Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The 50 Mile Bouquet: Book Review and Giveaway

"How did something as natural and ephemeral as a flower spawn a global industry? And what if anything had we lost along the way?"
Amy Stewart in her foreword to The 50 Mile Bouquet

"To many of us who seek that visceral joy of just-picked bouquets to bring into our homes or use for special celebrations-or give as a gift to others- the flower has lost its soul. What happened?"

Debra Prinzing in her introduction to The 50 Mile Bouquet

When we first moved into our present home, we were surrounded by nurseries and farms that grew strawberries, apples and asparagus. As well as berries, our nearest farming neighbours, the Butt family, grew flowers: dahlias, delphinium and glads.

Over the years we came to know this large and extended farm family. I grow flowers for fun. They grow flowers for a living. It is the flip side of the same coin, so the conversation was always easy and natural.

Like many area residents, we'd head to their farm to pick our own strawberries in June. In the summer months, we'd always stop by their stand at the weekly Farmer's Market to buy bouquets of their fresh flowers.

Who could resist their beautiful dahlias?

When sprawling housing developments put pressure on the farm, the Butt's who had been growing flowers on their land since the 1940's, reluctantly sold their property, and moved to a quieter spot just north of us. 

We've kept in touch though. We've been out to see the new farm and I still treat myself to a fresh bunch of their flowers every Farm Market day of the summer and early fall.

This brings me to the subject of today's post.

When I had read the buzz about the book The 50 Mile Bouquet and saw some of the preliminary photography for the book on the internet , I felt an immediate kinship with the book's subject matter. 

So when the book came out earlier this year, I went looking for a copy.

Before I go much further, I want to pause at the book's cover image to admire the beautiful photography. Isn't this shot amazing? The picture simply dances with sunlight and color.

I want to be there in that field right now, waist-deep in summer flowers! 

 Photograph © David Perry from The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing, St. Lynn's Press, 2012

And now that I have strayed into the on the subject of photography, I want to show you my favourite shot in the book. 

I love, love this image by photographer David E. Perry! It is the kind of picture you might want to frame and hang on a wall.

 Photograph © David Perry from The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing, St. Lynn's Press, 2012

The book itself is fairly slender, but it has made a big impression on me. I honestly don't think that I will ever look at cut flowers with the same eyes again!

Winters are long here in Canada. I get through the months of cold, and ice with pots of forced spring bulbs and bouquets of cut flowers from the grocery store. There are many times however, when I have stood in front of the cellophane wrapped bunches of scentless roses, mums and carnations and wished there was an alternative. Even in the summer months, when there are locally grown flowers available, the store selection never varies.

The 50 Mile Bouquet peaks behind the curtain of the 40 billion global flower industry to reveal that there are alternatives already in place. The book follows the path from field to vase, highlighting along the way, growers committed to sustainable practices and floral designers who prefer to work with flowers that are seasonal, locally grown and natural.

If this all sounds just a bit dry, let me reassure you, I found the book to be both interesting and completely readable.

Photograph © David Perry from The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing, St. Lynn's Press, 2012

As I read through the pages, I began silently cheering on growers like Tara Kolla who took on city hall and a disgruntled neighbour for the right to grow sweet peas in her half-acre backyard in Los Angeles. 

I also found myself admiring growers like Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall (pictured above) who managed to entice area floral designers to use unconventional flowers and foliage.

As author Debra Prinzing points out, most consumers are unaware of how "ungreen" many of their floral choices often are. For example, a standard box of long stem roses is very likely to have been sprayed with pesticides and dosed with preservatives, so they can make the two week journey from farm to store. 

And did you know that the primary ingredient in the floral foam that many designers use is formaldehyde?

I had no idea. I bought some recently for a project I wanted to do. Now, I am thinking of returning it to the store.

I don't want to make the book sound preachy though, because it's not. It simply introduces readers to alternative ways to enjoy cut flowers. In its pages, we meet floral designers, wedding planners and even DIYers who are using new and creative methods to make arrangements and eliminate conventional and sometimes harmful industry practices.

The book even has many helpful hints from growers including ways to get lilacs to last longer in a bouquet and...

A great tip for storing peonies for up to a month. I definitely want to try this technique out next summer when my peonies come into flower.

As Debra Prinzing writes in The 50 Mile Bouquet, there is "a better way to beautiful." I think that this is a book that anyone who enjoys flowers should want to read.

If you would like to be included in the draw for the copy of  The 50 Mile Bouquet, please leave a comment below. I am going to leave the contest wide open until November 25th, so visitors to Holley's monthly garden book-review-linking-party can have a chance to enter. The draw and winning announcement will be made near the end of the month.

