I have been contemplating flowers and operas. Specifically the story of Madame Butterfly. I know, I spend way too much time thinking about flowers and am ready for the ground to thaw and start planting!
Ever wonder how flower varieties are named? This question nudged me as I paged through the seed catalogs and became mesmerized by the floral photo candy of Antirrhinum majus – Madame Butterfly var. My curiosity soon meandered to Giacomo Puccini's famous Opera, Madame Butterfly wherein the human Butterfly first took to the stage in Milan, Italy in 1904.
The unique double-petal flowers of Madame Butterfly snapdragons are no less dramatic than the opera's themes of cultural and sexual imperialism, and allow me to mingle the operatic and horticultural.
Madame Butterfly the Opera – summarized from the Metropolitan Opera website
Act 1:A young Japanese Geisha, Cio-Cio San, known as Madame Butterfly, clings to the belief that an arrangement with a visiting American naval officer, Pinketon, who is roaming the world in search of pleasure and new experience, is a loving permanent marriage. Madame Butterfly denounces her religion, assumes her betroth's Christian faith, an act chastized by her uncle. Quietly, the newlyweds consummate the marriage in the garden. Are these feelings of love or the whim of an officer's libido? Madame Butterfly puts her trust in love at all costs.
Madame Butterfly The Floral Opera
On the landscape snapdragons and in particular Madame Butterfly varietals possess a strong and striking physical presence that starts at the onset of germination.
Act 1: I lifted and placed the seedling tray under the grow lights and noted in awe the moss like greenery stubbornly transforming from seed to cotyledon to true leaves. I was transfixed. The seed catalog boasted a double petal profusion in a dramatic mix of ivory, pink, red, yellow, and bronze blooms. I clung to this belief, imagining where to transplant in our gardens—trusting in the permanence in love (in this case for plants), that as a flower farmer, I would help consummate a marriage of seed to soil in a harmonizing relationship.
Acts 2 Part 1 & 2: Madame Butterfly the Opera summarized from the met.
Three years come and go and Madame Butterfly awaits her husband's return, a son on her hip. She is presented with a new marriage proposal, though she still refuses and clings to hope of Pinkerton's return. The sentiment and criticism of her ill-fated belief no less a shock than the thought of her beloved never to return. Suddenly a ship is sited-has her husband returned? Madame Butterfly is overjoyed, sleepless in anticipation, keeping vigil and strewing the house with flowers—awaiting his arrival from the harbor. But wait, a new wife in hand, and a guilty heart at what took place in the garden with the young Geisha, Pinkerton leaves. Butterfly finds Kate, Pinkerton's wife, instead and grasps the situation in disbelief. She takes out a dagger, choosing to die with honor rather than live in shame. She is interrupted momentarily when her son comes running in. After saying an emotional goodbye she blindfolds the child. Then she stabs herself as Pinkerton is heard from outside calling her name as she falls to the Earth.
Act 2 parts 1 & 2: The Floral Opera
Three months go by and I observe, weed, water, and tend to the hope that the leaves will soon evolve in its use of powerful metabolic sunshine, influorescent libido unfurling in a riot of racemes ready to be transported to its new vessel – your vase.
What takes shape in the field as Madame Butterfly holds steadfast to its use of creative force—not to mention turgor pressure before she is snipped in one swift motion as the dew dries? Who or what else might be present to creatively destroy my beloved flowers? How to best intervene as a grower lest I submit to the cultural imperialism of the day that humans are separate from the energetics of Nature? A bee is sited on sepal, laden with pollen it transports the few floral remnants in a final act before they embark on their dissolution to seeds.
On the stage or in the vase, we can choose to celebrate or mourne Madame Butterfly's passing and willfulness—and only hope that we might find harmony and re-direct our own powerful metabolic and sexual energy into their rightful channels.
I would love to share the operatic and horticultural on the stage and in a few more vases! We have a handful of seasonal and monthly flower CSA bouquets available!
If you already sign-ed up, thank you! Please help share the flower love with a friend or colleague who you think might need a dose of flower power this season.
if not, no worries, you can Sign-up On-line or message me and I will happily hook you up and share a few colorful floral feasts and feats this season. Members receive bountiful bouquets, stories, and field notes about both the ecology and language of flowers, and VIP tours/R & R at the farm.
Thank you for your support and celebrating the season's blooms with our farm!
With gratitude, ES