If there is a Silicon Valley of flowers, then it is the Netherlands. The contemporary floriculture sector is a very knowledge-intensive industry. Thanks to the innovative strength of flower growers and their close cooperation with knowledge organizations and technology companies, the Netherlands has for decades been the largest flower exporter in the world. Where the emphasis is traditionally on the breeding of certain cut flowers and the continuous cultivation of new spectacular varieties, the sector has also invested a great deal in the past fifteen years in making the production process more sustainable and reducing the environmental impact.
Visual artist and designer Frank Bruggeman will research some of the latest products from the Dutch floriculture sector for a period of 30 weeks. Every week there is a different ornamental flower on show, most of which are grown under glass all year round. The vegetable setting in which these ornamental flowers are placed reflects the changing seasons and also aims to provide a space for decay and transience, processes that are carefully avoided in traditional showpiece flower arrangements.
With thanks to Mooiwatbloemendoen.nl
After roses and chrysanthemums, Gerberas are the third most cultivated cut flower in the Netherlands. But whereas in recent years there has been a decline in the numbers of roses and chrysanthemums grown, Gerbera cultivation is very much on the rise. The first species of this flower to be grown in Europe, at the end of the 19th century, originated from Barberton in the Transvaal, South Africa. Hence the popular English name for the Gerbera: Barberton daisy or Transvaal daisy. Dutch growers of the 19th and early 20th century regarded the Gerbera as an extremely demanding cut flower. These days, a huge variety of mini and large-flowered Gerberas is available on the market, and they often carry highly imaginative names.
In the wild there are more than 50 different species of Cymbidium, mainly growing in Asian mountain forests. Some Cymbidiums are epiphytic - they grow on other plants or trees without extracting nutrients from them - while others are terrestrial or semi-terrestrial. In the 19th century, orchid hunters brought various Cymbidium species to Europe, where they were well looked after in greenhouses and plant nurseries. The fact that many Cymbidium species proved to be resistant to low temperatures greatly contributed to their advance in Europe. These days, as a Dutch cut-flower crop, Cymbidiums rank 7th in terms of turnover.
The official botanical name of this bulbous plant is Hippeastrum, which is usually translated as knight’s star lily, although few people are familiar with that name. There are about 80 Hippeastrum species. They are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas and the Caribbean. In addition, more than 600 hybrids and cultivars have been developed by growers from all over the world. Amaryllis cut-flower bulbs last for three to four years. In their annual cycle, a rest period of about eight weeks is essential. In the 1980s and 1990s, amaryllis growers switched over to substrate cultivation, making it easier to harvest the bulbs after the flowers have been cut.
The tulip is native to Central Asia, Asia Minor and parts of the Mediterranean. For centuries these regions belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman sultans wore striking turbans that resembled the form of the tulip, hence the flower takes its name from the Persian word tulipan, meaning turban. Flemish nobleman Ogier Gisleen van Busbeke was responsible for introducing the tulip to Western Europe. A keen amateur botanist, Van Busbeke conducted extensive research into plant growth in Asia Minor. He presented some tulip bulbs to his good friend Carolus Clusius, botanist to the imperial court of Vienna. When Clusius moved to Leiden in 1593, he brought his tulip bulbs with him. So the foundation was laid for large-scale tulip cultivation in the Netherlands, which continues to this day.
Dutch VOC ships brought the first Zantedeschia (popularly known as the calla or calla lily) from South Africa to Europe in the 17th century. Nowadays, the plant grows on all continents except Antarctica and is even considered a danger to the native ecosystem in some countries. In the Netherlands and other European countries, cultivated callas were available only as pot plants for a many years, whereas in the United States and Mexico they were already commonly sold as cut flowers in the 1920s and 1930s. These days, during the winter season increasing numbers of Dutch calla growers are turning to countries like Spain and Tanzania, where sunlight is free and callas can be grown in the open ground.