Around the corner from our new apartment home, is the quaintest little cobbled road that leads one along the edge of a canal, on one side and the edge of the forest on the other. Part way along this little lane is a flower farm that boasts some of the most magnificent dahlias that I have ever seen. The sheer sculptural grandeur of the blooms is breathtaking, not to mention the colour and the names, all of which lead one into something of a flower fantasy world…
Fortunately, this little flower farm is also a “pluk tuin”, meaning that for a small fee per stem, one is permitted to pick a few choice blooms. The picking area is carefully monitored to allow for the best possible crop but the actual payment is left entirely to one’s honesty. The stem count is self determined and the appropriate fee is placed in a box at the entrance. How I love the trust, safety and honour that is lived and breathed in this country!
Flowers are a serious business here in NL.
The other thing I have noticed about the Dutch people is that flowers are 100% part of their everyday lives. Their grocery shopping, either at the supermarket or in the market, includes fresh flowers. Depending on the season, it may well be only a stark stem with vibrant berries on it, or a few sprigs of green, when the full flowers of spring and summer are not readily available. I am still frightfully South African when it comes to fresh flowers – always checking the Euro price and making an alarming conversion, as flowers for me feel like something of a luxury purchase. Not here in NL – they are as essential as fresh bread and milk!
There is such a feeling of joy every time I pass a fellow cyclist bearing flowers, men and women alike. It is seriously a little bit of everyday magic here in The Netherlands that continues to charm me each and every time. Men seem to cycle holding the bouquet of flowers in one hand, blooms facing backwards so as not to destroy the delicate petals in the headwind. Women, on the other hand, prefer to use their back carriage elastic bands to secure the flowers for safer riding. I definitely fall into the safer riding category as one-handed cycling is not an option for me!
Growing up on a large farm in the misty region of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, we had a beautiful garden, carefully nurtured by my dedicated Mum into a child’s fantasy playground. So too was it filled with flowers, that were only cut on special occasions as Mum preferred to see them bloom where they’d been planted in order to create the intended picture of her handiwork.
That being said, on the occasion of a community wedding, the gardens of all the farmer’s wives were raided for the necessary floral displays with very few flowers purchased from a shop. It’s safe to say that my upbringing taught me that shop flowers were a luxury, one that a farmer would not be in any hurry to spend money on. Not here in NL where gardens are very small, apartment window boxes even smaller and the farming of flowers is a national occupation.
Back to the delightful dahlias… Being something of a scavenger/bargain hunter, I found the bucket of blooms that had been culled for their blemishes or being past their prime, at the entrance of the pluk tuin, and enquired of the owner if I might be permitted to take any of the cast-offs, to which he happily replied that I would be welcome to them. They were a little bruised and certainly short stemmed but I saw their vibrant colour and their fading beauty and figured that they still had a couple of days in them.
When our young friends had carefully selected their chosen beauties, they tied them into bouquets, paid their stem fee and home we cycled, looking as much like any local with our flower filled bicycles – what joy filled our home with jewel colours and stark sculptural shapes of these magnificent dahlias!
I was very pleasantly surprised to see how long my cast-off blooms lasted: they only needed a little water and some loving appreciation for their faded glory, in order to deliver their last vestiges of colour and joy.
This made me think of us human beings who, once past our youthful prime, are often considered “cast-off” or “bruised and damaged” and no longer attractive, certainly in the worldly sense of the glitz and glamour, so loudly and proudly portrayed on social media platforms.
I beg to differ and will take on the daily adventures of my life with the attitude of those fading beauties in the bin. I still have MUCH to offer, bruises, blemishes and imperfections on full display – dance on through the dahlias!