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.
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.
Read an exclusive essay by Amy Stewart