Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day—and that means flowers. Our local public radio station has been running a “buy roses for your sweetheart” for an annoyingly long time. We all know flowers come from somewhere, but where?

I certainly don’t mean to play “Can you top this” but having read a recent post by Mary, when she talked about her view of a greenhouse, I was reminded of a "greenhouse" trip my husband and I had during our trip to the Netherlands.The Netherlands is a genuinely charming country to visit. Everywhere, as in most places in western Europe, nature is much tamed. A good portion of the Netherlands is land reclaimed from the sea, and consequently actually sits below sea level.

On one of the days of our vacation there, we went to see the Aalsmeer Flower Market. It was the most amazing place—an interior that is the size of 125 football fields. Flowers are flown in from all over the world; they are shown, bid on, bought, then shipped back out all over the world. All this action takes places in auction rooms. The auction rooms look like amphitheaters with 3 computer projection screens, flower carts on tracks rolling through auction room. There are two circles on each projection screen—on left is count-down clock; on right is price. The bidders wait as long as they can, then hit their bid, punching in and locking in the price before time runs out.

While all this action is occurring, flower carts are rolling in on cart trains. There is a track, coming in on the left of an auction room, that winds around and exits on the right side of the auction room. In a perpetual stream, flower carts roll in from the left, and at a controlled speed slowly roll through the room, then out of the room on the right. The bidders know which flower lots they are looking at as the bidding clocks run down. All told, Aalsmeer sells 22 million flowers EVERY DAY.

The flowers that have been bid on and bought are then transferred by cart trains from the sale side to the bought side. When the cart trains are not on the tracks, they are towed around. The means of motoring—golf cart like vehicles pulling the carts behind them, in long trains.

These carts are constantly moving, zipping around outside the auction rooms in seeming random action. They moved so quickly it looked like crashes would always occur. We did see the aftermath of one crash—a cart tipped over and flowers spilled all over.

Note crashed flower holders in middle, surrounded by red golf carts--to block from view?

They were quickly cleaned up and whisked out of view.Visitors are free to walk around the market in an overhead walkway. No visitor is allowed in the auction rooms, so there was no chance we would inadvertently buy millions of flowers! Also, visitors are not permitted to buy any flowers there!

Who knew that flowers were such a commodity? My view is a little simpler—I think flowers are pretty. They don’t have to come all the way from Aalsmeer. Just from someone you love!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Mary said...

What a huge operation, Donna! I loved seeing these photos. It's like being in another world. But I have met a group of 44 educators from the Netherlands and I truly believe they *are* living in another world. I have never met kinder, happier, people in my whole life! I spent the day with them - highly intelligent folk - but they never miss an opportunity to joke or smile. It was a pleasure being with them.

A little bouquet from the grocery store would suit me fine. Nice Post.

Anonymous said...

I know Holland provides our Canadian capital city, Ottawa, with millions of tulip bulbs, but I had no idea they were such a huge exporter of flowers. I prefer living plants, as a dying cut flower makes me feel sad. Lovely photos.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! That's a LOT of flowers! What a neat experience. Thanks for taking us on a tour.

dmmgmfm said...

Very nice photos. I can't believe how many flowers there are in one place. Awesome!