New Addition To Rittners Floral School Library–From Teleflora












Our floral school library is a very important tool. It is a resource for our students and graduates. It is also a research library. It provides us with a huge amount of information on floral designing and related subjects.

With over 4500 volumes in our floral school library, and an additional 600 volumes in our professional development educational, art and design holdings, it is a significant collection.

We use our library as one (of many) ways of staying current in our fast moving world. We get floral art resources literally from the four corners of the earth. I get quite excited when we incorporate new finds that add depth and variety to our library. A shipment of books from Japan, a series of texts from a French floral artist, the text that features centerpiece ideas, all add to the collective strength of our library.

I have to admit that the process of selection and procurement is a labor of love. I enjoy the hunt. When I started to develop our library resources back in the 70′s it was a mere 500 volumes. I believe very strongly that the willingness of a floral school to invest in a library infrastructure tells a lot about the commitment of the owners to their school and to their students. So you can see I get a lot of personal satisfaction seeing this tool grow and develop.

Recently the folks at Teleflora sent us their latest Floral Selection Guide. For those of you who are not in the trade, Teleflora is a major floral industry company that enables florists to transmit orders for their customers throughout the world, similar to FTD. The Floral Selection Guide contains large books with photographs, and work manual. It is used in flower shops to help customers with their purchasing decisions. We have many earlier Floral Selection Guides from Teleflora and other ‘wire’ services, but this new one is a very neat addition, and helps keep our library quite current.

These large tomes are books of incredible beauty. The folks at Teleflora tell me that it was based on three years of research. Over 4500 shops participated in the design research used to create these materials. Teleflora wanted to create books/selling tools that would feature the new as well as tradtional best sellers. The concept was to get the right mixture of designs to meet all kinds of consumer requests. This is great as our curriculum includes a combination of classical as well as cutting edge ideas.

An interesting aside, one of the biggest problems flower shops have with their books is that there is always a lot of water on working surfaces. I was reassured that the Floral Selection Guide is made with 100% waterproof material and was even tested with pages submerged under water for over 30 days without any damage. I think I will take their word for that, and will try to avoid repeating that testing!

There are approximately 450+ floral arrangements in this wonderful resource. (Once again, I will take their word on that, and not sit here counting designs featured!)

Our thanks to Bob Hurley and the other great folks at Teleflora.  The Floral Selection Guide is a lovely resource, and I know that our students, grads and staff will really enjoy using it.


More On The Health Benefits of Plants

One of the pleasures of owning a floral school is developing our floral school library.

It gives me a good excuse to buy books dealing with a wide range of subjects, to read and enjoy them, and to let others know about goodies that relate to our common interests.

It takes a lot to impress me though. There are books, and there are books!

Some time back (Oct 2010)  I had the pleasure of reviewing “How To Grow Fresh Air” by BC Wolverton. Wolverton explored the healthy aspects of plants in terms of how they help to purify air and contribute to a more livable environment. I love that book.

Well, he’s at it again!

This one is called “ Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them.”

Along with co-author Kozaburo Takenaka, Wolverton provides a wonderful summary of just how critical plants are for human health and well being. Chapters like “Is the Air Indoors Making You Sick,” Plants: Nature’s Air Purifiers,” ”Medicinal Plants, “ and more make their points in a succinct and appealing manner. (Be warned: The chapter on indoor air pollution made me not want to do any renovations in my home without careful and considerable examination of home construction materials). The benefits of plants in terms of reducing indoor air pollutants is discussed and documented as are many areas in which plants contribute to human well being.

When I was an undergraduate, one of my favorite courses was one called, “Plants And Man.” It dealt with the benefits of plants and the social aspects of horticulture. This book reads like a far more interesting and useful update of the subject for the 21st Century.

Wolverton and Tekenaka, in part wanted this book to provide a written legacy to their descendents of their contribution in making our environment a better place.

It is my hope that this book gets widespread attention, and that their legacy encouraging the use of plants to improve our environment, go far beyond the written page.

Buy this one. Encourage your local library to buy it, and encourage others to read it. It provides an excellent documentation of why plants and floral materials are so critical for human well being. It’s timely and important.

Can Plants Make Our Homes Healthier?

In the past, I’ve mentioned wonderful research that is currently being done that suggests that flowers and floral products reduce anxiety and depression and generally enhance human well being. I believe that these studies are both essential and wonderful, because they really take flowers and floral design out of the “frivolous” and “luxury” categories and put them into the essential category. Flowers and floral designs are not just pretty things that we can buy when we feel like we have a few extra dollars available to spend. They are elements of our surroundings that can enhance our lives and make us feel better. They are a relatively inexpensive way to enhance our psychological frame of mind. They are essential for our mental health.

Dr.  B.C. Wolverton has approached the health aspects of floral product from a different and equally wonderful angle. With decades of research, some of it conducted by NASA, he has been exploring the whole issue of  the air quality of the environments in which we live and work. His work shows how plants can play a major role purifying air and improving it’s quality. In an age where we increasingly hear of  ’indoor air pollution’ due to the various substances used in our furnishings and interior finishes, and we are increasingly concerned with ‘sick building syndrome’  these studies are significant.

If humans are ever to travel in deep space, or put colonies in places like the moon or underseas, these studies and their findings become critical.

How To Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home Or Office (Penguin Publisher) is one of my favorite books in Rittners Floral School Library.  Dr. Wolverton gives a general overview of the environmental health benefits of plants and presents information about 50 houseplants that have been tested for their environmental benefits. Information about maintenance, and ease of growth, etc. is also provided. There is some discussion of hydroculture, and it’s role in the process. I would have liked even more clarification and information about that aspect of the process.

