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

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3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  915 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
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. Th ...more
Paperback, 305 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Algonquin Books (first published February 9th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,250)
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Richard Derus
This review has been updated and can now be seen at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud!
Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Wonderful boook detailing the development of commercial breeding from its earliest days in America to the 'factory' farms of South America producing the biggest, most beautiful blooms available at only the most exclusive florists. There is a long diversion into the mind-bogglingly mixture of dirt&plants and computerised bidding in the famous flower market of Amsterdam.

The book is written in a very easy, though informative, style and would interest people who generally like non-fiction, you d
...more
David
Nov 19, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-econbiz
Having just read a book which ripped the reddish-green face off the tomato industry, I was anticipating the same treatment for flowers, after which I could go in search of an exploration of the human suffering that goes into every bottle of spray starch, or perhaps a brutal exposé on the machinations of Big Carrot. But Amy Stewart isn't going there, even if she observes and documents a normal amount of, uh, garden-variety exploitation while documenting a flower's path to the marketplace. She is ...more
Deborah
Jan 20, 2008 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


From a geneticist’s lab in one of several countries to the breeders in the Netherlands to the growers in Ecuador, back to the Netherlands for auction or directly to a wholesaler in Miami, to a florist near you, the arrangement in your living room is well traveled, to say the least. In Flower Confidential, Amy Stewart takes us on an insightful, behind-the-scenes journey through the floral industry, following the chain from beginning to end, around the world.



Along the way, we learn that flowers an
...more
Anastasia
This was a very interesting book and a very quick read. I learned a lot about the flower industry-- things I had NEVER even thought to wonder about. It's interesting that this industry, which sells a beautiful product that is supposed to cheer people up, make them feel happy and loved, really hides a lot of yuck behind it-- polluting our water and soil with pesticides, exploiting workers and exposing them to toxic chemicals, blocking bees, birds, butterflies, etc., from accessing their food sour ...more
Karatepop
Feb 25, 2015 Karatepop rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: floriculture
3.5 - Very interesting! It took me a while to get into it for some reason and I couldn't help but feel that something was missing, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit mostly because the topic is interesting. Her style isn't super engaging for me, but lots of folks disagree, so give it a shot!

I'll update after I send myself all my notes (one benefit of e-books).

Also! I'm surprised at the number of not-so-great reviews from people that are like "UGH FLOWERS ARE SO WASTEFUL" and "I hate flowers" an
...more
Nomad
Dec 17, 2011 Nomad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me state that I do not garden, will never garden and plants go into fear seizures if I come too close. However, I'm surrounded by women who garden, so I end up absorbing things though osmosis I guess and have come to enjoy a few garden writers out there. Amy Stewart is the best of the lot. She's funny, and she never forgets that about half the people reading her are not, and never will be, botonists. Anyone can pick up her books, read them, learn stuff and also be utterly entertained.

I never
...more
Naomi
I am a floral designer at a high end events and floral company in a major city in the US, so I was extremely excited to read this book in the hopes of learning a little bit more about the industry. I did not go to school to be in the floral industry (I'm using that history degree... Ha), so all the knowledge I have has been picked up while at work. A lot of the concerns and stories related by those in my area of the industry ring true, and are those I've experienced myself (or at least someone a ...more
Mary
Dec 01, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ag-food
Everything you ever wanted to know about the cut flower industry! She's an excellent writer. She starts out with the story of the man who developed the star gazer lily - how he did it and how he marketed it (or actually failed to market it,) and what happened to him later in life. She goes to visit Guatemala where there are many flower farms from which flowers are imported to this country, and ends up in Holland where the international flower markets take place. Kind of like Wall street, but for ...more
Mary
Feb 11, 2012 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago, while writing an article for Chicagoland Gardening magazine about how annuals make their way from vast commercial greenhouses to our local garden centers, I reluctantly learned to view flowers as commodities. Amy Stewart's book offers much the same perspective, though obviously in greater depth, for the cut flower industry. Her descriptions of walking through greenhouses and shipping facilities and auction houses sounded eerily similar to what I had seen and heard about plants g ...more
Jim
Mar 16, 2011 Jim rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Got this book from a coworker to give to my mom. Had nothing else to read so I learned about the business end of cut flowers. Actually pretty interesting. I also learned that I like "how things really work" kind of books based on this one and "The Omnivore's Dilemna". I might want to explore this realization in my next book selection. But I digress. Overall the book does a good job of going from the ground to the story in the travels of the flower. It's part garden book, part economics. If you p ...more
Jane Sunshine
The history of flower development, changes in flowers, the growing, distribution and sale of flowers, and her visits to the sites of these issues is most interesting. I felt she had a relationship to Michael Pollan in his coverage of changes in plants to suit the changing popularion.
Valeska
Oct 29, 2015 Valeska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Amy Stewart's style of writing. First, this was a great subject matter - all about flowers and the florist industry. Plus, she blends interesting facts about the flowers with the stories of the people she interviews in the industry. An entertaining, engaging read.
Cathy
Feb 05, 2010 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
good book if you are interested in flowers and how thy get to market. I think it should have color pictures so everone can picture the flowers.
Matt Allen
Apr 14, 2012 Matt Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I've never been so fascinated about a subject I care absolutely nothing about.

