Those roses you purchased the other day for the person you love, they were picked by a beautiful lady in an English garden? More likely, they were grown in Kenya, in the biggest polytunnel in the world, picked by improperly paid employees, dipped in an antibacterial agent, chilled in an enormous fridge then flown by night-time jumbo jet to Holland to be arranged, graded, wrapped in cellophane, sold and bought at the biggest and most hi-tech flower market in the world, then loaded on to a refrigerated lorry and driven to your grocery store.
It’s the lilies in The World’s Biggest Flower Market (BBC2) that are the biggest eye-opener. They’re grown not too far away at least, in Holland, really close to the beast Aalsmeer flower market. A mega army of flowers, divided into cohorts, marching in formation.
The lily bulbs are grown in peat moss from Russia. That s not fantastic is it, ecologically, peat moss not being sustainable. I question George Monbiot would approve. I’d like to have seen more on that side the green, or rather non-green side of acts.
Otherwise this is unusually remarkable, specifically the huge Dutch market itself. It’s an airport-sized building with electric trolleys ringing about like a headache computer game, a monorail for flowers, fiendish sorting systems and comedy Dutchmen bidding countless euros for billions of flowers on incomprehensible flashing screens. The Wall Street of flowers, they call it.
Remarkable but also a touch appalling: if anything, it has put me off buying flowers. From now on, I might be saying it with something else.