The Utrecht Flower Market translates easily enough to English once you know this word: “bloemen.” It means flower in Dutch and “bloemenmarkt” means flower market. And flowers there are in abundance every Saturday in the center of this small city less than an hour away from Amsterdam. With charming canals and a college-town atmosphere, Utrecht feels more authentic than the Netherlands’ touristy capital—after two visits at the flower market, the only camera I saw was my own.
Photography by Christin Geall except where noted.
Filling a square in the center of the city, a short stroll from 17th-century canal houses, the Utrecht Flower Market offers easy shopping with little crowding.
On Saturdays, locals come for their weekly flowers, reaping the benefit of centuries of devotion to horticulture. The Dutch have been obsessed with plants since the 1600s and are world leaders in sustainable agriculture—a small country, but a powerhouse in plant breeding.
Expect to see new varieties on offer. (The Dutch word for new is ‘nieuw’, so if you’re in collecting mode or scouting, keep an eye out for handwritten notes.) Most plant names are listed in botanical Latin not solely Dutch, so it’s easy for foreign plant lovers to shop.
As a world leader in horticulture, and home to the largest cut flower auction in the world, the Netherlands offers tremendous choice.Market stalls number close to 30 and each fills a niche: corms and bulbs; cut flowers; mixed bouquets; potted seasonal plants; branches, berries and fruits; shrubs; and growers offering interesting herbaceous perennials capable of breaking a foreign gardener’s heart. I spoke to the breeder of a species Gladiolus I would have traded my eye teeth for and mooned over plants I knew I would have to wait years to find in my native Canada.
Customers often arrive by bicycle, leaving with armfuls of wrapped flowers and plants tucked into baskets. Most vendors accept debit cards or cash, eschewing credit cards. Also, at the flower stalls it’s best not to grab bunches. Locals point, chat a bit, and wait while the vendors strip stems, bunch, and wrap purchases.