The Account of a Flying Gardener - Part II
By John Bacher
THE HEART OF EUROPE'S FLORAL PRODUCTION
On leaving London Airport July 27th, for Amsterdam in Holland, the plane brought me to the old airport of Amsterdam bright and early. After a few minutes at the airport, a taxi was taken to Alsmeer - famous all over Europe for its flower and plant markets.
It seemed that the entire population derives its living from the production of plants and flowers. This is accomplished by a huge cooperative market, and a large building erected for the purpose serves as a sales hall. This hall features water canals, radiating to there from over much of Holland. These canals are the best means of transporting produce by boats to the great Market. The selling is done through representatives of every important wholesale house on the continent. No retail sales are permitted. Each wholesaler is given a specified seat in the stage of the sales quarter. Selling is done on a unique basis. A large clocklike device on the wall displays numbers, based on Dutch currency, from high to low, and a movable hand starts from the highest number downward. The buyers' seats are numbered. As soon as a price range is reached, which is agreeable to them, buyers press a button. This button lights up the seat number in view of the auctioneer; and that particular lot is sold by number to the purchaser. Then the purchaser, with his ticket, locates the merchandise purchased; and the packers or shippers move that particular lot onto the loading platform of the airfield, Or, if its destination is local, it is moved to the boats waiting for cargo distribution. In this manner, a purchase of horticultural products is delivered the same day by air transport anywhere in Europe. Never have I seen such superlative quality in pot plants of every description. Palms, Bromeliads, Gloxinias, Crotons, Anthuriums, Calceolaria, Campanula, rare flowering plants-all were of topnotch quality that anyone would be proud to purchase. Unfortunate, lighting conditions in this building were not suitable for picture work, so I was unable to photograph any of the colors.
Cut flowers, too, were of the same superior quality as the pot plant assortment; without limit, so to speak, from the lovely Sweet Peas to Gardenias, Dahlias, Asters and Roses of every hue and color. And also many assorted flowers we would never dream of using for cut flowers. All of those things seem to be able to find buyers, due largely to the super quality which prevails.
Leaving this super-flower market, one notes the fields everywhere are given over to flower production. Almost every piece of land has its canal with the constant water table but 15 inches below the surface of the field. Being July, it was most delightful with its even temperature since the Ocean side not too far away.
Greenhouses everywhere seemed to he part and parcel of each piece of property. Personal inspection disclosed that each one was given over to one crop only, in true specialist style; and conversation revealed that .this specialty business was being followed from one generation to the next, giving me the cue for the super quality of their products. It may also be stated that the enterprises were family affairs of far more modest size than those to which Americans are accustomed.
Walking a distance of 8 miles or more to the airport, gave me the opportunity to observe home after home and greenhouse after greenhouse where the individual grows his own crop after the pattern of his forebears. Here I used my camera to make recordings for the light was good, and there were subjects and colors galore!
Back at the Airport, a bus was boarded to take us into Amsterdam proper. This old Dutch city is full of unique sights. The big, wide streets, all level, were so full of bicycle riders that only by means of street signals would one be able to cross the stream of traffic.
Along one of the canals, the thoroughfare was full of market stalls, all selling plants and flowers of every description. Among thousands of other things, some marvelous pots of Nertera were noted. One fine specimen was selected and I asked the lady in charge to kindly shear off the berries for me and for her to keep the plant for space in air travel would not permit me to take the whole thing. The plant was paid for with Swiss money and the crazy Yankee got his Nertera berries and left everyone happy behind. The viable seed would make a generous supply for home culture of this rare plant.
Fig. 17. The Conservatory at the Kew Garden, now being
razed for reconstruction. (See Mr. Bacher's article in our
January 1954 number, page 35)
Early evening again and I took the bus for the airport, in order to complete the air trip to Hamburg, Germany. We landed, it seemed, after only a short interval. The customs inspection seemed very simple and without delay, we were whisked to the Hotel der 4 Jahreszeiten, a very up-to-date place for travelers, almost in the very heart of the city. This is where German Horticulturists managed to stage an International Flower Show which lasted from April to the end of October. I had read a few articles about it in the European trade Press; and, truly, this was a goal worthy of the tourist patronage. As usual, I requested information; and found that the Show entrance was merely a block or so away from the Hotel. Early next morning I was there, and strolled through a section of the Hamburg Botanical Garden awaiting the official opening of the admission gates-of which there were several.
As the Show is built in a public park covering nearly 50 acres of land, it has many features not seen elsewhere. Yours truly committed one of those boners that irk one for long periods afterwards. At the admission gate, a Flower Show folder and plan, or map, was purchased. But, upon entering, the sight of the masses of bright colors, made this traveler oblivious to the folder in his pocket, engrossed with two cameras kept busy, while wandering about.
A glass tower with elevator service to the top, for sight-seeing, had to be patronized; and this revealed many a detail missed completely from below. The entire day went by without a glimpse at the Show program. If time had been taken to look over the program during the day, it would have given me directions to many items, which inadvertently, in my absorption, I passed by.
The attendance at this Flower Show exceeded three and a half million persons, which gives one a hint as to the density of Europe's population. On leaving the Show, through the Botanical Garden, many more colorful pictures were gathered before nightfall and my return to the Hotel.
Yes, horticulture in Europe is on a different level from what it is in the U.S.A. And the peoples, too, for there seemed to be action everywhere and but few signs could be found that just a few years ago Hamburg was a shamble of ruins due to aerial bombing. However, the great cemetery contains nearly a half million war victims of Hamburg alone. Yes, time has changed things rapidly, for the Germans are as industrious as ever, and seem to enjoy life more than ever.
(To be continued.)