If you love flowers, then the Netherlands is the country for you as it is the world’s largest flower and bulb exporter. Just to give you an indication, the Netherlands produced 2 billion tulips in 2017. Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer (“Aalsmeer flower auction”) is the biggest flower auction in the world where around 20 million flowers and plants are traded daily.
Hence, as an expat living here, you simply have to make a trip to the Aalsmeer flower auction as the sheer volume of flowers and plants sold here every day is mind-blowing. It’s a visit that requires an early morning start as the Aalsmeer flower auction is open from 7am every weekday. It costs €7.50 to enter and a leisurely walk on the walkway above the main flower market hall will take around one and a half hours. Parking is free and there is plenty of parking for visitors on the roof top of the building. I would urge you to arrive at 7am as by 9am the activity level starts to slow down. Before you go, I recommend that you download the IZI Travel App onto your phone so that as you walk along the walkway, you can listen to the audio guide.
All flowers and plants are sold by auction and this takes place in the auction room where the buyers (both local and those buying on behalf of exporters) wear head phones so that they can hear the auctioneer. The price of each flower starts from high to low and the buyer who presses the button first makes the purchase.
What really impressed me was how organised the distribution system was after the buyers made their purchase. Everything looked so easy and seamless due to the sophisticated organisational structure behind it. The distributors attach trolleys of flowers to their towing vehicle and transport them to the designated area. Distribution staff wear different coloured vests to demarcate which flowers they can handle.
There is even a shuttle which is actually an elevator that transports flowers to the customers’ packaging areas which are on the other side of the road. The shuttle is incredibly fast as it only takes 10 minutes to travel 18 kilometres. This ensures minimum time is wasted in getting the flowers to customers in perfect condition.
Although we can’t buy flowers and plants at the Aalsmeer flower auction, here are my recommendations on where you can go to buy flowers.
There is a peony farm called Horsthoek Pioenrozen just outside Voorschoten that sells to the public. This farm has the freshest peonies at such good value. You pay €6 for a bunch of 10 peonies! It has many peony varieties, single, double and a variety of colours. The farm also sell peony plants. The farm is 30 years old and it used to only supply peonies to the flower auction but now it sells to the public. Depending on the weather, the farm opens for several weeks each year. This year, it opened for business on the 22nd May.
As it isn’t easy to find the farm, here are the directions. As you leave Voorschoten on the N447 towards Leidschendam, you pass an Esso petrol station on your left, continue along the road and you will see the farm on the right hand side before the bridge. It is opposite a building called B. Hoogwerff Kroon.
My favourite garden centre is De Bosrand in Wassenaar. The quality of the plants and flowers are excellent and they have a good range of plants. Their fresh flower bouquets are unique and beautifully arranged with a good variety of flowers. In fact, De Bosrand isn’t just a garden centre. It sells quite an extensive range of goods such as fish, rabbits, pet toys, clothing, home décor, furniture and Christmas decorations. On a rainy miserable day, I enjoy going to De Bosrand and spending a few hours there.