Very proud to present this little piece I’ve been working on for my pattern portfolio. Hope you guys like it :)!
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whats the deal with proven winners?
okay. so. this is actually how i got into botany in the first place; i got an unpaid internship at a greenhouse in high school and realized, very quickly, that we live in a jurassic park hellscape where big companies breed plants solely for their looks and performance, and i found that so fucking weird that i couldnt get enough of it and fell down the rabbit hole. i don’t find them bad per say; i find them weird and how they manage their product in terms of policing their retailers is very sketchy to me, but they’re not like, monstanto-level off the shits (yet). with mother’s day next weekend we’re coming up on one of the biggest greenhouse/ornamental plant industry sales days of the year, next to valentines’ day (which favors the rose industry especially), so this is an exceptionally convenient time to talk about this.
proven winners is one of the biggest ornamental plant companies in the united states, possibly the world. you might know them from their patented white flower pots. they’re centered in california (as, actually, a lot of these large flower producers are) and they manage a HUUUUUUGEEE network of giant industrial flower greenhouses.
like, you have to understand, all garden retailers have to buy their shit from somewhere, and although the centers and local greenhouses selling proven winners stuff are often small and independent (unless ur talking like...flowerama or something), a large portion of the plants themselves, like many things in capitalism, form an industry of their own dominated by a handful of oligarch corporations, of which proven winners is one. small retailers order bulk products from these companies, should it be through full-color paper catalogs (which exist, btw, and are wild in and of themselves to look at; i actually have a few back home that i keep around solely bc they’re incredibly fascinating in a slightly offputting jurassic park kind of way), online, or through a sales representative for their region.
it depends on what they’re ordering, but they can buy seeds, plugs (the black trays of like....tiny plants you buy at garden centers to put in planters? the ones that come in, like, six packs? those are called ‘plugs’), and in the case of perennials, woody plants of various ages, among other things. these plants are bred, marketed, and sold on a goddamn industrial scale. it’s wild.
now....this is where it gets absolutely fascinating to me. this isn’t just proven winners, but proven winners is one of the top contenders of this. some highlights of how plants are actually marketed on an industrial scale:
-plants come out in collections. like, you have horticulturalist designer people who put their names on some stuff and they all go out as like, The New Hot Thing(tm).
-they always promote their top selling stuff, and the plants that won awards, and like, the most popular flower arrangements and stuff. this in and of itself, again, isn’t like.....bad, it just feels weird how plants are marketed as objects rather than living things, you know?
-these plants are 100% bred and optimized for their commercial value and how they look. see the above point about how it feels like they’re treating them as objects.
-every year, there are new plants, which are put at the front of the catalogue and like, show them off as the Hit New Products. these are all part of the year’s collective collection, so like, proven winners has their 2019 collection all ready on their site in a special little tab:
FUN INDUSTRY SIDE STORY: looks like they have some new orange petunias this year, which reminds me fondly of the 2017 purge ordered by the USDA of a ton of illegally GMO orange petunias....
you see, orange petunias don’t exist naturally, so what companies do is either 1. systematically breed orange into them, which can take years, or 2. take red petunias and just put in some coding for yellow from the maize genome, which makes them orange. usually, you have to submit all this paperwork and go through a ton of government red tape to sell GMOs, including required trials conducted by the federal government, but what some of these large ornamental seed companies were doing was just....not telling the government and just kind of...pretending that they bred them. so in 2017, a netherlands team noticed that these were like....kind of Suspicious(tm), and started doing some tests....and accidentally uncovered like, this huge international orange petunia scandal across all these companies, over 30 varieties of illegal petunia being sold internationally. they had to alert the actual EU, which then alerted the USDA, who then gave an actual government order for these large companies to literally burn, bury, or otherwise destroy all their industrial stock of the proven illegal GMO orange petunias.
small retailers who had bought them assuming that they were legal were allowed to keep and continue selling what they bought, but the actual producers were ordered to just fucking. violently destroy everything. the USDA informed these companies that they could sell them again, but only if they were put through the proper government channels and received proper certification. i checked the old recall list and didn’t see these, so i’m assuming they’re like...Legit, but. im 👀 somebody test these lol
AAANNNNYYway that aside, if you would like to see the Proven Winners 2019 Flower Collection Showcase(tm), they have a bunch of......weird kind of ads on their youtube channel showing artsy pics of their new shit. to this day i can’t pin down exactly what about them makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, but you really do get a sense that they’re selling an object to preform, which i guess is the point, but...idk, it’s just a very different view of plants, i think, then i personally have. very sci-fi-y, if you will. all their ads are like this; these video are essentially very similar to what you get from their print sales booklets, but in video form.
see, last but not least, my biggest beef with proven winners is the weird way they handle their company.
you get inspected by the plant police.
im not kidding. for those not very familiar with plant reproduction, you can grow vegetative clones of plants through a process called taking cuttings, where you cut off a part of the plant and put it in a new pot under the right conditions, and it develops a root system and becomes a genetic clone to the parent. obviously, anyone can do this with a lot of the proven winners plants, especially because PW plants, as i’ve noticed, tend to be bred to be more vigorous.
