homepage logo

Let’s Cook: Flowers would improve State of the Union background

By Staff | Jan 30, 2015

Would you agree that items we often work within our professional careers tend to drift over to everyday living? You know, like a secretary who writes perfect letters to friends from home, an accountant who keeps his personal checkbook to the penny, or a chef who makes white sauces from scratch? As a professional photographer for many years, backgrounds are one of the first things that catch my eye. Are they attractive, pleasing and not distracting?

I recall one family sitting in the studio which forever changed my image of an “attractive” background. We had just completed the perfect outdoor portrait sitting – no wind, everyone was happy and on time – and we were about to pack up our equipment when the mother strolled over to us and suggested we take another family pose. She gently requested that this time her son-in-law be posed into the back row – right next to the spirea bush by the front porch.

Later, she came back into the studio with her large, framed family portrait and explained that her daughter had the habit of changing husbands like most people change their bed sheets. It was for this reason she had requested that her daughter’s current husband be placed in the back row. She adored the image and was now asking if he could be transformed into a spirea since her daughter had kicked him out on his “keister.” Remember, this was before Photoshop – so with the help of Grumbackers Thalo yellow green and Hookers green hue and a thin brush, I transformed him into a very nice round shrub. She returned to the studio, took one look at the image, and said, “I do like an attractive background. Thank you so much.”

Did you happen to watch the State of the Union address given by President Obama on Jan. 20? As he stood and presented at the speaker’s rostrum in the U.S. House of Representatives, did you happen to notice the background? I am not talking about the American flag – no, I am referring to Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner. I thought of our former photography customer and her thoughts of an attractive background.

First of all, there were many times the camera angle left me thinking: Would he be sporting Fruit of the Loom, or perhaps might he be more a Jockey style? Would he be more inclined for dark tones of underwear or lively pastels? I admit it was the wrong thing to be thinking of, but I simply could not help it. Now let us reflect a bit on facial expression. Did Boehner just have a root canal? Was Biden at the circus watching a bunch of monkeys in a barrel?

It is time to make a change for an attractive background while our president delivers the State of the Union address. Oh, I am not without a suggestion, and I do believe it would play out rather nicely. Plus, it would remind us what our teacher in sixth grade had us memorize – all the state flowers. Yes, I am recommending that we start featuring bouquets of flowers representing the flowers from each state. Two very nice full arrangements could be presented in matching historical vessels – there must be throngs of them in the White House collections. I have done a bit of research on the state flowers and found it to be most interesting. Let’s start at the top with Alabama and go right down the line. This background change will eliminate any thoughts about underwear and questions on a variety of facial expressions during the State of the Union address.

Alabama: The camellia was approved on Aug. 26, 1959, replacing the goldenrod which had been the state flower since 1927.

Alaska: Alpine forget-me-not was selected in 1949. They are sky blue in color with a white inner ring and yellow centers.

Arizona: In 1901, the saguaro cactus blossom was adopted as the official flower, and later, in 1931, it was confirmed. It is characterized by a waxy feel and fragrant aroma, and the blossom later turns into fruit which the birds enjoy.

Arkansas: The apple blossom was adopted by the General Assembly in 1901.

California: The California poppy was selected in 1903. It is sometime known as the “flame flower” because of its rich color. When displayed on the hillsides, it can look like flames. April 6 is California Poppy Day.

Colorado: Adopted the Rocky Mountain columbine with its white and lavender colors as the state flower on April 4, 1889.

Connecticut: Designated the mountain laurel, which features pink and white blossoms as the state flower by the General Assembly in 1907.

Delaware: Delaware is home to many peach trees which yield thousands of peaches each year. This prompted the passage of the peach blossom as the state flower on May 9, 1895.

Florida: The orange blossom was designated state flower by Concurrent Resolution Nov. 15, 1909, by the Legislature. It is one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida and is still very popular in bridal bouquets.

Georgia: Cherokee rose became the state floral emblem in 1916 largely due to the support of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs. The name “Cherokee Rose” is a local designation derived from the Cherokee Indians who widely distribute the plant. It is white in color with a sizable golden center.

