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  • 9-13 17-20

“M idway in my life’s journey I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood”.

Here am I, like Dante’s father lost and worried by the events of our disturbing times. A florist’s seems a peaceful place to be : pretty window displays, beautiful flowers, baskets of plants outside. I should be the smiling shopkeeper with the green apron. Perhaps it was like that till a few years ago. The phone would ring and I would take an order:

“I need a beautiful composition” they would say.

“I am in love”, “I need to say thank you”, “it is for a funeral”,” I have been invited to lunch”....

There were may different requirements, sentiments and expectations. My parents, like poets, created according to the state of mind of the client, with colours leaves and careful use of shapes and styles, the right feeling the client wanted to share with the receiver. They knew the flowers would have spoken better than words the sentiment of their customer.

I remember customers who would come into the shop thanking my father for the wonderful bouquets which had excited quantities of appreciation.

It was a normal occurence and that sort of normality I found energising, as it made me believe in my work and love my customers.

whatsapp

Then, something started to change. In the 80s, we used to get an America TV series called Visitors. It was about aliens who took over the Earth. They did this by strategic substitution. Men began to disappear and the aliens would take their place. The only way to tell the difference was to see when their skin was scratched if they bled or exuded green slime.

Well, that is what has happened now. Technology, which in the first instance was fascinating and exciting, has gradually started to distort our rapport with reality. Ever more frequently, people wander into the shop with their mobile phones to their ears as though they were a natural extension of the body.

And this is not the only strangeness. People no longer seem to see the dichotomy; the distinction between what they can see in a picture and that which is really in front of them. I will explain this better. All florists are associated with some international floral delivery service. This means that the customer is assisted by means of images in the choice of the flowers to be delivered.

Every organization in their conditions of sale will advise that the final composition may vary due to season and demand. Whatever the final compostion , the customer is guaranteed one of the same value both artistically speaking and in money terms.

This is all fine until those Visitors who have substituted humans turn up. This happens.

A girl keeps the delivery man prisoner as she sends a virtual picture of the flowers she received to her boyfriend - on the other side of the world- who sent them, so he can compare them to those ordered on WhatsApp. Just to see if it is the same bouquet as the one chosen!

Worse still, an employee of the best known international floral delivery service calls me to tell me that the composition was not the same as the photo. She, too, had been substituted by a Visitor. Had she been human, she would have been able to read the conditions of sale, yet she carried on repeating herself that the composition offered had three roses and seven had been put in the one delivered. Seeing there was little chance of reprieve, I called the client who had received the composition called “Sushi”. The young lady was mortified by the whole situation and confirmed that the flowers were lovely but her boyfriend who was on the other side of the planet said that he wanted them changed or his money back, as the flowers delivered were different from those shown in the virtual catalogue. I suggest she could speak with her boyfriend just to confirm the quality of the composition if she, as she professed, found it attractive, and then I invited them both to the shop next time he comes to Salerno, to choose some flowers as a gift from our company.

To cut a long story short, the order is cancelled and I lose the money.

What I find so disheartening is that there can no longer be reasonable personal communication. A virtual picture has been the cause of a complete breakdown of normal communication. Anthropologists, who are seriously worried about such phenomena, have realized that “ a whole section of humanity is risking getting caught out by a game of mirrors which virtual reality has set up and in which people lose themselves and their grip on reality” (Marc Auge’)

Is this a failure of tecnology to deliver? I cannot answer that but of one thing I am sure: the Visitors have no creativity, no imagination and above all are incapable of saying thank you.

So let’s be careful!

Anny Pellecchia

Copyright © Ugo Pellecchia & Il Floricultore

 

 

 



G etting up before dawn for a trip to the flower market is always a bit of a sacrifice.

Yet, in the back of my mind is the knowledge that, once there, the sacrifice will be paid off as my senses are overwhelmed by colour and my soul fortified by all the hard work and enthusiasm of those whom I will find already hard at work. I throw myself out of bed.

