Garden Diary - April 2012

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20 April 2012
Holland in Tulip Time: The Aalsmeer Flower Auction

Here we go, Holland in tulip time. It's the ICanGarden Floriade and Keukenhof tour We straggled in, all 105 of us. Mostly on 19 April, some a few days earlier. My flight from Newark Liberty Airport took off in the early evening of 18 April. Flying through the night it arrived at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam early in the morning of 19 April. The next day, Friday, 20 April, Donna had us up and out early, early in the morning: 5:00 a.m. wakeup call, 6:00 a.m. load the buses. Why so early? Because today's touring begins with a visit to the Aalsmeer flower auction. And their day begins considerably earlier than we arrive. Flowers from around the world are sold to wholesale buyers who in turn ship them off to markets around the world. A perishable commodity, they need to be rushed to the airport and sent on their way. Easily accomplished as Aalsmeer is about 10 miles from Amsterdam and Schiphol airport.

The sales floor is a hectic place. Carts ladden with boxes of flowrs and pot plants
driven quickly around. Fifth largest buildng in the world, no one walks. They bicycle.

Hurry, hurry. Time is money.

These days they run the auction in sales rooms. A huge clock displays information
the item, its grower, how many stems to each box, how many boxes, etc. Then it
begins. The auction clock runs backwards. It starts with the highest price, then
drops. When a potential buyer thinks its reached "his" best price he bids for it.

See all the tourists peering in the window? We're not allowed onto the floor,
too dangerous, or into the auction rooms, too distracting. I mention my membership
in the Garden Writers Association and am allowed to slip in the door for a photo.

A cart of vivid fuchsia gerberas speeds by. Other carts load with pot plants.


It may look chaotic but practice smoothly moves orders, at warp speed.

Huge trucks drive into the building, load up, drive out headed for the airport.

Flowers for the world move through Aalsmeer. A fascinating look at the cut cut flower trade. Think of this the next time you buy a bouquet. Tour comment: we spent too much time here. Once you've looked at the hectic flow of flower-ladden carts dashing around on the floor below, peered through the windows into an auction room, done it again - enough. It might be that we had to circumnavigate the entire building before we could exit. A good way to entertain tourists, and make some extra money from our entrance fee.

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