The book is very attractive with lovely illustrations. Best of all, it distills a lot of great information in a very easy to read and access format.

In my opinion, the floral industry should pick up on this data and use it for more aggressive marketing of floral products that  make our surroundings healthier.

This books is a must own. If you want to live an a healthier environment, this is a wonderful guidebook to show you how.

Wonderful Book On Gardening History & Personalities

I bought “The Brother Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf (Vintage Books/Random House, 2008) with the intention of bringing balance to our floral school library. I felt that a source dealing with the history of gardening and movement of botanicals across international borders might be an interesting addition to Rittners Floral School library and add a different kind of perspective.

I am a floral design educator. The origins and movement of plants is interesting, but it is not something that I have ever considered of primary concern.

I must admit that when I started to read this delicious little book, my entire perspective changed. I could not put this wonderful book down! Wulf documents how a group of individuals introduced to Britain, all kinds of botanicals from such places as the Americas and the Pacific, and in so doing,  changed the gardens of England.

What really makes this book so wonderful is that Wulf makes the various individuals and their personalities come remarkably alive.

We get a wonderful portrait of the business relationship and growing friendship of farmer John Bartram of Pennsylvania and British merchant Peter Collinson, and how they introduced all kinds of plants to Britain. We experience the wonder of Bartram searching what was at that time the American Wilderness for new and different botanicals, constantly taking trips farther and farther from his home, in spite of all kinds of dangers (including war). In our world where products can be shipped globally within hours, and communication is instantaneous we get an appreciation of just how difficult it was for these guys to both communicate and safely ship botanicals across the Atlantic.

Just when you think the book is as good as it can be, it gets better.We get a wonderful appreciation for Philip Miller whose Gardener’s Dictionary took gardening out of superstition and approached it in a methodical, practical scientific way.

Then there is Carl Linnaeus, whose sexual system of classifying plants gave some English Botanists indigestion as they envisioned the plant world to be one big horticultural orgy! Of course it didn’ t help that Linnaeus was a conceited, arrogant self promoter. ( This wasn’t the portrait that I got in my Botany classes in college where Linnaeus’ name was almost associated with sainthood!) Later it was interesting to see how he named various botanicals after friends and enemies.

We get to vicariously explore the Pacific with Captain James Cook, and Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.

Even Captain Bligh (of Mutiny on The Bounty fame) ends up in this marvelous little book. We all think of him as the rather anal fellow whose crew mutinied against him, and placed him into an open boat all the while throwing breadfruit plants overboard…..Bligh did manage to navigate that 23′ boat with no charts almost 4,000 miles back to civilization. (Yet how can you feel sympathetic with a guy that Marlon Brando –playing Fletcher Christian– didn’t appreciate? ) What I never realized, was that Bligh actually returned to the Pacific, accomplished his mission of getting breadfruit to the West Indies and returned to Britain with more than 1000 living flowers, shrubs and trees… At that time one of the largest living collection of plants brought into Britain from abroad.

Without a doubt, beg, borrow or best of all buy this book! It is a wonderful, fascinating, compelling read—one that you will certainly savor and enjoy. It holds an honored spot in our library.

This Book on Plants Will Blow Your Mind!

Stevebooks2Books are some of my favorite things. I love them. I collect them. I (ugh!) catalog them. And I don’t have enough space for them! As the owner of Rittners Floral School in Boston, one of my pleasures is to collect books for our floral school library (now with over 4,500 volumes. Our Education, Art & and Development Collection has over 500 additional volumes.) This has been a labor of love spanning decades.

I own books that I like, and I own books that I love. I believe that just as each kind of flower brings its own unique contribution to the design table so too most books bring their own unique contribution to our floral school library. Some age better than others. Some contain very useful information. Others are interesting from a historical point of view.

It takes a lot for a book to really impress me. The gorgeous books with beautiful floral art are nice but there are a lot of them. But the other day I acquired a book that blew my socks off! It combined my love of books, flowers, and great photography. This book The Bizarre and Incredible World of Plants is by Wolfgang Stuppy, Rob Kesseler and Madeline Harley. (Firefly Books, Buffalo, NY, 2009).PlantbookThis book is actually a compendium of the best of three earlier books, “Pollen: The Hidden Sexuality of Flowers,” “Seeds: Time Capsules of LIfe” and “Fruit: Edible, Inedible, Incredible.” all of which are also equally magnificent.

This book reminds us how dependent life on earth is on plants and floral products. Plants provide us with so much… They are the source of food (directly or indirectly) the oxygen we breath, many things we take for granted like wood and some medicines, and of course beautiful flowers that we enjoy aesthetically.

This book and those it was based upon, use electron microscopy to explore the sex life of plants. The images are color enhanced and truly incredible. Although the text may be rather detailed for some, the photographs will make you look at flowers and plants in a very different way. It reminds me as a floral designer that the basis of my art form is actually part of the sex life of plants. I believe that any book that can change your world view is something extraordinary. The botanicals presented in this book look like things out of some strange sci-fi movie, and have an alien beauty.

Awesome, spectacular, bizarre, gorgeous, inspirational are just a few words that can be used to describe these unique photographs. But mere words won’t do this book justice. Don’t just read my comments. Look at the book and you will understand what I mean! Better yet, go out and buy a copy for your own library!