dejah_thoris
Stewart has a highly conversational style, which works for the subject of cut flowers. It often feels like she's just telling you about her travels and her passion over cocktails, which is nice for those wary of the possibility of heavy botany or biology. Not that she doesn't, eventually, cover most of the important topics in relation to the cut flower industry in three sections: Breeding, Growing, and Selling. Overall, it's a good read if you're curious about the story behind your Valentine's r ...more
Cynthia
Oct 17, 2008 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After this book, you never look at flowers (or the people who sell them) the same way again. Dives into many aspects of the flower industry with an educational enthusiasm. Even if you don't know a whit about flowers, this book will fascinate.

Her detailed research is admirable and brings the writing to life. You'll yearn to go and see the places she's describing.

Flower Confidential gives so many bits of information that pop up in daily life. I will never forget to give Gerberas only a few inches
...more
Delilah
Nov 18, 2008 Delilah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone in floriculture or who loves flowers.
I bought this book after seeing Amy Stewart speak at TPIE in January and had her sign it. I just finished it on the way home from Holland in late October. I got to visit the FloraHolland auction just before I read her chapter on the Aalsmeer one, and I really appreciated her observations after I was there, especially how she kept trying to make a case that all these Dutch flower traders didn't have to physically be at the auction every morning. The truth is, they like to and that's why the syste ...more
Kathy
Apr 10, 2010 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my neighborhood book club. I have a wonderful friend who is a master gardener and used to work for an upscale florist, and she read it as well and enjoyed it.

This book is along the same lines as books like "Fast Food Nation" and "Candyfreak". It's vastly educational in an entertaining way, and it makes you think hard about things you take for granted. I learned about the genetics of breeding lilies. I learned about the rose farms in Ecuador where the roses we take for granted an
...more
Richard Thompson
Well written.

A lot of interesting stuff about about the background of the cut flower industry — growers in Californian, Ecuador, Holland, distribution networks, the retail flower business.

I had already read in different contexts about some of the iniquities of the industry — overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, the displacement of local farmers, exploitive labour practices — so I had stopped buying cut flowers. There are growers and marketers out there now —according to his book — that are mov
...more
BookSweetie
May 16, 2011 BookSweetie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Amy Stewart made this whole new world of the cut flower industry surprisingly accessible to one uninitiated, uninformed-about-flowers reader -- me. The dialogue in my head went rather like this: "oh, I didn't know that, or that, or that either!" and "how fascinating" and "really?"
Stewart takes herself and her curiosity and travels all over --Ecuador, Holland, Miami, California-- sharing what she sees and experiences and learns about such things as flower growing, tulips, the Star Gazer lily,
...more
Jennifer
May 05, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book discloses a behind the scenes look at the "cut" flower industry. I will never look at a bouquet of flowers in the same way again. It raises questions about why stricter "organic" standards have been put in place for fruits and vegetables while the flower industry has no standard organic regulation system in place yet.The fact that we bring vegetables and fruits to our table to eat and use flowers primarily for decorative purposes makes little difference. We are still bringing flowers i ...more
Mary Kay
Nov 28, 2010 Mary Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stewart writes attractively, keeps my attention. This is a journalistic look at the worldwide business of flowers - who knew that it is standard practice to tote cut flowers from Ecuador or Colombia to Holland or Miami for sale and hence to final retail sites worldwide. Roses are tough indeed to take this! People are concerned about local food, but global agriculture has other dimensions. Having read this it dawns on me why supermarket flowers look the same everywhere,no regional variation.

