In January I posted about a book, Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart. It had not been published yet, but I was intrigued about what it might teach those of us that live in the city. It looked as if it would blow the doors wide open on a secretive industry.
I expected sensationalism, controversy...you know, dirt.
This book takes a better road. This is not about floral espionage and conspiracies; what Stewart gives us is a well-researched and fair-handed account of the cut flower industry.
New York also has its fair mention, from bygone Harlem flower farms to upscale florists on Broadway. We have a long history with cut flowers. And, though times have changed, prices – as Stewart points out – have not by much. In a recent Op-Ed piece in the NY Times she writes:
In fact, it is surprising how affordable flowers really are: 120 years ago, the best roses sold in New York for $18 a dozen, and arrangements went for $40 or $50 — this at a time when hotel rooms rented for $5. Today a bouquet costs about the same as it did then, but $5 won't cover cab fare to a hotel, much less a room for the night.
Instead of raising prices, the industry finds more efficient ways to deliver the long-lasting and cheap flowers we demand. If we ask for flowers grown in an ecologically sound way by workers who are treated fairly, the industry will deliver. But they may also charge a fair price. In a time when a movie ticket costs ten dollars for 2 hours of entertainment I will pay more for something that I can enjoy for a whole week. Do I expect everyone to feel that way? No. But I can dream.
Amy Stewart's book is fascinating. It shows us the lengths the industry will go to deliver what we want. It is a book full of anecdotes, facts and statistics of the kind that you cannot shake out of your head, and hopefully will rise to the surface when you are contemplating your next bouquet.
matt at apartmenttherapy dot com