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Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowersby Amy Stewart
The magic of a great writer is that she can elevate any topic to fascinating status. In Flower Confidential, Amy Stewart uses equal parts journalism and florid writing to illuminate the machinal underpinnings of the flower industry. From the grail-like pursuit of a cultivated blue rose, to the factory settings of the major cut flower producers, Flower Confidential gave me new appreciation for a bouquet and a lovely evening of reading.
Synopses & Reviews
We buy more flowers a year than we do Big Macs, spending $6.2 billion annually. We use them to mark our most important events, to express sentiments that might otherwise go unsaid. And we demand perfection. So it's no surprise that there is a $40 billion global industry devoted to making flowers flawless.
Amy Stewart takes us inside the flower trade — from the hybridizers, who create new varieties in the laboratory, to the growers, who produce flowers by the millions (often in a factory-like setting), to the Dutch auctioneers, who set the bar (and the price), and ultimately to the neighborhood florists orchestrating the mind-boggling demands of Valentine's and Mother's Day. There's the breeder intent on developing the first blue rose; an eccentric horticultural legend who created the world's most popular lily; a grower of gerberas of every color imaginable; and the equivalent of a Tiffany diamond: the "Forever Young" rose.
Stewart explores the relevance of flowers in our lives and in our history, and in the process she reveals all that has been gained — and lost — by tinkering with nature.
"An engaging mix of botany, history and commerce....Stewart writes with humor and insight, entertaining as she informs." Kirkus Reviews
"This engaging exploration won't make you feel guilty about buying a bouquet, but it will make you much more informed — and intrigued — by where it came from." BUST
"...Stewart captures all this with wit and elegance that, by book's end, will have the most cantankerous capitalist thinking differently about a product 'bred more for its suitability as freight than for any of its more refined qualities — delicacy, grace, fragrance.'" Fast Company
"A potent medium of quirky wit, incisive reporting and occasionally breathtaking prose... Flower Confidential is a page-turner." Bookpage
"As candid as she is circumspect, Stewart combines a romantic's idealism with a journalist's objectivity in this tantalizing expose." Booklist
"Stewart provides the reader with a well-rounded perspective of the flower industry." Library Journal
The flower business is a $40 billion global industry devoted to making flowers flawless. Stewart explores the relevance of flowers in our lives and in our history, and in the process she reveals all that has been gained — and lost — by tinkering with nature.
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 gainedand#8212;and what has been lostand#8212;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.
About the Author
Amy Stewart's last book, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, won the California Horticultural Society's Writer's Award for 2005, was a featured selection of the Discovery Channel Book Club, and was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Jose Mercury News. Her articles appear regularly in Organic Gardening and the San Francisco Chronicle. The recipient of a 2006 National Endowment of the Arts for Literature Fellowship, Stewart lives in northern California.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Breeding
1 The Birds, the Bees, and a Camel Hair Brush 15
2 Engineered to Perfection 40
Part 2 Growing
3 Italian Violets and Japanese Chrysanthemums 61
4 Acres under Glass 77
5 How the Dutch Conquered the World 106
6 Flowers on the Equator 137
Part 3 Selling
7 Forbidden Flowers 173
8 The Dutch Auction 209
9 Florists, Supermarkets, and the Next Big Thing 237
Epilogue: Valentine"s Day 271
The Care and Feeding of Cut Flowers 283
Visiting Markets and Growers 285
Selected Bibliography 303
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