I showed you a peek of Keukenhof Gardens and some tulips fields, so now it’s time to head to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction to see what happens to those blooms when they grow up.

The auction is full of impressive figures: the biggest flower auction in the world, it’s housed in the 5th largest building in the world. It starts at 7am and dies down before 10am, so we had to get up early to see the best action. It’s a fascinating system! More than 20 million flowers from all corners of the world are traded every day.

When you visit, you walk on a gangway above the warehouse floor, giving you a great view of the huge numbers of flowers below. Lines of shelves filled with boxes of flowers zoom around, pulled by little carts that can turn on a dime. It was so interesting to watch them being pulled to and fro, and try to figure out where they were all going. I never really got the system down!

The auction itself is held in a big auditorium-style room, with lines of flowers slowly coming in from both sides and two big screens showing what they are. It’s a Dutch-style auction, which means the bidding starts at what the auctioneer thinks the flowers are worth then counts down from there. There’s only one bid on each “bundle” of flowers, so if you want it, you’d have to judge how cheap you can go before someone else bids. It goes fast. Like, less than 10 seconds for each bid. With that fast bidding and two screens to watch, it’s amazing the bidders can still follow it all.

We spotted one woman among all the bidders. The rest were men!

After bids, the flowers head out the auction door back into the warehouse, where they are lined up according to destination then sent off to their new home, usually arriving the same day. Those hydrangeas you bought at the corner market the other day? They probably came through here.

Despite the early wake-up call, the auction was a fascinating experience. I never think about the huge systems and costs behind the flowers that peek out of grocery store bins!