A Dutch Flower Market Diary
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
The Dutch are famous for their floral finesse. As an amateur florist visiting the Netherlands, my radar for flower-related activities sent me wandering through side streets and over bridges with a mission: to experience flowers in the setting of another culture.
I thought that I had scouted some amazing botanical expeditions already: the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, the iconic Keukenhof gardens, Bloemenmarkt, and several carefully curated flower shops. It was a Saturday morning in Utrecht, however, that gave me the most authentic glimpse into Dutch flower culture.
As my boyfriend Jack and I approached the square, I started catching glimpses of color. I didn't want to tell myself that we had come upon a flower market just yet for fear of being disappointed. But soon we knew. How could we not? Buckets of flowers lined tents, some ten rows deep. Cut stems sold by the pack, handmade bouquets in that wild Dutch style, and potted plants adorned the city's stone facades like prized jewels.
I should preface my seemingly overzealous behavior by saying that Florida's climate makes many flowers unavailable or too expensive. So when I saw fluffy peonies for 5 euro or delicate sweet pea for 3 euro, my excitement was entirely justified.
After scouring the market and pacing between stalls trying to make up my mind, I decided on a pack of almost translucent butterfly ranunculus for 3 euro. I asked several vendors what their prices were (everyone spoke perfect English, as the Dutch are known to do) but settled on buying from the lady that I approached first; I already felt some kind of loyalty to her. I imagine this is what the flower enthusiasts of Utrecht must feel every weekend as they walk to the market, looking forward to chatting with their favorite seller and seeing what treasures they have brought.
My excitement was undoubtedly visible to anyone walking by. I'm sure it was obvious it was my first time at a market. I hadn't yet accepted (and still haven't) that the flower culture here meant that people get to do this every weekend. Everyone gets to be a part of this, if they choose to. Not just the rich who can spend 1/3 of their weekly budget on flowers, not just socialites who have dinner parties every weekend. In the Netherlands, flowers are for everyone.
It hurt my heart that we had to leave a couple days after buying the flowers. Part of being around flowers is observing how gracefully flowers transition from life to death. I wouldn't be able to appreciate that transition this time. We left several bottles full of stems around our AirBnB for our host. They're surely gone by now, but in my mind they're still fresh.
All photos by Emily Gilmore