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Flower Confidential Paperback – 18 Mar 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)
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Product description


" 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."
--USA Today

"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.

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Format: Paperback
Did you ever read Anthony Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential" which is a sort of tell-all and autobiographical book of what goes on behind the swinging doors in restaurants. It's hilarious, sarcastic, etc. In its own way, Flower Confidential achieves the same greatness, just by its thoroughness in showing us what 'really' goes on in the flower industry. In a way, this is even more relevant, because we all have an idea of how we get our food from a restaurant, but no one thinks about how many miles and extensive processes that had to occur just to get that simple bouquet you're about to purchase in your hands.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book but I made the mistake of buying Gilding the Lily by the same author as well. Don't. It is the same book with a different cover/title.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 79 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read- for PLS 06 at UCD 11 July 2016
By Colton Ku - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book for Prof. Lieth's course at UC Davis. (PLS 06) The book was actually pretty interesting, coming from a chemistry major who dislikes most biology subjects. There are chapters which frame the overall flower selling market, and other chapters which go into depth about a single flower species (such as lilies) and overall the book makes you feel like a flower expert by the end. I enjoyed Amy Stewart's journalism style writing; it really seemed like she traveled all over the world in order to get some good juicy stories about flower businesses.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amy Stewart book by any other name ... 3 Sept. 2014
By Dingfelder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Flower Confidential is the third book by Amy Stewart that I've read, and probably the best. Though I did love her book on earthworms and all they do, The Earth Moved, and Wicked Plants, a book detailing dangerous plants with tongue-in-cheek theatrical dread, here she lays bare a passion for her subject she likely couldn't conceal if she tried. She is moved, delighted ... heck, she is giddy about flowers. Describing their beauty, it's hard not to imagine her blushing herself.

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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Every flower has a story 31 Dec. 2010
By J. Rodina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book! I've never been an avid consumer of cut flowers, but I do enjoy plants and gardening. I heard an interview with the author on NPR a few years ago, was mesmerized, and this book has been on my to-read list ever since. It was worth the wait! I can honestly say that I will never look at a cut flower, a pre-packaged bouquet, and especially a rose, in the same way again. The story of the propagation, the selling and marketing is riveting.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding...A must read for flower lovers. 4 Jan. 2012
By C. Lowery - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased the Kindle edition of Flower Confidential after seeing Amy Stewart featured on the PBS special "The Botony of Desire". Fascinated by her insights on the tulip trade on the 17th century, I found her book and have had a very difficult time putting it down! It is truly a terrific read. I find Ms. Stewart's writing style very smooth and even paced. Granted, like many of the reviewers here, I have spent time in the industry (in my case as a designer for several years), so I may have been predispositioned to enjoy this book; but I know that even "laypeople" will come away with new found knowledge and an appreciation for this often overlooked industry. Definately worth a try!
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and helpful peek into the world of commercial flower production. 30 Jan. 2017
By Carol - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very informative peek into the world of commercial flower production. Americans would benefit from reading this to get dialed in to where their flowers come from and what is involved. Easy, uncomplicated read.
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