South Africa: Perennial Delight - a Dutch Master's Touch On a South African Canvas


The Netherlands is a garden and flower lover's delight. It might be a small country of just more than 17 million people, but it's the world leader in cut-flower production. It's also home to the prettiest bulb garden and the great gardener Piet Oudolf.

For more than 200 years Holland has been the centre of the global trade in cut flowers, through auction company Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer. Flowers from all around the world are flown into Amsterdam daily to be auctioned off at about 5am and then shipped around Europe in planes and trucks. It is a testament to the love of things beautiful and a "perfect market", and a huge nod to Dutch efficiency.

If you walk above the huge flower halls you can smell when you are above the sweetpeas, the hyacinths or the red roses. It is a dream.

And, of course, Amsterdam is most famous for its tulips, as immortalised in the 1958 Max Bygraves song Tulips in Amsterdam.

Tulips originated in the Ottoman Empire and were introduced to Dutch markets at the beginning of the 17th century. If you have a chance, do read Anna Pavord's book The Tulip (1999), a story of trade...

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