The Flower Trade: “The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful”

Flower lovers love to purchase their favorite flowers no matter the season. The cut flower industry has facilitated this...but for how long?

a group of assorted cut flowers before a black background.

Photo: THEORO (ON/OFF)

The cut-flower industry has facilitated the ability to get flowers all year, no matter the season. This manipulation of growing seasons is no new tactic and can be traced to the Romans.

The Flower Industry According to Botany Writer, Amy Stewart

In her book, Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful, Amy Stewart explains a great deal about the flower industry. Did you know, for example, that Americans buy about four billion flowers every year? Stewart adds that more flowers are purchased in this country than Big Macs. The cut flower market is a forty-billion dollar business world-wide!

Stewart writes that the cut flower trade is all about this struggle between what is natural and unspoiled and what is mass-produced and commercialized. We flower lovers like to be able to buy a summer flower in February–in fact we have built a holiday tradition around Valentine’s flowers–while we simultaneously distrust fakery.

She raises questions about how we are the uncomplaining beneficiaries of the many 20th century advances that occurred in the industry: new plant breeding methods as well as advances in greenhouse and transportation technology that took the flower trade to an entirely new level. However, how new is this concept?

The History Of Growing, Selling and Buying Flowers

The modern day flower trade has its roots in antiquity. The Romans grew flowers for commercial purposes, and they constructed primitive green houses that forced flowers into early bloom by generating warm temperatures through the use of hot water and steam.

Seneca wrote in the First Century A.D. “Do not men live contrary to Nature who crave roses in winter or seek to raise a spring flower, like a lily, by means of hot water heaters and artificial changes in temperature?”

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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