Spring will soon be upon us and I’m busy figuring out which gardens will be on my photography list this year. There is one place you can get your fill of gardens year round though – The flower auction in Aaslmeer, the Netherlands.
I noticed this has been one of my most popular posts since it was first published 2 years ago and thought I’d share it again for those who missed it the first time around.
There’s no doubt springtime in The Netherlands is a Mecca for garden lovers. But if you can’t make it to Holland for tulip season, you can still get your fill of beautiful blooms year-round by visiting the FloraHolland flower auction in Aalsmeer.
At first thought, a flower auction may not sound very interesting… but let me assure you, the Aalsmeer auction is incredible. First, the sheer size is staggering. The building is the second largest in the world in terms of floor space, covering 990,000 m² (10.6 million sq ft). It is located not far from Schipol airport so the flowers can be shipped quickly, all over the world.
The auction building needs to be massive because of the 48 million plants and flowers that pass through EACH DAY! That’s a turnover of 16 million Euros worth of blooms and leaves, daily. Each year, FloraHolland auctions over 12 billion flowers from around the globe.
As a visitor to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, you walk on a pedway above the warehouse floor and watch the organised chaos and an endless parade of colourful flowers pass by below.
To get a sense of what you are watching, FloraHolland offers a handy leaflet that gives a 24 hour cycle of the plants’ journey through the warehouse.
The process begins, the night before the auction, at the nurseries. FloraHolland works with tens of thousands of growers in The Netherlands and around the world. At 5:00 pm the plants are packed and loaded onto trolleys. The growers fill out an electronic delivery form and the plants are on their way to the auction building.
At 10:00 pm the plants arrive at the auction and are scanned into the system. The grower takes the empty trolleys back to the nursery to fill for the next day.
The flowers and plants are taken immediately to the refrigerated area. They are grouped by variety and refrigerated at the correct temperature for each type of plant.
At 4:00 am quality inspectors do random checks to ensure the quality listed, by the grower on the electronic form, is correct. Once the plants are inspected, they are ready for the auction clock.
At 6:00 am the auction begins. There are six auction sites across the Netherlands, including the Aalsmeer site. There are 13 auction rooms and a total of 40 auction clocks at the various auction buildings. Buyers from around the world fill the auction halls.
The auction clocks are projected on huge screens. They show a photo of the flower or plant and all the information the buyer needs to know. It is a reverse auction, so as the clock counts down, the price goes lower. A buyer can stop the clock at any price point and say how many bunches of the plant they want to buy at the current price. The price continues to drop until every bunch is sold.
By 11:00 am, the sold plants move to the distribution area where they zoom around on motorised trolleys and are deposited onto carts organised by buyer. Once the buyer’s order is complete the cart(s) are wrapped and loaded onto trucks for shipping. The flowers are delivered on the same day to locations all over the world.
This cycle continues each and every weekday all year long.
If you have a passion for plants, or are simply interested in how the mechanisation of this huge distribution network functions, the Aalsmeer Flower Auction is definitely worth a visit. It’s an easy early morning daytrip from Amsterdam.
Check out this short video I made of the Aalsmeer Flower Auction.
Have you been to the Aaslmeer Flower Auction? Leave your comments below.