Gotta Garden

Friday, February 09, 2007

Garden Education: Amy Stewart Speaks at USBG

Yesterday was a good day (except for the jury summons awaiting me upon my return home…but let’s not go there). I began my trek into DC around 10:00 a.m. (one must allow plenty of extra time in this part of the world for uncertain traffic) for a 1:30 p.m. lecture at the US Botanical Gardens. Everything went remarkably smoothly and I found my way to the USBG by 1:00 p.m. This was quite nice as it allowed me to poke around and take pictures of the orchids (which I’ll post later…stand by!), amaryllis and other goodies.

However, the main event was the opportunity to hear and see the gardening blogworld’s own Amy Stewart. Having read From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, I still feel gratitude toward Amy for freeing me from the guilt of houseplants. It was a Eureka moment that fostered an enduring warm feeling. So, I know that Ms. Stewart is much more than a superlative blogger; she is an accomplished and noteworthy author. She brings a certain élan to the gardening blogosphere that radiates outward.

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It was with anticipation that I looked forward to hearing and learning about Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, her latest work. I was not disappointed. We were treated to sumptuous slides of her journey and research that resulted in this discourse. I suppose I hadn’t really thought about the business aspect of flowers before. It was intriguing to have a window into this world and a guide as well.

We, the audience, journeyed with Amy to Ecuador, Columbia, Miami, New York City, Africa and California (maybe more, that’s as much as I remember). It was thought provoking to consider the flowers we purchase as traveling such great distances, even those supermarket flowers that tempt us on occasion. We were shown the process and processing these flowers endure before we plunk them into water at home. Even some sympathetic glimpses of the workers who make it happen, although I did wonder later if these are state owned endeavors or some private individual’s or a corporate enterprise. It seems it is a familiar story of underpaid workers and, in this industry, workers exposed to chemicals used in treating the flowers.

One thing you learn traveling overseas is that it is never as simple as it appears (especially from afar). Ms. Stewart pointed out that the workers need and want these jobs, so boycotting what might seem to be somewhat exploitive situations would only hurt the individuals such action might seek to help. Still, there were bright spots, places where natural techniques are employed because they are a way of life. And, it is not just Americans (maybe not even the majority) buying these flowers, but large portions of the rest of the world. New labeling is making its way to the market to enable consumers to know exactly where the flowers were grown or imported. With that knowledge, you as a consumer can make choices about what you support.

Glimpses into the flower markets were feasts for the eyes. In Holland, we learned about and saw the famous flower auctions. It was surprising to learn that the Dutch are exporting a large portion of the actual growing these days, choosing environments that have a year round ability to grow and produce. Seeing plant starts in tiny dishes for export and shipment was, as Amy points out, rather startling. The plant industry has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. Our flowers are grown in state of the art greenhouses where everything is controlled precisely and the result is a superior (at least for the cut flower industry) product.

The lecture concluded with questions from the audience. Amy then graciously signed books (available for purchase at a reasonable $20) and allowed photos. Here’s my moment of her signing my book:

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We also were given tulips as we left. It was very nice gesture. My two tulips made a long journey back home (around 5:00 pm) and I noticed they were rather the worse for wear. Both were in an upside down u position. I remembered Amy telling us that flowers were tougher than we thought and that properly prepared ones were fed before transport. I took these two and stuck them in water. They looked rather sad and my husband said, “I only see one; where’s the other?” It was hiding, I think, but it was there. I should have taken a picture because you wouldn’t believe the transformation this morning:

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You wouldn’t have guessed these were the same tulips! Anyway, thanks, Amy, for a most enlightening talk and for the (now) gorgeous tulips! If the Flower Confidential tour is coming your way, definitely stop by.

(And now…I’m off to read my…ahem…signed copy!)


Kirstie said...

You're so cute mom! I love reading this!

Gotta Garden said...

Well, hey! That was awfully nice of you! Thanks!

(Disclaimer: I did not pay for nor solicit the above comments!)

Lol...stop by anytime!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

How wonderful that you got to Amy's book signing! Did you mention to her that you are a fellow garden blogger?

Gotta Garden said...

Yeah, I did, but she was pretty busy and all.

Thanks for your comment!

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