Last Summer, FTD’s Chief Creative Officer Annelies de Rouck, and a small film crew traveled, COVID-safely, to the Netherlands to meet with the growers who contribute to our bouquets. Here at FTD, we are obsessed with our local florists, but what were our growers up to behind the greenhouse walls?

Bundling a bouquet entails far more than frolicking through a meadow, picking up a variety of flowers as you go. Instead, Annelies and her team drove outside of Amsterdam, past the frolicking meadows, to the second largest building in the world! This impressive complex houses the auction where flowers from all around the world- not just Dutch flowers- are sold and processed for delivery worldwide. 

Next, they met with expert growers and their families who specialize in a single type of flower. No two flowers have the same care routine, so growers can only focus time and attention on one species. Tulip bulbs need to be frozen, but hydrangeas love humidity, however, lathyrus takes twice as much manpower than the others; it is too much to organize under one greenhouse.

The hands-on expertise needed to grow these flowers is later supplemented by technology to produce at a global scale. It is manufacturing coupled with Mother Nature; nature combined with nurture. These flowers can naturally grow in the wild, but only through this meticulous nurturing we are able to enjoy fresh Dutch flowers around the world.

Follow the story to hear from the growers on how they curate the perfect hydrangeas, tulips and lathyrus, plus how these growers funnel their flowers to an auction system invented during the tulip craze centuries ago.


Outside of Amsterdam, past the suburbs and tulip fields, there is a building so big, it could apply for township. It’s one of the largest building in the world, second only to the Boeing manufacturing warehouse. What gargantuan task happens inside? Arguably the most beautiful industry: the Dutch flower trade.

The FTD team maximized their view of this bustling system from the catwalk lining the building’s perimeter. From their elevated vantage point, they witnessed how incredibly intricate the system is. Each shipment of flowers is bussed around on electric cars because fumes from gasoline engines damage the organic product. There’s also non-verbal jargon the drivers learn to signal where they are going and when they are turning to avoid a colorful catastrophe. There’s even an airbridge to funnel flowers from nearby growers directly to the facility.

The Dutch auction is where this massive operation is controlled. Evolving from a wooden dial, the bidding clock is now digital and moves quicker than a New York minute, where buyers all around the world bid quickly and precisely. Before the pandemic, there were rows of bidders sat around the command center, affixed on the digital clock that ticks down from the highest bid until the first bidder wins the lot.

Today, more than 60% of the world trade in flowers and plants is bought through Dutch flower auctions. To maintain trading throughout the year, Dutch auctioneers import flowers during the winter months from equatorial countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador and Israel. This makes the Netherlands not only a crucial flower exporter, but also a key importer of flowers for Europe.

The sheer scale of this operation is something to marvel at, especially considering the world’s flower supply depends on the continuous function of this facility.


The FTD team met with husband-and-wife duo Paul and Yvonne who grow hydrangeas outside of Amsterdam. Their three sons help run the business and the family has rarely left their farm in their 20 years of operation. Yvonne said she has the most beautiful job in the world so going away for vacation is more stressful than relaxing because she can’t take care of her greenhouse.

High humidity is the key to growing large hydrangea bushes, so greenhouses are kept warm and damp. Other than regulating temperature, it is a low-maintenance flower, forgoing even light intervention from heat lamps. The spring and summer months will bloom bright colors such as white, pink, blue, purple and red, but if the grower decides not to harvest, it will change to darker autumn colors. FTD visited in the summer, so the greenhouse was blooming with bright pink petals.

Hydrangeas are easy to trim, bundle and ship because its stem is more durable compared to most flowers.  Back at the auction site, employees could handle them relatively rougher and use machinery to process them without compromising the integrity of the flower.

Paul recommends you keep hydrangeas away from direct sunlight or drafts to extend the vase life. “If the flowers still go limp, you can cut an inch off the bottom and put the flowers back in the warm tap water with a nutrition packet,” Paul says. They are a great flower to add volume to a sparse bouquet and are easily dried out to be enjoyed for months to come.



Lathyrus, or sweet pea, is a climbing plant grown in greenhouses built to accommodate the vine plant.  They start out in trays and are moved to soiled lines when their stems are ready to latch onto something. Could be anything- a wicker frame, sturdy netting, forgotten garden gnome, but expert grower Rob uses long ropes that hang from the ceiling.

Rob took over the lathyrus greenhouse from his father to grow with his own family. They additionally recruit seasonal workers during peak seasons because lathyrus is very delicate and can’t be handled with machinery. Maintaining a growing lathyrus is labor intensive, but worth the trouble looking through Rob’s greenhouse blooming over 20 different colored lathyrus’.

Point to anywhere on the color wheel and Rob can grow a lathyrus to match. If the color is too complex to grow organically, white ones are dip-dyed after picking to create wild colors and patterns. Lucky for Rob, lathyrus are resistance to disease and insects, saving him from applying extra pesticides or worrying about losing a field from contamination.

Even though they’re a small, delicate flower, once the work is put in to carefully trim and gather, they stunningly resemble a bunch of brightly colored butterflies landing on a bouquet, a flower as sweet as its namesake.


Bart, who owns B & L Tulip Growers, produces over 10 million tulips each year in greenhouses on the northwest coast of the Netherlands. Growing tulips at scale is a uniquely difficult task because the bulbs need very cool soil temperatures to solidify roots before they can bloom, so thousands of planted bulbs must be organized in warehouse-sized freezers to grow year-round unlike wild or field grown tulips. Field grown tulips need a jump on the season by being planted in autumn before the soil freezes over. Tourist flock to the tulip fields during a short window in late spring, but we can enjoy Dutch tulips any time during the year thanks to growers like Bart.


They do, however, love open, sunny places with minimal shadow. Tulips planted in shadier areas will strain looking for light, resulting in a thinner, taller and weaker stem. Think of how a sunflower follows the sun throughout the day- same thing goes with budding tulips. Bulbs are prone to rot, so growers stay vigilant regulating temperature and humidity levels.

Bart experiments with new varieties every season to expand his selection. There are parrot tulips whose petals look like feathers, any color ombre imaginable, rainbow tulips, petals with frilled ends or petals that look like flames. Unlike lathyrus, which are dipped into water-soluble dyes, tulips are painted through absorbed dye diluted in water that travel up the stem, creating any color imaginable.

After blooming, the mother bulb will grow about five smaller daughter bulbs, which are then frozen for the next growing cycle. They’re not as delicate as lathyrus but are still always wrapped and shipped by hand. Tulips continue to grow for a little after they are cut, so Bart recommends giving them cold water and quality sun exposure for a longer-lasting bloom.