The Commercialization of Flowers


By Carmen Comment

The New York Times’ Charles McGrath meets Amy Stewart, the author of the just-released FLOWER CONFIDENTIAL, which she describes as part confession, in which she owns up to her “generalized, smutty sort of lust for flowers,” and part expose, in which she describes how the business has become so industrialized that a flower’s greatest asset these days is not its beauty or its fragrance but its durability as freight. She took McGrath to the flower district, now essentially confined to the two blocks on West 28th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, where stores take deliveries and then sell their wares — some only to those in the trade, others to anyone who walks in.

But the days of real and artificial flowers may be numbered, at least in New York, as real estate prices climb and property becomes ever attractive. Three-quarters of all the flowers sold in the United States are now imported, Stewart said, mostly from South America, and flowers are now available not just from florists but over the Internet and in delis and supermarkets, which puts increasing financial pressure on the wholesaler. But what she’d really love is not to have to work on the early-morning schedule that florists must operate by. “That’s the one thing I don’t like about the flower business,” Stewart said. “Everyone gets up so damn early. It’s even worse in Amsterdam. I think maybe my next book should be about bartenders.”