Birds of Paradise

I first saw a Strelizia flower as a young girl in Communist Poland in the late eighties. I was totally in awe. I had never seen anything like this amazing and unique flower. This blossom looked like a soaring bird in flight... and was so different from any other flower I had seen in the Eastern Bloc. Interestingly as Communism began to give way to Capitalism and a better democracy... and people began making their own choices and their own decisions... and began to control their own destiny... coincidently these incredible flowers began being sold in flower shops... although not in bunches. My best recollection was seeing just single flower Strelizias here and there.

If you are familiar with Poland... you know it is customary to give flowers for literally any occasion... birthdays, name days, parties, weddings and all other holidays involving social visits and gift giving. The Strelizia was a prized flower to be included in exclusive bouquets… usually only one in an arrangement due to the high price and the lack of supply. And for me, these blooms, were love at first sight. 

When I moved to the United States several years later, I was amazed to learn that these flowers were also called Birds of Paradise and symbolized both paradise and freedom.  They remind me of colorful birds you can spot in between the green lush forest in the tropics. This association made me love them even more as America was my land of opportunity and the land of the free.

So when I finally arrived in Southern California twenty years ago, I was somewhat surprised to see them everywhere… across from Ralphs and Trader Joe's, on every street corner, in every garden... literally everywhere. Now that California has become my paradise and my home away from home, I feel like i am soaring like a bird in paradise here in this Golden State… so here is my tribute to a free-spirited life in a beautiful country on a land by the beach…