The Aalsmeer flower and plant auction in North Holland near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is by far the busiest floral and plant market in the world. Daily, around 20 million flowers and plants are traded at the facility. Inside, the building is a hive of activity. Endless numbers of small trains full of carts loaded with containers of flowers and plants ( Kentia Palms included ) are moved by electric-powered trucks or automated rails. It looks all chaotic with a highway system, and clearly a highway code to go with it, allowing the various wagons to be moved to where the schedules demand. Flowers, plants and Kentia Palms arrive the previous night by 10pm. They are cooled and sorted during the night in preparation for auction.
The flower and plant auction functions are as follows: The buyers sit in an almost college classroom fashion on one side of the hall – computers plugged in. In front of the hall, the flowers and plants including Kentia Palms are pulled through on automated trains – two trains go by if two auctions are being held at the same time. Huge screens in each half of the hall display the auction information – the clock determines the price. The auctioneer sits behind a glass screen – traditionally he drops the ball in each clock but nowadays most of it goes automatically. The buyers bid electronically as the flowers, plants and Kentia Palms move by. Once sold, the most impressive part of the logistics springs into action. Wagons and containers are sorted and sent to the correct loading bay, so each buyer receives his wares and can arrange to have it sent it to his distribution centers, or maybe to Schiphol Airport for export to other European countries. Payment for purchases must be made on the same day as the purchase. No credit!
The flower and plant auction in Aalsmeer follows the Dutch auction system – the price is set high and then drops until someone buys. If demand exceeds supply, those waiting too long for the price to drop may go home empty handed. Similarly, anyone buying too fast overpays, but is at least assured of receiving the product. The bidding process can be seen on the large screens inside the auction room. The key element is the round circle – often referred to as the clock. A start price is set and the auctioneer drops the ball that moves down with the price dropping at the same pace – the numbers on the ring is percentage not currency. The ball stops as soon as the buyer is willing to pay the given price. If the buyer does not take all the flowers or plants on offer, the price continues to drop until further buyers are found. Other information on the board includes the name of the seller, details of the flowers and plants on offer as well of the reliability of the seller’s quality indexing.
It is a fascinating process and all the flower and plant material available for sale is of an excellent quality. This auction system is the main selling area for beautiful potted Kentia Palms which once sold are delivered to many garden centers, retail outlets and chain stores all over Europe.
Kentia Palms look very elegant in all shapes and sizes of decorative pots. These Kentia Palms are displayed in some upscale hotels in Europe. As you can see the Kentias all have a tall upright stance, and are therefore cultivated and grown indoors in climate controlled European greenhouses.
The Kentia Palm could be found in many establishments in England during the Victorian Era and the early 1900’s. It was undoubtedly the most sought after plant for display indoors. If you shopped at Harrods in the 1920’s you would have seen small potted Kentia Palms on sale. That’s how popular they were!
I like researching articles about Kentia Palms, and found this very interesting article from the Irish Times newspaper about Sam Smyth, owner of Urban Plant Life on Cork Street in Dublin. Sam’s article singles out the handsome upright Kentia Palm as one of his favorite go-to indoor plants. He goes on to say that it isn’t easy being a house plant. Too often, it’s expected to have the endurance skills of a French Foreign legionnaire along with a supernatural ability to tolerate extreme swings of temperature, famine, and under and over watering. And yet, when chosen with care and treated with just a little TLC these plants, especially the Kentia Palm, have the ability to transform our homes and offices in a world where many people now spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Health aside, house plants make us happier by greening and personalizing our homes and work places, something that Sam Smyth can also vouch for. “During the economic crash, some employers cut back on office plants as a way of reducing overheads. What stuck us when it came to removing the plants from the offices how sad many of the employees were to see them going.” He goes onto say have you ever heard, for example, of the phrase “personal breathing zone”? Its something akin to your personal body space, an area of roughly 6-8 cubic feet surrounding any individual. Place the right house plants within or close to that zone and, studies by NASA show, they make us healthier by growing fresh air, adding humidity, and filtering toxic gases, volatile chemicals, and other pollutants from the atmosphere – all important considerations in modern, often hermetically -sealed buildings. So if you haven’t any plants in your home, or are not surrounded by some in your work place now is the time to get some! They are the perfect solution to creating a happy environment!
