Thursday, February 15, 2007

Flower Confidential

At 8 a.m. tomorrow morning [16th February] I'm setting out on a trip, an adventure into the unknown. Whether I'll be able to blog much remains to be seen. I shall certainly try, but please be patient if there are long-ish gaps.

Yesterday, in the News Books column at Arts & Letters Daily, I read "The old song tells of the “last rose of summer.” Today there is no last rose of summer, nor a first rose of spring. Flowers are an industrial product... "

So I clicked on the link and was taken to Adrian Higgins' Washington Post review of Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart. [See photo]

Mr Higgins writes : "Indeed, readers of Flower Confidential will be surprised and appalled to learn the extent to which something as fleeting and romantic as a rose or a lily has been turned into an industrial widget. You might accept today that a desk fan or a flashlight has been made somewhere other than in the United States, but a flower? An old Irish song speaks of the last rose of summer "left blooming alone." But today, there is no last rose of summer, nor a first rose of spring -- just roses spewing forth continuously from the jet-age conveyor belt of floriculture. Stewart believes these roses are enchanting as a single bouquet, a personal expression of caring. But force us to look at the machinery of this mass production, as she does so well, and the feeling is a little more queasy."


"Stewart's journey takes us down many such paths, all connected by her own curiosity and highly readable prose. The greatest value of Flower Confidential, however, is that it was written at all. We know so little of the ways simple daily items are brought to us that such a book helps us grasp our modern world. Who knows? Flower Confidential may compel us to return to something purer, more local. It may send us in search of our own version of Teresa Sabankaya's flower kiosk. "

At Amazon US I found the following -

From Booklist : "Along with the making of sausage and politics, flowers can now be added to the list of commodities that it's best to look upon from afar. Who knew floriculture--the big business behind those little blossoms--could be sabotaged by internecine skirmishes, sullied by sexual harassment, and contaminated by industrial pollution? Yet there's good news, too: organic growers as concerned with the welfare of their workers as they are with the health of the environment, and innovative local entrepreneurs providing creative alternatives to impersonal toll-free ordering hotlines. From the Netherlands to Ecuador, Stewart traveled the world, tracking the scent of the hottest stories in a $40 billion per year international industry. What does it take to bring those three-for-$10 bouquets to Wal-Mart? Why don't roses smell like roses anymore? And if a blue rose can be produced, would anyone buy it? As candid as she is circumspect, Stewart combines a romantic's idealism with a journalist's objectivity in this tantalizing expose. Carol Haggas Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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. "

Can't wait to read The Earth Moved, though I wonder how many readers under 70, unless they happen to be Hemingway fans, will see the joke?

Finally I looked for Amy Stewart's website. She also has a blog called Dirt where I was interested to read this.

"I'm pleased to announce that the nice people who host my blog at TypePad have chosen Flower Confidential as their Book of the Month. Each month they feature a new book by an author who blogs on TypePad; check out some of their past selections here.

If you've been thinking about starting a blog or switching your blog to TypePad, now's your chance to make the leap and get a free copy of Flower Confidential. I've tried almost every blogging platform out there, and I finally settled on TypePad because it requires no HTML (but makes it easy to add a little HTML if you want to); it allows a lot of customization; and because they make it easy to blog on the road. (If you don't have a smart phone, you can also blog by e-mail.) Check it out, y'all. And thanks to everybody at TypePad for their support."

It's a long time since I added a book to the shelves reserved for Gardening Writers, so I'm delighted to have discovered Ms Stewart.

Should you want to make contact while I'm in orbit, my dot com address is out of action for the moment, but I'll be picking up emails at Please put Bookworm in the subject line.


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