This chilly evening, I am entertaining a delightful fantasy of moving over to the Plant Conservatory. I’d love to live among the orchids and tropical plants until spring arrives. Since that isn’t within the realm of possibility, I delved instead into a fascinating and totally absorbing read, Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching and with over-flowing buckets of colourful, cut flowers appearing in stores, I couldn’t have chosen a better time to read this book by Amy Stewart (also of GardenRant blogging fame).
Until now, I’ve never given much thought to the cut-flower industry. In retrospect, that surprised me, considering my love of flowers. The only times I’ve ever really thought about where cut flowers came from is when I’ve been confronted with unnaturally-coloured blooms that jar my senses, or conversely when I happen upon a gorgeous flower.
Truth be told, I think I have always harboured a romantic vision of field upon rolling field covered in brilliant blooms and swarming with bees. Until now, that view has never been challenged. But now, after my reading ofFlower Confidential, my romantic blinkers have been decidedly removed (mind you, I will always dream of seeing lavender fields in Provence).
What I understand now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that the cut-flower industry is truly big business. Whether or not flowers are grown in the United States, Ecuador, Holland or Kenya, large-scale grow operations drive the cut-flower business. From California to Holland and then onto Ecuador, Amy Stewart takes us along on her quest to understand how the cut-flower industry functions.
Unlike some books, which are filled with statistics and tend to inspire yawning,Flower Confidential was a fascinating read. Amy Stewart leaves no paving stone unturned, as she tours us through several large grow operations. We are introduced to quirky flower breeders, plant scientists and the owners of several of the world’s largest grow operations. During this tour, it suddenly dawned on me that I had begun to think of flowers in the same way I did apples or other perishable commodities.
Further, I was drawn into a world of cost efficiencies which are of critical concern to a grower ‘s survival. At the same time, I learned that Ecuador and Kenya have emerged as major cut-flower exporting countries. In addition to perfect climatic conditions in both countries, labour costs are also cheaper and there are fewer restrictions on land use, fertiliser and pesticides. These are issues which Amy Stewart could have been explored further inmy view.
Today, I was reminded of how important the cut-flower industry is to a country such as Kenya. You can read about this at the interesting blog, From Sin City to Slaterville. With the recent political troubles and resulting inter-tribal warfare, the Kenyan cut-flower growing operations have been adversely affected. Consequently, there are likely to be fewer cut flowers available to supply the European demand tomorrow thisValentine’s Day.
Throughout Flower Confidential, I was enchanted with Amy Stewart’s ability to weave history with science. By the book’s end, a clear picture had emerged of how the cut-flower industry has evolved to its present state.
While I would have appreciated reading more about the development of cut-flower industry in other developing countries, maybe Amy Stewart will tackle this in another book.
All in all, I’d recommend this book to anyone who ever has wondered where their cut flowers have come from. If nothing else, you will learn several interesting and practical things to keep in mind when dealing with cut flowers!
And because it has been snowing all day, I thought I would include an orchid photograph taken this past weekend.