The Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart takes a look at commercial flowers as a mass produced, engineered commodity.
Here’s a review from Adrian Higgins at the Washington Post:
In an ideal world, we would buy cut flowers for a sweetheart’s birthday from Teresa Sabankaya. From her green kiosk in Santa Cruz, Calif., she sells blooms that she has raised lovingly on her flower farm. Her flowers, held in buckets that crowd her stall, are “all interesting, unusual, old-fashioned, ephemeral, perfumy,” Amy Stewart writes in her eye-opening new Flower Confidential. In summer, Sabankaya’s customers grab larkspur and poppies; in winter, heathers and berried plants.
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 your local supermarket, you will find roses completely devoid of fragrance — pretty in a stiff and uniform sort of way, but not the earthy roses of the garden or Sabankaya’s stall.
Indeed, readers of Flower Confidential will be surprised and appalled to learn the extent to which something as fleeting and romantic as a rose or a lily has been turned into an industrial widget. You might accept today that a desk fan or a flashlight has been made somewhere other than in the United States, but a flower? An old Irish song speaks of the last rose of summer “left blooming alone.” But today, there is no last rose of summer, nor a first rose of spring — just roses spewing forth continuously from the jet-age conveyor belt of floriculture. Stewart believes these roses are enchanting as a single bouquet, a personal expression of caring. But force us to look at the machinery of this mass production, as she does so well, and the feeling is a little more queasy.
There’s also a short YouTube video showing a tour of commercial flower growing facilities.