Holland is one of the top three exporters of agricultural products in the WORLD. They export shipload after shipload of bulbs to the U.S., Germany and Japan that are then grown and the cut flowers and plants sold in those markets. Doing some quick research yielded this incredible factoidâ€¦that Holland exports 540 million kilos of tomatoes, mostly grown in greenhouses! Though bulbs originated in the Himalayas(?!), it is the Dutch that have made them a big-time industryâ€¦and the incredibly flat fields outside Amsterdam are home to millions and millions of bulbs that are raised and prepared for export. If you donâ€™t want to head to source and are just a casual tourist, a good place to visit in the city of Amsterdam is the Bloemenmarkt on the Singel canal.
Touted as the only floating flower market in the world (I would dispute this, however, as I have seen flowers sold in boats in Thailand and in small towns elsewhere in Asiaâ€¦), the shops are actually now permanently anchored or fixed to the canal walls and are perhaps best described as plants stores over the edge of a canalâ€¦ But ignore that and what you have is one of the most pleasant and beautiful flower markets to stroll in, take pictures of, and buy from. Several hundred meters long, it is a favorite tourist attraction but you can tell that they also do serious business here. The volume of products on offer from bulbs, to potted plants and cut flowers says megabucks.
First up is the incredible selection of tulip bulbs! Dozens and dozens of varieties of bulbs are for sale for just tens of cents each to rough 1 Euro each for the biggest and most sought after tulips. You can take these home in netted bags which have 10-12 tulip bulbs each. If the weather in Makati were 20 degrees cooler I would have had a maleta full of the stuff! My sister once sent me Dutch gladiola bulbs that I grew in our front yard one year during the rainy season and I can tell you I had the MOST SPECTACULAR gladiolas in Makati, bar none! I tried to keep the bulbs for another season by storing them in the fridge but they didnâ€™t take the following yearâ€¦ I never tried tulips, however, and I gather some adventurous growers are doing so in Baguio and in locales cooler than Manila and these are yielding small anemic specimensâ€¦
Also on offer were huge amaryllis bulbs. And I mean HUGE. At a couple of Euro for the prime bulbs, these were incredibly tempting as well. I have also raised amaryllis bulbs indoors in Manila with some success but only for one bloomâ€¦after that the chances of coaxing another flower are next to impossible it seemsâ€¦ The variety of amaryllis on offer was staggeringâ€¦ pure colors, mixed colors, variegated ones, several shades of white and cream, etc. were really impressive.
The Bloemenmarkt also sold a lot of potted plants which the locals bring back to their small apartments and place in window boxes and small terrace gardens. The weather and wetness result in these wonderful displays of green and color at most of the windows in Amsterdam! I couldnâ€™t name 80% of the stuff on offer but all I can say is they looked great and seemed fairly reasonably priced. They did have a surprising selection of succulents, cactus, orchids such as phaelanopsis and dendrobiums in addition to all the bulbs and stunning roses.
A few stalls specialized in cut flowers and Holland is the motherload of that. One of my favorites, ranunculus, in 8 or 10 different shades, were just Euro5 for a nice big bunch! Thatâ€™s probably 1/3 the price at the New York wholesale flower markets. And they were huge and healthy looking as well! They had anemonies, freesias and all other kinds of good stuff. The cut tulips, at Euro10 for 50 pieces was just amazing! And these are tourist prices! Can you imagine what they cost wholesale? Maybe just 5-10 cents a piece! And they sell in Manila for 15-20x that price! You can also get the shops to make up arrangements for you and I noticed that they were particularly good at small bouquets in stunning color combinations. This market was well worth a visit! Off to Barcelona!