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The Golden Age of Flower Power

2 minute read

When people think of the Netherlands and flowers, it’s the tulip that comes to mind. But the rose is the Netherlands’ number one flower. Some 6 million of them are sold every day at the Aalsmeer Flower Auction alone — that’s three times as much as the next biggest seller, the tulip. “Roses are still the most wanted flower. They have the most emotion,” says rose grower Wilbert Ammerlaan. “They’re the biggest selling flower in the world.”

Although some African countries, such as Kenya, now grow and export many of the smaller roses, growers like 30-year-old Ammerlaan continue to produce the big-headed roses that make the Dutch the number one exporter. Back in 1965 Ammerlaan’s parents started the company that he and his sister Marielle will one day inherit. Much has changed since then. Today, the flowers are grown in long rows of plastic bags filled with coconut peat and watered by an elaborate system of hoses and gutters. Everyday the roses are hand-picked. They’re then graded for quality and length. A machine cuts them to size and sorts them into groups of twenty, finally spitting them out in consumer-ready plastic-covered bundles. Five days a week, the roses go to auction.

“Growing is still very important, but it’s not the only thing anymore,” says Ammerlaan, who together with three other growers has formed a consortium, Rosa Plaza, to help market and sell their flowers. As a group, the members of Rosa Plaza have a combined total of eight hectares of land. They share an Internet site and Ammerlaan is their sole contact person at the auction. “You see more and more now that marketing and selling are also part of running the company,” says Ammerlaan. “You have to do everything.”

“I think my parents are glad that we are here because of all the changes,” Ammerlaan says. “I don’t think they could do it. But I see the changes as a chance. I’m grabbing them with both hands and I hope it gives us a good direction.”

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