Many thanks to St. Lynn's Press for providing a book for this giveaway.

Good luck everyone!

I am going to link this post to Holley's monthly book review party later this month (November 20th). Be sure to check out Holley's blog on 20th for other interesting garden book reviews: Roses and Other Gardening Joys.

More Information and Links:

Debra Prinzing is an outdoor living expert who writes and lectures on interiors, architecture and landscapes. She is the author of six books including the award wining Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways ( Clarkson-Potter/Random House, 2008) Debra serves as the president of the Garden Writers Association and was a co-founder of Debra is a contributing editor Better Homes & Gardens and her features appear in magazines such as Garden Design, Fine Gardening and Metropolitan Home. Learn more about Debra at

Photographer David E. Perry began exploring the world and telling stories with his camera the day his father gave him a vintage Certo Dollina rangefinder and several roles of film. In The 50 Miles Bouquet David found a way to combine his love of photography with his love of flowers. To see examples of his photographic work, visit his website at David also has a blog as well.

Special Photo Credits in this post: The photographs from the book The 50 Mile Bouquet  are by photographer David E. Perry and have been used with kind permission from St Lynn's Press. © David Perry and Debra Prinzing 2012.


  1. I read a post by a British blogger earlier this year talking about the same thing. It is ironic that our own village used to be a centre for carnation growing, yet now they are all imported. It makes no sense. I also read that workers aren't always treated fairly in the countries we import flowers from.

  2. Hi Jennifer
    Please include me in the draw! This book looks lovely. I feel bad for the Butt family who was forced to move because developers wanted to build a survey. Good to hear that they are not too far away and that you still stay in touch.
    There's nothing nicer than bringing garden flowers indoors! Glad that the book shows new and innovative ways to do this.

  3. Thanks so much for offering the book. You are absolutely right, the cover is gorgeous and it makes me want to go out and find the book right now.
    Reading through this book would be a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon during our long, cold and dreary winter.

  4. This one has been on my wish list for a while. It is an interesting topic. We focus on where our food travels from but as you said is true of flowers as well. This could be tied in with proposition 37 that has been on everyones minds here in the US. Big corporations using harmful chemicals to mass produce crops on the cheap.The more informed we are the better. Looking forward to this read.

  5. I read the Amy Stewart book, this sounds like an enjoyable read.

  6. Jennifer,

    This looks like a beautiful book. I have several blocks of foam in my basement, never knew that it contained that preservative.


  7. I'd love to live by the Butt's farm and even more so because of their prices. It's hard to find a 65 cent glad corm for unique colors so picking your own from a farm stand is an incredible value.

    Is that ginger colored dahlia named in the book?

  8. Can I comment every day, so as to increase my chances of winning? The photos alone would have me drooling over the book, but it sounds like there is some very helpful info there,too! And, Jennifer, your photos are gorgeous, as well!

  9. What a lovely giveaway! Thank you for the opportunity.

  10. I would just prop the book open on a new page every day, the pictures rival any vase of fresh flowers!

  11. Jennifer, the same problem is everywhere. A lots of flowers and plants are imported although there are people who grow them not far from the buyers.
    I love the last photo: the sea of flowers!

  12. Looks like there´s a lot of inspiration to enjoy here - the flower pics are gorgeous! :-)

  13. Another book for my wish list - this looks like the perfect solution for a gloomy winter day.

    We try and buy local flowers at the farmers market here in town. But I have to confess to succumbing to the fresh tulips at the grocery store in February.

  14. This looks a delightful book and we do need reminding where our cut flowers come from. Here in the UK so many are grown in Africa, would you believe, because we don't have enough sunshine!! I only ever cut from the garden, maximum 100ft away!

  15. Before I start can I say wow what an outstanding new header on your blog, a real blast of colour, beautifully photographed. The book sounds really interesting and like you I love the photography I never buy bought flowers, always preferring to use my own from the cutting patch to bring indoors, there is so much more choice when you grow all your own flowers from seed. Great post Jennifer.

  16. I think this is one area we rarely think about. But with so many people wanting to eat locally, finding locally grown flowers is the next logical step. Thanks for reminding us to think about where the things we buy - flowers included - come from, and how they are produced. I've actually thought about growing flowers to sell at the local farmers market, as there is no vendor here that does that now. Not sure I'll ever do it, but it's a thought. This looks like a very inspirational book. Thanks so much for joining in.

  17. Nice review. When we lived in Europe flowers were purchased for bouquets all the time. Now I bring in my flowers from the garden. Just brought in some Mexican Sage....lovely purple.

