAPOLIS: Rolling Hills neighborhood off Generals Highway, Rt. 178, all around the historic district live lots of old fruit trees in bloom.

DC: All along the Potomac hiking trail; the Cherry Trees in Washington D.C. at the Tidal Basin, there are hundreds (go if you live here, if you missed this year, go next year!); National Arboretum. Takoma Park (it's called tree city U.S.A.) is filled with a beautiful variety of old flowering fruit trees; Downtown Silver Spring; and Wheaton.

VIRGINIA: Meadowland Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA.; Leesville Blvd, Springfield, VA.

Trees Shown: Weeping Cherry, Red Bud, Forsythia, Eastern Whitebud, Plum, Double Red Peach, Witch Hazel.


San Francisco Daze

I went for a long weekend to visit an old pal in San Francisco. Since he was a worker bee during the day, I took advantage of my time alone and got down with some serious spring flower spying. I decided to start at the Golden Gate Park. That place may never be the same after I showered it with so much flower-love. It's a place so intoxicating, I got stoned just walking through the little paths and gardens. I could live in those beds of forget-me-nots, mood moss and ivy. It was a floral utopia.

When I arrived, my first stop was to check out the beautiful old Conservatory of Flowers. I walked inside and immediately felt the moist air heavy with tropical odors. How terribly luscious were those exotic botanicals, in particular the orchids! There were some varieties I've never seen which means nothing considering that there are more than 39,000 species of natural orchids growing in the world today. There was one in particular that could compete with the scariest of was wild and projectile with flowers that looked like they could bite.

I left the moist Amazonian climate in search of the famed butterfly exhibit that was taking place in the next building. Unfortunately, due to an over abundance of field trips, few of the graceful beauties had much hair left on their wings, many of them were torn from too much fondling and capture attempts. I was disappointed but spotted one monarch stunner that had escaped the tyranny of the tykes.

After yelling at a group of boys to leave the poor creatures alone, I headed out to my next floral mission: the park. As I was leaving, I passed by a sign that said butterflies taste with their feet. I thought that was kinda creepy but cute.

I started walking aimlessly through Golden Gate Park, and came across all kinds of unusual plants and flowers, mosses and lichen, on dead branches that looked like sculptures. And just when I thought I had discovered the mother-load of Spring, I accidentally bump into a grove of perfect calla lilies. They were flawless examples of California's prettiest field flower.

I regained my composure in time to find more floral treasures-- this time I stumbled upon a small hill of echium at the De Young Museum. Like the fields of volkerfreiden delphinium I found in Europe, these guys made me swoon for a small eternity. Bees were swarming all over them and I couldn't blame them. I barely took this picture without getting stung, and it was well worth it. I was entranced and just stared for a while at their perfection. Echium is a native of the Canary Islands, a place so magical, flowers bloom from the sidewalk cracks up to the mountains without ever taking a moments pause. I should have remembered them, I just couldn't place the spikey shape. But I'll never forget that acid-trippy, sky-blue-snowball blue of blue color again.

I guess that was a great place to end my flower adventure. It started to rain, putting a damper on my spying. I would have stayed and waited, but Spring in San Francisco can be a bit nippy, so I headed on out to my next mission: Haight Ashbury. My flower power was in high force so it was time to get my hippie on. Peace out, man.

Locale: Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.

Flowers Shown: Primrose, flowering Papyrus?(possibly, unsure), an unidentified exotic Orchid, Marigold with Monarch munching away, dead branch covered with lichen, a field of (standard)Calla Lilies, Echium, field of poppies, a perfect Cattleya Orchid.

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