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Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful [Paperback]

Amy Stewart
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 18, 2008
Award-winning author Amy Stewart takes readers on an around-the-world, behind-the-scenes look at the flower industry and how it has sought—for better or worse—to achieve perfection. She tracks down the hybridizers, geneticists, farmers, and florists working to invent, manufacture, and sell flowers that are bigger, brighter, and sturdier than anything nature can provide. There's a scientist intent on developing the first genetically modified blue rose; an eccentric horitcultural legend who created the most popular lily; a breeder of gerberas of every color imaginable; and an Ecuadorean farmer growing exquisite roses, the floral equivalent of a Tiffany diamond. And, at every turn she discovers the startling intersection of nature and technology, of sentiment and commerce.

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Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful + Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities + The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Amy Stewart's previous books, the award-winning The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms and From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden (see below), testify to the author's fascination with dirtying her hands. The well-researched and exuberantly written Flower Confidential reveals her passion and her eye for the interesting statistic (Americans buy some 10 million cut flowers a day). Stewart does an admirable job of making sense of a complicated business, even if a lack of illustrations might be limiting. Nevertheless (and above all), the book adeptly celebrates the incomparable beauty embodied in Stewart's subject—and "may compel us to return to something purer, more local" (Washington Post).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the greenhouse door March 29, 2007
Format:Hardcover
How much thought do you give to those flowers you pass in the grocery store aisle? Do you know where your Valentine's Day roses came from or how they got to you? For most of us, we don't know, nor rather care, but thankfully author, Amy Stewart does.

In Flower Confidential (Algonquin Books, 2007), Stewart takes us deep inside the huge and profitable business of flowers. From a lily grower in the American Northwest, to the rose fields of Ecuador she introduces us to the people, places and plants that travel all over the world to supply our human need for colorful and almost too perfect flowers.

Flower Confidential is a fun romp around the world that also holds some deep concerns. The treatment of the workers in the fields and greenhouses is an on-going issue no matter where the author visits. She also discusses how the need for a "perfect" flower that travels well and lasts long in the vase has removed their scent. It also puts us in danger of producing yet another industry focused on lowest-common denominator, where each flower looks begins to look much like every other flower.

Stewart's writing takes us along on her travels, describing people and plants alike in a visual style that gives us an understanding of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish. We feel the sense of amazement as she visits the Miami airport center where the majority of flowers enter the US. I particularly felt her desire to scoop up armloads of flowers or save those consigned to the compost heaps.

Immerse yourself in the little-known of flowers and the people who grow them. You will develop a new-found respect for what both suffer to provide that perfect arrangement for your dining room table.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
First off, there aren't many books out there on the supply chain side of the floral industry, and so for writing one Amy Stewart deserves some thanks, because no one else is doing it really.

That said, this book is more or less accurate about the major points of the industry, but wrong on many minor points. It gets the big things right, more or less. I am a flower wholesaler and have been for more than 20 years and I've bought from many of the companies Amy writes about and I've carried many of the varieties of flowers she describes and over all she has it basically ok.

My problems with the book though fall into two main categories:

1) Her writing style is nothing special and tends towards the breathlessly over emotive side. She can't just say that a flower is pretty, she has to say that she wants to mortgage her house and buy 2,000 stems of it and take them home and roll around on them while dreaming of sunshine and eternal life, stuff like that. Kind of hard to take seriously but I guess that's a matter of taste

she also goes off on tangents about things like the sexual harassment that's supposedly prevalent on farms in south america or things like that which tbh i think are both debatable and add nothing to the book, but again, that's a matter of taste i guess

2) Many of the details in this book, usually smaller stuff, are just totally wrong. Which is really bizarre because its usually details that don't really matter that much. For instance, in a chapter about the rose industry in South America, Amy asserts that roses are bundled either in 20's for consumption in one market, or in 12's for consumption in another.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read about the hidden life of flowers March 6, 2007
Format:Hardcover
Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart is a fascinating look inside the flower business. I love books like this that give an indepth look into hidden worlds that operate beyond our normal ken. Stewart includes great tidbits that are perfect pieces of trivia for tossing around: bees can't see red. But the real charm of this book is her own passion for flowers and how it leads her to travel the world in search of the truth behind where the flowers we buy come from. She takes us from a flower farm in California to greenhouses in Ecuador to the famous Dutch auction houses. Each place comes to life through her detailed witty descriptions. The sad tale of the creation of the Star Gazer lily and the fight for the rights to it is compelling drama. Stewart gives the history of breeding and selling flowers up to the current gene-splicing in the current quest for a truly blue rose. Her tantalizing descriptions of flowers led me to keep the laptop open next to me so I could see each flower for myself. She brings up excellent questions about where and how flowers should be grown and what we as consumers should expect. Stewart covers organic flowers and worker conditions as well as describing the odd and often unpoetic ways in which these flowers are grown. Fantastic read!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the flip side of all that loveliness June 1, 2007
Format:Hardcover
As a flower junkie and floral designer, I was vaguely aware of the flower industry's workings, but this book spelled it all out pretty clearly for me. The Big Idea I have taken away from this is that we the flower-buying public need to demand quality, cleanliness and sustainability from the flower industry in the same way we are coming to demand it from those who supply our food. "Fair trade" is a phrase most Americans associate with coffee-- we should expect similar standards with respect to the flowers we purchase as well. All that loveliness should not come at the expense of the health of those producing it or of the integrity of the environment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational fun
Get any of her books. She can make any subject interesting. I've given several to my friends and family. Look for the Drunken Botanist.
Published 2 months ago by Quinlan.
5.0 out of 5 stars I love gardening and flower arranging
Fascinating history of the flower industry. Lots about Ca and some foreign countries, too. I love gardening and flower arranging. My bookclub read it, too. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Happy Camper
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amy Stewart book by any other name ...
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... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dingfelder
5.0 out of 5 stars The flower industry most fascinating.
A most interesting book about the flower industry. I loved knowing more about this subject. It will make you see flowers differenty. At least flowers you buy.
Published 9 months ago by Shirley Sacks
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The story of the flower industry - amazing!
Published 9 months ago by paul price
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
Been in the flower business for decades, still fun and illuminating to see the research and anecdotes presented this way.
Published 11 months ago by Donna Wehling
5.0 out of 5 stars A flower eye opener
I never realized how much went into our floral arrangements. This explains the industry in South America, Europe and Asia. We need to appreciate these flowers. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Adrianne Summerfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift
This is an excellent book that is not outdated and gives a real idea of how we grow and sell flowers in the world. Read more
Published 14 months ago by litebeams
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book!!!
This is a wonderful book at a great price! Highly recommend to anyone even remotely interested in the flower industry or horticulture.
Published 15 months ago by Joseph C. Hiller
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a flower
I love Amy Stewart as an author. I enjoyed her as a speaker. She researches here subject! I will never look at a bunch of flowers in the market the same way ever again. Read more
Published 17 months ago by gardener2
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More About the Author

Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers, The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She lives in Eureka, California, where she and her husband own a bookstore called Eureka Books. Her new book, Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story that will be published in September 2015.

Stewart has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines, and has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and--just once--on TLC's Cake Boss. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and a California Horticultural Society Writer's Award.

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Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful
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