I recommend having a friend nearby as you read Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart, as there are so many interesting statements to share. You will keep saying, "Did you know?"
Did you know that eighty percent of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported? Did you know that the largest number of them come from Colombia, which we give favored nation status to encourage flower farming as part of the unsuccessful war on drugs? Did you know we get the most roses from Ecuador, which sends its high-end roses to Russia? Did you know most flowers imported into the U.S. come through Miami, where sample containers will be inspected for disease, insects, and illegal drugs?
Did you know that the trend toward outpatient surgery has hurt flower sales in the sympathy segment of the market? Did you know that two thirds of all cut flower sales in the U.S are gifts? Stewart tells us much about cultural trends and their influence on flower sales.
One of our gardening speakers at Thomas Ford recommended Flower Confidential to me, saying it was tremendous book. She was right. It reveals much about an industry most of us do not even notice and makes the reader think about the ethics of buying flowers.
The American flower industry has been slow to respond to concerns about labor issues and use of pesticides and preservatives. The corporations that control the market say that regulations would hurt profitability. They say that they can not guarantee what workers in Central and South America (or even California) are paid. Meanwhile in Europe, flowers are graded and certified for human rights; the author says the flowers there are of higher quality and cost the consumer less.
Like independent bookstores, individual flower shops are threatened by developments in our economy. Many have shut their doors as supermarkets, discount stores, and Internet sales have cut away their customers, many who think only of price. The customer often gets an inferior product that wilts sooner.
Stewart takes the reader on a tour of the world, visiting farms in California and Ecuador, the airport in Miami, the flower auction in Amsterdam, and several retailer shops around the U.S. She interviews many industry experts as well as the workers in the fields. She never lets the book get dry and boring. It should be in most public libraries.
Stewart, Amy. Flower Confidential. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. ISBN 1565124383