Garden Writers
Amsterdam Belgium 2006
July, 2006

Wednesday July 5th we were up very early to get to Aalsmeer Flower Auction by 7:30 a.m. but I think we all agreed it was worth it. We were met by our guide and taken through the process. We all wore headsets so he didn’t have to scream at us and we could hear every word he was saying in that somewhat noisy environment. As a cooperative enterprise, Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer offers globally producing growers and globally active wholesalers and exporters a total concept: a central marketplace for the buying and selling of floricultural products with a balanced range of marketing channels, good facilities for growers and buyers and effective logistics. Aalsmeer, the most prominent auction in the world, thus contributes significantly to processes of distributing and pricing flowers and plants. Auctioning at the VBA goes according to the system of ‘Dutch Auction’. This means that the clocks run from the highest to the lowest price, which is always per unit - i.e. per single flower or plant. When this process takes place, the buyer sees the lights around the clock’s edge run back from 100 to 1. If a buyer notices a product he wants to buy at a price which agrees with him, he quickly pushes the button and the clock stops at the desired price. If the number of the buyer appears on the clock face, it means that the buyer was the first to stop the clock and therefore he is the buyer. At the same time he tells the auctioneer, using his headset with microphone, how much of the consignment he wants to buy (the auctioneer determines the minimum amount). The remainder of the consignment is put up for auctioning again. The information of this particular transaction is immediately entered in the central computer, from which the transaction information is send to the buyers laptop, the invoice system of the VBA, the system which determines the payment to the growers and the statistics of the VBA. Per clock, some 1,500 transactions can be processed per hour. The VBA consists of five auctioning halls: four cutflower halls and one plant hall. In total there are thirteen auction clocks. The plant hall e.g. has four clocks. This is the biggest hall and provides place for six hundred bidders. All the halls together provide space for two thousand buyers at the same time.

Interesting facts:

• Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer sells more than 20 million flowers and plants every day;

• 7000 specialized growers from all over the world offer their flowers and plants via Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer every day;

• The auction has an essential ‘break-bulk’ function: large lots are sold within a couple of hours and divided into smaller lots;

• The customers who are situated at the auction (wholesalers and exporters) can be on their way to the consumer, anywhere in the world, within a few hours;

• With its 999,000 m² of floor space (soon to be more than 1 million), the auction building is the largest commercial building in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records;

• Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer turns over EUR 6 million every day.

We got back to our hotel to either do something or rest until our walking tour with Urban Home & Garden Tours Amsterdam. We visited and spent a little more time in the flower market, then toured three different gardens…as you can see one of our group is taking the opportunity for a bit of shut eye while in one of them. Urban Home & Garden Tours Amsterdam was founded in 2000 by Andre Ancion. ‘We started with a small team and initially focused purely on canal house gardens – Amsterdam's best kept secret! But soon we decided we couldn't keep all those other interesting facts to ourselves: the 17th- to 20th-century canal house architecture and interior design and the French etiquette of the noveau riche.’

Then back to the hotel to get ready and meet in the lobby for our tram journey out to De Kas for dinner. Once we got off the tram it was just a short walk past a very still and dark pond to the restaurant. “A kitchen surrounded by fertile soil where vegetables and herbs thrive … Where daylight shines in from all sides and where the chefs are free to express their creativity daily using the best the season has to offer. It seems an obvious concept, but I spent twenty years surrounded by white tiles under fluorescent lighting before I came up with it.” In 2001, top chef Gert Jan Hageman, who had earned a Michelin star in Dutch haute cuisine, found a new direction for his own career and a new purpose for the old greenhouse that belonged to Amsterdam's Municipal Nursery. The greenhouse, which dated from 1926, was due to be demolished. With a lot of luck and, most importantly, with help from the municipality and his family and friends, Hageman succeeded in converting the unique 8-metre high glass building into a restaurant and nursery. Situated in Frankendael Park, between the Rembrandt Tower and the nineteenth century facades of Watergraafsmeer, De Kas is an oasis of calm for the fifty-thousand guests who dine there each year; either in the breathtaking dining room designed by Piet Boon, or at the chef's table in the kitchen, or - if weather permits - outside in the herb garden. We enjoyed a three course dinner in the Garden Room. De Kas has a beautiful, separate room for private dinners, presentations and meetings. This garden room is located amongst the green of their nursery and has its own patio adjacent to the park. ‘At De Kas we are convinced that food is at its best when prepared using only the freshest ingredients, grown and harvested with care for the environment. De Kas has its own nursery, where we grow herbs and Mediterranean vegetables in the summer, and various kinds of lettuce in the winter. We also own a piece of land in the Purmer polder, where we grow seasonable vegetables outdoors. In addition to our own produce, we buy fresh ingredients from local organic farmers on a daily basis.’







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