Over the last 2 years, I have developed a wonderful relationship with members of our suppliers, Flowervision Bristol, including managing director Nick.
Although there was a rocky start to our friendship – I nagged and nagged him to deliver to Wales, and he must have been sick of hearing my voice as he finally gave in after 3 years! During one of our banter-filled conversations I jokingly (but seriously!) said to Nick that I would LOVE to visit the flower auction in Holland, and he promised that he would make it happen.
As promises go, this was a pretty big one, but he was true to his word and at the end of April Team TDD took a whirlwind trip to Holland. Nick allowed me to take my wing (wo)man Laura and, of course, Mama Daff could never say no to a trip!
On touch down in Holland we were instantly amazed by the rows and rows of beautiful burgundy tulips which were gathered in planters outside the airport doors.
Thankfully, after a shift at TDD HQ and a couple of hours travelling our hotel was only a short taxi ride away. Mama Daff sat up front moulding her accent into a strange Welsh Dutch, whilst chatting to the driver and asking the standard “busy shift, Drive?” questions, whilst Laura and I relaxed and took in the scenery.
We soon arrived at the very plush Hotel Van De Valk – modern, sleek and chic, we were so glad we didn’t wear our usual Flower Squad tees and Crocs attire! We checked into our rooms after ‘wowing’ our way through the lobby and every corridor, it was honestly amazing, and the rooms were even better!
If you know me well you will know that long soaks in the bath are my favourite pastime and something I rarely get to do since the arrival of Arthur Daff, so to be greeted by a double tub jacuzzi almost brought me to tears!! It couldn’t get much better than this, right? Of course, it could – this was just the beginning…
A top-class dinner at the hotel restaurant finished off the long day perfectly. The staff treated us like Queens, and the food was phenomenal. Unfortunately, a sunrise alarm meant we could only enjoy a small vino and an early night was desperately needed – after my hour-long jacuzzi bath obviously. Relaxed, excited and with bellies full of delicious food we headed to bed.
Mikey Bulb (our wonderful buyer and tour guide) told me that a good breakfast was essential for the action-packed day he had planned for us, and a very good breakfast we had! If you ever get a chance to stay at a Van De Valk, please do it, even if it’s just for breakfast. We have never seen anything like it, from fruit, croissants, omelettes and pancakes to honey hives, fudge bars and every cold meat you could imagine. It was simply amazing.
Arco, the managing director of Duyvenvoorde collected us early the next morning to taxi us to Duyvenvoorde. From the moment we got in the car we GRILLED him, and bless him, took it like boss! He told us all about the humble beginnings of the company, founded by his Father and one single lorry, delivering flowers to Germany. Inspirational!
On arrival at Duyvenvoorde, Arco introduced us to his buyers and showed us how the auction worked. 16 buyers all buying from 3 different auctions – we could have sat and watched all day, an experience I will always remember. Chaos with military precision and speed is the only way I can describe it.
The auctioneer begins the sale of each flower with a predetermined highest asking price, lowering it until a bid is made or a reserve price is reached. Prices are shown on a clock and buyers typically have seconds to make a decision. It was both thrilling and mind-blowing to watch!
We then got to witness the military operation which is flowers arriving from the auction, being labelled, wrapped, photographed, priced and shipped back out into large lorries for distribution. I have never seen anything like it – it was incredible. Every member of staff knew exactly what they were doing, and carried out their role with utmost precision and efficiency, coming together like a perfectly oiled machine.
Lugt – A lisianthus grower
Mikey Bulb then took us out to meet some growers; another mind-blowing experience for us. We started at Lugt, a lisianthus grower who sells over 1000 stems of lisianthus a week. Sven showed us the whole process from cleaning to seeding, growing, picking, packing and shipping. It was amazing.
Our next stop was Arend Roses. It’s hard to put into words how beautiful this sea of roses really was, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since we got home! We observed how they cut each individual stem and placed them onto a machine which sorted each rose by the quality and stem length. What a nifty bit of kit!
Next on our journey was VIP Roses, Mikey buys all TDD blooms so he knows that the key to my heart is a good garden rose, and VIP Roses did not disappoint in this category!
Very similar to Arend Roses, each rose is individually cut and placed into a sorting machine which tells the exact stem length and quality of the rose whilst taking a picture of each of them – astounding. The final process is slightly different at VIP; they hand wrap the bunches, ensuring the quality and perfection of their roses.
I think Mikey and Arno thought we were crazy as we gasped and “wow”-ed every single stem that we saw, but honestly, they were so beautiful. The Kensington rose was a firm favourite for us; where the deep orange outer petals blurred with the inner vibrant yellow ones, simply stunning.
Arno explained that they would often find an anomaly rose growing within their bushes – this is then planted separately with the hope of it growing in larger quantities, creating a new variety.
Whilst on our visit we spotted one of these random roses and obviously had to name it Dancing Daffodil – we can’t wait to see if becomes a new variety of bush!
Our final visit of the trip was Lathyr, whilst walking through the door you could instantly smell the scent of the abundance of sweet peas we were greeted with. We were guided around rows and rows of sweet peas ranging from 2ft to 5ft high, all supported with yards and yards of string to ensure their sturdy stems.
Laura and I were lucky enough to take a little trip up in the lift to take a view from the top; sweet peas for as far as the eye could see! Jarek then showed us how they are able to dye sweet peas into absolutely any colour. Seeing the tiny veins with colour running through each petal was insane. Lathyr has a special place in my heart, for such a delicate bloom it has such a bold personality.
All the visiting, chatting and grilling meant we needed a good lunch so we headed to Sisters on the waterfront which was delicious. The restaurant is owned by Krijn’s daughters, and we would highly recommend it if you are ever in this area.
Field of Daffodils
Our final, and unplanned stop of the trip was to a field of daffodils. Whilst driving around Holland visiting the wonderful places we spotted a few fields of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, and so we had to get the perfect pic here! (see above)
We honestly had our minds blown by the precision and hard work that goes on behind the scenes for us to get our hands on all the gorgeous blooms. Having never really thought about the process we were amazed by the whole experience which I have to say is a military operation, perfected by Arco and his wonderful team over 43 years.
The next time I query a flower price I will remember the time, consideration and operation that goes into growing, preparing, importing and buying these wonderful blooms.
If you ever get the chance to visit Holland, please go and see an incredible country, with amazing scenery and wonderful hard-working individuals.