Horticultural inspiration in the Netherlands
The first day started early with a trip to Flora Holland. I knew this was the hub of the largest of the Dutch flower and plant auctions, but nothing prepared me for the scale - this place makes Covent Garden look small. They told us that it's a mile walk from one end to the other. And everything works with such efficiency. They drive these electric tuk tuk type vehicles and weave around each other so smoothly. We also watched an active auction and discovered that flower auctions work backwards – prices start high and then go down until someone makes bid.
Image by Graham Parker
The next stop was Keukenhof. It was a wonderfully sunny day and the garden is a real celebration of spring bulbs. I liked tulips before, but to see them on this scale was mind blowing. As a horticultural student, I was very interested in the planting - it's very clever how they mix the different varieties.
Image Shaun ward
From there we went to the Van den Berg nursery where we saw a shipping container of flowers arriving that we’d seen at Flora Holland earlier that day. It was so interesting to be able to trace the supply chain from one end to the other. We also had an unscheduled walk through the tulip fields next to the nursery – there were tulips as far as the eye could see.
We ended the day at the orchid growers Anco Pure Vanda. It was amazing, you arrive at this almost oriental-style shop front, complete with a Coy Carp pond, then go through to the next room where you're met by glass house after glass house filled with orchids, all in perfect condition. The owner gave a really inspiring talk, not only about growing orchids, but also about following your passion.
Image Anna Garcia
We spent the whole of the next day at Hortus Botanicus, the botanical garden in Leiden, which was a personal highlight. Talk about bio diversity overload! I saw species I hadn't even know existed.
The trip connected the two worlds of floristry and horticulture and really broadened my horizons. I know the Kingston Maurward College garden really well, but it's invaluable to step outside and learn how others do it. It showed me just how exciting my gardening journey is going to be.