The other side of flower farming

Ever wondered what the Dutch do with all those tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in the flower fields?

Brace yourself for a big surprise — these flowers are cut down (there’s a machine that goes through the fields to cut down the flowers), thrown in a heap to decompose and later turned  that into compost.  Talking of discarded beauty but that’s how these flowers are treated once they reach full bloom.

Oopps, before you get all upset (which has been the case with me the first time I learned of this practice), here’s the rationale:  the flowers are cut off to enable the bulbs to replicate and develop completely without competing with the flowers for nutrients from the soil.  The flowers are not grown to create spectacular scenery out here (this is pure coincidental) but rather for the bulbs which are harvested in summer and then exported all over the world  where their true purpose will be realized.  Flowers and flower bulbs are key export products of Holland.

The best time to enjoy this spectacular scenery of flower fields in full bloom is around the last week of April.  Normally the whole process of cutting down these flowers will be around the end of the first week of May.

About Malou
I'm a mom to a five-year old little girl with interest in cooking, baking, traveling and photography. Castles and palaces are special favorites so when weather permits for a good walk on weekends, me, hubby and little girl are always out for a bit of adventure.

10 Responses to The other side of flower farming

  1. Yatin says:

    Interesting flower stories. Do they harvest and store for winter? Apart from bouquet & funeral are there any major usage of flowers in Holland? Or they are exported.
    Flower is a big industry in India. Used on a daily basis for religious purposes, bouquet of course, women adorn their with flowers (now mainly in rural parts). It’s even big during the wedding season. Flowers are grown year around in India, Both in yard & commercially. Marigold, jasmine & Rose are the most popular. Of course there are other varieties too. Even with such extensive usage by a large population, I haven’t seen flowers fields as big as these in India. We have rice (paddy), wheat & cotton fields as big as this but flower fields no where close.

    • The tulip bulbs are planted in autumn and they stay in the ground in winter. Then they come out in spring and blossom. The bulbs are then harvested in summer.

      The bulbs are exported all over the world. Flowers and bulbs are key export products of Holland.

      The flower fields here are the equivalent of rice fields or coconut plantations in Asia. To the flower farmers, the spectacular scenery is purely coincidental, the flowers being just a means to the flower trade.

  2. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too sentimental – they will fade and die anyway. I told you about the Spalding Flower Parade in South Holland and here is the link to my post – http://aipetcher.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/a-life-in-a-year-2nd-may-spalding-flower-parade/

  3. So there is no market for the flowers themselves?
    Are fields like this easy to get to from Amsterdam without a car? I hope there are still some to see when I arrive in the first days of May.

    • The tulips are grown for their bulbs which are sold all over the world.
      You can take the train to places like Alkmaar, Den Helder, Lisse or Harlem to see the flower fields. Normally, the first week of May is a good time to see these flower fields because that’s the time when they are at their best. However, ever since I’ve been here in Holland (and that’s over 10 years already), this is the first time that we are having a very warm winter. Temperature is now even reaching double-digit Celsius on some days that I think, spring will be very early. That will mean that these flower fields will also be early. Anyways, keep in touch and I will also check here for you the status of these flower fields.

  4. Sheryl says:

    Great post and photos! I’d never really thought about how tulip bulbs were produced–and enjoyed learning about how it is done.

    • Thanks a lot, Sheryl. At times I think, what a waste for those millions of flowers being wasted while still in full bloom but then the farmers have their own reason for doing so. Come and visit in spring and you’ll see this amazing scenery ;-)

  5. Kitty says:

    Ah! So they’re not for show but for the bulb market. That makes sense…I have to cut mine, too, after blooming, so the decomposing leaves can send energy to the bulbs…at least you get to enjoy the blooms first! :) Thank you, Malou!

    • Malou says:

      To think that there are literally millions of these blooms and they will all end up as compost so I really try to squeeze every possible opportunity to enjoy their beauty. :-)

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