Flowers play a central part in the customs and traditions all over the world. Some floral activities date back hundreds of years, while others have a shorter history. Each has something unique and interesting to offer.
Decorating Parade Floats
The spectacular floats of the annual Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California on January 1, represent a multi-million-dollar floral challenge. Float construction begins with a specially built chassis, which supports a framework of steel and chicken wire. A polyvinyl spray coats the frame, which is painted to match the colors of the flowers that will be placed on it. The framework must be covered entirely with flowers, leaves, seeds or bark. Right after Christmas, volunteers work feverishly to decorate every float with flowers. Volunteers set each flower individually into the framework from vials of water in order to keep the most delicate flowers fresh. According to the Tournament website, "each float is decorated with more flowers than the average florist will use in five years." The decorating takes literally thousands of volunteer man-hours as each design comes to life with roses, orchids, irises, daisies and a myriad of other flowers. Today's Rose Parade is an extravaganza of flowers and computerized animation, and a far cry from the very first parade organized by Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club in 1890, which featured flower-bedecked horse drawn carriages.
Leis are part of earliest Hawaiian history, when they were symbols of respect for the gods and family members. Today, leis celebrate birthdays, marriages and other special events, like welcoming visitors to Hawaii. According to experienced lei makers, the average, 36-inch lei comprises about 80 medium sized flowers. Plumeria, carnations, marigolds, orchids and roses are top choices. Some websites sell purpose-made lei needles to string the flowers together. An alternative is a large, regular sewing needle. Lei makers thread the flowers through their centers and slip each one down the string so that they are packed closely together to provide a full floral effect. Leis are also popular as head, wrist and ankle ornaments, as well as neckwear.
There are thousand of Ikebana schools in Japan and worldwide that teach the art of Japanese flower arranging in the distinctive styles that have developed over hundreds of years. There are two basic forms of Ikebana flower arranging: short and shallow vase (moribana), and tall vase (nageire). Ikenobo is named for a 15th century Buddhist priest who created the highly popular standing flowers or "rikka" style of Ikebana. Two centuries later, a simpler form called seika/shoka grew popular as Ikebana expanded beyond the elite to include the merchant class. This less formal style focused on the plant itself. Jiyuka or free style arrangements were a 20th century innovation.