Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-The Jumbo 2010 Catch-Up Edition, Part II/The Valentine's Day Edition

Even though this is part of my Jumbo 2010 Catch-Up Edition series, Flower Confidential gets its own post because apparently my exercise in creativity and brevity is on hiatus.

Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of FlowersFlower Confidential:  The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers by Amy Stewart-I just love looking at this book!  Isn't it pretty?  I wish the theme had been continued inside; instead we just get a few boring black and white photos and some line drawings, but, being a plant person, I still feel like it's a fascinating look at the cut-flower industry. Given the sparse visuals, plant people will appreciate Stewart's descriptions of flowers, like this bit about her first impressions of Terra Nigra's gerbera daisies.  As I stood with him and looked out across several dozen rows of sunny orange gerberas in bloom, I thought that I'd probably never seen so much exuberance in one place.  This is not a flower with nuance.  It radiates pure, uncomplicated happiness.  You have to love it, although I can see how a person could get cynical enough to be irritated by its unwavering good cheer.  I know some florists who are sick of gerberas, bored with their endlessly sunny dispositions and their utter lack of mystery or depth, but not me.  A single gerbera on my desk makes me smile every time I look at it.  I'm grateful to it for that.

I don't know if this book would have quite the same appeal for someone who isn't a plant person, but I think the information is interesting enough to appeal to most people on some level; it's operationally interesting.  For instance, did you know that the cut-flower market was hit hard during WWII because so many of the California growers were Japanese Americans who were rounded up and sent to internment camps.  Many had no choice but to simply abandon their land and their crops.  Bill Sakai, whose grandfather started growing roses in the Richmond area in 1927, remembers how the war hurt their business, which was primarily run by Bill's father and brothers at that time.  "We left it in the hands of some German employees," he told me, without a trace of irony in his voice.  "We were fortunate that we had someone we could trust so that we'd have a nursery to come back to."  (p. 74)    

I feel like this is a pretty timely post, given that Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  Do you have any idea what that bouquet of flowers that you're thinking about picking up at the grocery store or ordering for your loved one went through prior to arriving at its final destination? Amy Stewart traveled all over the planet to give her readers a better understanding of the hybridizing, the growing, the selecting, the auctioning, and the shipping involved in getting cut flowers from the field to your home or, more impressively, into the hands of your loved ones on Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.  Did you know that the Miami airport, where 88% of our cut flowers enter the country, usually sees about ten to twelve flights from Columbia a day, but that around Valentine's Day it might be as many as forty?  The problem is those planes are full of one-way flowers, not round-trip passengers, and they usually return home empty.  How do you cover that cost?  Jack up the price of flowers on Valentine's Day.  Ahhh, so that explains it (or at least part of it)!       

Stewart also talks about the role of oraganically-grown flowers in this industry-is it possible to mass produce perfect blossoms without all the pesticides and fungicides that have traditionally been used and at what cost? All I'm going to say about that is if you've ever thought it would be romantic to woo your loved one in a bathtub filled with rose petals, you might want to rethink that particular seduction after you read about what most roses go through prior to arriving in that beautiful, pest-free, disease-free, blemish-free bouquet.  You'll either skip the rose petals or don a Hazmat suit prior to submersion.  (Pssst, Hazmat suit=not sexy).  Speaking of organics, I'm going to do a little shilling for Organic Bouquet here because A) I have ordered their products in the past and received good feedback from the recipients, B) I  feel like I could handle their products without fearing for the life of my unborn children, and C) Have you seen their Extraordinary Roses?  Yeah, they're kinda pricey ($259.99/dozen), but aren't they cool??  

On the other hand, if value is what you're looking for, you might consider a box of 150 stems for $349.99 from FiftyFlowers.com, an on-line flower wholesales.  To put it another way, that's 12.5 dozen flowers for $12/dozen.  Get a few friends to pitch in, and you've got yourself one heck of a deal.  I've never had any dealings with FiftyFlowers.com (and I'm not sure where they fall on the "organic" scale), but they seem to be embracing the idea of bulk flower sales, as is Costco, someplace you probably never seriously considered for your floral needs (even bridal).  At $100 for 75 stems of Rainforest Alliance Certified long-stem pink roses, you might consider taking a second look though.  

Well, I seem to have strayed from my book review, but that's part of why I liked this book.  I learned a lot and it made me curious to know more.  I love that!

Please note that all prices referenced here are current as of posting.  If you are considering ordering from any of the companies I mentioned, please be sure to double check their product pricing and find out about their shipping prices and policies.  I am not affiliated with any of the above companies, but, as stated, I have ordered from Organic Bouquet before and been very happy with the results, so I'm happy to send you their way. 

1 comment:

Care said...

I, too, love gerbera daisies! Any daisies, really. The happy bright flowers are just the best kind of cheer. I am off to tbr this book. Thanks!