A Mexican Wedding

I went for the second time to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This trip I went for some serious meditation and relaxation. The last time was to brush up on my Spanish at the Instituto Allende where I ended up not relaxing. I was too worried about my inability to master the plus-cuam-perfecto, also known as the franken-tense. I guess you could say I was tense about the tenses.

This trip was going to be different-- I was going to do all of the things I passed on my previous back to school field trip. As our plane touched down in Leon and I boarded the bus to take us up into the mountains, I noticed something was wrong immediately. For starters, there was no green. All I saw was brown colored dryness, so much that I could make out mosaic patterns on the ground. There was a lacking in floral life...the spectacular purple infused jacaranda trees weren't so spectacular, as a matter of fact they weren't anything. It was very disappointing, I mean I had just left a gray Baltimore for in search of some serious color...but so far, nothing.

As we made our way up the mountain to San Miguel, things became a little more verdant. When we arrived, I spoke with the house-keeper where I was staying and asked her if this was the dry season. She said not really, but they were experiencing a fierce cold-snap that was lingering longer than the Mexicans expected. Not exactly music to my ears when I had just packed all my shorts and tank tops. Gracias a Dios for the endless shopping that was waiting for me downtown.

After I smothered myself in arroz con pollo, 2 Tecates, 3 tee shirts and multiple layered socks, I decided it was time for some flower spying. I pulled out my super-spiffy digital and started snapping away at some succulents and bougainvillea on our balcony that had managed to survive the chill. I was in mid-snap when the worst possible thing for me could have happened-- the camera shut down and died. I mean really died, like no funciona, es muerto, cabron- dead. Batteries not required dead. It was gone. This bothered me more than the cold weather.

I screamed for about an hour and my friend suggested the Guadalajara Pharmacy for a new one. So I went and a very nice Mexican lady helped me out, only problem, I had no idea what she was talking about when she started to ramble about "la carta Sim". But I figured it out when I left. No I didn't, you bloggers can smell a lie-- I had to call my techno-buddy-pal Keith back in the states for some expensive roaming advice. Once he explained it all to me, I went on my way back home, but first I stopped by the Instituto for old times sake. Peeking into the atrium, I was dumb-struck by two very green enormous displays of foliages with Belles of Ireland. There was one in each corner and they were at least 6-7' tall. I hadn't remembered them when I was there before. I realized something special was going on, it looked like a wedding.

It was the perfect opportunity to scope out some serious flowers and watch how they do it South of the Border. Who knows, maybe I'd learn a trick or two. I quietly tip-toed into the courtyard where I spotted a lone floral designer taping oasis bricks around a very branchy tree. She was using household tape it looked like, not the davee tape we use here, which I thought was odd. I watched her for 10 minutes before I got up the nerve to introduce myself. I told her I did the same job in America. We did some light shop-talk and as I noticed she was able to talk and work without losing her concentration--not an easy task to master on a wedding day set-up. Especially when talking to a person who speaks Spanish like a 5th grader.

I asked if I could snap some pictures whiles she worked, no problema, she said. She was was constructing these amazing white floral clusters, which eventually created a serpentine shape around the limbs and trunk of the tree. I thought they should have been in floral cages, it would have been much easier, but quien sabe? Maybe she knew something I didn't. Only two white flowers were used: saponaria and stock. And it was beautiful. She was doing this to about 4 trees, and it took her a very long time on each tree. Unbelievably, she did this alone- I never saw another designer. It started to make me nervous and I wanted to help her, but knew my place. I would have jumped at the opportunity to help her design if she had asked.

She eventually finished her work-just barely, and I couldn't have been more impressed or nervous for that poor girl. Meanwhile, I met the Mother of the Groom who told me lots of details about the wedding. It fascinated me watching the whole event get set-up and come together.

It was different in some ways from what I am used to doing and seeing in the states. For example, I have never seen a plastic chavarie chair, or heard of a reception lasting 8 hours which is the average in Mexico. !Que loco! And it was a medium sized wedding by Mexican standards, however, it was pricey according to the Groom's Mother, Car. (BTW-- the 'plastic' chavarie chairs fooled even me)

The budget was 250,000.00 pesos, which would be about 25,000.00 US dollars, still pretty cheap for a wedding this size. And you could tell these were educated, wealthy Mexicans who weren't playing--they wanted it upscale and they got it. Very serious planning for a very sophisticated group. But guess what?!-- they shoot off fireworks after dinner ends as well as throughout the reception as well. I could hear them from the house where I was staying up the hill. And they weren't lying-- the reception lasted until 3:00 a.m. I heard that too, as well as some of the worst D.J. music in history, including a Grease soundtrack and endless Ricky Martin tunes. Thanks to their loud celebration, I got no sleep that night-- I ended up curled in a ball in the farthest corner get away from the awful music. As bad as the noise was, I got some great pics while spying in the corner of that courtyard.

Muchas gracias y felicitaciones, Car. A great spying day indeed.

Locale: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Flowers Shown: White stock, saponaria, white dendrobium orchids, white cymbidium orchids, white iris, blue hybrid delphinium, blue and green hydrangea, Belles of Ireland, bear grass, calla lilies.

