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Original Essays | May 1, 2013 5 comments
I'd predict that 99 percent of the small talk in the staff elevator at my library involves the following question and its answers: "Are you reading... Continue »
Amy StewartDescribe your latest book.
My new book is called Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the global cut flower industry. As a gardener, I really had no idea that there was such a massive, mechanized industry devoted to producing something as simple as a flower. But then I visited a flower farm near my home in northern California, and I found out that flowers grow in factories, and that most of those perfect flower shop blossoms would be impossible to cultivate in my own backyard. It's a very different kind of horticulture, and that fascinated me.
I went around the world to see how flowers make it to market. Because almost all of our cut flowers are imported, I went to Ecuador to find out what's going on at Latin American flower farms. I saw millions of flowers go up for auction in Holland at the famous Dutch flower auction. And I visited florists, growers, and wholesalers all over the United States.
The flower industry is in the middle of a very interesting transition right now. There have been some serious labor and environmental issues on flower farms, and people in the floral business are just starting to realize that their customers won't stand for that. I hope that Flower Confidential will raise some awareness, but I also hope that I'm able to share my passion for flowers. I buy more flowers now than I did before I wrote the book, but I'm also a pickier consumer of flowers I want them to be fresher, longer-lasting, more fragrant, and organic!
Would it be wrong to pick Harry Potter? Of course, I'm thinking of a more adult, not-yet-written version of the boy wizard. Just imagine how much fun he'd be on a date. Failing that, I wish I could say it would be the introspective Nick Carraway, who barely remembers his own birthday, but no, I'm afraid I'd fall for his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, with his glittering parties and mysterious past and his penchant for going after other men's wives.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
I don't know what kind of gin White drank, but I like very botanical gins that taste of juniper and coriander. I'm always looking for a new gin to try, but so far nothing has displaced Beefeater as the everyday gin in my freezer.
Why do you write?
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
So as a writer, I really love Georgia O'Keeffe's landscapes. Her paintings are all about making choices about deciding what to leave in and what to take out. I have been to some of the very spots in the New Mexico desert where she painted, and I've held up postcards of her paintings and compared them to the landscape itself. She didn't paint every rock and every shrub, and she didn't need to. As a nonfiction writer, I deal with that issue all the time. I have to take what's really there and then decide how to make a story out of it.
Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
We felt that garden writers didn't have much of a forum for lively debates, rants, diatribes, or anything at all political or controversial. There's no good place to publish that kind of thing. Magazines and newspapers usually want how-to stories or whimsical little essays about the changing of the seasons, but we had something more to say. After all, gardening is important. It's how we interact with the plant kingdom. So we got together, wrote a manifesto, and now we're online ranting every day. I've found some great garden blogs through that process, and we've even encouraged some other garden writers, including the well-respected Graham Rice to get serious about blogging.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
If I ever did attempt a novel, I'm not sure it would have a gardening theme. However, I love the books on this list because they are all about gardening without trying too hard. They're just great novels in which some of the characters happen to be gardeners or happen to find themselves in a garden.
Great Gardening Novels: