We give them to each other to say the things words cant. To the ones we love and the ones we’ve lost. We use them to say thank you and we use them to say sorry. The power of the humble flower is limitless.
With the flower season in full swing and estimates that the UK alone spends over £1bn a year it’s hard to believe that any central hub of distribution isn’t the size of a small country. Oh wait it is. Aalsmeer is the size of Monaco. The Wall Street of Flowers situated in the North of Holland.
I met Jos, a flower driver in my local village last December. You can’t miss the big orange articulated lorry which blocks half of the high street three and four times a week. I’d never been on a van like that before. Racks and racks of multi-coloured flowers lying in coffins (official term so I’m told), it was marvellous and the smell was simply wonderful. So just how do we get the flowers that are so lovingly grown and is there as much put love in to the producing as there is in the giving?
With robots in Holland and polytunnels in Kenya the world of flower growing couldn’t be any bigger if it tried. I was first introduced to the crazy world of floristry in a children’s quiz at Madurodam where a replica of the flashing screens of the auction hall light up with incomprehensible figures for the export costs of flowers. Millions of euros are spent on billions of flowers across the world and they get from soil to supermarket in just 48 hrs. One can’t imagine what would happen if the wheels stopped turning for 5 minutes. Turmoil for tulips? Disaster for dahlias? Problems for peonies?
Robots run the big factories not people. Remote controlled trollies ship the flowers into Lorries and across buildings some 16+ football pitches in size. The flowers we think of as picked from fields isn’t necessarily the case as so many are forcefully grown and kept at specific temperatures to control their natural blossoming pattern. Keukenhof is the soft side we see but demand forces flowers to be grown night and day with the use of artificial sunlight so dark days or the winter won’t hamper production ensuring that global requirements are met. Flowers kept at 2 degrees prevent buds from opening before they are brought up to 15 degrees to ensure full bloom ahead of auction.
Buyers from the auctions get their flowers within 2 and a half hours of purchasing ready for them to be sold on to other florists and supermarkets across Europe.
Will you look at flowers in the same way again? Those tiny fragile flowers which you can quite easily kill in less than a week have travelled many miles to get on to your kitchen table is it really all worth it? If quality is what you pay for can you really expect so much for a £3 bunch from Tesco? Shop locally. Use your local florist and look out for the big Dutch vans which deliver to most places nearly every day.