Tagua (pronounced tog-wah) nuts, or "ivory of the rainforest," are a vegetable-based and sustainable alternative to elephant ivory. The seeds are hard and smooth, and easily carved and dyed. They were once used for military buttons, Victorian chess pieces, and dice. Today, tagua "vegetable ivory" is a popular material for jewelry and baubles.
A glowing combination of blue-green and butter-yellow, with a tantalizing blush of pink on older plants and in cool weather. Bright Star (officially named Yucca gloriosa ‘Walbristar’) forms a spiky crown of flexible swordlike leaves. Slow growing, it eventually forms a short woody trunk similar to some agaves. Perennial. Zones 7 to 10. heronswood.com, plantdelights.com
A sophisticated blend of soft yellow, lilac and mauve gives Yes! Pineapple Crush a timeless appeal, like a pressed flower from Victorian days. A central burst of whiskers and a bright-yellow eye keep things lively. An added bonus is a silvery overlay that intensifies in warm weather. It's another good candidate for taking the garden through mild winters, with a high tolerance for cold. Upright mounds of spoon-shape leaves are covered with inch-wide flowers in fall and spring.
For autumn color, chrysanthemums are showstoppers. They're the first choice of proud moms for homecoming corsages; their exquisite forms draw thousands to flower shows; and in the fall, they dominate prime counter space at garden centers.
While botanic fashion has yet to see urban streets and Bill Cunningham's lens, the concept has been flourishing on the runway and the artist's studio. Here are three designers who have culled their materials from the plants that inspire them.
The Temple of Flora is perhaps the most famous florilegium or book of flowers from the golden age of botanical illustration. It's a charming collection of deliberately idiosyncratic flower portraits that became the portrait of a nation.