What an angel... I'm thinking of wearing this little number for my wedding dress! No? It's actually a photo of me at one of the floristry shows in Holland, where I was taken to visit the auctions, growers and wholesalers on an amazing trip last year. We were given an insight into how flowers are grown and purchased in huge quantities in a very technical auction in Aalsmeer, Netherlands. If you've ever wondered why flowers cost what they do, or how they are grown so straight or perfectly sized, this is the post for you! Part one: Growers and Show (ers), Part two: The auction ... coming soon.
It all begins with the grower. There are thousands and thousands of growers in the Netherlands, often family businesses and flowers have long been the biggest export for the country. If you've ever been you'll have seen miles and miles of greenhouses dotted amongst the canals. Traditionally, Holland was the perfect place to grow flowers, fruit and veg because of the climate but today a lot of the growing companies give mother nature a helping hand with irrigation and /or perfect light and general growing conditions.
Here are a few pictures of the growers I saw. The hydrangea producer was particularly fascinating and obviously beautiful to behold. The gentleman here told me that to create a new hydrangea variety (by splitting and pairing two seeds) takes 8 years from start to finish. So the beautiful two-tone blooms you see in the UK today started life as a seed (probably in the Netherlands) 8 years before!
As you can see above, the 'pickers' pick the individual stems off the shrub plants at the perfect time. They are selected for head size and length and are collected up high so as not to damage the younger heads still growing.
I also visited a peony grower whilst in the area, a family run business and one I was really excited to see. They had fields inside and outside for different varieties of peony and even a conveyor belt in the farm for packing them in cellophane! Granny was there too, putting the elastic bands on.
Once the stems have been selected and picked, they're sent to one of the auctions for wholesalers to buy and sell... coming up in Part 2 of this post. Another part of this fab trip was a visit to one of the floristry and plant shows they have over there. There were competitions, awe inspiring displays of plants and flowers, some pretty weird arrangements and even a live bridal bouquet tutorial. Below are just a few of the millions of pictures I took. You can see a distinct national style is present in a lot of these pics. In my experience, the Dutch tend to favour more abstract 'wacky' designs, often with coloured wires popping out and all sort of things things on sticks! This could be because as flowers are so readily available over there they tend to stay away from simplicity and go pretty full on with the design (please excuse the sweeping generalisation).
Part 2 of 'Going Dutch' coming soon.
With thanks to Jane Packer Flowers for a great trip.