Today, Fluwel is a well known player in the internatial flower bulb export. But this has not always been so. Fluwel is a young company after all, with new ideas and a strong focus on the internet. Yet Fluwel stands in a long tradition. Through the centuries the flower bulb trade grew, with the Netherlands as obvious nucleus. On this page you can read more about the history of the flower bulb export.
Flower bulb trade in Netherlands
Flower bulbs in general, and tulips in particular, were very popular for a while in other parts of the world, before they came to the Netherlands. The Ottoman sultans, who ruled what is now Turkey, had their palaces decorated with tulips. But a lively trade in bulbs did not arise. The perfect conditions for a professional trade were present in the Holland of the Golden Age: there were enough investors; the business infrastructure was decent; the necessary knowledge present.
Flower bulb trade needs knowledge, good soil and lots of money. That knowledge was present at Leiden University, where Carolus Clusius grew the first tulips in his botanical garden. Good soil was readily available along the Dutch coast: ancient dunes and their sandy soil are ideal for bulbs. The funding needed was found in the cities, where a young generation had gathered a lot of money and was willing to invest in something new.
The first flower bulb trade is now known as tulip mania. It ran completely out of hand. Investors drove up prices, shabby traders sold hot air, contracts that could never be fulfilled were signed. The tulip trade was a bubble that burst in 1637. After that, the flower bulb trade obviously had a bad name. It would take some time before it regained the funder’s trust.
After the tulip mania
The tulip craze of the early Dutch Golden Age caused damage to the bulb trade, but special flowers remained a popular luxury product. The export of tulip bulbs became more interesting. Especially in England flower bulbs became popular. Dutch bulbs were of superior quality already. Costumers began to believe that bulbs could only thrive in the Netherlands, which is untrue - but the Dutch exporters had no problem with people believing so, of course.
The centre of this early flower bulb export was the old city of Haarlem. Importers moved to this city to buy flower bulbs. The countryside south of Haarlem became to famous Bollenstreek. Later, other flower bulb regions emerged, even outside the Netherlands, but Haarlem remained important, especially since Schiphol is so close, like the auction in Aalsmeer.
Darwin Tulips: a revolution
Over the centuries bulb growers continued to search for innovation. Crossing and hybridization created new tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and lilies. If treated well, even viruses could be used. Real experts built fantastic collections. A great flower bulbs connoisseur was the breeder Krelage, from Haarlem, who traveled around Europe in search of special tulips.
In the northern French Lille, Jacob Krelage bought a special collection of tulips in 1885. He started to breed these tulips. This resulted in a new type of tulip, intensely colored and very suitable for export. Krelage called this the Darwin tulip. The Darwin Tulip was a hit, even an international hit. The flower bulb export was suddenly booming business.
World War I
Flower bulb export was booming when the First World War threw a spanner in the works. Although the Netherlands remained neutral in this war, the export was badly affected by the war at sea. England curtailed the import of luxury goods in 1916. The Dutch flower bulbs could no longer be exported. Hoping for better times bulb growers began to grow vegetables instead.
Worldwide Bulb Export
The 20th century would eventually bring good times. The airplane made it a lot easier to export flower bulbs abroad. America and Russia became new major destinations. Dutch bulb farmers were able to sell their flowers around the world. In recent years, the Internet has brought even more new possibilities. This is the future of the international bulb flower trade.
Fluwel invests in bulb export over the internet. We believe that this new medium will change the flower bulb export. Nowadays, flower bulbs have to make a long and expensive journey before they are ready to be planted in your garden. Via our web shop, you can order the flower bulbs you need yourself. You have everything in your own hands. That is Fluwel’s future: direct, customer-focused trade in bulbs. In our web shop you can see how colorful that future is!