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Shopper’s Diary: The Utrecht Flower Market

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Shopper’s Diary: The Utrecht Flower Market

October 31, 2017

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.

Above: A number of stalls specialize in Dutch tulips.

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.

A bulb vendor holding an Amaryllis.
Above: A bulb vendor holding an Amaryllis.

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.

 Photograph by Joris Louwes.
Photograph by Joris Louwes.

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.

Ranunuculus, cornflowers, and Heleniums.
Above: Ranunuculus, cornflowers, and Heleniums.
Seasonal crabapples and dahlias.
Above: Seasonal crabapples and dahlias.
Euros are accepted by all vendors. Bring cash.
Above: Euros are accepted by all vendors. Bring cash.

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.

Savia &#8\2\16;Ember&#8\2\17;s Wish&#8\2\17; with verbenas.
Above: Savia ‘Ember’s Wish’ with verbenas.
Salvia uglinosa plants for sale.
Above: Salvia uglinosa plants for sale.

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.

Seasonal wreaths and fall-blooming heathers carpet the square.
Above: Seasonal wreaths and fall-blooming heathers carpet the square.
 The market is open on Saturdays from 7 am to 5 pm.
The market is open on Saturdays from 7 am to 5 pm.

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