I do feel that women struggle in the world of male rationality. Women need a touch of poetry and magic to mitigate the rigours of daily life. One day last June, on my professional quest for the right purchase ( always instructed by my subconscious quest for the poetry of things) I was pulled in a certain direction because, using the words of Savatore Di Giacomo the market “addorava de rose a centopassi” – the perfume of roses extended one hundred paces from the source. I followed that invisible thread of Ariadne which lead me to an exceptional rose.

Rosa-Yves-Piaget

 

It has a strawberry coloured powder puff with an imperfect stem, an alluring, full and joyous corolla which emanates a heady scent. This is the scent which has carried across the barriers of time and distance from the gardens of Versaille or Giuseppina Bonaparte’s Malmaison rose-garden; from the Orient-from China and Persia and the fertile valleys of the hanging gardens of Babylon.

If the classics have accompanied you through life, it is not easy to step back into reality from the all too frequent contemplation of history and time past. Yet, in that precise and very tangible moment I I had been suddenly overwhelmed by a rose and I could feel my heart racing with excitement. It was quite literally love at first sight, even for me, a timeworn lover of all flowers.

I see roses every day and I dare to say that modern- day rose usage has become such that we forget their real intrinsic value and position in the world of flowers.

When I met the grower Aniello Testa and “Yves Piaget” I was reminded of the importance of this species.

It was no longer sufficient just to see it in the market. I needed to see it growing and find out its history. The grower, amused by my enthusiasm, invited me to visit his nursery.

A few days later I was in my car and wending my way through the labyrinth of horticultural tunnels which cover the once wild and fertile Piana del Sele. My phone battery had of course died on me, so not even the illusion of GPS back- up was there to assist me but finally I drew up at the beautiful property of the Testa family.

I stood before and old stone farmhouse from whence I was taken through a groveof some 100 mulberry trees, to a sea of roses. Aniello and his children, Constantino and Antonietta showed me around and in their enthusiasm they had soon filled my arms with flowers.

We wove our way through the rows of incredible hybrids from all over the world and then, there beyond a regiment of “Lovely Reds”, I was once again united with what I can now say is my truest of true loves among roses.

Rosa-Yves-Piaget3

“Yves Piaget” was brought to Southern Italy inthe 70s by Constantino Testa ( Aniello’s father).He would make a trip to France every year to increase the collection of varieties in his family nursery, which his father had founded in the early post war years, at the foot of Vesuvius.

In France he became familiar with the legendary Meilland rose gardens and met Alain Meilland, the sixth in the family line of generations of rose growers. It was Alain himself who introduced Costantino to the Yves Piaget rose, which was fruit of his latest research.   He introduced it to Costantino, informing him that “ she flowers throughout the warm season and you live in the South so what could be better! I love her because she has splendid character but is not perfect. She will surprise you as she changes every day from a small bud, exploding finally into a myriad of petals”.

Constantino was not difficult to convince and he purchased Yves Piaget believing it would bring good luck to his own business. Alain continued: “ The only meaning behind our work is beauty. The women who work with us have to share us with the roses; my wife forgives me when, before going to bed I repeat to her: “this evening my darling, your lips are more beautiful than any rose bud”

“Alain”, Costantino replied “ you are the typically incoriggable French romantic!

“Me? Romantic? They are not my words. I steal them straight from the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Nothing to do with me!”

In the forty years since Costantino’s conversation with Alain, the production of roses for the flower markets became something of a single- track search for the perfect, straight stemmed, commercially viable rose ( even without thorns). Recently however there has been a return to variety and a greater spontaneity, among which the French Yves Piaget and the English roses which reflects a desire for a return to simple authenticity.

Today, Aniello Testa and his sister Giulia are the third generation of rose specialists. They believe in what they do. As we were chatting about different varieties, Aniello turned to his father and said “Papa’, are you happy?” Children always ask the best questions.

Back here in the shop, the “Testa roses” have been a great success. In reply to Aniello’s question to his father we can all say that we are happy for a return to the oldest and most interesting varieties which are once again available to us all thanks to the knowlegable and caring conservation work carried out by true believers in beauty, through those times of waning interest, crisis and adversity. They were the true poets of the roses, fully aware that the future would be requiring a good dose of beauty to help us all.

 

 

Anny Pellecchia

Copyright © Ugo Pellecchia & Il Floricultore