Worldwide Holland is famous for its beautiful flower fields giving a unique color pattern to the Dutch landscape. Trading and exporting flowers worldwide is one of the most important sectors in the Dutch economy. But how did this actually originate?
Origin of the flower culture
Starting in the 16th century the Netherlands had a real flower culture. Remarkably, the tulip, for which the Netherlands is now so famous, did not occur in the Netherlands. Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey), tulips were imported into Holland in the sixteenth century. A few tulip bulbs came into the hands of Carolus Clusius of the University of Leiden. He started growing and conducting experiments on the tulips. After years and years the flower was widespread in the Netherlands and the flower was grown more and more to meet the enormous demand. At one point the demand was so high that a tulip bulb cost as much as a canal house in Amsterdam.
This period was called the tulip mania. The tulip mania is now often used as a textbook example of the emergence of an economic bubble. After a while, the tulip market recovered and the quality of the flower increased enormously. There was a lot of interest from surrounding countries to import the flower. However, the tulip only became affordable for ‘normal’ people in the 18th century.
When airplanes could be used for transport in the 20th century, the trade in tulips really exploded. Huge amounts were exported to the US and Russia and all countries in between. The international trade in flowers was now really born. The majority of Dutch flowers are grown in North and South Holland with the Westland as the center.
Importance of Dutch flowers today
To this day, the trade in flowers and bulbs is very important for the Netherlands. The Dutch flower auction is the largest in the world. Annually, around 5 billion euros worth of flowers are exported abroad via this auction. However, the direct trade between grower and buyer has also increased over the last years.
Holland has a booming flower culture. Not only is a great deal exported abroad, but a large portion of the flowers remain in the Netherlands. The Dutch give each other a colorful bouquet for the most diverse occasions. Around days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day people walking the streets or riding their bikes carry a colorful bouquet to surprise a friend or loved one.
Visitors discovers the Dutch flower culture long time ago. You can enjoy the vast fields of tulip and other bulb flowers in the Bollenstreek, the Noordoostpolder and Kop van Noord-Holland areas. Every Spring, the Keukenhof gardens form a display of over 7 million bulb flowers and a visit to the largest flower auction in the world where millions of flowers and potplants are auctioned daily (Mon./Fri.) and shipped all over the world is a must.
If you want to experience the Dutch love for flowers yourself, here is a selection of locations and events:
- De Keukenhof gardens: more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted annually in the Keukenhof. A garden with swan graced lakes and four pavilions display an amazing collection of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other flowers. The Keukenhof is by far the most impressive international flower exhibition that you will ever see.
- The floating flower market: The most famous flower market in the Netherlands is located in Amsterdam. The market is unique because all merchandise is displayed on floating barges on the Singel. Due to the wide variety of flowers, it is one of the most colorful places in Amsterdam.
- FloraHolland: this auction house is responsible for 90% of the Dutch trade in floricultural products. The largest auction is in Aalsmeer, also from the FloraHolland auction house. Early risers will experience the excitement of the flower auction from the first rank with explanation of a professional local guide.
- The Flower Parade: millions of flowers and the work of hundreds of volunteers create the world’s most beautiful flower parade. 50 huge floats and lavishly decorated flowers with flowers drive a 40-kilometer route. This visual spectacle is visited by hundreds of thousands of people. There are various flower parades in the Netherlands. Visit the flower parade in the bulb region, Lichtenvoorde or Zundert. These take place on different dates.
- The Floriade: a global horticultural exhibition that is held at a different location every ten years. The next edition of Floriade will take place in 2022 in Almere.