I ac
...more
Colleen
Dec 04, 2013 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who knew a business book about the cut flower industry could be an interesting read? Not me. But... surprise!... Flower Confidential managed to keep things interesting. Most think of the cut flower industry as a seemingly inconsequential sector of world business. Most probably don't give a second thought to the economic or political aspect of growing, cutting, preparing, shipping, auctioning, etc. flowers. And have you ever stopped to think about why your flowers don't smell as fragant as they s ...more
Laurie
Dec 19, 2009 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and enjoyably written.

But this isn't how most American consumers get their flowers. Instead, our blooms are more likely to have been raised in high-altitude flower factories in Ecuador or Colombia, dunked in chemicals, flown to Miami and distributed to wholesale markets around the country. A rose cut on a Monday morning in the shadow of a snow-capped volcano might find its way to a Manhattan florist the following Friday, and then be good for a week or more with a little care. In
...more
Shana
Dec 16, 2008 Shana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a gardener, nor am I a professional florist. I have engaged in the art of floral design, but never had a clue as to how the flower made it's way to the centerpiece. This book gave me an appreciation for all things behind the scene of a simple flower and it's journey: professionally, economically, globally, politically, aesthetically...I could go on, but I'm rambling....Amy Stewart possesses an engaging style of writing the her content is highly educational; there's an edginess to the flo ...more
Sherri
Dec 12, 2007 Sherri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. It was an interesting book about the cut flower industry. Which doesn't sound like a good read but surprisingly was. Having been in the Netherlands and seen the flower fields really makes what this author describes come alive. She travels to several of the main flower areas of the world in Europe, California and Ecuador and interviews the leading growers and florists. She describes being at the Dutch flower auction in Aalsmeer, which is now on my list of places to visit ...more
Jeannen
Feb 25, 2008 Jeannen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gardening
I anticipated this book coming out for a couple of months, having seen the cover on Amy Stewart’s web site – it is definitely one of those covers that draws you in – orange and yellow, great appetite stimulators! Also, I really enjoyed Stewart’s previous two books, “From the ground up” and ”The earth moved” so I was prepared to like this one. I had it around for a couple of weeks and then picked it up to read one day -- and the reading just flew by. I love the way Amy Stewart observes and writes ...more
Jean
Jun 11, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a non-fiction book, I had trouble putting it down. And unlike a fictional work, it didn't matter where or when I picked it up again as the places and people chronicled in Stewart's book were in different parts of the world. Fascinating and ultimately readable, not just because I'm a major flower lover, but because no one hasn't held a flower in their hand at one time or another. Stewart tells what it means to people who make handling them their unenviable livelihood.
Brenda Mengeling
Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart was a fascinating and enlightening read. I enjoyed it immensely. I knew many cut flowers came from South America, but that was pretty much all I knew about the business of breeding, growing and selling cut flowers. Readers will learn the history of the "Star Gazer" lily, why breeding a blue rose isn't easy, why breeders are always trying to come up with new varieties of gerbera daisies, why Ecuadorians both love and hate the flower industry that has flourished ...more
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Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, The Drunken Botanist, and Wicked Plants. She lives in northern California, where she and her husband own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books. She's written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and many other national magazines and newspapers.

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“Some growers believe that a particular type of music makes the plants grow faster, but most agree that the best strategy for the plants is to play whatever music the workers like best.” 3 likes
“Anyone who visits Aalsmeer will be struck at first by the absurdity of the arrangement. Why go to all the trouble to put something as perishable as a daisy on an airplane, fly it to another country so it can sit on the auction floor, and then put it back on a plane and fly it to its final destination? ... [I]t seemed obvious that an Internet-based system would simplify things. Sure, the flowers would still need to come together in some kind of distribution center...but the actual bidding and ordering wouldn't have to happen in the same building where the flowers are.
...
When I asked one importer this question, he just shrugged and said, 'Why are there still brokers on Wall Street?”
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