All Pictures by: International Flower Spy

A London Spring

I went to London in late March for a much needed escape. I went with a dear friend who had never been and who maintained the same level of excitement the entire time we were there. She is truly adorable. She talked me into going back to places I had already been, this time the experience was through her eyes and boy did she have fun. By the time we had to leave, I decided I didn't want to--I needed to stay to cover some new ground in one of my favorite cities in the world. I kept making deals with the universe to stay, hoping it would send me a sign that it was ok. If the sign would appear, I promised to be extra vigilant with work when I returned to my design studio. And no more damn Pimm's cups for a year--promise.

It was spring time which made it even harder to leave. All the gardens and parks were starting to flush with early blooming tulips, crocuses, narcissus and muscari; it was like a explosion of texture and hues, all in tidy little rows. Although the flowering trees weren't in bloom, the swelling of the buds told me that showers of color were right around the corner. I just needed to stay a little longer than 6 days. Being in Hyde Park in London in the spring made me feel inspired, delirious, happy, excited, well... just completely alive .

With my departure date creeping up, I had yet to receive the sign I was looking for. The idea of returning to work after flower spying in the world's capitol of flawless gardens was almost unthinkable. It was time though, and the day we did left was glorious--so unfair.

When our cab arrived, it looked like a hearse, which was perfect for the melodramatic goodbye that was playing out in my head. As we drove past the last tailored rows of hyacinths, I realized my foreign flower frolicking was over. I glanced sadly at the leafless fruit trees, thinking I never saw one in bloom-- which was hugely disappointing. If only I could see just one flowering tree in bloom before I left, then I could leave contented. It seemed like a fair request to me.

I was putting on lip gloss as we passed the last quadrant of the park. I dropped my make-up bag, and quickly looked up for one last view. Something stood out this time, something I hadn't noticed before-- and it was perfectly pink and fluffy. Oh my God, I thought, it was a blooming cherry tree, the only one I had seen thus far. I stared at it sort of dumb-founded... and then I started thinking...maybe this was the sign, the one I had been waiting for. Maybe I'm supposed to stay and get some more images? Another day of flower spying wouldn't hurt anyone, would it?

I stayed... just one more day, I can't believe I did that. It wasn't that difficult really, British Airways was very amenable, and there was a flight the same time the following day. I got back to the hotel, got a great little suite and off I went with my camera.

That spare day, I discovered two secret gardens, a magnificent field of quince and a hot Fetish Exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I also discovered a nice man from a place I've never heard of, but wanted to see. Was it worth it? Sure, until I got my VISA bill- damn that pound. Is there a moral to this story? I don't know, but I do know that sometimes the universe is slow... it's ok to make your own signs. I'm sure glad I did.

Hyde Park and other areas of London, 2007

The flowers of the Canary Islands, Spain

Once upon a time... long ago...when I was a young flower spy, I saw a map of the world, and spotted a small cluster of dots off the coast of Spain and Africa called the Canary Islands. I thought they sounded most exotic and I promised myself that one day I would go there to see all the pretty canaries.

Years later, my wish came true by means of a birthday gift from a Spanish friend. A very small plane ride later, where dogs were on board without carriers, we arrived at our tropical destination, with a few howls thrown in for our listening pleasure.

The small island we landed on is called La Palma, and it is dominated by banana crops, black sand, and the strongest, roundest sun that never seems to set. Also known as La Isla Bonita (they aren't kidding with that nickname), La Palma was every bit of exotic as I had imagined. But there was something missing... I didn't see any cute, little birds fluttering about. Where were the canaries?

Not wanting to sound like la gringa estupida, I thought I should keep quiet and only voiced my concern to my travel buddy. He agreed, something was off about the name. However, being the wise Spaniard he was, he quickly realized the Canary Islands in Spanish, is Islas Canarias, which literally means islands of the dogs. Dogs?

I was confused, so after a visit to the tourism center, we learned it was as simple as the translation-- the islands were named after dogs due to a dense population of fierce, large canines, such as the Canary Mastiff. As far as my interpretation? Canary birds are just adorable, and really, doesn't it make sense? I suppose wanting an exotic vacation filled with colorful, flying wildlife was part of the problem for me as well. Pues, eso es la vida.

Once we got the name game clarified, it was time to get down to some serious flower spying. I kept a journal while we were there, and I documented over 325 varieties of flowers and plants that I recognized. However, most of the shots that were captured are of flowers I was not as familiar with. Some unfortunately, did not translate well on film (I did not bring my camera on this trip).

Seeing annual plants that were so vastly overgrown and exploding with color was not only exciting, it was intoxicating. I have never in my life seen geraniums growing as vines from window boxes, or lantana's as large as a small tree. For me, what really stood out on this magical island was the untamed beauty of a flower, and not a dog, or even a bird.

Locale: La Palma, Canary Islands

Flowers Shown: Eschscholzia Californica-a type of wildflower, Chalice Vine flower, lantana bush, a field of Adenocarpus Viscosus-wildflowers, Bougainvillea with hanging sedum, Plumbago, the I.F.S. holding a branch with lichen.

Photographs taken by the I.F.S. with the camera of Sr. Cruz

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