proven winners wants to ensure that there’s no Illegal Plant Downloads taking place, so they literally like....send people out to these small retailers and ask to see their stock to make sure that all the plants are going in the Patented Proven Winners White Pots(tm) with the Patented Proven Winners Information Tags(tm). you MUST plant proven winners stuff in the pots they send you, with the instructions they send you, and they will check you for this. the first time my internship mentor ordered from them, they accidentally planted the plugs in generic brown pots instead of the white ones, and the weird proven winners police rolled in unannounced for an inspection and told them that the next time it happened they wouldn’t sell to them anymore. what they’re worried about happening is that the growers will order a small amount and then just make a bunch of cuttings without paying them, and it’s just......weird. like i get why they do it but that’s always struck me as really, really shady lmao
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like I live in an area where skunk cabbage is Very Common
I walk a lot of marshy creek areas that are just. Carpeted with it.
I see so much skunk cabbage every year. And I’ve been going out to these creeks and woods for 20+ years. And I have never, never, never seen this before. But there it was.
A variegated skunk cabbage plant.
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Witch ball ornaments 🔮
Preserved fern fronds, moss, acorns, and bark along with duck feathers and real critter bones.
No animals were harmed for the purpose of my art.
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I just harvested this year’s ‘Glass Gem’ ornamental corn. Aren’t the colors glorious?
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Hypericum x moserianum, Hypericaceae
It’s such a grey and rainy day today here in Glasgow that I could only write about something big, bright and yellow, like the large blossoms of this ornamental variety of St. John’s-wort, whose parents are H. calycinum and H. patulum, both already quite showy. This clump-forming, perennial shrub is obviously a pleasure to look at (it might not actually give me sun endorphins, it’s as close as I can get), but by now you are probably aware the focus of my blog is more on learning to recognise species naturally occurring and with practical uses, especially edible ones with medicinal properties and those which is a good idea to have in your garden to attract wildlife and encourage biodiversity. So, although this variety is still quite beneficial to pollinators (it’s easy to see it covered in bumblebees when in full bloom, luckily it wasn’t turned into an inaccessible double-flowered/sterile, pointless creature), I will also write about the native species of Hypericum which you are most likely to encounter, as they are much more interesting and relevant in herbalism.
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Florigraphia Britannica; or, Engravings and descriptions of the flowering plants and ferns of Britain.
By Deakin, Richard, 1809-1873
New York Botanical Garden
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Paul Klee - The Plant and its Enemy. 1926
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A lot of love went into this one :).
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Pieris japonica, Ericaceae
I don’t have real statistics at hand, but from what I have observed I can say pieris, or Japanese andromeda, is among the top 10 exotic ornamental plants you are likely to find in a home garden in central Scotland. Native to mountainous regions of China, Taiwan and Japan, this beautiful evergreen shrub is hardy to -15 °C and, like most Ericaceae, thrives in acidic soils, which are more common here than alkaline ones, so tends to do pretty well. It generally flowers profusely between February and March, with small, scented white urn-shaped flowers, another typical trait shared by many genera within the family. During the first days of real warmth of the year (which is not happening here at the moment!) this species is really valuable in attracting pollinators providing them with resources while most other plants around are still in bud. The flowers are followed by persistent dry capsules which contain many very small seeds. This is not all though, the new leafy growth in spring is often a beautiful shiny red, prolonging the visual interest it offers in the garden. After all it makes sense why it has become so popular here.
In the first two photos, taken at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on valentine’s day 2017, you can see the type species bathed in some beautiful sunlight. The pink flowered one is a cultivar named “Katsura”, while the variegated one (which seems to be slightly less hardy) is “Little Heath”, and looks stunning when the contrasting, crimson new shoots start growing. These and a few other cultivars are all present where I work, where I have used them often in displays and arrangements, so I am now quite familiar with the species. It somehow reminds me of the strawberry bush (Arbutus unedo), a beautiful Mediterranean equivalent shrub with interesting edible fruits I was a lot more familiar with. Shallon (Gaultheria shallon), is another fruit-bearing similar alternative, but native to North America and both are still Ericaceae.
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Holland's Botanic Garden: Pictures and descriptions of ornamental plants for gardens and rooms
By Oudemans, Jan Antoon Cornelis Abraham,
Publication info Groningen: J. Wolters 0.1865 to 1867.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
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So, I’ve decided to finally put this pattern to rest. Doesn’t work at all zoomed out since the sea kale has to much weight and pops out as dark and lumpy. But since it was always planned as wallpaper I am quite happy with the way the pattern works up close and shall only present it in such a manner here :).