Hawaii: At statehood in 1959, the first state legislature adopted many of Hawaii’s symbols as part of the Hawaii Revised Statutes. It wasn’t until 1988, however, that the yellow hibiscus, which is native to the islands, was selected to represent Hawaii.

Idaho: The syringa was designated the state flower of Idaho by the legislature in 1931. It is a branching shrub with clusters of white, fragrant flowers. The blossoms are similar to the mock orange, have four petals, and the flowers grow at the ends of short, leafy branches.

Illinois: In 1908, the Illinois schoolchildren voted to select the violet as their state flower. The purple to blue colors are loved by many and the showy flowers are edible. The petals are often covered with sugar and used as decorations on cakes.

Indiana: It has been present at many wedding and gravesites, and in 1957 the General Assembly adopted the peony as the state flower in various shades of red, pink and white. From 1931 to 1957, the zinnia was the state flower.

Iowa: The Iowa Legislature designated the wild rose as the official state flower in 1897. It was chosen for the honor because it was one of the decorations used on the silver service, which the state presented to the battleship USS Iowa that same year.

Kansas: Blazing yellow in fields, the sunflower is one you cannot miss. In 1903, it was adopted as the state flower of Kansas. It is beautiful and provides delicious seeds and oils, which are shipped all over the world.

Kentucky: The bluegrass state saw the engagement of the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs to promote the goldenrod as the state floral representative, and their efforts paid off because on March 16, 1926, a Senate Resolution named the goldenrod as the official state flower.

Louisiana: In 1900, the magnolia became their state flower. The magnolia flower has an especially rich fragrance. The blooms are very large and creamy white. The magnolia tree is an evergreen.

Maine: White pine cone and tassel was adopted by the Legislature of 1895. The White pine is considered to be the largest conifer in the northeastern United States.

Maryland: The black-eyed usan has been the official Old Line State flower since 1918.

Massachusetts: In 1918, the mayflower was declared the state flower. It is also known as ground laurel or trailing arbutus.

Michigan: Since Michigan apples had gained a worldwide reputation, the apple blossom was named in 1897 as the state flower.

Minnesota: The pink and white lady’s slipper was adopted as the state flower in 1902. Lady’s slippers grow slowly, taking up to 16 years to produce their first flowers. They bloom in late June or early July. The plants live for up to 50 years and grow 4 feet tall.

Mississippi: An election was held in November 1900 to select a State Flower. Votes were submitted by 23,278 school children. The magnolia received 12,745 votes; the cotton blossom 4,171; and the cape jasmine 2,484. The magnolia was officially designated as the state flower by the 1952 Legislature.

Missouri: The white hawthorn blossom was named the state flower of Missouri on March 16, 1923. These flowers are white and grow in bunches on hawthorn trees.

Montana: Bitterroot became the state flower in 1895. Long before explorers Lewis and Clark wrote about the beautiful purplish-pink flower of the bitterroot, Native Americans were using its roots for food and trade.

Nebraska: Goldenrod had numerous species in the state and was therefore declared the state flower by legislative action in 1895.

Nevada – The silver state designated sagebrush as the state flower in 1917

New Hampshire: The purple lilac was adopted as the state’s flower in 1919. It was selected because it was hardy like the folks of the Granite state.

New Mexico: The yucca was adopted as the state flower on March 14, 1927. The yucca is a member of the lily family and a symbol of sturdiness as well as beauty.

New York: The rose was voted by the school children to be the state flower in 1891 and adopted in 1955 as the official state flower.

New Jersey: In 1913 the violet was designated was the state flower, but it took until 1971 and the urging of New Jersey’s garden clubs for the country meadow violet to be officially enacted as the state flower.

North Carolina: The blossom of the dogwood tree was designated as the official state flower of North Carolina in 1941. The dogwood is one of the most common trees in North Carolina, found in all parts of the state from the mountains to the coast.

North Dakota: North Dakota designated the wild prairie rose as the state flower in 1907. Found growing along North Dakota roadsides, in pastures, and in native meadows, the wild prairie rose has five bright pink petals with a cluster of yellow stamens in the center.

