No matter what the season, there's always an occasion to send flowers. That's the thinking behind Canada Post's bold and bright definitives featuring flowers in bloom. The subject was first introduced last year in a set of three stamps, and it proved so popular that the flowers have returned for the 2006 postal rate change, now with even more lush spring blossoms.
This year's stamp set offers four definitives alive with vibrant colour tones. "It was important to choose four wildflowers with very different colours and forms, so each stamp would be distinctive," says Sophie Lafortune, who designed the stamps with Monique Dufour. For consistency, they chose blossoms in the same colour tones as last year for each stamp rate. As a result, the new domestic rate (51¢) stamp portrays the unique red bergamot blossom (Monarda didyma), rather than the more familiar fuschia variety. The U.S. rate (89¢) features the sunny yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), and the international rate ($1.49) blazes with the Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia).
Added to the set this year is a fourth stamp for oversized domestic mail ($1.05), featuring the fanciful form and pastel tones of the pink fairy slipper (Calypso bulbosa).
These flowers are not all native to Canada, but each can be found growing wild in parts of the country. For this reason the design team knew it would be impossible to locate specimens to photograph. "These aren't cultivated flowers, so to find them we would have had to send designers trekking through woodlands all across the country during the blooming season," says Danielle Trottier, Manager of Stamp Design and Production at Canada Post. "Photography just wasn't an option this year."
Faced with this limitation, Lafortune and Dufour made a virtue of necessity by calling upon Montréal artist Sigmond Pifko to paint original illustrations for the stamp images. The design called for two views of each blossom, in order to show the unique colours and markings of each blossom from different angles, including one in close focus. "We needed very realistic portraits, presented in a botanical style," says Lafortune. "Pifko did a wonderful job."
His floral portraits are pretty enough to frame, but as Trottier notes, this stamp design is so effective because the frame actually disappears. "Normally white borders around a stamp pull the eye in, but here they work to make the image look bigger. On the white background these bright flowers appear borderless, so they seem to jump right out of the stamp frame. They'll bring a spring freshness and liveliness to a white envelope any time of the year."