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Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful Paperback – Bargain Price, March 18, 2008
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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 the CD-ROM edition.
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 subjectand "may compel us to return to something purer, more local" (Washington Post).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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. While its true that different markets get roses packed different ways, I've been doing this a long time and i've never seen roses packed 20. 25 packs are the industry standard in America, and have been for as long as i've been alive. She never even mentions 25 packs. And that's just weird. I mean most people aren't going to care but she's definitely wrong that 20's are standard, because they're not
In another example she describes the rose "Black Bacarra" as "burgundy and mohogany", and she describes "Latin Lady" as "icy pink and red". I've sold both of those roses for over 10 years and neither of those descriptions are accurate, not even close really. Black Bacarra is a red with an unpleasant looking black edge, its not a popular rose at all, and Latin Lady is a hot pink on one side of the petal and a cream on the other. Its not a true red and no one would think it was if they held it against anything the color red. She makes other errors along those lines with other varieties too
In another section she goes on and on about a red called "Grand Prix" as if its the be-all and end-all of red roses and honestly its nothing special.
Again, your average reader won't care at all about things like that but they're odd errors to make for a woman who supposedly flew to a farm in Ecuador and wrote down her notes right there in front of the roses
She describes the berry Hypericum as being available in a purple; if it is neither I nor any of my suppliers have ever seen it. I've sold Hypericum in green, white, peach, orange, red, burgundy, etc just in the last month, never seen it in purple.
I could name off a few more mistakes but you get the idea. For a macro level idea of how the floral industry functioned in 2004-6, this is a pretty good book. Many small level details are wrong though, like her idea that all farms are run by Dutch nationals, I found that one really strange too. But over all the errors don't interfere too much with the book on an enjoyment level, just don't go quoting it as gospel truth to anyone else, that would be my advice. I get the feeling maybe some of this was written from memory and not necessarily from notes and that she mis-remembered alot of the "flavor" type details. So just bear that in mind
Another odd thing is that Amy is really obsessed (that's the only word that applies) with the idea of the flower industry being both green and sustainable and "fair trade", whatever that means. She goes on and on and on about it, lauding all the efforts various farms are making to treat their workers well and all that nice sounding stuff. However she admits time and again that your average retail customer wants to spend less, not more, on flowers and that these "fair trade" efforts are only going to drive up costs and reduce flower quality. So how she goes on to trumpet that the entire industry should switch to that model is beyond me. Its more feel-good nonsense than it is an actual viable alternative for the growers
She also makes a big deal out of phasing out pesticides in favor of "natural" alternatives; i can tell you from experience that again that is going to lead to a reduced quality product for the end customer. We had 180,000 sq feet of greenhouse at one time and we experimented heavily with "green" methods of controlling disease and pests and you get both more pests and more wastage than you do with just regular old pesticides. I doubt many people who turn their noses up at "flowers covered in chemicals" are going to be loving it when they have lots of bugs crawling out of their arrangements and across their kitchen table, and obviously more wastage for the grower means more money paid by the customer at the end of the line, so again, i think its feel good nonsense and not a viable business plan.
But overall I think the book is a decent contribution to the market since there are very few in this niche and its always good for a consumer to be educated about where their product comes from