Ohio: In 1904, the scarlet carnation was chosen as the official state flower. This flower was a favorite of William McKinley and was adopted by the state legislature partly because it represented a token of love and reverence for the Ohio president.

Oklahoma: Mistletoe the oldest of Oklahoma’s symbols, adopted in 1893. Mistletoe grows on trees throughout the state and is particularly bountiful in the southern regions of Oklahoma. The dark green leaves and white berries show up brightly during the fall and winter in trees that have shed their own leaves.

Oregon: In 1899, the Oregon grape was proclaimed as the state flower. It can be used in cooking and turns sweet when cooked.

Pennsylvania: The state flower is the mountain laurel, as enacted by the General Assembly on May 5, 1933. The mountain laurel is in full bloom in mid-June, when Pennsylvania’s woodlands are filled with its distinctive pink flower.

Rhode Island: Although the violet was voted as the state flower by Rhode Island’s schoolchildren in 1897, the flower was not officially adopted as the state flower until 1968.

South Carolina: The yellow jessamine was officially adopted by the general assembly on Feb. 1, 1924. It is indigenous to every nook and corner of the State.

South Dakota: The pasque became the state flower in 1903. It is also called the May Day flower. It grows wild throughout the state, and its blooming is one of the first signs of spring in South Dakota.

Tennessee: The iris was designated as the state cultivated flower by the Legislature in 1933. While there are several different colors among the iris, the purple iris is commonly accepted as the state flower.

Texas: Bluebonnet was adopted as the official state flower in 1901. Named for its color, it is said the resemblance to its petal of a woman’s sunbonnet.

Utah: The sego lily was made the official state flower after a census was taken of the state’s schoolchildren as to their preference for a state flower. It was approved to be the state flower on March 18, 1911.

Vermont: Effective Feb. 1, 1895, the red clover was officially the state flower. The red clover is symbolic of Vermont’s scenic countryside generally and of its dairy farms in particular.

Virginia: In 1918, the state floral emblem commonly known as the American dogwood was adopted. It was selected to foster a feeling of pride in the state and to stimulate an interest in the history and traditions of the Commonwealth.

Washington: In 1892, before they had the right to vote, Washington women selected the coast rhododendron as the state flower. They wanted an official flower to enter in a floral exhibit at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Washington officially designated the coast rhododendron as the state flower in 1959.

West Virginia: The rhododendron maximum, or “great laurel,” is the state flower of West Virginia. It was selected on Jan. 29, 1903, by the Legislature, following a vote by pupils of the public schools. It is a shrub and may be recognized by its large, dark evergreen leaves and delicate pale pink or white blossoms, mottled with either red or yellow flecks.

Wisconsin: When the official tally was taken on Arbor Day 1909, school children selected the wood violet over the wild rose, trailing arbutus, and the white water lily. It was a close vote. Believe it or not, the leaves are very tasty and can be used in salads, candies and jellies.

Wyoming: Indian paintbrush or painted cup was adopted as the state flower on Jan. 31, 1917. The top of the flower looks like as if they have been dipped in bright red paint – hence the name.


From “The Presidents’ Own White House Cookbook,” the Bicentennial edition, comes this recipe for Basic Brown Sauce which is the perfect background for many foods. This may be stored up to a week refrigerated, or can be frozen for future use.

1/4 cup chopped green onions (some tops)

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 quarts of water

3 beef bouillon cubes

3 chicken bouillon cubes

1 small bay leaf

Pinch of ground thyme

Dash of freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup flour

Using a large saucepot, saute onion, celery and carrot in cooking oil until dark brown, but not burned. Add water, beef and chicken bouillon cubes, bay leaf, thyme and black pepper. Bring to boiling and then simmer until stock is reduced by half. Strain with cheesecloth if desired. Stir in tomato sauce and bring to boiling. Shake vigorously in a screw-top jar the water and flour. Add gradually to boiling mixture, stirring constantly. Cook 1 to 2 minutes and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page