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Codiaeum variegatum, Euphorbiaceae
Last time I went to visit the Victorian Glasshouse within Queen’s Park here in Glasgow I had a chance to see their garden croton in flower, something I hadn’t seen in person before. This highly variable evergreen species native to insular SE Asia and parts of Oceania generally grows into a compact, medium sized shrub in the understory of open woodland, and often prefers half shade to a position in full sun, but can only be grown under glass or as a houseplant in cool temperate climates and more northerly latitudes. Overwintering it indoors, however, can be a challenge as it requires a high level of humidity, which isn’t easy to provide in the dry heat of your typical living room. Wherever it is positioned, the large, glossy and leathery leaves will provide a main focal point, as little else can present so many highly contrasting colours and patterns at once. The long and narrow inflorescences are somewhat similar tho those of another vividly coloured Euphorbiacea, copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana), with numerous small white flowers segregated by gender. In the photos above you can see male flower spikes -notice the tiny anthers- towards the end of their cycle.
All parts of the plant are dangerously toxic if ingested, which is unsurprising considering the family it belongs to, and the sap it exudes can cause irritation and reactions upon contact, so care should be taken when pruning or propagating it. If it grows too leggy and sparse, it can easily be reduced in size and rejuvenated using air layering or by taking apical cuttings while it is actively growing. Garden croton can be more challenging to raise from its recalcitrant small seeds, but that’s the only way to produce new and more striking combinations of colours and leaf shapes.
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Sooo, I declare this one finished! I’m sure my colleagues at the studio will have things to criticise. But the good thing about self-publishing is, of course, you can always go back and edit your posts later :D.
I do think this one works best up close. Just imagine it as a statement piece of wallpaper in an otherwiser minimally furnished room …
You can find a work in progress glimpse here: https://chintzmann.tumblr.com/post/640594188858261504/work-in-progress-of-a-pattern-i-started-like-two
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Gunnera manicata, Gunneraceae
There is literally no chance you could walk by Brasilian giant rhubarb and miss it, with its huge leaves often growing up to and in excess of 2 metres wide, held up on large, fleshy petioles 2.5 metres tall. It’s simply the most imposing herbaceous dicot you could encounter thriving in a temperate climate area, and for this reason it is often used as a dramatic backdrop to a pond here in the UK, as you can see in these photos. It instantly gives that Jurassic tropical feeling.
Unfortunately, there’s seems to be a lot of confusion online and in garden centres about the distinction between G. manicata and G. tinctoria, its slightly smaller Chilean counterpart: the best way to tell them apart, especially when young, is by looking at the large inflorescence and seed head. In the middle photo you can see an up-close of the branched, green panicle typical of G. manicata, while G. tinctoria bears a more compact reddish one.
It’s worth nothing that both species were introduced in the British Isles in the mid XX century and were already recorded growing in the wild in the first few decades of the XXI, but while G. manicata doesn’t seem likely to become invasive, G. tinctoria has the potential to do so, and is already listed as an invasive weed in Ireland.
Rapid water seed dispersal and their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, unique among angiosperms, certainly give them an advantage at becoming established in riparian ecosystems, where their sheer size and extensive root network is enough to displace native species and alter their distribution. This said, I still haven’t seen any of the two growing wild here in Scotland, although they have both been reported in several sites.
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How To Turn Your Yard Into an Ecological Oasis
Replacing grass with even a few plants native to your region can save insects and the ecosystems that depend on them.
For years, Toni Genberg assumed a healthy garden was a healthy habitat. That’s how she approached the landscaping around her home in northern Virginia. On trips to the local gardening center, she would privilege aesthetics, buying whatever looked pretty, “which was typically ornamental or invasive plants,” she says. Then, in 2014, Genberg attended a talk by Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware. “I learned I was actually starving our wildlife,” she says.
The problem, Tallamy explained, is with the picky diets of plant-eating insects. Most of these bugs—roughly 90%—eat and reproduce on only certain native plant species, specifically those with whom they share an evolutionary history. Without these carefully tuned adaptations of specific plants, insect populations suffer. And because bugs themselves are a key food source for birds, rodents, amphibians, and other critters, that dependence on natives—and the consequences of not having them—works its way up the food chain. Over time, landscapes that consist mainly of invasive or nonnative plants could become dead zones...
Read more: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/how-turn-your-yard-ecological-oasis
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Preview of the new pattern I am working on :).
Edit: You can find the finished pattern here: https://chintzmann.tumblr.com/post/183048698131/a-lot-of-love-went-into-this-one
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Burbidgea schizocheila, Zingibearaceae
I’ve really been in the mood to write about something orange lately, so here are the striking inflorescences of the golden brush, much smaller, but just as impressive to me as the related beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabile) I photographed in a different area of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Native to the island of Borneo, this clumping, tropical perennial is valued for its ability to thrive with little care even in relatively small containers, which the plant tends to fill completely within a couple of years if grown in the right conditions, putting up a fantastic show of contrasting colours. It prefers filtered light and shade and can do well indoors as a houseplant, as long as adequate humidity is maintained, while it’s perfect for a shaded border in a tropical garden, where it will also draw in plenty of wildlife. It generally tends to flower reliably in summer and winter for a period of about two weeks, over which numerous flower spikes emerge and bloom consecutively, but it can flower sporadically any time of the year.
From what I can see golden brush ginger is not the most common of ornamental plants around and can be quite unusual and hard to come across in certain parts of the world, so if you see one at your local garden centre grab it firmly and do not let go!
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