  18. What a gorgeous pictures of Dahlias and the front of The 50 Mile Bouquet, really lovely. Actually I never buy flowers, use always flowers out of my own garden. Never realised that the foam contained formaldehyde, I don't use it often but always have some blocks in stock. Do you know that Holland is one of the most important export countries of flowers in the world? I live in the middle of huge glasshouses where roses, chrysanthemums, gerberas, orchids and so on are grown. Anyway I like my own gardenflowers much more. And the sounds and looks so nice, I put it on my wishlist.

  19. Photos are absolutely stunning. I love Dahlias and just started growing some in mygarden this year. Such a delight! I am saving rhizons over the Winter and hope they survive. I will be looking into getting more variety next year. This book would be wonderful addition to our library.

  20. A fine piece, Jennifer, with evocative images and much useful information. The section on roses particularly strikes a chord with me, as I have long marveled that people sell roses containing pesticides and preservatives. And *no fragrance.* I long ago stopped buying any rose I couldn't smell.

  21. Oh how I would love to read this book! It doesn't sound dry or uninteresting to me at all.

  22. This sounds like a wonderful book, Jen!
    Your images here are absolutely beautiful.
    Makes me long for spring and summer, but they are so far away now...

  23. An outstanding book, author and photographer. I am honored to call both David and Debra my friends. Having read, reviewed, purchased and given this book myself I can heartily recommend it.

  24. A beautiful read. I rarely buy flowers, preferring to buy plants but I certainly do love to look. The photos you shared are pure delight.

  25. What a wonderful idea for a book. We talk about eating locally, but what about getting our flowers locally. I love the photos your shared.

  26. I would like to be entered in the drawing---the photographs you showed from the book are amazing. I am aware of the controversy about cut flowers but rarely buy them so I haven't really focused on the issue. If you want to buy "green" flowers, I believe there are now sources that specialize in them and maybe even a certification.

  27. David Perry is a talented photographer for sure. I've always thought your farmer's market bouquets were beautiful.

  28. dear jennifer, I mus admit when I first realized what the book was about I nearly passed over it, uninterested. Then I thought, here am I defiantly growing flowers when people keep saying to me why don't you grow veggies? So I became very very interested in it. People should know about the horrible chemicals used, and the divine photos sweeten the message.

  29. A great review, Jennifer! You've certainly enticed me into checking out this book--the photography looks fantastic. I can't imagine a gardener having to fight to be able to grow sweet peas! I hope, too, that your local growers are doing well with their new farm--we've lost far too many farms here, too, to suburban sprawl.

  30. What a fantastic book Jennifer. I've often thought about this issue as I considered at one point the possibility of growing flowers for sale. (I'm awfully sorry to hear your local farm felt the need to move) Watched a show recently that talked about the trade in cut flowers and how they are shipped. It's utterly astounding. Timing is everything but I'm not surprised to hear about all the preservatives. Flowers cut in my own garden and taken indoors often don't last a week, how could roses coming from South America go all the way to Russia via Europe without looking a little worse for wear?

  31. Two of my dear Quaker uncles had a horticulture business. I doubt their independent business would survive today.The first thing I recall about their gardens is the wonderful smell. They would be shocked, saddended and offended by the quality of flowers available for purchase today. I will read this book and remember them.

  32. This sounds like a great book! I love Amy Stewart's books. :o) Our local farmers markets never offer fresh flowers. It's really depressing. I don't know of anyone within 100 miles of me who grows flowers for sale. :o(

  33. That is a book I would very much enjoy. I have a friend here in Niagara County that grows flowers for the florist trade. She sells cut flowers at her farm. Next year I might ask her to photograph the fields. She has invited me to, but I never got the time to do so. I love the images that David Perry took. I agree with you, any one of them could go on a wall as art.

  34. Książka z pewnością jest bardzo ciekawa i pięknie ilustrowana. Uwielbiam mieć kwiaty w domu, które mam z ogródka lub kupuję na targu. Bardzo interesujący post. Pozdrawiam i dziękuję za wizytę.
    The book is certainly a very interesting and beautifully illustrated. I love having flowers in the house, which I buy from the garden or at the market. A very interesting post. Cheers and thank you for your visit.

  35. Ciao Jennifer,
    your photos are absolutely stunning!
    This sounds like a great book, the cover is so pretty. :)
    Have a lovely week.

  36. The photography is gorgeous. The book sounds very interesting. I have read several of Amy Stewart's books, including 'Flower Confidential' about the flower industry, which I found fascinating. I think I would like this book, too! Thanks for reviewing it!

  37. I am so inspired by this post and the book.
    This is a topic I've had my eye on for the past year or so and would love to read more about it!


Apologies, comments are disabled at this time.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.