Sam Smyth and his Kentias. A Happy workplace with Kentias!
If you are a plant enthusiast then you need to purchase my book about the history of the Kentia Palm. Did you know that the Kentia Palm was discovered on beautiful Lord Howe Island in the late 1880’s? That it became the most popular sought after indoor plant in the Victorian Era? That it was Queen Victoria’s favorite plant? That it has ruled the foliage plant world for the last two centuries because of its easy care and maintenance record?
All these questions, and many more are all answered in my book called “Seed to Elegance”. There are also abundant illustrations in the book depicting the Kentia’s life cycle, the methods used to produce and distribute the palms to customers, and how a beautiful Kentia Palm can enhance the décor of any residence.
Book can be purchased at firstname.lastname@example.org
Almost all of the Kentia Palms that are sold in North America are field grown. Unlike Kentias grown in an enclosed environment in Europe, field grown Kentias take a long time to reach a height suitable for sale to the consumer. North American Kentia Palm growers will also endure the possibility of weather extremes like frosts, heatwaves and tropical storms from time to time that will affect their crop’s growing development. From the time small Kentia Palm seedlings are potted up, and grown until they reach a saleable height of five to six feet tall, the grower has had a substantial ongoing investment of time and money in his growing venture of almost six years, and even longer for larger size Kentias. Prior to selling their Kentias to the public or chain stores, the grower acclimates the potted Kentia Palms in a fairly shaded area in his nursery, so that when a saleable product is placed in an indoor home setting, it will enjoy a similar growing environment as the nursery, and not be shocked by the location transfer. Kentia Palm growers provide their product in a variety of sizes. There can be a single specimen Kentia that looks charming in its own container, but normally the growers group between four to six Kentias in a pot for resale. So when you see a nice potted Kentia Palm plant for sale, with four to six plants in the pot, and you think the selling price looks expensive, remember all the time, effort and finance it took for the grower to grow each individual Kentia Palm!
For almost a century and a quarter Kentia Palms have been displayed in hotels that have a designated eating area known as the “Palm Court”. One of the most famous Hotels in the world is the Plaza Hotel in New York. Morning and afternoon tea have been a “signature” event at this hotel since the early 1900’s. Kentia Palms were, and still are the featured plant elegantly displayed throughout the room’s surroundings.
Europe has always been the largest importers of Kentia Palm seedlings from the South Pacific. Over the years as the seedling imports have increased, the manner in which Europeans have grown their Kentias has changed dramatically. With more seedlings growing in their greenhouses, growers now put more finished product into a saleable pot, which means there could be at least 10 Kentia Palms in one pot. As the Kentias have been grown in an enclosed environment of a heated greenhouse they have a more upright appearance.
The look is attractive and suitable for small areas in a home or office.
In the early Victorian era Kentia Palms were the most sought after plant to have growing in a home garden conservatory. Usually the Kentia was a “single” potted one so that it would display elegance when it canopied out. The age of these Kentias ranged from about five years to eight years old when installed. Today tall single Kentias can be seen in lots of conservatories. These age from about twelve to fifteen years old before installation, and can be very expensive to purchase. Here are some pictures of Kentias in home and business conservatories. I really like the one of the two Kentias in the Garden Conservatory Skywalk at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee!
Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island are two of my most favorite places in the world. When I lived on Norfolk Island I established a Kentia Palm seedling export business, and have been in love with the Kentia Palm ever since. In the late 1980’s an Australian named Ted Egan visited the Island and produced a very interesting documentary. He did a segment of the documentary about the Kentia Palm, and the involvement of my business partner Sid Cooper, and myself in the palm seed industry. Click on the link below and it will begin at the segment of us picking Kentia Palm seed. The whole documentary is very interesting and well worth viewing.