- Paperback: 305 pages
- Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (18 Mar. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1565126033
- ISBN-13: 978-1565126039
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.2 x 20.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 795,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Flower Confidential Paperback – 18 Mar 2008
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" An engaging mix of botany, history and commerce....Stewart writes with humor and insight, entertaining as she informs."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"Stewart is an acute observer and intelligent writer...a compelling read."--"San Francisco Chronicle"
"Flower Confidential attains the uncommon rank of a non-fiction book that is equally as rewarding to the reader for its storytelling as it is for its content. Even if you're not into flowers, it's fascinating to see how a major industry is built around such a short-lived, aesthetic luxury."
"A new book every flower lover should read. . . . Amy is one of my favorite garden writers and not just because we're in sync about our craft. . . . She gives lessons in botany and big business, history and horticulture. She enlightens and entertains; she poses questions and offers opinions. And she does it with style."
"Stewart shows in stunning detail that every aspect of producing flowers for the cut-flower market has been abstracted into its elements....I found this book not only revelatory in a distressing way, but informative at every level, engaging in the pictures it gives of the people involved in the trade, and commendably fair-minded."--"Boston Globe"
Stewart, an avid gardener and winner of the 2005 California Horticultural Society's Writer's Award for her book The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, now tackles the global flower industry. Her investigations take her from an eccentric lily breeder to an Australian business with the alchemical mission of creating a blue rose. She visits a romantically anachronistic violet grower, the largest remaining California grower of cut flowers and a Dutch breeder employing high-tech methods to develop flowers in equatorial countries where wages are low. Stewart follows a rose from the remote Ecuadoran greenhouse where it's grown to the American retailer where it's finally sold, and visits a huge, stock -exchange-like Dutch flower auction. These present-day adventures are interspersed with fascinating histories of the various aspects of flower culture, propagation and commerce. Stewart's floral romanticism-she admits early on that she's "always had a generalized, smutty sort of lust for flowers"-survives the potentially disillusioning revelations of the flower biz, though her passion only falters a few times, as when she witnesses roses being dipped in fungicide in preparation for export. By the end, this book is as lush as the flowers it describes.
"Stewart's journey takes us down many such paths, all connected by her own curiosity and highly readable prose. The greatest value of Flower Confidential, however, is that it was written at all."
--the Washington Post
-Stewart's journey takes us down many such paths, all connected by her own curiosity and highly readable prose. The greatest value of Flower Confidential, however, is that it was written at all.-
--the Washington Post
From the Inside Flap
Does it matter that a bouquet of roses travels halfway around the world before it arrives at your supermarket or florist? Or that growers force tulips to bloom in December? Are we being tricked when a scientist engineers a lily that doesn't shed pollen?
For over a century hybridizers, genetecists, farmers, and florists around the world have worked to invent, manufacture, and sell flowers that are bigger, brighter, and sturdier than anything nature could provide. Almost any flower, in any color, is for sale at any time of the year.
Amy Stewart travels the globe to take us inside this dazzling world. She tracks down scientists intent on developing the first genetically modified blue rose; an eccentric horticultural legend who created the world's most popular lily (the 'Star Gazer'); a breeder of gerberas of every color imaginable; and an Ecuadorean farmer growing exquisite, high-end organic roses that are the floral equivalent of a Tiffany diamond. She sees firsthand how flowers are grown and harvested on farms in Latin America, California, and Holland. (It isn't always pretty).
What has been gained--and what has been lost--in tinkering with Mother Nature? Should we care that some roses have lost their scent? Or that most flowers are sprayed with pesticides? In a global marketplace, is there such a thing as a socially responsible flower? At every turn, Stewart discovers the startling intersection of nature and technology, of sentiment and commerce.
You'll never look at a cut flower the same again.
Top Customer Reviews
In addition to being able to spew off tons of facts about flowers to people (I can't tell if they're impressed or just think I'm crazy), this book has made me more conscious of the practices that go on and how to support ethical labor and fertilizating companies. I can't tell you how excited I was one day when I was in Sam's Club looking at their flowers, and yes, the Fair Trade sticker was there! I was happy to see it, and I was also glad that I knew what that sticker symbolized.
The book came out at an interesting time-right when Columbia and Ecuador (two major growers) were fighting each other. Every time I heard about the war, I always wondered what happened to the flower farms.
This book is honest, captivating, and is a great look at a very interesting industry. I'm amazed how much effort is put in to such a simple, cheap thing that we don'e even really think about. For me, whenever I get flowers, I'll ALWAYS be thinking about where they came from. Reading this book will make you appreciate cut flowers in a way you never before knew.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
If you are looking for advice on PLS 06, you can really pass the class without ever opening the book if you are a good test taker. I wouldn't advise doing this, because without this book you really won't learn much besides Prof. Lieth's lectures. I'd recommend going ahead of the class schedule for reading chapters and just knock out this whole book in a few sittings. Amy Stewart has good flow and it never really felt like she dragged on. It's nice that Prof. Lieth chose this book as opposed to a textbook, because it reads like a story.
But she also digs deep, traveling to Ecuador, to massive flower auctions in Holland, to an upscale New York florist shop, an airport warehouse in Miami that functions as the main receiving center for Central and South American cut flowers, to California fields and flower carts and shops that inscribe words on the edges of rose petals. She plumbs through the history of the Star Gazer lily, turning a flower into a multi-generational story of its eccentric creator and the families that made it famous. She describes being towered over by roses with natural six-foot stems and seeing roses sunk into buckets of fumigants and flowers soaked in buckets of dye.
As she does so, Stewart moves between big picture and precise detail so fluidly that Flower Confidential tucks all its education seamlessly into a rollicking tale. Well, as rollicking as flowers get, anyway. And to read Stewart, that's pretty rollicking indeed. For all the industrialization of the floral industry, as well as the problems that tend to come with industrialization (pollution, safety problems, dreary and repetitive work, the slow replacement of craftsmen by drones and artistry by undistinguished quality), for all her revelations of how unglamorously things often work behind the scenes, Stewart is forever being caught in the net of some flower's beauty, whether exquisite new hybrid or richly scented heirloom, spotted in high places or low, embroiling herself in what a flower means or should mean. She is candidly, unbashedly, perpetually vulnerable to being transported by their glory.
A full-fledged subscriber to the idea of the symbolism and necessity of gifting, flowers mean more to her than they ever could to me. To her they are the gift that there is always room for in the spirit -- and on Valentine's Day, you'd better not be late!
I can't say I'll ever believe in the importance of flowers the way Stewart does. In the near necessity of their specific kind of physical beauty, close at hand, in a well-lived life. But I have started growing lobellias and marigolds and nasturtiums and petunias and veronicas in the garden, and am learning little by little. The bees and moths and other pollinators love them. And for goodness sake, Amy sure loves them! I've tended to think of them as a fussy bit of clutter. But I'm becoming fond of them. If you're not there yet or on your way, Flower Confidential will do its darnedest to get you going, and is so wide-ranging and well-written that you're sure to enjoy the journey.
I knew large greenhouses existed, but the exact science, the exact control to produce the most perfect flowers available is something I was ignorant of. I also assumed that the flowers I buy in the grocery store were flowers as nature created them, not scientifically created perfections-upon-nature. It's truly astonishing the time, energy, and money that is funneled into what are simply flowers, but actually quite an economic powerhouse.
While it may be easy to condemn these greenhouse freaks of nature, the author shows us they are just as beautiful, stunning, fragile, and glorious as the wildflowers in the field.
I learned a lot from this book, but even more, I gained an immense appreciation of the flower industry and the travels and travails of every single cut flower stem that will enter into my life. Highly recommended.