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Musings » Cut Flowers of the World
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Maree, Johannes & van Wyk, Ben-Erik
Timber Press 2010

Steven Brown, chairman of the floristry and environmental horticulture department at the City College of San Francisco, very generously gave the club a copy of this most significant and useful book. So many of our members take a really keen interest in arranging flowers. This book could become their bible. It has authority and real depth, enough to make it an instant classic.

Ben-Erik Van Wyk is professor of botany at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. Johannes Maree holds a master’s degree in the management and treatment of cut flowers. I never knew that such a degree existed. It illustrates the importance of the vast global cut flower market, a huge business affecting millions of people. As we know South Africa is the ancestral home of many of the wonderful plants we grow here in California. It makes sense that they would be leaders in this field.

The book opens with a brief but effective history of the most important flowers we use and where they originated. There are sections about the breeding of modern cultivars, their actual production and how this volume is generated. Mare and Van Wyk list the 20 commonest cut flowers grown for this purpose. First comes the rose, followed by chrysanthemums, carnations, oriental lilies and ending with solidago (golden rod). Cultivation is explored and the treatment of the harvest once the flowers have been cut and are on their way elsewhere.

A very useful segment contains the criteria for selecting a superior cut flower. All the descriptions are accompanied by useful photographs showing precisely what is meant in the text. Then the authors painstakingly go over the characteristics and requirements of all the flowers produced commercially in gigantic quantities for the cut flower market. The section for each flower is organized in the same way.

More than 300 flowers have a page of valuable information devoted to them. From now on there can be no excuses for badly maintained flower arrangements. The value of this book is further enhanced by listing the common name of each flower in French and German at the bottom of the page. Achillea which has a rough sounding English name, “yarrow”, is the charming “millefeuille” in French.

The instructions for roses are concise and sensible. So much nonsense has accumulated around this flower. The cut stems of Icelandic poppies, Papaver nudicaule, need to be scalded with boiling water to prevent the leakage of latex. Keeping cut peonies in excellent condition is more complicated but I am sure that if one follows these instructions carefully the flowers will keep going very well. Each variety of orchid gets its due.