Fiesta Flowers

by Virginia Hayes

Ah Fiesta! That time of year when all of Santa Barbara becomes the venue for one big party — a party with a typical Santa Barbara flair that intends to recognize and celebrate our rich culture. There are parades, dances, music, and food wherever you turn. One of the signature elements of this celebration remains just as old-fashioned as ever: Flowers, real live ones, are used to decorate horses, carriages, food booths, and hairdos throughout week.

One of the best places to see floral displays is at the big parade. It’s not as gaudy or fanciful as the Parade of Roses in Pasadena, but floats are still adorned with greenery that just a few days ago was part of somebody’s garden. In Santa Barbara, it takes a community to pull together a bevy of handsomely decorated entries that rely on living plant material to adorn the otherwise industrial-looking trailers.

Some of the flowers will be purchased, but many more will be donated by local growers and collected in private gardens throughout the area. Palm fronds by the hundreds will serve as backdrops to daisies, roses, and birds of paradise. Garlands of magnolia leaves and leather fern will drape the posts of make-believe patios and stairways. Some of the horses will sport their highly polished silver tack, but others will have flowers braided into their manes and tails or even wear a blanket of carnations. Spanish dancers, would-be vaqueros, and lady riders will wear floral headpieces, or at least tuck some posies into their hatbands or behind their ears. City and political dignitaries will ride in antique carriages and buckboards, with flowers woven through the spokes of their wheels and mounted with elaborate floral sprays. One of the other traditions for Santa Barbara’s Fiesta parade is the cadre of girls carrying baskets of flowers along the parade route and distributing them to the waiting crowd.

Go to the parade, enjoy a night of Spanish dancing, or just party down. But whatever you do, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

August Tips

• Plant South African bulbs as soon as they appear in nurseries. Look for freesia, ixia, watsonia, and gladiolus and sparaxis species.

• Pick ripe fruits and vegetables. Most will come off with only a gentle tug. If it takes more, then they probably aren’t fully ripe.

• Fruit trees and vines, like wisteria, may put out suckers that should be cut close to the trunk or pulled off to keep energy going into the main growth.

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