Earlier this year Tony, Katie, and I were lucky enough to be invited to accompany William (Plant Designs Managing Director) on a short trip to Holland to meet a few of our suppliers.
We started early on Tuesday 1st March with a crack o'dawn flight out to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam where we were met by Ron, our sales rep from Edelman, who supply our Christmas Items and plant pots. We were driven to the edge of the town of Gouda where we stopped at the warehouse that housed their new Christmas Collection. The warehouse is enormous!
Showcasing replica Christmas trees of all sizes and a vast collection of beautiful displays. We spent hours wandering around oohing and aahing over the glittery baubles and snowy animals. We noticed that dusky pinks and denim blues seem to be on trend this year. These colours looked gorgeous combined with rustic wooden decorations and a hint of sparkle from a glittery garland.
Even though it was only March and Christmas is still a long way away, you can't help but feel a bit of festive excitement when choosing Christmas decorations when you can already imagine how lovely they are going to look in our clients offices. We've got some very exciting decor schemes planned for 2016!
I was very taken with this enormous tree that was rotating gently in the middle of the warehouse. I love the combination of the large shiny baubles with the natural woodland feel of the large twigs at the base.
Afterwards Ron took us on a special trip to a fantastic little cheese shop in Gouda which had tons of... you guessed it, different types of Gouda! We wandered around nibbling the tasters and chatting to the very friendly shop assistants who advised us on the best Goudas to buy. Needless to say we all left with a bulging bag of cheese!
Wednesday morning started by meeting Ralph from Koberg, our supplier for plants and planters. Ralph and William have been working together for 35 years and whilst Tony, Katie and I had had numerous conversations over the phone with Ralph, it was lovely to finally meet him in person.
Ralph took us to a variety of nurseries over the next few days, explaining things to those of us less familiar with the way the nurseries ran and translating where needed. We saw the following plant growers: Spathiphyllum, Kentia, Dracaena, Anthurium, Bromeliad, Orchid, Cacti, Succulent, Ficus and Aglaonema.
We also went to the Fachjan nurseries which are the biggest in Europe, 45,000m square big in fact. We were delighted to have lunch in the room right at the top of their 16m high greenhouse with a fantastic view over some of the enormous trees and plants that are cared for there.
We learnt a huge amount at Fachjan, mainly thanks to our helpful guide Tony who walked us through the nurseries and spent lots of time demonstrating growing methods to us and telling us where the unusual plants where headed to. One that stood out in my mind was a tree that had grown as normal, but then they tipped it onto its back and let it continue growing with exposed roots. This tree had been commisioned for a location where they wanted it to look as if it fell over but kept on growing. I had never considered then when you see unusual trees and plants in holiday parks and theme parks for example that they would have been brought there by a company such as Fachjan. Fascinating stuff.
On our last morning Ralph took us to Aalsmeer, home of the largest flower auction in the world. And incidentally, the large building in the world by footprint. This building was MASSIVE. I cannot even describe the size of it. And we only saw one section, the plant auction and a few market areas. The plants are loaded onto trolleys where they are then hooked into a moving track on the floor which pulls them up from the loading bay and into the Auction room. The 'conveyor belt' track moves constantly and bidders have a matter of mere seconds to bid on all or part of the trolleys contents. The price goes down unlike traditional auctions which means that bidders have to act fast. As soon as the trolleys have trundled through this section they emerge out the back of the auction room into the forecourt where they are immediately labelled with the buyers details. They are then taken off the moving track and organised into sections according to where they are going.
An electronic unmanned train contraption collects the trolleys from the warehouse and transports them in a huge tunnel which towers over the motorway below into a seperate building of a similiar size. This is the loading area where each order is loaded into the lorries for despatch. It is really quite staggering to see how quickly everything moves.
All in all it was a fascinating trip, if exhausting! We saw some absolutely stunning plants, learned a lot, chatted with some lovely growers who clearly adore their jobs and treat each plant like a much-loved child, and got to return home with some excellent cheese. An all-round fantastic experience!